Tuesday, July 17, 2018

High Growth Handbook! LIVE!

After two years of hard work the High Growth Handbook is now available for sale on Amazon, Kindle, and Kobo. An Audible book will be live within a week or so. The High Growth Handbook is a labor of love. And by “love” I mean “I love that this was easier than launching a startup. Oy vey startups are hard!”.

The High Growth Handbook is based on my experiences working with companies post product-market fit as they scaled from a handful of engineers, and maybe a business person or designer, to multi-hundred or multi-thousand person organizations. The book covers topics like the role of the CEO, hiring and managing an executive team, doing re-orgs, managing your board of directors, buying other companies, raising late stage rounds, and the development of new functional areas like product management, marketing, and PR. 

My own frameworks, observations, and tactical advice[1] reflected in the book are complemented by interviews with some of the leading operators and investors in tech. There are Sam Altman, Marc Andreessen, Patrick Collison, Joelle Emerson, Erin Fors, Reid Hoffman, Claire Hughes Johnson, Aaron Levie, Mariam Naficy, Keith Rabois, Naval Ravikant, Ruchi Sanghvi, Shannon Stubo Brayton, and Hemant Taneja. I personally learned a lot from these discussions and am grateful for the time and perspectives these leading figures in technology and entrepreneurship provided.

The High Growth Handbook is not meant to be read end-to-end, although you can do that if you want (thanks mom!). Rather, you can flip to a specific section that may be relevant to something your company is grappling with, or read through all the interviews at once. Justin Kan summarized it nicely on Twitter.

In the book, I steered away from the canned, generic, useless advice found in your average business book like “A players hire A players”. I also avoided writing a 500 page book on a single concept. Instead I focused on detailed tactics for how to scale recruiting or what specifically to look for in executives. One key thing to keep in mind as you read this book—all startup advice needs to be filtered through the unique context of your own situation or company. The only good generic startup advice is “there is no good generic startup advice”.

The book is being published by Stripe, and in particular, a new experimental publishing imprint called Stripe Press. Stripe was a natural fit as a publisher given their focus on helping entrepreneurs to start and scale enduring companies. My hope is that the High Growth Handbook can be of use to entrepreneurs, investors, and people working at startups around the world. I am excited to be the first in what may end up being a long line of books about startups, business, and self learning—all crucial when kicking off a new enterprise.

Thank you to all the startups, founders, and investors, who have been kind enough to let me be part of their journey. Startups and technology are fundamentally forces for good. Literal hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty by entrepreneurship and technology and by the ability to obtain and share knowledge, to buy and sell products, and to participate in a global conversation and economy at scale. It has been an honor to be part of the technology world and many of its leading companies. 

I am excited to see what the coming decades bring and what you, dear reader, go on to create. Onwards!

[1] I joined Google at around 1500 people and left at 15,000. I sold my first startup, MixerLabs, to Twitter when Twitter was just ~90 people, and left the company at around 1500 employees. I am also an investor in companies like Airbnb, Coinbase, Gusto, Instacart, Stripe, Square, Pinterest, Wish, Zenefits and others. In some cases I invested as early as just the founder(s), and in others later in the life of the company.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Better Meetings

As a company scales the number of meetings initially grows faster then headcount. With more people comes more coordination. Most companies have bad meeting etiquette, which means an enormous amount of time is wasted. The following steps help increase meeting efficiency:

1. Determine who is necessary in the meeting.
Are there really 20 people needed in the room? Separate the must haves, from the nice to haves, from the politically expedient to be there.

2. Send out an agenda in advance.
What will be discussed? How much time do you really need to spend per topic? Maybe the 60 minute meeting should really be 30 minutes? Like wedding planning, meetings fill the time available to them.

Similarly, what preparation should people do in advance? Is there a document to pre-read or data to look at in advance so people come prepared?

3. Set up (projecting, hangout or conference line, etc.) in advance if you can.
If you are running the meeting and are able to do so, arrive in advance. Dial into the conference line or start the Hangout and start projecting. Instead of wasting 5 minutes in setup with 10 people there, do it early.

If your conference rooms are always fully booked back to back (often the case as the fast growing companies are always running out of space), it is hard to get into the room 5 minutes early. Companies can facilitate this by having an :05 policy. I.e. meetings start at 2:05 but the meeting owner books the room starting at 2:00 so has 5 minutes to set up.

4. Kick off the meeting with objectives.
Review the agenda and purpose of the meeting. Is it to make a decision on a product? To brainstorm a new feature? To review a sales pipeline and prioritize leads? If the meeting does not have a clear objective, you should cancel it. If the same topic is repeated over and over in a weekly meeting without progress, decide if escalation or another method of breaking a bottleneck is needed. The same meeting should not take place 5 times.

5. Assign a note taker.
Who is responsible for taking notes in the meeting? Any meeting with more then 3-4 people should send out notes. The meeting owner can assign/delegate note taker up front.

6. Send out meeting notes.
Meeting notes help the rest of the company know what was discussed or decided. It allows different stakeholders to follow up if they were unable to attend. Notes increase cross-company transparency dramatically [1].

Meeting notes would optimally include:
a. Subject/topic of meeting
b. Date
c. Attendees
d. Actions/decisions
e. Agenda
f. Detailed notes

7. Clean up the meeting calendar ongoing.

Unnecessary regular meetings accumulate like rust on a company. Ask all meeting owners to go through and kill meetings once a quarter. (a) What meetings are still necessary or useful? (b) Who should still attend? People can be dropped and added as well to rebalance who should attend.


[1] There may be legal reasons to not take notes in specific meetings. Consult with the company's GC or external counsel on training for meeting note etiquette.

You can pre-order the High Growth Handbook here.