It’s hard to develop a really good elevator pitch. You’ve probably been in this situation. You’re at a networking event, and someone asks you what your product does. Maybe you’ve been trying to clearly convey to potential investors how your product solves a real problem and is better than the competitors.
I’ve been there myself. I was running a Lean Canvas workshop a few years ago when the perfect analogy came to me. You know who absolutely nails the sales message in a short amount of time?
My entire career has been focused on building complex systems and executing with ruthless efficiency. As CTO at my last company, I earned the nickname “The Executioner”, because of my relentless drive to Get. Shit. Done.
But it wasn’t enough…
In order to build a product your customers love, you need to get inside their heads. It’s not enough to understand what they do, you must understand why. This requires you to interact with your customers on a deep, personal level and gather data from various perspectives. Early on, you should spend a significant proportion of your time gathering user feedback, and as the company grows, you must invest in developing the systems and processes to make it a part of the DNA of your company.
I wasn’t sleeping, I didn’t have time to exercise or eat well, and I started drinking more to cope. I was fighting with my CEO and my wife on a daily basis. I would wake up at 5am with a rush of panic because I knew I was already behind and there was nothing I could do. I accepted the fact that every single day I was going to fail my family, my company, and myself.
Forget the #Hustle/#Grind/#CrushIt mentality – This is the #1 Secret Weapon of Successful Entrepreneurs
I’m completely, philosophically opposed to the Gary V school of thought that success is created by sheer force of will, that grinding 16 hours a day every day will make you successful. Yes, there are going to be crunch periods, and yes, building a successful business takes a lot of work, but this #Hustle culture creates the mindset that you, the founder, are like Atlas, with the weight of the world on your shoulders. I’m here to tell you that this approach is not only wrong, it’s unhealthy, unsustainable, and unscalable.
Video game designers have mastered the art of creating engaging, rewarding, and addictive experiences. That’s what we all want to create in our products, right? When I look at any product, I look at it through the lens of game design. I want to share with you some key principles from game design that you can apply to your product to get your customers engaged and keep them coming back for more.
It’s common knowledge in the startup ecosystem that 90% of all startups fail. What we mean by this is that, of all the founders that begin building a product, only 10% come to a meaningful exit or acquisition. I’ve dedicated my career to helping entrepreneurs get through what I call “The Great Startup Filter” and become one of the few that make it big.
We live in a world full of distractions. Throughout our day we are constantly bombarded with notifications from email, Slack, and our phones. Our schedules are full of meetings, and our bosses and coworkers feel free to interrupt us without a second thought. How can we expect to get anything done if we can’t focus?
Continuous improvement is the very heart of agile development. It’s the culture and the mechanism that allows teams to adapt to changing circumstances. Yet it tends to be the first thing teams abandon when they get complacent in their agile development methodology. It takes work to envision an ideal and constantly strive to be better today than you were yesterday. In the fast-paced and high-pressure world of technology, it’s too easy to get so caught up in the work that we forget about the workflow.
It’s been almost 20 years since globalization created access to new labor markets around the world. In the early 2000’s, the industry for outsourced software development talent in India exploded. Since then, countries around the world have been graduating countless software engineers. The promise was that you could get high quality talent at a fraction of the price. In some cases that held true, but for many companies the short-term cost savings were lost in long delays and constant rework.
When building a company, you often have to make sacrifices. There is never enough time, money, or talent to get everything done. Sure, you’d like to build your product the right way, but you’ve got to get something built quickly so you can raise money, or get new features out the door so you can land that big client. There’s no time to plan! We have to move fast! I get it.
The core principles of the Scrum Manifesto, and why it gained such a cult following, are reflection and continuous improvement. The purpose of Scrum is to tighten the iteration cycle and hold a retrospective at the end of each cycle, in which you analyze and adapt the process to continuously improve. This tight feedback loop allows teams to gel quickly, establish an efficient process, eliminate waste, and adapt to changing priorities easily. This is what makes agile development so great.