What is it like to go from being a founder to an employee in a company?
The expectations and pressures change when you go from being a founder to being an employee. As a founder, you are constantly thinking about the next stage or which direction to go to. All the pressure is on you. As an employee, you don't have any of that weight, but you also don't get to make the decision or set high-level goals. Instead, you have to consider other people's goals and the direction set by the CEO.
What should you consider when buying your friend's company?
You are better off not hiring your friends, but if you have to, it is important to discuss the worst case scenarios and to figure out how you would either avoid them, or work through them. Derek and David knew each other for a long time and had a lot of mutual respect, and even then, they had to answer a lot of questions, including what it would look like if one of them quit or was fired.
Why should founders care about communities ?
Founders need to be thinking on not just how to build a successful business, but how to make a successful community where people feel connected, aligned with the mission, and feel safe. Every company is a community with the intention of growing and driving a profit. Common values, interests, goals, missions are what makes a community, and a community is the future of how businesses will be built.
In a community-driven company, the brand would drive the vision, but the community would come together to collaborate on the product development. If you give your community an opportunity to contribute to your mission and your objective, you can scale up with an incredible pace.
When should founders start thinking about communities?
The quality of your business will be formed based on the foundation that you build the business on. If you culture does not value the voice of your customers, that would build a foundation that becomes part of the values. So if you start with a fundamental belief and investment in your community, you can create a strong foundation of a feature for your business.
How do I compete with a bigger business that has more features and more resources?
Early adopters of a company will stick around and be involved because they believe in the business and community is a tool that can keep people engaged in those early and tough times. Consistent communication with the customers allows the company to learn on how the product can improve. Eventually you can get to the point where the product starts to sell itself with the power of its people.
What have you learned from failures and letdowns that led to the success of Startup Grind?
Everybody gets a shot on goal, do not give up.
At one point, Derek Anders raised $250,000 for an iPad game, which launched and nobody bought it. He put $250,000 consulting dollars into a social networking product that did not go anywhere. For a while, he could not find a technical co-founder to work with. He did not stop.
It’s not all perfect, but once you create momentum, good things happen to you. Figure out how to survive, stick it out, and you will get your chance. You have to make it work with what you got.
What was the moment that changed everything?
Although there were already professional theme shops for WordPress that were very successful, no one was making themes for videos. One day, Jason create a simple theme and put it for sale. It was so basic, he did not feel like charging more than $5 for it. He put the theme online and went for a walk. By the time he was back, the theme had already sold enough copies to make it rather obvious that he was onto something big. That changed everything and set Jason on the path to eventually selling his company for millions of dollars.
How did you first get your community members and built CMX into what it has become?
In childhood, David could not find a group to identify with, so he turned toward video games to find a community. Slowly but surely, he continued to build and connect online, and eventually found people doing similar work. David started a group where people could learn about "community building" as a business. The group started to grow and eventually became a business in itself.
What have you learned from your experience as a founder and entrepreneur?
After interviewing countless number of influential people, you realize they are humans similar to just about anyone you know. Despite being incredibly successful, billionaires and people featured on covers of magazines, a lot of these people are still thoughtful, kind, and generous.
What advice do you have for fledgling entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurial career is a 20 or 30 year journey. Whether this week is good or bad, it will not matter in the long run. As failures pile up with few successes, you got to think about what you are going to do in a longer scale and be aware of how you are treating people. Stay in the middle of knowing how it ebbs and flows and realize your progress and growth. ~ Derek.
The journey is the destination. You are always going to have questions and challenges. Remind yourself that your experience is what’s important, and find that appreciation in the experience. Also, do not take all advice at face value, but place it in context of where you are and where the one giving you the advice is at. Listen and consider advice, but come back to your truths and what you believe in. ~ David