Operational Experience

Why you Want Operational Experience

A Valuable Perspective

BTW- building is super fun, that’s reason #1. and if it’s not fun to you, don’t read this.

It is hard to empathize with someone if you have never “stood in their shoes.” And in order to give the best advice, you must be able to empathize. You must be able to best understand the advisee’s emotions and figure out what is going on. Of course, you have never been in another’s shoes. So you do your best to take your experience with life: thoughts, relationships, whatever — and imbue an opinion on another — call it advice. The best mentors are able to understand that advice is not always prescriptive. The best mentors don’t think about what they would do, but rather what the individual should do.

Now expand this scale, you’re not giving advice to a person anymore. You are giving advice to a company. You want to help them grow. You want to accelerate their growth quickly and you are investing money, but more valuably, your thoughts on these people (for some crazy reason or another). Now call this the role of a Venture Capitalist.

Again, it’s hard to empathize with an entrepreneur on a mission to fundamentally change the world unless you have been in their shoes.

A good example of this is in terms of ups and downs within the company. From the public’s perspective, all news is breaking news. It all deserves a headline and some clickbait title. But in a startup, breaking news is just tuesdays. And it comes back on Thursdays also. News happens by the hour. Because when you are moving fast and breaking things, shit happens.

But there are times when shit really happens. And you have to rebound. And that is when advice can be a make or break. People can advise you to pivot and change everything. Or tell you to stick to your guy and power through. This is a potential inflection point, for better or worse.

Besides the experience that I’ve had of growing two companies of my own, I’ve also done my best to help as many early-mid stage companies as I can.

I love the thrill of growing exciting and interesting things. But I am also gaining valuable experience essentially “investing” my time and energy into things that I think will blossom quickly.

I view my time (like money) as gasoline — I hope that if I pour it into companies I will get a huge fire out.

And of course, I’ve mitigated my risk by just being an employee, intern, helper, whatever — but I am still experiencing the ups and downs of operational experience. And that is valuable.

Woah. You read the whole thing! Thank you so much. I’d really appreciate if you shared this with a friend!

Let’s continue this conversation

twitter — @jrdngonen

email — jordangonen@wustl.edu

Tagged in Business, Venture Capital, Thinking, Operational Experience

By jordangonen on June 30, 2016.

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To Raise or Not to Raise

The Dillemma A Lot of Startups Face

A common dilemma among growing companies

Chase hyper-growth or slow and steady?

The age old question: does slow and steady really win the race? The tortoise seems to think so. But do companies? Specifically “hyper-growth” tech startups?

This is quite the balancing act for growing companies. On one hand, they are always looking to raise money and scale, but on the other hand they are trying to produce a great product. A 10x product at that. So the dillemma becomes: focus on innovation? growth? or both?

You see, Venture Capitalists and investors see funding as gasoline. The hope is that pouring cash into a company will help them explode (in a good way). Cash is an accelerant of growth. Cash helps companies scale and reach more customers; ie make a bigger impact, ie make more MONAYYY. And of course VCs add much more than just funding, but that is my super simplified reasoning for raising money: because you, as a founder, believe that this cash (the gasoline) will help you grow. * Before someone says it, yes some companies are looking for runway others resources but this is just a simplified concept that I easily digest…

Anyways…What are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to move fast and break things or are you supposed to take your time perfecting your product?

Of course there is no right answer. And in different circumstances your “answer” will change.

But here are some of my thoughts…

If you want to start a company…i think, before you waste anyone else’s time and resources (including your own), begin testing assumptions. Assumptions are worthless unless they’ve been tested. The challenge, though, is building a small version of what your dream product is. Yes call it an MVP, I don’t care, the point is you want to build something really quickly and hustle to test your fricken assumption.

The product does not have to look exactly like your dream product. This is just a way to test your thoughts. You’ll find that talking to people is a great way to quickly validate or throw out ideas.

**Warning though: people say no to tons of good ideas. The point is that 100 people can hate your product and tell you that you are going to fail. But if you can find 10 people who LOVE your product, then you may be ok. So take criticism, know when to move on, but don’t pivot every 2 days. Stick a bit to your gut, it’s your company.

So yes I think in the beginning stages of a company it is crucial to be agile, testing assumptions — that is, perhaps, one of your only competitive advantages as a startup, you can afford to test things that big companies cannot waste their time with.

So…I’d say start fast. And keep that overall mentality with you as you grow your mega-company.

But as you become huge you start to gain responsibilities, people begin to count on you. Your customers count on your for a product. But more importantly, your employees count on you to feed their families. They believed in your dream, don’t fuck them over because you want to raise money and get on Tech Crunch. Ok a bit harsh. But I think it is a question not asked enough…”why are you raising funding?”

When a VC asks you, you better have a reason. You better have a reason that tells them about all of the super fast iterations you can make, even at your scale.

Anyways, it’s more of a thought exercise…there is no exactly right time to raise or not to raise. But I think more people need to ask themselves WHY they need money before they go out and try to raise. Because raising is a full-time job and is not easy. A lot of companies dedicate all of their time to trying to get funding and never even build any version of their product!

It’s a balancing act — best of luck!

thank you so much for reading!

connect on twitter @jrdngonen

Tagged in Startups, Business, Money, Funding

By jordangonen on June 29, 2016.

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Your Health MUST be Number One

Health is hard to appreciate. It is hard to place a big value or truly understand the importance of your health because you were born with…

Sifting Through Noise

I’d argue that most of the time when I fail at something it is not because i was not good enough to be successful or that my idea or…

We All Start at Zero

We All Start at Zero

Me, You, even @justinbieber


I like to think of life as everyone starting in the same place. From ground zero. Of course, that is not true. People are born with advantages — money, looks, whatever it may be.

But for us commoners, plebeians, I think there is no use in complaining about others advantages or disadvantages to starting. After all, there will always be someone “better off” than you just as there will always be someone “worse off” than you. So instead of spending that time and energy wishing and dreaming — think of life like this:

Think of all things in life like everyone started at zero. That in order to rise to the top — things needed to happen. Something goes on between the bottom and the top. I call this thinking of life in terms of skyscrapers. Imagine all of us as skyscrapers.

The interesting thing about skyscrapers is that no one really cares about the 13th largest skyscraper in the world. In fact, people really only care about the tallest skyscraper. The number one.

In the same way, people really only care about people who are “at the top” of their industry. They care about leaders, not “followers.”

Ok, so now that I have thrown some metaphor at you — let’s get back to the idea of zero. And let’s use the example of Twitter.

Everyone — no matter how famous they are — if they want to start their own twitter account, sign up exactly the same way. Of course there are people who buy accounts to level up and so on but ignore the cheaters. Think of it organically, everyone starts from zero.

Wow you must feel pretty special now — you built your twitter account just like @justinbieber probably did.

Now if we all start at zero — what went on between zero and that next place. To steal from @peterthiel ’s monopoly on the phrase Zero to One — what does it take to go from Zero to One, in anything you do in life. He uses it moreso to describe ideas that go from zero to one, but you can also use it to measure your personal development. In anything you do, what are the steps, the process? Where did you start and where do you want to finish? And is what you are doing a little incremental change to your life, or is it truly a big step towards personal development? All of these thoughts are refreshing and help me to prioritize things. More than that though, doing this really helps me LEARN! (And that is one of my goals for this summer — to learn as much as I can).

This continues to be an interesting exercise for me for a couple of different reasons.

First, it helps me better understand skyscrapers. It helps me decipher the importance of the floors in between 0 and the top. And helps me realize how crucial to the development of that building those floors are. Although without the top floor that building may go unnoticed, without the middle floors it may not be standing. You need the middle floors before the top floor — just like you need to do the work before getting noticed.

The more you think about it, the easier it is to understand exactly how much work, hustle, sweat, and tears goes into building up yourself. How it gets harder and harder to build floors of a skyscraper the higher you get just like it gets harder and harder to improve (diminishing returns) as you get better at something.

Another humbling part of this exercise is that you can do it with anything. And what I like about it is that it questions my entitlement. Why do I think that I can be as successful as _____________. What have I done or earned to do, anything? Most of the time that answer is insufficient and does not merit me a place among “the leaders.” You never really appreciate hard work until you try and do it. More than that, you try to do it over a really long period of time. That is the challenge — consistency over a long period of time.

But one day, I will get there — it just takes time. Lots and lots of time, oh yeah, and work. A boat load of it.

In summary: I want you to remember a couple of different things.

– Try not to compare yourself others. Success is a personal thing. Easier said than done, but it will objectively make it easier to grow.

– The bottom to the top is filled in with a lot of work.

– Metaphors are good, some times. lol

Hope you enjoyed reading!

Again, thanks for reading my stuffs . Tweet at me @jrdngonen or email me jordangonen@wustl.edu — I like it when you do !

Tagged in Life Learning, Life, Work, Hustle

By jordangonen on June 21, 2016.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.