Getting Comfortable Selling

Getting Comfortable Selling

I had a really interesting conversation the other day with someone who has been selling in the startup world for years.

It was an awesome chat for a lot of reasons. But perhaps the biggest takeaway I have, and thing I learned the most about, was on the topic of sales and managing salespeople.

The phrase that stuck out to me was: being genuine and transparent. That is what separates great salespeople from the rest of the pack. The best salespeople not only convince the customer to buy the product, they convince themselves. They believe in what they are selling so much that selling the product is not at all like conventional sales. It is more like just talking about something you are passionate about.

I was lucky enough to empathize with this greatly. In high school, I got a tremendous amount of sales experience.

I ran a produce distribution company that sold produce (as well as plants and other things) at a number of Farmers Markets and to restaurants. It was a tremendous experience.

I learned sales. The real kind of sales. The scary kind. Where you have to talk to people in real life and persuade them to purchase your product. I learned the power of waking up at 4 in the freaking morning to meet my truck on time at the market so I could set up the best booth location. And then I competed against 200 other vendors.

In the span of a few years, my booth grew 10x. More than that, we opened up ~ 10 locations at a variety of booths across the state. We hired 10+ people to run booths and sales turned into managing sales.

I cannot emphasize enough just how much I learned from this experience. Perhaps I’ll start sharing more lessons I learned, make some unique stories!

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 31, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.

Shipping Quickly

Shipping Quickly

Hey! This past weekend a friend and I built a project called “Celebrate Immigrants.

It is a super cool project and I’d really appreciate your support. We’re live on Product Hunt today.

I shared the full story for why we put this together here but I also wanted to briefly touch on exactly how we did it.

I had the idea on Saturday night. It was about 11 pm when I messaged my friend, “Hey, we should do this!”

From there, it was literally a sprint. Of course this is not the most complex thing to build in the world. All it really is is a curation of links.

But we raced. Worked for like 4 hours straight. And got it up in a matter of hours.

We knew we had to go fast for a few reasons:

  1. Shipping quickly is essential to building these little side things. If you go slowly, chances are it will never be built.
  2. The timing — we needed this out ASAP.

Of course, you also want to balance between quantity and quality ~ but it’s fun to move fast.

Quantity AND Quality

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 30, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.

Retail in the Future

The evolution of retail has shaped the fabric of the American economy. As American citizens, it feels like retail shopping is in our DNA…

Moonshots: The Blog

Moonshots: The Blog

Last semester, I started a little group on campus that met every once in a while, very informally, to talk about the future.

This semester, we are calling the group Moonshots. I think you’d really enjoy the blog! We will have students contributing their thoughts after we hold these discussions.

There are some really really smart students who attend these talks with great perspectives. It will be super interesting to hear what they think!

The first talk we held this semester was about the automation of jobs. It was a great discussion that went all over the place. Check out this blog post that summarizes how it went.

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 29, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.



I generally like to look forward. I can control my actions in the future. There is nothing I can really do about what has happened in the past.

Every once in a while, I spend some time analyzing the past. I also find that very valuable. Though it is important not to get too caught up in worrying about things you can no longer change. Instead, it’s often best for me to ignore these sunk costs and make the best decision I can, today.

The thing I find most interesting about looking back on our lives is how we view our success. What made us successful in the past and how can we replicate that in the future?

When I’m 60 (hopefully one day), what will I attribute to my success.

If you google famous people and look at their history or bio. You’ll see a list of things that they accomplished when they were younger.

If you go on linkedin, everyone lists all their past jobs and awards they got.

I think “accomplishments” are one way to show your history. But to me, the more interesting and insightful timeline is not a list of the things you got…but rather the things you really wanted to get but did not.

Ezra Klein shared this concept in an interview. He said that,

“The things that I wanted and didn’t get are extreme blessings.”
 — Ezra Klein

That quote really stuck out to me. I look back to the times I really wanted something. I am not talking about like oh hey it would be great to do this or if I got this position. No. These were things I worked really hard for and really wanted. I stayed up late and woke up early for these things. I thought I was doing whatever it takes for them.

But, no matter my effort, I did not get them. A good example. As a sophomore in high school (some 4 years or so ago), I really wanted to be in Student Government. I wanted to be the class treasurer. I campaigned, spent a lot of time, and was really excited for the opportunity.

I did not win.

Looking back. I am so happy I did not win. That year, I started two businesses that would be perhaps, to this day, the most defining learning experiences from high school. And, who knows, would I have ever started those businesses if I had won? Probably would not have had enough time.

Last year, I really wanted to be in a social fraternity. A lot of my friends were doing it. I thought it would have been super fun. Again, I got really close. This time, really close. But I did not get it. I was cut.

It is hard to say this and hard to tell, but I am so happy I did not get those bids. I imagine that years from now that view will only become more defined. 2016 started with that “bad news.” But 2016 was the most formative year of my life. I did more, learned more, connected with more people, and grew more than any other year of my life.

Would that have happened if I had did a fraternity? Maybe? Probably not though.

Of course, in the moment — we want all the things we can get. In hindsight, we can often see from a clearer lens. Makes the failures more interesting.

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 28, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.

On Being Successful

On Being Successful

There is a ton of advice out there on how you should magically become “successful.”

There is no formal, globally accepted meaning of success. Everyone has their own purpose and set of values they live by, which often make up their personal definition.

There are no wrong answers. To each his/her own.

Once you have that definition of what success looks like / means to you, things become a lot easier. These things turn into goals and then you can start taking actionable steps to get to them.

Success often coincides with competition. It does not have to. But per many’s definition of success, you have to win to be successful. And winning often involves making other people lose.

Which is fine. Tough world.

The question then becomes how do you win often? How do you become the best?

Is it luck? Hard work? A combination of the two?

I have no idea. Being the best at something is very rare. Very few people in society are really good, let alone “the best” at what they do.

For obvious and redundant reasons, not everyone can be the best. But most people are not the worst either. So what we end up seeing is a normal distribution. Most people end up as average.

And when you are competing among a pool of average, it can be really hard to differentiate. Especially when the people at the top, “the best,” are dominating.

Luckily, there are ways to be different. And being different does not guarantee success, but it allows you to compete for it.

A good quote I heard, from Keith Rabois, is:

You don’t need to aim to be the best at what you do, you just need to be the only one who does what you do.

That quote really stuck with me.

Be the only one who does what you do.

A couple of thoughts on this:

  • You should spend time on things you care about. I think that is first and foremost. Whatever it is you care about, do things that help that. Far too often, we get caught up in competition and start doing things for reasons that do not actually help us get to our definition of success. We do things because other people said to, not because we want to .
  • I do think, however, that this monopolistic approach makes a lot of sense. You might be thinking that differentiating in this way, where you become the only one doing what you do, is impossible. It is hard. But it is far from impossible. All you have to do is do something different from the rest of the crowd. And just do it often.

Ex: I go to Washington University in St. Louis. It is a school of about 8000 or so people. So I’d call it a “good pool of competition.” I’ll generalize and say everyone here wants a job of some sort when they graduate (even if that is not true).

There are sooooo many smart people here. Seriously. Academically, people here are off the charts!

If I tried to be the best at CS, or math, or Finance, or Art History ~ I’d be screwed. I am never going to be the very best at any of those. And that is okay because I am still acquiring skills in them and improving.

I do try my best. I am working hard.

But I thought about that quote and thought..what can I do to be the only one who does what I do? None of this is supposed to be cocky. It is literally what I did.

I could have started running. 10 miles a day. I probably would have been, one of, the only person in the pool of competition who ran 10 miles a day.

For a while, I started “networking” and reaching out to people I was interested in talking to. That is a long story, and it is not all positive. But through that 3 month experiment, I learned a ton. I sent hundreds (maybe thousands) of emails during that time. I had hundreds (actually) of phone calls.

Now for the thought experiment: how many students at WashU have ever sent a cold email? Let’s be generous. 50%. What % send one a week? Let’s be, again, generous. Let’s say 20% of the 50%. (We’re at 2.5% so far). Ok now imagine we ask what % send one a day? I’d venture 10% maximum of that 2.5%. We’re at .025%. Now what if you sent 10 emails a day. You’re looking at 0.0025%. Crazy?!?

That is what I did.

Another one. What percentage of students write blog posts publicly? What about once a month? Once a week? Every single day? Probably none others.

The point here is not that I am the best at any of these things. I am really not the best. I’d like to emphasize that. It’s just the fact that I am really doing things that separates me.

Now I’d also like to emphasize that I thoroughly enjoyed both of those things. I’d call it a real waste to spend any significant amount of time chasing success if it did not make me happy or help other people. That, to me, is really important.

I wish you best of luck! I know you can do it.

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 27, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.

What kills companies?

What kills companies?

Most startups fail. The question I ask: why?

What causes most companies to collapse? Is it the idea? The team? The lack of execution? Is it competition?

In my own mind, building a business is very simple but also complicated. Reasons for failing is one of the simple parts of the equation. Of course there are exceptions but I think, generally, you can bucket “causes of death” into one of these categories:

  • Lack of execution
  • Build something no one wants
  • Team falls apart

In my mind, those are the most common reasons for failure. It’s not competition. It’s not your pricing strategy. It’s that you either are not shipping product enough or you are building something no one wants. Also, if you cannot gel with your team, then you probably will fail anyway (like a marriage).

We, especially when building new things or starting new companies, put a huge over emphasis on other factors. We worry about raising money, getting the right domain, etc. All of these other things that, in large part, will not make any difference as to whether or not our company will survive.

Of course, these are only my thoughts. At the end of the day, the best founders learn this as they go or through experience. The biggest thing I can emphasize that I believe to be true is that focus is so crucial to success. There are so many distractions in life. Particularly, the tech world is riddled with distractions and bad advice. (Ironic). Advice that will validate you externally but not help you build a successful business. That is why it is crucial you set goals, focus on them, and get the job done.

Now back to this whole failure thing. Luckily, you do not have to take my word for it.

This product, Collapsed, is a directory of failed startups. You can learn a ton from reading their stories — why they failed, etc.

Let me know what you find!

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 26, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.

Generating Passive Income

Generating Passive Income

I’m pretty transparent for the reasons that I write. I actually just published a story titled “Why I Write.”

The TL;DR of that story is that I write to exercise my mind and become a better communicator. Of course, other things have come from it. Many other “things” but moreso skills, friends, and benefits have come from writing every single day.

Anyways, I do not write, on my personal blog, to make money. That has never been the goal and is not the plan.

(I do write for brands/people ~ let’s chat).

I do, however, think figuring out a way, early on in your life, to generate passive income is definitely a good thing. It’s been on my mind a bit lately — and that is creating a stream of passive income ~ like $3k/mo ~ by the end of this year.

I am only writing this publicly to hold myself to a higher standard. That is a goal I have. You may ask why? And I have longer answers. But the main one is so that I can focus more on what really matters and worry less about little things.

You may argue that something like this is a distraction from the end goal. But I see it more as a means to it.

So how am I going to do it? That remains to be seen.

One more thing to note:

I think there is a huge difference between starting a project to generate passive income and trying to build a company. Two completely different things that require completely different mindsets. I think you can “force” ideas for projects. Most companies that start that way end up being shit because they do not really solve any problems.

Now the goal is out there — time to get it.

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 25, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.

Scaphold 2.0

Scaphold 2.0

Today, we’re launching Scaphold 2.0. It’s a refresh and update to our rapid app development platform.

What we do:

We first launched our GraphQL Backend as a Service back in May and since then a lot has changed! We have rebuilt most of the platform from the ground up and it is more powerful than ever! In seconds, you can deploy a production ready GraphQL API backed by super scalable infrastructure hosted on AWS. The platform is full of features. We include an intuitive schema designer for defining your data model, role and graph-based permissions for complex access control, realtime functionaliy with GraphQL subscriptions, integrations with popular services like Stripe, Algolia, and social auth providers, analytics and monitoring, as well as our newest feature Logic! Logic allows you to compose micro services and extend your Scaphold app with unlimited business logic hosted on your own infrastructure or in the cloud.

We’re also on Product Hunt today 🚀 , would love your support!

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 24, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.