“Hi, Daryl… Daryl Lu. I’m one of the few, the proud, the native Atlantan.” (image source: http://femgineer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/networking.jpg)
It’s amazing how many interesting people are around me. I’m not even talking about the people I truly know like family, friends, work colleagues, etc., but the people I just happen to run into at Starbucks, through happen-stance introductions, etc. I’m wearing earbuds now, but it’s truly amazing when you unplug at times and say hello to the person next to you. If you’re an entrepreneur or aspiring to be, it’s one of the practices I suggest to others – get comfortable just talking to others.
My friend recently shared an article from the Art of Manliness – Be More Memorable: How to Better Answer the 3 Questions You Always Get Asked When Meeting Someone New. It’s one of those posts that reminds me of why you should introduce yourself sometimes to the random person next to you. That is, you can hear about another’s story as well as refine your own. In the world of startups and the constant barrage of information and social media, it’s good to separate yourself from the pack by having genuine conversations with actual, memorable stories.
Feel like it’s all wishy-washy? Yeah, maybe, but check out a little about the people I’ve recently met just in the past couple weeks:
  • Allen Graber A local entrepreneur who has successfully navigated an exit in the late 90’s. Since, he’s a founding member of the Atlanta Technology Angels. He’s on the Board of startups, invests in many startups, and even started an accelerator program here in Atlanta to help early stage tech companies. All this, and he’s got a great family with two kids and a wife. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with him now a few times, and each time, I’ve enjoyed talking with him and hearing what’s made him successful. Definitely a great person I can now count on as a friend and mentor.
  • Stephanie Dylewski An educational consultant helping students position themselves for the right college(s)… arguably, their futures. She didn’t know it before, but she’s in a startup. In an early stage company with two employees with her and her CEO, she’s got to wear multiple hats to support the growth of the company. She left her days as an interior designer to pursue her passions working with kids and schools (put that undergrad psychology major to use!). She also blogs for the company Within Reach Education and admits that she’s been uncomfortable. However, she writes well, and it’s exciting to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s growth. Now, she’s introducing me to her CEO and the CEO’s husband who’s also an entrepreneur just to brainstorm ideas to grow the business and other thoughts. Pretty cool.
Stephaanie Dylewski of Within Reach Education
  • Jaime Benedetti Soccer coach over at a local university. Actually met him on the soccer field on Sunday, and ran into him at my local Starbucks. Very interesting to know he has a small financial firm Benedetti Gucer & Associates that enables him the latitude to pursue his passion in soccer.
  • Alan Honeycutt Co-founder and CTO of a startup called Yubixi – a friend discovery platform. How often do you move or you’re just looking for new friends now that you’re [many years] out of college and your social circle has shrunk? Yubixi helps connect you with people in the community with the same interests as you. Very new startup. I ran into him because these days when you see someone all geared up in Apple iDevices splayed all over the Starbucks table and earbuds in, there’s a good chance he’s an entrepreneur. So yeah, I just asked if he was working on a startup – I was right!
www.yubixi.com
  • Steve WalkerOwner of Crossfit Chamblee. Okay, I met Steve a while ago, but he’s sitting across from me, so I figure I could include him as one of the interesting people I’ve met just by happy serendipity. Real cool guy, and he’s constantly working on the WOD and working to improve the experience for his CrossFitters.
Steve Walker and Crossfit Chamblee

Anyways, it’s always good to just unplug and reach out your hand and introduce yourself to the person next to you. There are interesting people everywhere who could be just interesting to meet, or could be more serendipitous from a grander vision. You’d never know unless you get yourself out there, and practice your personal story.

What are your thoughts about random connections and just free networking? How do you introduce yourself to others? Who’s someone interesting you met recently?

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Every once in a while, you stumbled on some hilarious YouTube video involving kids or kittens or in my case, ducklings. Okay, so these days, maybe it’s not “every once in a while” as much as it is “very often” thanks to everyone sharing everything. The video I recently saw had some obscure leadership lessons that I wanted to share. Yes, of course there are leadership lessons from watching ducklings go up stairs.

You ready? Okay, check out this video first: Ducklings vs. Stairs
Pretty hilarious, and yet, so cute… and so much to learn
Note: when you reach the bottom of this article (read it, don’t just scroll!), I’ll treat you to another hilarity by ducklings (in the wind). However, no leadership lessons I’m drawing from that one.
Let’s just do as ducks do, dive (or jump) into it:

  1. Perseverance. Okay, this was easy, but it’s only easy to point out because it’s so important. How often do you think you’ve approached a seemingly “impossible” task, only to give up short of success?
  2. Learn from your failures. Goes hand-in-hand with the preceding, but you can see the ducks constantly probe different parts of the stairs, and even try areas where another duckling had success. 
  3. Let your flock fly! Clearly, Mama Duck could see her little ones struggling. However, she patiently stood atop the stairs waiting. Sometimes, as a leader, you gotta step back and let the little ducklings do their thing.
  4. Ducks quack together. The line in Disney’s Mighty Ducks was “ducks fly together”, but seeing as the ducklings here aren’t flying, need to adapt it. When you watch the video, see how the ducklings follow each other and even quack at each other like motivation? Ducks quack, flock, fly together, even at a young age. Okay, except for maybe the last duckling. Poor guy.
  5. Sometimes, there’s no getting around the challenge in front of you. Ah, highly applicable, I think, for entrepreneurs and startups especially. The challenge in front of is… actually, there are many. Cutting corners or trying to find a way around some challenges just isn’t going to cut it. I’ve found that sometimes, you gotta find your way THROUGH it, or in the ducklings’ case, get over it.
So, it would have been an interesting leadership observation had none of the ducklings made it. What would Mama Duck do?
Okay, as promised, here’s another duckling video just for your fun today. It’s pretty hilarious, and in some (many) ways, I feel terrible for laughing: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEBLt6Kd9EY


If you enjoyed watching these little ducks go, you should check out this one. Not many lessons here other than “in high wind, reduce your drag coefficient… and don’t be a duck”.
The last several months for me have been… interesting. Since Body Boss became a zombie, I’ve been poking and prodding and brainstorming and wandering what the Next Move is. I’ve helped out a startup with business development, but decided it wasn’t a good long-term fit. Though, I still have demos and conversations just to practice. It would appear at times that I’m spinning my wheels.
I’ve been putting myself in various positions whether that be working with startups, interviews of restaurateurs, and of course, good ole reconnects with friends and otherwise. A couple weeks ago, I was staring down from a new nadir… unable to sleep, I got up and wrote a Proclamation of sorts to my close friends and family about continued support and to push me and hold me accountable to what I’m trying to achieve. Needless to say, it was a dash of poignant revelations and a whole lot of “I think I can, I think I can”. It’s good to know I have some very good family and friends who push me and are supportive…
Aside from knowing who’s got my back, I was able to connect with a serial entrepreneur out in San Francisco who’s a friend of my older brother. I didn’t ask if I could use his name, so I’ll call him “Wayne”. Wayne has been an entrepreneur since his days in high school. He’s founded companies whilst at Georgia Tech, and had a great idea go bigger when he joined YCombinator (YC) a few years ago. If you don’t know Y Combinator, think of it as the Harvard Business School of technology accelerators with notable alums including Dropbox, Reddit, Airbnb, and so many more incredible companies. Since then, though, he’s founded another startup that is reaching crazy great levels of recruiting with specific roles, companies, and even select cities. It’s how he maintains some version of what Paul Graham describes as “wells” – target companies/ pains/ niches and go deep vs. going after a larger audience with limited depth of services or otherwise.
So, Mr. Wayne… I explained to him my position, and inquired about his experience and sought his advice. Here are some take-aways from our conversation:
  • If you want to be on the business side, know your numbers. I shared with Wayne an idea I’m currently incubating, and he had some great questions regarding the business model. In effect, he was testing the economic feasibility of the idea as well as my wit. Sadly, I didn’t quite respond as well as I wanted. His advice was to practice mental/ back-of-the-napkin math for ideas. That should at least help early on determine if there’s a viable business idea.
  • Early on, it’s about the product rather than the team. This was an interesting viewpoint. For… ever, I heard how VCs, entrepreneurs, etc. invest in the team behind the startup. Wayne’s point was that if the idea (i.e. product, service) is good, then the market will pull you up. From there, you’ll find money both from your customers and want-to-be investors. Also, the team will quickly learn and get the experience. Wayne cited this as a key learning from watching company after company go through YC.
  • Build a pain pill, not a vitamin. Okay, that phrase is actually pulled from David Cummings, but it’s apparent in what Wayne was prescribing (see what I did there?). From the preceding bullet, the underlying take-away is to find an idea that addresses pain points for markets. If you find a real pain killer, customers will come to you. Of course, marketing will help, too.
  • If you’re not a programmer, don’t bother. On Saturday, I bit the bullet and bought a MacBook to learn how to program in iOS for this new idea I’m incubating. Since then, I’ve churned through hours and hours of iOS programming tutorials (for Swift) through 4 courses. Wayne cited that if I wanted to stick to the business-side of things, get better at that. Many good programmers have been programming for a long time, and there are 18 year-olds who would smoke me. It’s always going to be catch-up. I should focus on what my experience has given me, and hone those skills.
  • Notion of “Liquidity” – 3 tenets: proximity of the sale, right product and right customer, and timing. At least for my current incubating idea, I must deal with these three sides of liquidity that will challenge my success vis-à-vis if I can EASILYaddress these three tenets to facilitate the marketplace.
  • It’ll take 2-3 years to reach any level of success. Obviously, that’s not applicable to every startup, but from his experience, that where he’s found the greatest success in his startups. He also cites that San Francisco could be a great place for entrepreneurs, but with the added cost-of-living considerations, there are significant downsides. At the end of the day, be good at where you are.

It’s great knowing a couple degrees of connections away is yet another successful serial entrepreneur. It’s incredibly inspiring. Though, I have to admit that it’s also incredibly daunting. You can tell Wayne’s got his $h!t together with how we speaks and his questions – no doubt through fine tutelage of YC and Paul Graham et al. I’ve taken a lot of his advice to heart, and I’ll be considering all of these take-aways and then some over my present and future (both short and long-term).
Though, I will say that I will still plug away at iOS. I don’t hope to become a CTO and CEO in a startup I found. Instead, I do want the ability to quickly build apps web or mobile and test out ideas. Wayne cited his earlier days in Berkley, CA where he was holed up in a house with two other co-founders, and they would build an idea a day. With that type of iterating, they were able to test ideas quickly. That’s where I want to be. I want to be able to test ideas quickly, and build something great like him.
Closing thoughts. Wayne suggested reading the following two Paul Graham essays:

What are your thoughts on my conversation with Wayne (or at least the take-aways)? How else would you recommend entrepreneurs building up for the Next Move?
Source: http://ak8.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/1256950/preview/stock-footage-man-in-brown-suit-stand-on-beach-and-rises-hands-then-walked-and-immersed-sea-water-and-swam-at.jpg
I’ve been heads down trying to get this new startup I’ve got going that for one of the first times in a while, my mind was drawing a blank as to what I should post about. I’m not quite where I want to be for the startup to post anything about it, yet, so I’ll curb that. Instead, I did read an article recently about the CEO of MongoDB, Max Schireson stepping down.
MongoDB is one of the hot techs out there right now. When you think up-and-coming and leading edge tech, it’s right there at the top with a recent valuation of $1B according to the article on Business Insider – Why This CEO Happily Just Quit The Best Job He’s Ever Had.
Schireson cites his crazy travel schedule considering he and his family lives in Palo Alto while the company is headquartered in New York. He’s on course to break 300,000 miles this year! (As a former frequent flyer (Delta Diamond, for the win) and now sparse traveler, ah, I want that.) Anyways, he’s leaving the post and stepping into a Vice Chairman role.
His blog post describes more of the situation, and based on some questions and lifestyle choices of those around me are playing out, I wanted to share some take-aways…
  • For Max Schireson and many, family comes first.As a young consultant but always a “family man”, I used to ask the more senior consultants how they felt about traveling during the rapid growth years of their young kids.
  • Not always about money, especially “now”. When you’re good at what you do and you know people, you’ll likely always have opportunities that will pay you. Money’s not really the problem. For me right now, my focus is less on money and more on entrepreneurship and building a startup that will have lasting impressions. If things really do slip for me, I know I can pull the ripcord and parachute to “security”.
  • Some/ most people won’t understand why, but you only need a select few to know why. That is, MongoDB is growing by leaps and bounds. They’ve raised some serious capital and have a hotly rising valuation. Schireson’s step down from CEO will impact him not just on the bottom line, but also from professional development, etc. perspectives. Most people will see it that way. But to those who matter, they’ll understand and support him on his decision and transition (and beyond).
  • If you’re running a company, you need “all-in” leaders to make the most of the opportunities. Maybe you need to mitigate some risks at the beginning, but once that’s rolling, you need to plunge headfirst to make the decisions and adjustments (pivots?) necessary to the business to be successful. It’s like raising a baby!
  • Plenty of bias and judging between men and women executives. The start of the Business Insider article talks about Schireson’s experience of questions asked of him vs. his female executive counterparts regarding “personal interests” vs “family-work balance”.
  • Behind every great business leader, is a great partner. I remember watching a video of the trials and tribulations Elon Musk endured during the formative years of both Tesla and Space X (see his 60 Minutes interview). However, he also had a great partner at home in his wife to take care of the “Personal Business”. Looking at those around me like at Body Boss, Don (our Head of Development/ Lead Developer/ Make Sh!t Happen Officer) worked some crazy hours after his full-time gig, and was supporting a newborn. His wife was a huge, HUGE partner of not just him, but for Body Boss because of her support.

So in the end, Schireson’s making the decision that he and his family feel is best. It’s been a great run at the helm of MongoDB, but it also doesn’t mean his role in shaping the company future stops and that he just stops moving forward professionally. Instead, now, he can move forward in the capacities he views as most critical to his greater LIFE – his family.
What are your thoughts about stepping down or away from seemingly highly lucrative positions? Schireson obviously holds his family as the main pillar of his life. What would you say is yours right now?