I posted recently about the importance to periodically check how a current role/ position fits into the greater journey – “Before Making Moves Based On Today’s Bad, Chart How All The Dots Align to A Path”. I took this to heart recently by reviewing my resume and updating my skills and experience. It’s made me aware of my career progression and my upcoming path as I head into my mid-30s. In short: optically, I’ve been rather stagnant.
Building a startup is incredibly hard work. Many startups do not come close to the type of success that is read about in the news or even the local startup digest. Entrepreneurship, though intrinsically rewarding, is not well-received professionally.
As I’ve had the great opportunities to lead sales at Body Boss Fitness, SalesWise, and SalesWise’s new product/ brand Burner Rocket, they’ve all been tough experiences to get through. Starting from virtually nothing and fighting to get scraps of the first 10 customers and then the next is rarely seen from the outside. The mind soaks up more information than what any “normal corporate” job may provide. However, it’s, in some ways, specialized. The bruises and cuts that I have felt by leading the charge for what a sales process may look like, what are the pieces of collateral that will help sell, how do we support our customers when we don’t even know the full metrics of what is working and what is not… those lessons are not always visible to the outside world. And yet, I know the incredible value that has been learned. I know the pains and the difficulties to get to where we are. I have good hypotheses for why we may not have grown at a faster clip, but from the outside, there’s little stock. Growing from 0-10 may not be as impressive as being a leader who hit the $2MM ARR quota from last year’s $1.5MM. Should that be?
Again, periodically looking through the portfolios of seemingly little accomplishments for early-stage opportunities, I can sense there’s a strain. There’s a pull and a fight between the desire to hop into a role where the hard work has mostly been done. Perhaps, there’s a need for an optimizer or a player to just “grow more”. It’s a struggle – to be a part of something so early that the chances of success are low. The challenges and rewards are greater. Or, do I take the easier route by following the path others have already trotted on before. In that way, perhaps I can have the requisite bullet points for others to note and say, “yes, he’s had that experience of hitting XX of quota”.
Being an entrepreneur and taking a real fight to creating something special isn’t always lauded. It’s rarely what folks are really looking for. But they’re the opportunities I’m looking for. It looks like I’m still on the right path.

Recently, my company and I left @ATLTechVillage. It was bittersweet — a place I visited right after @davidcummings bought the building, and always wanted to be a member of. As I left, I wanted to write a letter, but decided a list of lessons from my time would be more welcome…

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

Here are my 21 lessons learned from my time @ATLTechVillage… to all you Villagers, entrepreneurs, Atlantans, the Community. (Many more sure to come up as time goes & things marinate, but here goes!)

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

1Don’t EVER merge into the right-turn lane in front of ATV on Piedmont too late during lunch or afternoon rush hour. Police will yell at you to “unmerge”. Talk-back & get a ticket. Think you got away? Check your rearview. She’s likely running after you.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

2If you want some mid-day entertainment, watch the traffic police during lunch or afternoon rush hour to see the above lesson in action. Warning: 15 minutes will pass without you knowing.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

3Spend more time getting your oatmeal or morning coffee, and finally say hello to the people you always see, but still never get to know. It’s amazing how many strangers with familiar faces there are in the place you spend so much of your life in.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

4If you’re going to interact with the @ATLTechVillage Community Team, be incredibly enthusiastic because that’s the level they always bring to the table. If you’re emailing, include at least 12 exclamation points. Doesn’t matter how many sentences.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

5The ATV cleaning staff is made up of some of the hardest working, friendliest folks you’ll encounter – shout out to Rossy and Crescensio. They’re likely there before you, and they’re likely there after you. Say, “hola” and “adios” more often.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

6If you enter the building and exit the building via the first floor, you have the added benefit of saying good morning and good night to the security team.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

7@Lane_JKL is great at creative handshakes.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

8The walls are thin. Realize that your Lady Gaga and “Kiki, do you love me” on the TVs and computers can be heard during a demo to Fortune 500 leadership teams (everyone).

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

9When you least expect it, those damn columns in the parking deck move causing you to scrape your car.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

10Feedback and help are literally next door. There’s so much brain power and creativity in your own office, I’m sure. But there’s even more when you consider all your friendly neighbors.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

11After walking to and from lunch on a hot summer’s day, the best way to cool down is sitting on the couch in the mailroom. It’s always the coldest, most refreshing room in the Village.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

12Don’t wait for the elevator if you’re going up or down one flight of stairs unless you’ve got a good reason. From a productivity standpoint, you’ll lose time 75% of those trips.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

13I never took advantage of the roof enough during the good weather days that I then regret during the bad weather days. When the weather’s nice, go up there.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

14Even though many of the hallways are whiteboards (paint), the writing tends to stay there for a long time. Don’t write something that reflects poorly on the Community, your company, and you.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

15Never steal food.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

16Okay, the nap room is a little weird. But when you need it, it’s the best room in the Village.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

17Freestyle (verb. To travel to and acquire beverage from@ccfreestyle machine on the 1st floor next to the Community Room) whenever you can for the exercise, for the break, for the hydration, for the community.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

18Post a bunch of times on the Atlanta Tech Village Slack and Forum to sell used equipment. It moves your inventory and keeps good tech amongst good tech people. ?

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

19Go to events as much as possible. The world is built on relationships. Those “organic” meet-ups can make the world of difference – a sales opportunity, a partnership, a creative idea to get over a problem, a friend, etc.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

20To the last point, say hello to more people, and then, go beyond to find out who people are. So many strangers with familiar faces, and the world needs more authenticity. Say hello and find out what drives people. You’ll be amazed.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

21The Atlanta startup ecosystem is bustling. Amazing to see folks taking the leap and dreaming big in ATL & @ATLTechVillage. Soak it all in. Rare to be around concentration energetic people who love what they do! Say hello. This is the Village, not Atlanta Tech Building.

— Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) August 9, 2018

I know a few folks who are diving into new ideas. One way of starting up has been fleshing out the Lean Canvas — a simple one-pager in lieu of a business plan. 
Like a business plan, the Lean Canvas helps folks capture the key elements of a business without building out a detailed, largely never-to-be-used-again business plan. It’s certainly a good way to get started while thinking holistically. 
Another method I’ve been thinking about after reviewing “landing page how-to’s“(see Julian’s Landing Pages handbook) is what I’ll refer to as the Alternatives-Value-Personas (AVP) framework. This is a stripped-down version of a Lean Canvas. In fact, this may be a preceding model before the Canvas. 
 
(Source: https://www.julian.com/guide/growth/landing-pages) 
  
In this framework, the idea is to dig into the pain today — what exists — and describe the value of a proposed solution as well as the people involved. Why I bring this up as another option is to understand the problem and the people greater while having a hypothesis of the value of the solution. The most important facet of starting out a business is the market and the pain. Is there a pain at all? What exists solving the pain, or even contributing to the pain? 
Another option for folks is building on a Simplified One-Page Strategic Plan as David Cummings calls it. This is an outline layout of the key aspects of the business. You’ll recognize here, too, the template has specific sections for values, purpose, promise — cultural elements.   
 
(Source: https://davidcummings.org/2016/11/29/2017-simplified-one-page-strategic-plan/)  
There are a lot of different options to get started. However, the most important piece is understanding the audience and addressing real pain, or as one VC describes “hair on fire“. 
Finally, I wrapped up Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. I was recommended the book years ago to better understand psychology. Understanding psychology has many benefits for entrepreneurs, sellers, marketers, and others – better understand people improves interactions within teams, with customers, and even provide hypotheses for product direction.
Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow
Let me start off with: this is a dense book. The paperback copy spans 499 pages. It’s both conceptual and technical. I’ll likely need to read this book multiple times to truly appreciate its depth. As it stands, I feel the book could have (should have) been split into multiple books with the latter half diving very deep into sampling (sizes).
The two concepts I took away most from the book:
  • System 1 vs. System 2. This is the most renowned principle of the book – the systems that think “fast” and “slow”. System 1 is the mind’s reactionary processes. System 1 relies on heuristics such as recency (a recent event prejudicing the current situation), anchoring (think about the first number thrown in a negotiation), and others. System 2 is a more deliberate, limited-resourced process of the mind. Solving a math problem like 34×27 being an example. It requires a slower, deliberate thought process.
  • Sample sizes. Especially the latter half of the book, Kahneman makes several points about understanding sample sizes when deliberating biases, results, and even research (psychologists and economists most notably studied). Too often, statements or actions are based on limited sample sizes (read: not statistically significant). Instead, they are influenced solely by “what you see is all there is”.

There’s a lot more covered in the book. I am limiting the concepts here in these two broad concepts because they’re absolutely key to my take-aways. But also, there was so much discussed in this book that sticking to the highlights help influence change.

And what’s the change? Kahneman consistently reminded the reader that the research he and his former partner Amos was applicable to everyone. Though the situations hypothesized often drew criticism or defensiveness from others (readers included), the findings were widely accurate for readers – myself, included. The change then becomes more self-awareness of the fast thinking that occurs, and the necessity to slow down, when more scrupulous attention is needed.
System 2 is a limited resource. It was not hard to realize in my own life how often my System 1 jumped into action to save even just seconds of System 2 “work”. It’s true. Viewing optical illusions within the book or even evaluating double-digit multiplication, my System 2 was lazy. It was easy for my System 1 to take a quick glance and draw a conclusion (usually incorrect as was designed to throw me off) or even renege completely on the problem in front of me. It’s shocking.
I can couple this thinking and need to slow down with Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. One of my greatest challenges is slowing down and stop being immediately reactionary (read: impulsive). Perhaps because of recent events with people and challenges, it’s no wonder being more mindful is one of my main take-aways.
The book is great. It reinforces (or rather, puts a foundational view on) many other literature I’ve read recently including Dale Carnegie’s book as well as Never Split the Difference and others. Helpful to set that foundation. Though, the book is quite long, and half-way through, I wanted to skip to my next book with more actionable tactics. Choices, choices… need some time to slow down and think about this. J

Where do you want to go? Where are you now? Are you getting to where you want to go?
These are questions I’ve been fielding recently. However, these are questions that should be periodically asked and answered. More than likely, myself and many others ask these questions only when things are bad. That is, thoughts arise like, “I don’t like where I am, what should I do next?” It’s akin to reevaluating bad habits or poor exercise form only when pain occurs. Even less often is when longer-term questions are asked.
It’s a problem.
We shouldn’t ask these questions so rarely. We definitely shouldn’t ask these questions simply when things are not going well. (“Don’t go to the grocery store when hungry” comes to mind.)
We should ask ourselves several times a year where do we want to go. Has this changed since the last time we asked? Why?
The difficult part of not asking these questions periodically, then, comes when we have to ask the question not out of a want and simply to stay aligned. Instead, the difficulty comes when the change must come out of necessity – when a drastic change must occur. The difficulty comes when we find ourselves further beyond our locus of control. The difficulty comes when things have become easy or comfortable, and we’ve adopted a higher luxury. That’s when lethargy comes in and we forget about our why.
Ask yourself: Where do I want to go? Where am I now? Am I getting to where I want to go? If not, how do I get back on-track?

Back to talking about product! Last week, I talked about the importance of product prioritization and the product roadmap. I’ve also shared takeaways from Des Traynor of Intercom talk on product development. Specifically, how to drive adoption and engagement. Today, here’s a framework for product prioritization – RICE.
  • Reach – How many customers or prospects would a feature/ development engage?
  • Impact – What is the outcome/ results of a build? Would this drive engagement – feature/ user adoption? Drive revenue?
  • Confidence – How likely would development have the effect on reach and impact?
  • Effort – How many total man-hours/ weeks/ months would this development take? Remember to include hours for each resource across functions (i.e. product, front-end, back-end).

Intercom suggests teams add bands of scores to quantify each factor as best as possible. For example, to understand the factor of Impact, scoring can follow: “3 for ‘massive impact’, 2 for ‘high’, 1 for ‘medium’, 0.5 for ‘low’, and finally 0.25 for ‘minimal’”.

Combine each of the scores for:

The idea of RICE is to measure each potential development (feature, build) objectively to drive the most value – benefit vs. resources.

Building a business with a product is fun. It’s also a long, difficult journey. That journey of developing a product that includes the many twists and turns of building features, sunsetting features, and the like is called a product roadmap. However, like a traditional map, each road leads to a decision point. In the product world, this is where product prioritization comes into play.
Early on in a product’s lifecycle of a business just starting out is the vision of its founders. The term “MVP” may be tossed around meaning “minimum viable product” as coined by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup. At its core is the prioritization of the key features that will generate the most value and demand in the market as quickly as possible – read: as minimal resources as possible.
But once initial traction takes off (or perhaps doesn’t), there’s a myriad of choices a startup can take in its product journey. This is where the importance of product prioritization comes in. Why is product prioritization so important?
  • Most folks enjoy the creation of new ideas, not necessarily incremental improvements to existing features/ product(s).
  • Development can take on the personal interests rather than based on the impact and influence of another.
  • As a partof the shield to guard against the “Next Feature Fallacy” where the idea that “this” new feature will improve traction, sales, etc.
  • To align cross-functional teams on not only the impact, but the efforts required by all to produce XYZ changes.

Really, the key is being able to optimize for value based on limited resources. Product prioritization requires objective measuring to ensure the most valuable product, and thus company, is created.

Today, I’m spotlighting two Atlanta-based SaaS startups that are on a tear in growth – LeaseQuery and OneTrust. Both of these companies have experienced monumental growth by addressing excruciatingpains. In fact, those pains are brought about by regulations forcing companies big and small, near and far to address.
LeaseQuery is addressing the upcoming FASB 842 and IFRS 16 regulations where companies must now disclose its leases on the balance sheet. Before, companies could just lump leases as lease expenses, never actually disclosing what the leases were. All public companies are to report leased assets (e.g. real estate, vehicles, ovens, etc.) starting in 2019. Private companies must start recording in 2020.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/leasequery 
OneTrust’s rise has been further pronounced after it’s more public position in enabling companies to manage data privacy. Facebook’s recent handling of user data that was scooped by Cambridge Analytica was an example of user privacy being a hot topic. Europe’s newest crackdown on how people’s data is stored by corporations called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has helped accelerate OneTrust’s significant growth. GDPR goes into effect May 25, 2018 affecting any company with any data of the European Union’s population – sold customers or not. This regulation will influence data protection guidelines worldwide with significant fines for any (and each) infraction of companies violating GDPR.
https://www.linkedin.com/company/onetrust 
These companies were started by founders not only experiencing the pains themselves, but by founders who saw the emerging trends worldwide. By moving swiftly to address these pains, they’ve been able to learn and leverage that growth for even faster growth. It’s a beautiful thing to watch companies addressing real pains scale.
What are some other companies that have addressed legal and regulatory changes? Are there changes you know about in your area/ industry of expertise that have not been addressed yet (or minimally)?

Desire for achievement is best demonstrated during in the “interims”. What happens during interims have the greatest influence on results.
What is an interim? An interim is the moment between two moments, activities, or events. A moment, activity, or event could include:
  • When a bodybuilder is working out in the gym.
  • When a marketer launching or in the middle of a campaign push.
  • When a singer is on stage.

An interim then, is the in-between period between workouts at the gym, marketing campaigns, or on-stage during concerts. Interims are when desire shines greatest. This is where success is created.

I thought about this as I was leaving the gym the other day. As I left, I saw folks who had just arrived sitting on a couch. Clearly, they were waiting for others. If they sit there for 5-10 minutes, that’s 5-10 minutes they could have spent warming up. That’s 5-10 minutes they could have put their things away in the locker room. This, of course, does not include the time at home with diets, sleep, etc. However, the details during interims including those immediately leading up to a new event are just as telling.
When a woman with an idea says she wants to leave her job and start her own business, but spends hours sitting in front of the TV after work, she’s not building towards her goal. Her interim time is spent watching TV, not on customer discovery. She’s not learning how to program. She’s not performing customer discovery.
Contrast the actions of Cristiano Ronaldo, five-time Ballons d’Or and Real Madrid stalwart. Cristiano is a well-known fanatic about his post-game recovery and pre-game preparation – the meals he consumes, recovery rituals, etc.
Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com, is another prime example of an individual who excels during interims.
The actions of individuals during interims can be a type of “bias towards action”, but it goes beyond that. It’s a reflection of the desire and action to achieve. The habits during the interims create long-term effects beyond the events themselves in reaching goals.
What are you doing during your interims? Why?


I attended a meetup recently with a Q&A session with George Azih CEO of LeaseQuery, a company that has grown from 5 to 50 employees in the last year. His company is solving a real pain-point. In fact, what his tool provides addresses a mandate by upcoming financial reporting regulations — specifically, lease accounting.

Having spent several years growing the business largely alone, he de-risked much of the business by proving traction. The company has been able to grow at rocket-pace all while still being bootstrapped. Nice.
A couple points that he attributes to the company’s success so far:
  • The product is a SaaS application that helps companies comply with new accounting regulations around lease accounting. Read: This is a MUST-have.
  • He has a strong leadership team that he regards as the three legs of a stool – he runs product and has two partners, Chris and Brendan, running sales and engineering, respectively.
  • The company sells and collects 3-year commitments upfront. This reduces the risk of vendor change after one year (and two). Instead of providing discounts, the company assures customers their price will be locked with continual product improvement.
  • His primary role as CEO is now removing impediments from the team. He enables his team to do their best work.
  • The real impetus for George to focus on the product/ company after 3 years as a side-gig was a stress-induced illness.
  • Building the business slowly also helped George become a deep expert in this area of accounting. He shared his knowledge via blog posts to build credibility with his target audience.
  • The CEO’s number one tip is how bad things can actually be good… and conversely, good things can be bad. Read: do your best with what you’ve got.

Not to take away from the great leadership and team in place executing, but it’s powerful to see how a MUST-have product can help a company grow.