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)?

A friend recently shared with me that to be successful and maintain some form of sanity, entrepreneurs should pick three of: work, sleep, family, fitness, or friends. My friend was referencing what Randi Zuckerberg said in an Entrepreneur.com interview. Randi shared how she balanced being a wife and mother of two, entrepreneur, speaker, TV producer, author, and even singer. 
My friend shared this concept of picking three after reading my book. She referenced how the book went into detail about the practicality of entrepreneurship including how team dynamics play a critical role.
Indeed at Body Boss, each of us cofounders had very different risk tolerances and life circumstances. The intricacies of our personal lives affected our financial needs which affected full-time vs. part-time work on Body Boss. That would then affect our speed to iterate on the product as well as sell. All of this had cyclical and amplifying effects on each other. Again, failure isn’t caused by a singular event. Failure occurs after a multitude of decisions and actions that cascade.
To Randi’s point in the interview, she mentioned how her 3 picks would shift from week to week, even day to day as long as there was balance in the long-run. Perhaps her five choices are more tactical, but it reminds me of how at any point, we should have stability in at least 4 areas of California-Riverside’s 7 Dimensions of Wellness – social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual, and physical.
https://wellness.ucr.edu/seven_dimensions.html
Challenges in somedimensions in life are good to keep ourselves engaged. However, trying to accomplish everything at the same time will inevitably cause quality in ALL areas to diminish rapidly. Instead, focus on a subset of areas at any given time and shift those priorities as needed to ensure balance long-term.
Screenshot from http://techcrunch.com/gallery/y-combinator-startup-playbook/slide/42/
Last week, TechCrunchpublished 62 Tips from Y Combinator’s Startup Instruction Manual. It was written by YC’s President Sam Altman with some good quotes to ponder when doing a startup. I wanted to share my favorite Altmanisms:
  • “Today’s successful companies all started with a product that their early users loved so much they told other people about it. If you fail to do this, you will fail.”
  • “The fast you can develop self-belief and not get dragged down by haters, the better off you’ll be. No matter how successful you are, the haters will never go away.”
  • “The best ideas sound bad but are in fact good. So you don’t need to be too secretive with your idea – if it’s actually a good idea, it likely won’t sound like it’s worth stealing.”
  • “Founder need both rigidity and flexibility. You want to have strong beliefs about the core of the company and its mission, but still be willing to learn new things when it comes to almost everything else.”
  • “If you have a pre-existing relationship with your cofounders, none of you will want to let the other down and you’ll keep going. Cofounder breakups are one of the leading causes of death for early startups.”
  • “You want to start with something very simple – as little surface area as possible – and launch it sooner than you’d think.”
  • “You should not put anyone between the founders and the users for as long as possible – that means the founders need to do sales, customer support, etc.”
  • “Don’t fool yourself with vanity metrics. The common mistake here is to focus on signups and ignore retention. But retention is as important to growth as new user acquisition.”
  • “Find ways to get 90% of the value with 10% of the effort. The market doesn’t care how hard you work.”
  • “No first-time founder knows what he or she is doing. Ask for help and you’ll be better off. Find a mentor.”
  • “A successful startup takes a very long time – much longer than most founders think. You cannot treat it as an all-nighter. You have to eat well, sleep well, exercise, and spend time with your family and friends.”
  • “Competitors are a startup ghost story. First-time founders think they are what kill 99% of startups. But 99% of startups die from suicide, not murder.”
  • “The first check is the hardest to get, so focus your energies on getting that, which usually means focusing your attention on whoever loves you the most.”
  • “The key to being good at pitching is to make your story as clear as possible: mission, problem, product/ service, business model, team, market and market growth rate, and financials.”

What are some of your favorite tips from Sam or others? Any particular reasons?

I met one of the co-founders of a Chattanooga-based startup recently whose company is on a growth TEAR. The company launched two years ago, and have grown to 65 full-timers and 30 part-timers with annual revenues approaching $10MM. Two years… yowza!
With such fast growth, I was curious what were his top lessons and tips he’s learned. Naturally, I asked…
  1. Treat supply and demand the same. The startup follows a model more recently popularized by Uber – that is, they hire providers to perform a service, and they sell the service to customers. Thus, the startup actually has two markets to address. Most people understand that brands must focus on customer experience, but with their model (and like Uber’s), they must also focus on the service providers. The service providers are an extension of their brand, and thus, it’s important to ensure the service providers are taken care of and heard from.
  2. Clearly establish roles at the beginning (amongst the founders). I surmise there might have been issues early on when one co-founder worked on the startup full-time while the other worked part-time. Though, I’m unsure what he meant by “roles” here. At least when it comes to duties, early employees (founders included) wear many hats. Instead, I believe he was referring to a hierarchy of sorts. In my experience with Body Boss, one of the lessons learned was the importance of some level of hierarchy to fall back on when decisions reached an impasse. The four of us co-founders had equal equity, equal authority, and without a clear leader, we could (and we did) spin our wheels on decisions that were evenly split.

It’s always great to hear about rapid growth companies, and learn from their founders.

What are your thoughts on ideas and innovations that must address two markets? What are your reservations about hierarchies vs. flatter organizations?
(Image source: jewschool.com)
My buddy (and the great Developer) Don sent me this link from HackerNews where a user posted the following question:

Founders whose startups have failed, where did life take you afterwards? (link)
I’ll just cut to the chase today because I read a ton of the responses… almost too many. I got through about 80% of comments, and I think I’ve got enough content in my notes to cull some of the interesting stories and take-aways.

“Hacker News is a social news website that caters to programmers and entrepreneurs, delivering content related to computer science and entrepreneurship. It is run by Paul Graham’s investment fund and startup incubator, Y Combinator.”Wikipedia
So here’s the list. Though, note that this is from the first 33 posts as of 9:30AM this morning (11/12) (not including replies to comments here, just first-level comments).
  • 8 founders I would qualify went into full-time gigs with seemingly non-startup companies including many at Apple and Google
  • Many cited regaining confidence and stability as a for joining a full-time role at a non-startup company. One described the failure experience as “traumatic” to the extent he questioned his skills and capabilities. He needed a place to rebuild his confidence.
  • 8 founders went immediately into some consulting or contract work. Many cited reasons including having flexible hours to the extent that they worked half-time. The other “half-time” was spent on side projects
  • A couple of the founders made note of the incredible stress the startup life took on their personal lives to the extent that their relationships ended either in divorce or otherwise. Interestingly, one of them got back together with his then girlfriend and married after the startup’s initial failure
  • Several founders mentioned the people involved as a reason for the failure of their startups from co-founders to employees. On the flipside, there were a number of founders who mentioned they would or have start a new company with their former co-founder
  • Cultural insight – one founder in Germany mentioned how difficult it was to regain some stability after his startup’s failure. In German culture, much weight is put on success and respect, and from failing in a startup, it was hard for customers, colleagues, etc. to accept this reality or trust him
  • Cultural insight – one founder in India mentioned how he was buried in debt to the extent that all profits were made to pay down interest to his lenders. In India when borrowing for business, many borrow from friends and family (close and distant). This can dramatically raise the interest with the number of borrows
  • HackerNews has a very much technical-heavy audience, but at least two of the founders mentioned their complete lack of technical know-how in their startup. Following the demise of their startups, these founders learned how to program to build MVPs including one founding a new startup as a technical co-founder
  • In trying to decipher what people were explicitly and implicitly saying, at least 23 of the founders said they would start or had already started another company; 4 founders I couldn’t figure out if they would (categorized these as maybes); and the remaining 5 founders as most probably not interested in starting another.

There’s a lot more to glean from the comments and posts, especially when you look beyond the first-level comments. It’s interesting to read about others’ failures to hopefully avoid those missteps. However, as several readers mentioned, it’s hard to avoid even when you know them. Experience should help prevent you from making those same mistakes, but there are blogs and established publication articles about lessons from failure including my own – 21 Rough Lessons Learned from Failure. As user nostrademons mentions, “The nice thing about having knowledge and experience is that oftentimes it shortens the time required to realize you’re making a mistake.”
Okay, so I’ll leave you with a few direct quotes that I thought were important…

“Someone may be a good developer, designer, or co-worker…but that doesn’t mean they will make a good co-founder. I learned this the hard way..and it was painful” – paulhauggis

“All I can say is: Know your founders. I’d go far as to focus on their personal situation, like their risk tolerance, their “philosophy”, their personal attachments, etc. The goal for a company is not to save the world, but to make money for you and your partners. If any personal attachment can get in the way, like “saving the world”, or “keeping control of the company”, it will. My major failure was not seeing this.” – bigpeopleareold

“A startup is a ship at sea in a storm, I wanted to experience a boat in harbour for a while.” – buro9

“The nice thing about having knowledge and experience is that oftentimes it shortens the time required to realize you’re making a mistake.” – nostrademons

“Focus on one thing , become incredibly good at it. […] Focus on customers and trust yourself on giving value , customer insight is better than customer need.” – appreneur

So what are your thoughts on the lives after failures for these entrepreneurs and others? How do you think failure has changed their trajectories had they either not pursued their own startup(s) or had been successful?
(Source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-AXHA7x-C7hU/UfafILrYVuI/AAAAAAABeQg/wsuaHqzoELs/s1600/team+up1.jpg)
Finding the right co-founders and team members for a startup is critical. Not everyone out there is going to be a great fit even with the right technical or soft skills. The driving force of a startup is sometimes set both more implicitly and explicitly through its culture. Culture can be subtly enacted through actions, but also purposefully written in the company’s mission and values.
In my eyes and experience, building a successful team can mean augmenting yourself with others who may not see straight eye-to-eye, but that’s a good thing. If you have only agreements and “yes men”, then you may not ever venture out of your comfort zone for something more innovative.
However, finding the right team is tough. I was talking to an Atlanta entrepreneur who dives in and out of startups based largely on the capacity and tolerance for stress. After a startup, he’d jump off and go straight into development and consulting for firms like ad agencies. Then, he’ll grow weary of the rat race, and come up with an idea to then build. He was remarking about the traps he sees oftentimes where co-founders find each other after meeting each other once or twice, and then they struggle to make it work down the line wondering what happened. When he asked co-founders, they tended to have differing philosophies on how to grow the business. Of course, it’s hard to find out if your philosophies or personalities jibe well after only brief instances of meeting.
A psychologist by the name of Lara Honos-Webb wrote about romantic relationships and “Should You Stay or Should You Go?” by positing the 3 layers of people that can gauge the ability of couples to mesh. In startups and entrepreneurship, you’ve likely heard how co-founders are analogous to romantic couples, and even startups as a child given the level of attention and passion required to cultivate the startup to success. Heck, there’s even a “Founder Dating” site (www.founderdating.com)! Kinda makes sense to keep the theme going and share Webb’s view on the 3 layers and think about them from co-founders’ positions.
  • Superficial Side – In dating, this is the person’s overt personality and even physical appearance/ attractiveness. In startups, it’s still based on personalities, and should be less on attractiveness.
  • Daily Dose – In dating, this is the day-to-day and habitual behavior. In startups, this could be how one handles workflow or in some respects, communication.
  • Core Essence – In dating, this layer is what truly drives the person. This is the undercurrent of a person’s values that really drives the upper layers. In startups, this could be some of the risk tolerances and factors, the underlying reason/ passion for a startup, etc.

It’s my contention that much like in relationships, co-founders should have the same/ similar motivations down to the Core Essence layer. You want to know that the co-founder you’re thinking about partnering with is aligned with your values and how you want to build a business. The higher layers are important, but can be different and offer various perspectives as well as provide opportunities to continually push and play Devil’s advocate.
There’s yet another analogy of a startup but with horse racing – bet on the race (industry/ market), the horse (idea/ product/ service), or the jockey (team). I’ve always bet on the jockey, and find that the reason most startups fail (and maybe pivot) or succeed is down to the team. All the more reason why finding the right co-founders similar core essences.

What are your thoughts of co-founders and the startup team? How do you find the right co-founders today?
(Source: http://blogs.transparent.com/english/files/2013/10/odd_one_out.jpg)
Recently, I was described by an entrepreneur as “unemployable”. Hmm, well, since I was talking about potentially joining/ helping his startup, this could go a couple ways, but none sounded very assuring.
He quickly drew the comparison of him and me. Can’t be that bad, right, if he’s comparing the two of us?
But then again, I knew what he was referring to when he used the term. I just hadn’t heard the term before. Since Body Boss, I kept contemplating the role I wanted to pursue, and where/ how could I best help a company if I were to join vs. founding another startup of my own.
One of the challenges of true entrepreneurs – those looking to hop back on the startup grind even after failure – is finding that Next Move… finding the next home. Michael Tavani, co-founder of ScoutMob and now launching a design-focused incubator (simplistically) called Switchyards inATL, said it best: “Founders gotta found.”
The idea is that some entrepreneurs can be the idea guy, or can be the guy who really wants to start companies. It’s risky to hire these type of people because at any moment, they can strike some idea and run off to try to build it. I get that. I mean, that happens to me every other day it seems. Building Body Boss, I kept my spreadsheet of new ideas, and I never really pursued any. But when I was working as a consultant before for someone else or even with another startup, yeah, I get the urge to build something great… something that I can really ownand say, “I built that… I foundedthat”.
Of course, that comes with a price.
The price… or maybe the question is whether I can be a valuable contributor and committed to another cause. Can I be a team player, too? Can I be proud of helping to build someone else’s company? Fair questions, and I believe I can be all of the above.
No job is permanent, and with that, there are opportunities to learn and grow in just about any position. And of course, like I said last week, there is a “mortality” of being an entrepreneur and that coincides with my ability to keep my life sustainable amid that savings account. Building companies with little to no income can definitely be hard, so biting the bullet to be employable is perhaps a necessary step.
Hiring these “unemployables” can be hugely rewarding. Not just for their ability to think outside the box, but in general, they can keep a company continually building, continually inspiring others for greater. Just take a gander at Bloomberg Businessweek’s article “Need Innovation? Hire an Entrepreneur”.
To the entrepreneur’s point at the beginning of this post about the risk inherent to the unemployables, the hardest part is holding onto these entrepreneurs. They seek challenges and ways to continually promote their dynamism. For me, I know I work best when I really own several processes, not just one. I love doing just about anything and everything outside hardcore programming and okay, maybe some of that accounting/ finance, too.

Being unemployable isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be a great thing to know, and a way to challenge yourself to be employable, Yes, even if that means taking some time off your dreams in hopes of taking a couple years of more incubation and learning to then eventually reach those dreams. 
What are your thoughts on your employability? How do you fancy yourself to be team member? How can founding entrepreneurs fit into other startups after failure, and be kept motivated to continue as part of the new endeavor?