This is a repost of a Q&A I did for The Phat Startup - a website that "bridges the gap between hip hop and entrepreneurship." Read the original post here.
They say keep your friends close but enemies closer. Do you feel it’s important to pay attention to what your competition is doing?
In the last few years I think we’re moving from a society of corporate competition and extraction to one built on corporate responsibility and collaboration. The workforce as a whole is changing. Creativity and ideas are more heavily valued than they once were. This is allowing the rise of dynamic and nimble companies and people. Workers are reclaiming their identity and creativity. They are commanding to be free from the constraints of their cubicle and relentless schedules in traditional organizational structures. This is enabling collaboration, the rise of co-working, tremendous innovation, and dynamic workers.
How important was being fast and first to market with your idea when building your startup?
In most businesses I don’t think you need to be first to be successful. Businesses evolve just like ideas evolve. In some cases it can be a disadvantage to be first because someone will come along and build upon your idea. How many social networks were there before Facebook? Execution and timing are everything.
Whats your feelings on pivoting? When is a good time to pivot and how can you be sure?
Pivot after you’ve adequately conducted measurable experiments of your product and have consistently failed. There are gut pivots and then there are pivots that are backed by data. The data doesn’t lie.
What are qualities you look for when hiring? What are some right or wrong things entrepreneurs do from your experience?
Each company is a bit different, but assuming the company has very little working capital in its earliest stages, you need hustlers that can wear many different hats. Each employee needs to be able to pay for their seat, literally. These kinds of personalities and skill sets may not be the best fit as the company evolves, because they can’t be pigeonholed into singular roles. However, early in, they are key.
Much like finding the right metrics, how do you determine the right activities that lead to success?
The way to determine the right activities that lead to success are to, first, understand what success means. There is short-term success and long-term success. Once you understand your success metrics, then you can start pulling levers and measure the results. Some actions will work well by themselves, some will fail, and some will only work in tandem.
Take risks, measure, learn, and get back at it.
Have you ever failed at building a company before? What did you learn from that experience?
I’ve always succeeded at making my ideas happen. Any idea that I’ve thought was worth building, I’ve successfully figured how to bring it into the world. However, where I’ve failed in the past was not being able to scale or running out of resources. You usually can’t do everything yourself. You need a team and capital to truly be successful.
How did you find and build relationships with mentors and adviser’s?
Always be looking to meet people, and never turn down a meeting. You never know who might be one connection a way. I am a firm believer in the value of networking. It works. Keep an open mind. You never know who you might be sitting next to.
Steve Jobs says: “Stay hungry, stay foolish” What does that line mean to you? How do you explain that advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Never become content. Never be afraid to chase an idea. Companies that become content lose market share. Companies that don’t continue innovating die.
Do you think building a platform for yourself is important?
Twitter is a tremendous way to build your personal network. It’s also a good way to source potential business partnerships. I recently got a shirt from the co-founder of fan marketing platform FanBridge that says “Nothing without fans.” This is true on multiple levels. Build fans with social platforms.
What or who in hip hop has inspired your grind when building your startup?
Hiphop embodies every single aspect of start-up mentality. The struggle from the bottom to get to the top, the hustle, the grind, fundraising, selling product, competition, beef, and the celebration of victories big and small.
Lyrics of the moment:
2 Chainz – “I Got It, I Spend it” Rick Ross – “The only thing on my mind, I’m tryin’ to keep on the lights” Wale – “Easy to dream a dream, though it’s harder to live it They gon’ love me for my Ambition”
Who would you invite to an executive round table between yourself, a hip hop artist, and someone you admire from the business world?
Richard Branson and Jay-Z. Period.