I’ve been out in San Francisco for about a week and a half now. I’ve traveled around the peninsula, met a ton of cool people, and learned an outrageous amount. After a bit of a hiatus, it seems the right time to get back to the blog with a few of the biggest things I’ve learned in my time here.
Founders are Damn Impressive
So far I’ve met with around twenty companies, and I’ve been struck by just how essential founders are in driving the company. Sure, it’s obvious that founders at an early stage startup are incredibly important. But it’s not just the early stage startups I’m talking about. We’ve met startups with annual revenues over $10 million that, without their founders, would all but cease to exist. There have been a couple of surrounding teams that could probably pick up the slack, but more often than not we find ourselves betting on a founder insofar as we’re betting on a company.
My picture of the average founder was all off too. I expected to come out here and meet my share of Evan Spiegels and Mark Zuckerbergs, coming in hot out of college and creating an awesome product. This hasn’t been the case. For the most part, these founders have been leaders in their industries for years. Oftentimes they’ve learned not only the ways of their industries, but also the ins and outs of sales and product. More than a couple times, I’ve walked away thinking “damn, that guy/girl was impressive”.
When we evaluate a company, we put a massive focus on founders. It has to be someone we want to spend time with, and it has to be someone wicked impressive (I’m not going to start using “hella” anytime soon), and it has to be someone with insane dedication to the company. There’s good reason for that.
Workflow is Everything
This is something that almost everyone with a job probably learns pretty quickly, but in the centuries-old systems of an investment bank I feel like I was sheltered from it. Getting things done is just not as simple as hunkering down, focusing, and working hard. In any given day, I use 5-10 programs, get 50+ emails, attend a few meetings, and make a few calls.
For that reason, managing workflow has been a top focus for me. How often do I check my email? How do I prioritize tasks? How do I prepare for calls? How do I maintain a meaningful Twitter presence in reasonable time? What’s the best way to utilize two monitors? I don’t have the answers to everything yet, but I’ve certainly learned that these questions are worth experimenting with, thinking about, and spending some real time on. In the heat of the day, I never find myself longing to sort through 20 emails or reorganize four desktops on my Mac, but it will pay off in the long run.
It’s Not that Different?
When I told people on the East Coast I was moving to San Francisco, I often got told “everything’s totally different out there”. So far, I’m not buying it. The weather’s more consistent, tech companies are everywhere, and there are too many Warriors fans (yuck), but at the end of the day it feels like this city could pretty easily be in Massachusetts. We’ll see if my view on that changes over time.