Enjoying Ev Wililams’ new publishing platform, Medium, and came across one of his earlier posts called A Formula for Entrepreneurial Success. Given the virtually-endless supply of “experts” in the world of technology startups (well, to be honest, this phenomenon isn’t isolated to tech) who are too willing to offer advice, whether you want to hear it or not, and whether it’s, in fact, true or applicable at all to anyone’s situations but their own, it’s refreshing to hear advice that is simple, broadly applicable and “non-douchey.”
Ev’s advice, which is obviously gleaned from having created multiple successful businesses/platforms (the most famous of which are Blogger, Twitter and now Medium) distills it all down to five key principles:
- Work with Amazing People. This is probably one of the most important facets of success. I have the fortune of working with a co-founder who is not only one of the smartest people I know, but also a huge technical talent with humility to match. It goes without saying that a technology company cannot succeed without technical chops, but it’s also extremely important to have a great working chemistry and unified vision (despite occasional, and necessary, disagreements along the way).
- Take on Big Challenges. The premise of our business is founded on tackling big problems, problems that take a lot of time, technology and persistence to solve, not the sort of trivial app that can be created by working “some number less than 35” hours per week as asserted by another, far less valuable post on Medium. As Ev mentions, “Hard things are valuable; easy things are not so valuable” and that’s something we’ve understood from the beginning and we continue trying to achieve.
- Focus. We have a single-minded and collective vision to deliver our product to customers and users. Given the length of time and effort it has taken (and will continue to take), anything less would be a sure recipe for distraction and possible derailment.
- Take Care of Yourself. This is easy for people to neglect as it seems to deliver little immediate business value, however, if you lack a basic foundation of health, what can you really expect to achieve off a brittle foundation? It’s easy to dismiss, hard to make a commitment, yet nevertheless essential
- Love those Close to You. Ev’s words are best here: “Failure of your company is not a failure in life. Failure in your relationships is.” I couldn’t be luckier to have a wife that is not only accepting of my lack of income production (we’ve not been taking any pay since inception), but is fully supportive of the business and what we’re trying to build. And besides, she’s bringing home the bacon in the meantime!
Everyone has their own path to success and/or failure and there is no magic prescription to pave the way. I see nuggets of advice like this as concrete and substantial landmarks on a journey through the so-called “fog of war” of building companies, so often filled with doubts, critics, criticisms, challenges, fears, distractions, charlatans, brilliance, mistakes, ups, downs, trials, tribulations and, hopefully, ultimate success.