We’ve been blown away by the success of our new book Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons To Accelerate Your Startup. It’s already massively exceeded our expectations for sales and the reactions have been very positive. Amazing mentors produce amazing results, and this book is no different. Dozens of our mentors and past founders contributed to the book, and we think that makes it a very special resource for entrepreneurs.
We thought we’d blog a few chapters from the book so that you can start to get a feel for it. We’re blogging a chapter a week for ten weeks. Be sure to subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already done so.
There are seven themes in the book (Idea/Vision, People, Execution, Product, Fundraising, Legal/Structure, and Work/Life Balance).
This chapter is from the Execution theme. I’ve highlighted a few sentences, so you can discuss them inline. Feel free to add your own highlights!
Read this chapter (and others in this series) in the original layout using the online reader at BooksInBrowsers.com.
It’s Just Data
by Bill Warner
Bill is the founder of Avid Technology (the pioneer in video editing software) and Wildfire Communications. He is also a co-founder of TechStars in Boston.
Good advice is a good thing, right? Therefore, lots of good advice should be an even better thing.
Well, not really. But we do it anyway at TechStars as the companies get flooded with good advice and some bad advice, too. I know, since I have provided both kinds to them.
In the TechStars Boston 2009 program, two brothers Monaghan, Mike and Tom, started a company called TempMine. The initial idea was simple: build a marketplace for temporary workers through which they can market themselves, let them sell themselves directly to hiring companies, and cut out the middleman. Tom and Mike’s premise was that eliminating the agencies would be a good thing.
The summer began with advice from many fronts, including negative ones suggesting TempMine would be breaking the law, labor rules are strict and impossible to work around, and there’s no way someone can work directly for companies on a 1099 wage-reporting tax form. So Mike and Tom started reworking the plan.
At the same time, I spent time talking with Tom about what really drove him to start the company in the first place. He realized that he was motivated to help people find the right job direction and he thought temping was one way to do that. This was useful, but then I started to push him on why he was focused only on temping. Why not help people find the right direction in their career, however it takes shape? Tom got excited about this and began exploring changing the name of the company to GlideHire to expand its perspective beyond temping.
At first this seemed exciting, but after a while, Tom came back and said, “Hey, it really is about temps—this is the thing I think will help the people I want as customers to find the right direction. I’m going back to the TempMine name and the earlier plan.” For a little while, I felt bad that I had helped clarify things on the one hand while helping fuel a tangent on the other. While it was only a detour of a week, that’s a lot in TechStars time.
But then I realized that this is part of how TechStars works. The companies get connected with mentors who care and who provide input. The input is diverse and it will be conflicting. Even input from a trusted advisor will have elements that are just not right. The founders are quickly forced to realize that they cannot create a solution that incorporates all of the inputs they are getting. Their only hope instead is to listen to their head and their heart and follow a path that they believe in, keeping some of the feedback and discarding other thoughts and ideas.
So, is too much conflicting advice a bad thing? Nope. Having too much advice can teach you how to make better decisions, as long as you accept that conflicting information is a part of life. Remember that it’s just data.
Saying “It’s just data” is one of the most common ways to end a mentor meeting at TechStars. We try hard to help mentors be as effective as possible, and one of the things that strong mentors, especially ones who are entrepreneurs, have to be careful of is not being too forceful with their advice. Experienced entrepreneurs usually believe they know the right answer and, while they often do, part of the magic of TechStars is to help the TechStars founders discover the right answer. And, as any successful entrepreneur knows, there are often multiple correct answers. So, as a mentor, being clear that you are only providing data and that it is ultimately up to the entrepreneur to make the decision is an important way to approach giving advice. -Brad and David
Like what you’re reading? Go order the book already!