R. Brennan Knotts

My age +/- 2 years:

  • Age 27 Ben Silberman co-founded Pinterest
  • Age 28 Andrew Mason co-founded Groupon
  • Age 29 Bryan Johnston co-founded Braintree
  • Age 30 Jeff Bezos founded Amazon
  • Age 31 Perry Chen co-founded Kickstarter
  • When it’s unclear who’s got the ball and what should be happening, everyone trusts that the DRI is driving. When you trust your DRI, you don’t have to worry when you don’t see any recent activity about that issue.
  • When everyone knows that something is important, but no one feels like it’s their responsibility to see it all the way through. In a fast-growing company with tons of activity, important things get left on the table not because people are irresponsible but just because they’re really busy.
  • Having a DRI is also efficient for the team because you don’t have 15 people all worrying about the same things. Instead, an engineer can feel comfortable knowing that sometimes they simply show up and other people will tell them what to do, freeing them to focus on the challenge at hand.

These are all important principles in management as well. I bolded the ones I think need most repeating:

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
My only plan is to keep coming to work. … I like to steer the boat each day rather than plan ahead way into the future.
Unorthodox Principles at PayPal
  1. Extreme Focus: “Peter required that everyone be tasked with exactly one priority.  He would refuse to discuss virtually anything else with you except what was currently assigned as your #1 initiative.”
  2. Dedication to individual accomplishment: “Most great innovations at PayPal were driven by one person who then conscripted others to support, adopt, implement the new idea.”
  3. Refusal to accept constraints, external or internal: ”We were expected to pursue our #1 priority with extreme dispatch (NOW) and vigor.  To borrow an apt phrase, employees were expected to “come to work every day willing to be fired, to circumvent any order aimed at stopping your dream.”“
  4. Radical transparency on metrics: “All employees were expected to be facile with the metrics driving the business.  Otherwise, how could one expect each employee to make rational calculations and decisions on their own every day?”
  5. Vigorous debate: often via email.  Almost every important issue had champions and critics.  These were normally resolved not by official edict but by a vigorous debate that could be very intense.

There’s a whole book (linked to in the article) with the basic premise that there are 2 types of motivations:

"If you are promotion-focused, you want to advance and avoid missed opportunities. If you are prevention-focused, you want to minimize losses and keep things working."

"For a promotion-focused person, what’s really “bad” is a non-gain: a chance not taken, a reward unearned, a failure to advance. They would rather say Yes! and have it blow up in their faces than feel like they let Opportunity’s knock go unanswered."

"But for the prevention-focused, the ultimate “bad” is a loss you failed to stop: a mistake made, a punishment received, a danger you failed to avoid. They would much prefer to say No! to an opportunity, rather than end up in hot water."

Some useful metrics worth tracking in business, whether you’re trying to raise money or not.

Select quotes:

  • "Take as much time as you need to get product one right, and to prove it—because if you don’t, no one is going to be waiting on pins and needles for product two."
  • "You know where I’m going: Ralph Lauren and a tie, Diane Von Furstenberg and a wrap dress, Potbelly and a heated sandwich, Theory and a women’s pant, Tory Burch and a ballet flat, Kate Spade and a handbag, Google and an “I’m feeling lucky” button, Warby Parker and a pair of glasses…"
  • "Usually this initial group of users is small, for the simple reason that if there were something that large numbers of people urgently needed and that could be built with the amount of effort a startup usually puts into a version one, it would probably already exist. Which means you have to compromise on one dimension: you can either build something a large number of people want a small amount, or something a small number of people want a large amount. Choose the latter. Not all ideas of that type are good startup ideas, but nearly all good startup ideas are of that type." -Paul Graham
  • "So how do you build a brand in the digital age? My belief is you do it with a narrow and deep story about what you are doing, and that what you are doing requires a high net promoter score—a high-level of customer-to-customer recommendation."

A great rundown of how 37Signals does QA with links to great books, tools, and other resources.

Choice quotes from Ev Williams:

1. “Even if they’re awesome, having too big of a team will slow you down… Capable people need meaty challenges. There are no meaty challenges in the very beginning except defining what it is exactly (or approximately) you’re doing. That’s a job you can’t divide up too finely.”

2. “Nothing clarifies focus like a date. (Or: If you don’t have a tough constraint, make one up.)”

3. “Getting something out the door was key also because it clarified our vision and focus more. We were making fewer guesses—not because of explicit user feedback and data analysis as much as just observing and experiencing real-world usage

Ryan Singer from 37Signals product development process

Employee Equity

Wealthfront’s Equity Plan

Wealthfront Equity Plan from Wealthfront