Here is my advice for Kurt after almost 30 years and 4 startups:
- Team – Investors don’t invest in things because they know the thing is going to change. VC mostly care about teams, people. Not all people are equal either. People with successful exits are seen as more likely to be able to do it again. Read Taleb’s Black Swan to know why this thinking is crazy, but it exists.
- Place – Kurt’s move to the valley is smart. I just returned from San Francisco and there is something in that Pacific air that feels like the infinite
possibility of a boundless tomorrow. Being there is half the battle, so Kudos for getting in the car after reading the Lean Startup (a must read) and
- Values – I would add two Jim Collins books to your reading Kurt: Built To Last and Good To Great. Start with Built To Last because the whole book is about the importance of setting VALUES and PRINCIPLES before doing anything. HP started with a bowling alley foul line alarm. Sony with a rice cooker. WHAT you make isn’t as important as WHO YOU ARE and what you want to be when you grow up. You don't create the HP Way after success. Success depends on the HP Way not the other way around. BTW, if you think someone is an Asshole they are (Read Robert I. Sutton’s No Asshole Rule :).
- Everything You Need You Already Have – This is a tricky idea and I am stealing from Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Wayne Dyer. We tend to think there is some missing thing, some piece of the puzzle that must be found before we start. Kurt has avoided that thinking by STARTING, but be on guard. The silver bullet thinking, the idea that some perfect person or thing will solve all problems is too tempting and always wrong. Answers come on the journey and only ever on the journey. I’ve worked for great companies and started 4 and have yet to find a silver bullet or a pot of gold. Sweat, grimy, dirty, crushing failure, hope, magic, joy and art I’ve found, but no silver bullet and I've stopped looking :).
- Keep Getting Up – I’m a cancer survivor and I will NOT go quietly into that good night and neither should you. When you get knocked down take 6 minutes to feel sorry for yourself and then get up, get in the Honda and get going.
My bosses, Jon Jordan and Mark Foulkrod, are amazing people. Jon is an angel investor here in Raleigh and Mark has started several successful companies and is now running this one. I’ve offered Kurt our help and want him and any startup entrepreneur to know they have almost 70 brothers and sisters in arms at Atlantic BT in Raleigh. Atlantic BT has grown from Jon and a few friends to almost 70 people because of the VALUES that Jon, Mark and everyone here believe in, live daily and contribute to with everything we have. Values such as We Care About People live and breathe daily here. They are not just words on a page written to sound good.
Kurt, write your Company's VALUES down, carry them with you and, when in doubt, read them over. If you have a hard time writing send me your notes and I will create a draft you can review. Jim Collins may be the most rigorous researcher on earth. When he says the single common value in 99% of his Built To Last companies is they defined themselves FIRST then your 5 Principles is the first manifesto to write.
Kurt is an inspiration and inspirational. He won’t take my money, so I wrote this post. I want Kurt and his amazing family to know he is NOT alone and there are always people ready to help with everything they have. When I left Durham on a 3,000 mile bicycle ride I was dependent on the kindness of strangers. The Martin's Ride To Cure Cancer Team were never disappointed, not one time. Kurt sleeps in his car so we don’t have too and we are all Kurt’s brothers and sisters.
Thanks Kurt. Stay warm and inspired. We, and I mean that in the largest since possible, are always here when you need us :). If any other Kurts or Karens are out there sleeping in a car or dreaming big dreams during breaks and on weekends know we are here for you too.
Kurt's Twitter is KurtVarner (and he answers it)
@LeighEBuchanan and her article The Leanest Startup
(great job to Leigh on this piece and Leigh I couldn't have slept in the car either, Marty)