Much ado has been made of Paul Graham’s “Ramen Profitable” analysis, and for good reason. ??It costs less to push out an imperfect product that can be iterated upon than ever before. ??
A quick glance at startup, incubator, and venture capital blogs will give you a wealth of tips and case studies claiming to have nailed down the secrets to startup success. ??Gabriel Weinberg prefers single founder startups. ??Paul Graham usually accepts only founding ‘teams‘ for??Y Combinator. ??The following maxims for tech startups generally hold true: (1) bring on board a skilled tech founder and develop a strong development team, (2) launch fast, listen to users, iterate, (3) give everything you have to your startup, and (4) find the money (investment dollars and revenues). ??What most online startup resources don’t tend to focus a great deal on is how to optimize yourself for efficiency and happiness in your startup bubble. ??The following is what I’ve learned after founding my first startup, being 4th on board my second startup, and being 15th on board my third (and current):
1. Avoid Student Loans: Nothing adds??unnecessary??stress than student loan debt. ??College is expensive. ??The average tuition of a four year private school this year is $26,273??(up 4% in a recession). ??Add room and board into the mix and you’re looking at $40,000 per year x 4 years = $160,000 for four years of partying, drinking, and hopefully learning something valuable. ??High school seniors have no idea the impact their college decision has on the rest of their lives. ??Take that scholarship or spend the next 25 years of your life paying $1,100/month (That’s $330,000 over the lifetime of the $160,000 loan). ??College tuition has been out-pacing inflation for decades, so don’t let yourself become a casualty of the next bubble.??Buy a house instead. ??
2. Sing:??In the shower. ??On the subway. ??At work. ??I don’t care how bad it sounds. ??Motivate your team and feed off of their energy. ??There is nothing more dangerous than a startup with happy, energetic, motivated, and up-tempo employees. ??Nothing.
3. Location. Location. Location: Live near work. ??Nothing kills productivity and happiness than long commutes. ??Assuming a 6-day work day, a one-hour commute each way is 12 hours of lost productivity in the workplace. ??Living close to work allows you to build a close-knit community around your friends, co-workers, and startup community.
4. Don’t Drive: Kill the car. If you followed my advice above you already live near work. ??Walk. ??Bike. ??Take public transportation, allowing you to read up on the news of the day so you don’t have to waste working hours looking at Hacker News, TechCrunch, and WSJ.com. ??Cars also cost money. ??Lots of it. ??Money that could be spent taking a cute girl on a date or buying a round for your buddies at Clery’s after a long week. ??Car owners pay excise tax, registration, insurance, routine maintenance, and gas. ??That hurts. ??A new Honda Civic costs about $19,000, but the true cost to own one of these puppies for 5 years is around $28,000. ??As the value of cars depreciate, the cost to continue to own them rises dramatically. Entrepreneurs don’t let entrepreneurs drive cars (Segways…maybe).
5. Don’t Worry About School (it’s not going away): My startup brought on a bunch of college interns this summer. ??Many of them are sophomores and juniors in college. ??Here is a piece of advice to our rockstar interns: if we ask you to join the team full-time after this summer, don’t think twice. ??Regardless of what you have been told, college doesn’t go anywhere. ??Your friends won’t go anywhere. ??Your parents will start returning your phone calls at some point. ??Our society is so laser-focused on getting the degree, and college students don’t even allow themselves the ability to assess their options clearly. ??The same situation often presents itself when startups spend a summer in a seed-stage incubator. ??You simply can’t run a startup and go to school at the same time. ??You’ll end up doing each at 60% and burning out, likely failing at both endeavors. ??If you are passionate about what you are doing and are optimistic about the prospects for your startup, don’t go back. ??Heck, if you succeed your college will be pushing you on stage eight years from now to give you an honorary degree. ??Check out this Steve Jobs??commencement speech at Stanford.
6. Find Something Else to Do: No matter how all-encompassing startup life can be, everyone needs to step away and enjoy the finer things in life. ??I’m talking about friends, family, and fun. ??Dust off those golf clubs for a round or two. ??Pull up those swim trunks, take a dip in the ocean, and add a little color to your pasty, sun-deprived complexion. ??And sleep doesn’t count. ??You should be doing some of that anyways. ??I hope.
7. Work Out: Studies have shown that people who work out are more productive during the day, have a higher level of cognitive function, and look better. ??Let’s face it. ??We spend 12 hours a day absolutely sedentary in our desk chairs. ??And no, spinning in the chair doesn’t count as exercise. ??Find a gym near you and work out every day before or after work. ??It’ll keep your spirits high and their heads turning.
8. Eat Healthy: It’s really easy when you are coding for 6 hours straight and you’re “in the zone” to grab whatever is close by for sustenance: Sour Patch Kids, day-old pizza, Skittles you dropped on the floor last week, and yes, Ramen Noodles. ??It’s no good. ??Have a solid 3 meals a day to keep yourself on a schedule. ??I like to have cereal, OJ, and a??grapefruit??in the morning, a sandwich for lunch, and some protein, vegetables, and carbs at the end of the day. ??
9. No Excuses. ??Play Like a Champion: Felix Dennis, publishing tycoon and multi-millionaire, went from being a hippie dropout on the??dole, living in a crummy room without the proverbial pot to piss in, without even the money to pay the rent, without a clue as to what to do next ??? to being rich. And he is certainly no business genius, as his rivals will happily and swiftly confirm. ??He found that “stamina is crucial, as is a capacity to work so hard that your best friends mock you, your lovers despair and the rest of your acquaintances watch furtively from the sidelines, half in awe and half in contempt.” ??Keep pushing.
10. ??The Win: Lyricist Kevin Rudolf notes the following about the hip-hop game: “See I don’t live for glamour, and I don’t care for fame. ??I’m only in it for the love of the game.” ??Above notoriety, above money, above everything should be the Win. ??The Win means something different to everyone. ??To some people it is crushing the competition and building the killer app. ??To others, it’s being able to buy a Maserati. ??For me, the Win is watching and hearing about tons of people all over the country having fun playing on my company’s product (and of course a shower with two showerheads). ??What’s your Win?