I asked myself a question: What are the real magic pills that a geek entrepreneur should have to increase his chance to success? By observing two successful startups closely, I began to understand that, most of the time, it is a combination of several factors. I was lucky enough to get to know two successful start-ups and began to understand that the real power lies in their soul.
One year ago, I slept in the AirBnb building for nearly 3 weeks, when they were just a company comprising of eight people. I also worked in their office/living room and played kickball with them; at that time, they needed more people to have a fun kickball game. Now, they have enough to field 6 kickball teams and host an AirBnb league! Later, at the beginning of 2010, I met the HeyZap team, fresh from their move to a new office. We are very close, and Jude is helping us build a sweet company.
In my opinion these are the points that summarize the power of the two start-ups:
When I come back home from my office (usually after 1:00am), I often pass theirs, and they are there, working. Saturday and Sunday, they are there working. Not just the founders, but most of the team as well. They have funding and revenue, but are still working very hard. They didn’t lose the hunger. That’s impressive.
There are lots of start-ups in the valley that are willing to help you out. I think that if you need quick help, the Heyzap team is the most active. They always try to help you without asking for anything back. They just have a sense of sharing passion, success, and love.
Most of it probably comes from their nitro-working style, but not just this. Once, I got the chance to take a look at Jude’s calendar, it had 400 items. No kidding! 400 to-do’s for 2 weeks, from meetings, partnership, conferences, travels, teams brainstorming, and even parties – something regular people accomplish in 2 years, Heyzap will accomplish in 2 weeks.
They know how to do it. They’re always present at the right place and at the right time to let people know about Heyzap. Every single person is an evangelist of the company. They speed up the word of mouth by being omnipresent.
Be humble. We hear this all the time. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have huge ambitions or a big vision. It means having respect for people, for every person, even those who have failed, who haven’t achieved what they want yet. It just means that you know your weaknesses and that you will do your best to improve it; it means that you easily accept criticism around you, but the next day you will work to fix it. Being egoless is probably the most common characteristic that we see in every successful entrepreneur.
Well they are crazy (in a good way), possibly the craziest team that I have ever met. They’re unpredictable. How many companies have an ex-professional runner leading the whole marketing team? Christopher was a professional middle distance runner and a winner. AirBnb throws the craziest parties in Silicon Valley, and the team never applies an idea until it has enough craziness. Isn’t the AirBnb idea crazy after all?
As most of you already know, AirBnb was founded by 3 amazing guys; and 2 of them are designers. Joe, in particular, is obsessed with that. He gets into details in a way that people can’t. AirBnb has a clear focus around UX/UI that can compete with Apple. Don’t be surprised if you crash in their office and suddenly be covered by this aura of design, from the floor, desk, walls, to the sky. That’s their DNA.
Apart from being egoless, determination and perseverance are the most important qualities for an entrepreneur. They fought for 2 years, and failed a lot before getting big. At one point, they had no money to eat and started to have debts on their credit cards. They keep going… going at a crazy level. As Brian once said: at one point we were like that captain that arrived on an island, and then the boat went on fire and he has no other solutions other than conquer the island. That was AirBnb two years ago, now they are conquering the world.
If I had to describe AirBnb in one word I would say “unstoppable”. Not only because of the determination back during their bad days, but because they are endlessly resourceful. They have used the power of creativity more than once to solve their problems; and it worked magnificently. Everybody remembers the Obama/McCain cereals. Selling the “strange” cereals that they made earned them $30k, and stayed afloat enough to join Ycombinator in 2009.
AirBnb is turning the entire hotel industry upside down, but that is because this is their modus operandi. I saw the AirBnb team brainstorm, and they approached the problems at multiple levels and from different angles. Then, a day later, they repeated the same process, again and again until they solved the problem. They transform problems into solutions.
Both of the teams have strong visions, visual thinking, and are really good guys. They are able to pivot fast, host big parties, build a strong culture, and with a sense of family.
I hope one day we could achieve the same results.