Great employees and investments have a track record of success.
To illustrate, my Geekdom Fund partners and I heard a pitch late last year. It was great. Beautiful pitch deck. Eloquent, concise story. Big market. Believable strategy.
Very impressive by all regards. But, something didn’t sit right with us.
After it was over I said, “This CEO doesn’t have a track record of success.” There weren’t wins in the recent company trajectory. No customer traction where there should have been — especially giving how much demand he said there was in the marketplace.
When I dug in later, the CEOs career to date had no big wins in it either. So, it was a pass on the team and a pass on the business for that reason.
When The Iron Yard came to San Antonio a few years ago, we on the Codeup team had reason to be concerned. I was CEO at the time. Would a competitor with a 30 city presence be trouble for a company focused on one location?
We didn’t know for certain but our response as a company had to be to up our game. How we did that is a topic for another post. But, we recently saw the competitor fold in San Antonio. We’d won.
How do you deal publicly with a direct competitor going out of business? It’s a touchy subject.
In the case of Codeup, our culture is one of positivity. So, gloating ruthless Larry Ellison style isn’t us. We’re also community-focused so while them leaving town is good for us, it’s not great for San Antonio.
The competitor leaving also had the potential for a negative impact on Codeup: If the competitor fails does that mean Codeup is next?
So, a public response has to solve for both of these constraints. We can’t be jerks and do this:
We also need to remind the public that our company is doing well.
I was particularly proud of how our CEO, Kay, responded. Did just what we needed to meet these constraints:
The researchers placed a child alone in a room with a single marshmallow. The child was told if they didn’t eat the marshmallow, the child would receive a second one after a period of time.
Watching these kids in this repeat of the experiment is adorable:
Startups and entrepreneurship are an exercise in delayed gratification. You have to take a lower salary and higher risk today in hopes of a big win in the future.
People are either One Marshamallow or Two Marshmallow people. The One Marshmallows usually require a high salary and safety now. They’ll prioritize it and won’t usually sacrifice like a Two Marshmallow person will. A Two Marshmallow will often have saved money over the years by living beneath their means. They’ll have invested in personal development and so on.
Does a candidate for employment or investment have the ability to delay gratification in hopes of a larger reward in the future? My experience is those people that are Two Marshmallow people always perform better in the long-run.
To restate this concept, the idea is to limit any donations of time or money to one cause only. It’s narrowly defined and you maximize your chance to make an impact.
I used to feel guilty when I was asked to donate time or money to a worthy cause. So, I’d write little checks here or there. But, I felt like I was never making a difference.
I asked, “What do I really care about the most?” I realized it was upgrading my hometown into a startup community. I believe that the best way to do accomplish that is to help startups emerge on Houston St downtown.
That’s it. I don’t give to anything else. I just say “no” now to any other cause.
One bonus: this approach makes saying “no” easier as well. I explain people what my approach is and how their cause doesn’t fit.
It’s possible we’re out of great places to build cities given most cities exist at geographically strategic locations. There’s only so many of those.
But, as transportation gets more efficient, it’s also possible we could think about starting founding new cities where they have never been before. Could you design a compelling set of amenities compared to existing cities? I don’t know but it’s fun to ponder.
My Codeup cofounder, Jason Straughan, led a TEDxSanAntonio talk about how the pioneering entrepreneurs in any market are more valuable than regular entrepreneurs. The reason is that pioneers do something new that hasn’t been tried before. If they succeed, others copy them and a vibrant market is created.
Snooze Eatery is important to San Antonio because it’s the first sophisticated, premium breakfast eatery in town. Given the lack of great breakfast has been one of my biggest complaints about our town, it’s great. I look forward to the explosion of copycats who will potentially do even better than Snooze at making breakfast fun and tasty.