Do it your way

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When I was a young startup founder and my startup first starting selling in the US, I did all the US sales from Israel. Every single sale, from $100 to $100,000 was done virtually: via email, webinar, and phone and never in person. Since I didn’t want to tell my American customers that we were still a small, Israeli-based startup, I preferred to give them the impression that we are an established US company based in Virginia.

You give up too easily

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How important is your startup to you? Is it important enough that you are willing to be embarrassed in order to help it succeed?

Most of you are saying “yes” right now. So I’ll ask you an obvious follow-up question: when was the last time you embarrassed yourself for your startup?

Invisible obstacles

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Last week I went with a friend to a Japanese restaurant in Gangnam. A typical Japanese bar, serving good beer and nice snacks. It was night time in Gangnam and as you can imagine the streets were full of people – but the restaurant was empty except for the two of us.

Giving up a share

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Steve Ballmer was employee number 30 at Microsoft. He came at a time when Microsoft was full of technical people and Bill Gates needed a sales person with some business experience. Ballmer was a Harvard graduate, and did not think too much about the computer business; Bill Gates needed to give him a special incentive to join, and the incentive was a profit sharing plan: Gates offered Ballmer a certain percentage of Microsoft’s profits in exchange for joining the company. Steve Ballmer accepted the offer, which turned out to be one of the best deals in history ever done by an individual: after a few years the profits of Microsoft were so high, it needed to “buy out” Ballmer’s contract. They did it by giving him 8% share of the company: higher than anyone at the company at the time, except for the two founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The profit sharing contract was great for Ballmer, but changing over to a big share package wasn’t too bad for him either: he sold about half of his shares in 2003, for close to a Billion dollars in cash. But that’s not all: the remainder 4% is worth about 20 Billion dollars today. What a deal!

Time for strategy, time for tactics

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When reading startup advice, you will frequently encounter an emphasize on how much strategy is important. When looking at past successes and failures, it’s easy to see how important this is: going after the B2B instead of the B2C (or vice versa) can easily be the difference between failure and success.

Only the numbers rule

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Korean startup founders arriving to Silicon Valley are easily fooled by the casual atmosphere. It seems as if everyone are friends; employees are like family; business is done in a polite manner; no one yells or gets mad; even the supermarket cashiers will ask you how you are doing as though you are old friends. This would make you believe Facebook and Google reached Billions of dollars in revenues by being so nice to their employees that those felt compelled to return the favor with hard work and achievements. Sorry, that’s not the case.