📚 Book Notes: Founders at Work
It's okay to make mistakes while starting out; you can figure things out on the way. Props to Jessica for probing at all the right places.
Here are my notes from Founders at Work:
1. Then finally we hit on this idea of, "Why don't we just store money in the handheld devices?" The next iteration was this thing that would do cryptographically secure IOU notes. I would say, "I owe you $10," and put in my passphrase. It wasn't really packaged at the user interface level as an IOU, but that's what it effectively was. Then I could beam it to you, using the infrared on a Palm Pilot, which at this point is very quaint and silly since, clearly, what would you rather do, take out $5 and give someone their lunch share, or pull out two Palm Pilots and geek out at the table? But that actually is what moved the needle, because it was so weird and so innovative. The geek crowd was like, "Wow. This is the future. We want to go to the future. Take us there." So we got all this attention and were able to raise funding on that story. Then we had the famous Buck's beaming at Buck's restaurant in Woodside, which is sort of the home away from home for many VCs. Our first round of financing was actually transferred to us via Palm Pilot. Our VCs showed up with a $4.5 million preloaded Palm Pilot, and they beamed it to us.
The product wasn't really finished, and about a week before the beaming at Buck's I realized that we weren't going to be able to do it, because the code wasn't done. Obviously it was really simple to mock it up to sort of go, "Beep! Money is received.' But I was so disgusted with the idea. We have this security company; how could possibly use a mock-up for something worth $4.5 million? What if it crashes? What if it shows something? I'll have to go and commit ritual suicide to avoid any sort of embarrassment. So instead of just getting the mock-up done and getting reasonable rest, my two coders and I coded nonstop for 5 days. I think some people slept; I know I didn't sleep at all. It was just this insane marathon where we were like, "We have to get this thing working." It actually wound up working perfectly. The beaming was at 10:00 a.m.; we were done at 9:00 a.m.
2. Livingston: What did you do first after you got this new funding?
Levchin: As soon as we got funding, we started hiring aggressively, and we built this app for the Palm Pilot, which was getting pretty good growth. We were getting 300 users a day. Then we built a demo for the website, which was functional, sO you could do everything on the website that you could do on a Palm Pilot, except the website was unsexy and we didn't really care. It was like, "Go to the website and download the Palm Pilot version. It's really cool.'
Livingston: Three hundred people were downloading it per day? For fun?
Levchin: Well, there are lots of geeks. It slowed down pretty quickly too, but initially we got a lot of publicity about it. Sometime by early 2000, we realized that all these people were trying to use the website for transactions, and the growth of that was actually more impressive than the growth of the handheld device one, which was inexplicable, because the handheld device one was cool and the website was just a demo. Then all these people from a site called eBay were contacting us and saying, "Can I put your logo in my auction?" And we were like, "Why?" So we told them, "No. Don't do it." So for a while we were fighting, tooth and nail, crazy eBay people: "Go away, we don't want you.
Eventually we realized that these guys were begging to be our users. We had the moment of epiphany, and for the next 12 months just iterated like crazy on the website version of the product, which is today's PayPal. Sometime by late 2000, we killed the handheld one because we peaked out at 12,000 users. They were still using it a little bit, and they were really upset when we killed it. They said, "You were about the handheld transactions, not about this web stuff." We're like, "No, we're pretty much about the web stuff.'
Livingston: How many users did you have for the website when you killed the handheld product?
Levchin: I think we must have been 1.2 1.5 million users. It was an emotional but completely obvious business decision.
3. I think a good way to describe PayPal is: a security company pretending to be a financial services company. What Pay Pal does is judge the risk of a transaction and then occasionally actually take the risk on. You don't really know the money's good; you just sort of assess the riskiness of both parties, and you say, "I'll be the intermediary with the understanding that, on occasion, PayPal will be on the hook for at least part of the loss if the loss occurs." Which is very tricky; it's a hard position to be in.
So the company's core expertise, by definition, has to be in this ability to judge risk-to be able to say, "Is this the kind of I transaction I really want to take on or is this something I should steer away from because you people look like thieves?" I think that's the security part. I mean, security not in any sort of a sense of anti-hacking defensive, but just security in a broader sense: risk assessment, figuring out what's the sane thing to do, what's unsafe, what's safe. Everything else that Pay Pal has built is sort of a commodity. The reason we had so many competitors in 2000 was because it looks really simple on the outside: you sign up, give us some credit card numbers, let's trade some money, done.
4. I think the hallmark of a really good entrepreneur is that you're not really going to build one specific company. The goal at least the way I think about entrepreneurship is you realize one day that you can't really work for anyone else. You have to start your own thing. It almost doesn't matter what that thing is. We had six different business plan changes, and then the last one was PayPal.
If that one didn't work out, if we still had the money and the people, obviously we would not have given up. We would have iterated on the business model and done something else. I don't think there was ever any clarity as to who we were until we knew it was working. By then, we'd figured out our PR pitch and told everyone what we do and who we are. But between the founding and the actual PayPal, it was just this tug-of-war where it was like, "We're trying this, this week." Every week you go to investors and say, "We're doing this, exactly this. We're really focused. We're going to be huge." The next week you're like, 'That was a lie."
5. When you are hardware designers, you have tremendously more discipline in writing and describing software because in hardware you cannot get it wrong. Every turn of every chip costs you millions of dollars, so when hardware designers design any piece of software, they normally get it right. They use something called state machines to describe the functioning of the software. When you do that, you are very deterministic: if this is the input, then this will be the output.
So you write it in a very deterministic fashion and therefore you tend not to make too many mistakes. Whereas the pure software writers the way they think and architect software is very creative. They put in lots of bells and whistles, but they think, "No big deal. If there is a bug, we'll fix it. Put in a patch.' You can't do that in hardware. There's no patch. Once you ship a chip, it has to work all the time. So in terms of being able to test it out, there is somewhat of a difference, but I just think that hardware designers would be pretty good software designers as well.
6. I would design one and design it over and over and over each one of the computers because new chips would come out. I would take the new chips and redesign some computer I'd done before because I'd come up with a clever idea about how I could save two more chips. "I'll do it in 42 chips instead of 44 chips.' The reason I did that was because I had no money. I could never build one. Chips back then were like I said, to buy a computer built, it was like a down payment on a good house. So, because I could never build one, all I could do was design them on paper and try to get better and better and better. I was competing with myself. But that's just the story of how my skill got so good. It's because I could never build anything, I just competed with myself to come up with ideas that nobody else would come up with.
I knew that I had a lot of approaches in computers that basically no human really would use. They couldn't even be taught in a school program. I did a lot of it in my head. Taught myself everything. We didn't have computers in our high school even. And I was designing them. So, I just came across some lucky journals and then I discovered a way to get computer manuals. The computer manuals described the computers and my dad got me chip manuals. So I just figured out, "How do you take the chips and build a computer?'
My skill was that, if I know what I want for the end result-in those days it was a computer, in later days it might be a certain floppy disk that had to read and write some data but if I knew what my end goal was, I know how to combine chips together very efficiently to get that goal done. Even if I've never designed anything before. My skills weren't that I knew how to design a floppy disk, I knew how to design a printer interface, I knew how to design a modem interface; it was that, when the time came and I had to get one done, I would design my own, fresh, without knowing how other people do it. That was another thing that made me very good. All the best things that I did at Apple came from (a) not having money, and (b) not having done it before, ever. Every single thing that we came out with that was really great, I'd never once done that thing in my life.
7. We needed distribution-we needed eyeballs and more people to be trying Excite. The natural point of distribution was the browser. The only real point of distribution. No websites had any traffic of any size to do a deal with. It was the browser getting bundled in that made the big difference. So we went to Netscape. They had two buttons on the browser: NetSearch and NetDirectory. NetSearch was pointing to Infoseek and NetDirectory was pointing to Yahoo. And those deals were free; it was just free traffic to those services. Unbelievable.
But nobody knew how to make any money off traffic or that traffic itself was valuable. Netscape wasn't a media company; it didn't view that as valuable. What Netscape wanted was more downloads of its client, which would help them sell more servers and more client licenses. So they finally decided to put these two buttons up for bid and there were three bidders: us, Infoseek, and MCI (with a rumored new service).
We had $1 million in the bank and we didn't know what we were going to bid. We sat down in my office, all on the floor. Vinod said we should bid $3 million. I was like, "How do we bid $3 million? We only have $1 million in the bank." And he said, Well, if we win, I'm pretty sure we can raise it, but if we don't win, I don't know how we're going to raise it." And so I thought, 'OK, this is really scary.'
(If you are 22 and trying to make these big decisions, it's great to have a very active guy like Vinod helping you out. And I mean active. I was talking to Vinod twice a day easily. He's one of the senior partners at Kleiner Perkins and he's spending multiple hours a day on my business, which you just don't get. But that's Vinod's style.)
We decided to bid $3 million. We had no way to pay for it, but we weren't going to reveal that. We bid the $3 million and we lost. It was horrible to lose; it felt like somebody had died. It was just this feeling of, "Oh my God, what are we going to do?" Because you spend so much time wanting to get the deal that when you don't get it, you're like, "Oh, are we really screwed?" (And I think we would have been screwed.)
Vinod told us this whole story about how he'd gone through a similar situation at Sun in losing a deal, and he just never gave up and won the deal back. He said, "We haven't lost. Let's meet with them. Let's show up in their lobby unannounced." We did all this stuff; we called them constantly; we just basically acted like the bidding wasn't over. And made a total pain in the ass of ourselves. It would have been embarrassing if it weren't so serious.
Then luck struck: MCI couldn't deliver its service to Netscape on time. Netscape wanted its money and they wanted to have a vendor in that slot, sO they came back to us and said, "OK, we'll take your $3 million and you can be in the NetDirectory play and good luck." I can tell you that, had we given up, we never would have gotten the deal back. And without that deal I don't think Excite would have had its run at all.
8. I did not set out to build a big company. I actually wanted to be a software designer. I saw having a company not exactly as being a necessary evil, but there wasn't a good alternative. My experience had convinced me that being a program author and having somebody else publish it wouldn't give me enough control over the process. In Hollywood, the very successful directors like Steven Spielberg quickly understood that they also needed to be producers and have their own studio in order to retain control. It was a similar thing.
9. The common theme to both Iris and Groove was the fact that the ideas were not based on technology, but on a need I saw for users or potential customers for the product. I'm an engineer by training and tend to be one of these people who believes he can accomplish basically anything in software-it's just a big toolbox. So if you know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, what's worth accomplishing? I've never taken the perspective of "build a cool piece of technology and see where it goes." It's more or less been based on an intuition about a hole in the market or, more accurately, a future hole in the market. At any given time, you've got to have a technology roadmap in your mind and a market roadmap as to where things are headed broadband is getting increasingly pervasive or wireless is getting increasingly pervasive, or something is going on-and trying to project out several years, because it will take you several years to build anything that's worth building. So you don't want to fill today's needs, but try to capture some window that will happen in the future.
10. In a startup environment, it's much rougher in terms of making your numbers. There's much less patience. Once you start down the treadmill of taking venture capital, it's "how many rounds before people give up on you or you have a positive exit event?" So you're really setting yourself up. The best by far is to structure it such that you don't have to take money.
11. I think working for another company and building those relationships is extremely valuable. Frequently, people think just running from school out into doing a startup is the best thing to do. But I think that getting some experience within a number of companies is really positive because you meet people and you start to develop patterns in your mind of the types of people that you need, and the types of people that you can trust, and the types of people you never want to work with.
12. It was easy, and that was a key thing for me because I wasn't lacking the knowledge about how to publish to the Web For a long time, people understood Blogger as "It makes it easy to have a website." But a lot of things before that made it easy to have a website. GeoCities made it easy to have a website, but they didn't make it easy to publish anything on an ongoing basis. So, for me, the idea that I could have a thought and I could type in a form and it would be on my website in a matter of seconds completely transformed the experience. It was one of those things that, by automating the process, completely morphed what it was I was doing. If I could have a thought and then put it on my site, then obviously I am going to potentially do that much more and it is a stream for communication of a whole different type.
So that was a little bit of an insight. To me it was, "Heck, that's handy." But it was not dissimilar to what other people were doing with weblogs. They were either doing it by hand or maybe they wrote their own little script to do it. But it's the little thing that clicked in my mind: "This is that little tweak that makes it kind of maybe a big deal." Not that the future lit up in my head and said, "We are doing that." It was just sort of a hint, more in retrospect than at the time.
13. We had enough traffic to go sell advertising. We knew if we sold ads on all our pages as of then, at a $20 CPM, that would cover our costs. It's hard to remember back what your mindset was, but I know it wasn't, "Let's get everyone on the Internet." That was way beyond us. The mindset was more like, "Let's not let this sink the company; let's keep it going." And part of that was just making money, so we did a bunch of crazy things in addition to advertising to try to bring in money. We made book deals and a bunch of little things that really didn't add up to anything. But we did anything in the name of getting money while we looked for proper management. Because we all knew it wasn't us.
"If this thing is going to be as big as we want it to be, we're not the people to run it," although we'd have loved to. So we had a CEO search for 6 months. It was really 6 months of struggling between then and when we got Tim Koogle to come.
14. What was really central to our understanding of the Internet was that it was this open system where you couldn't really put up walls. One of the things that I think Filo did a great job of making happen was that, when someone did a search and you didn't find what you were looking for on Yahoo, rather than just saying, "It's not here," or "Go check out this other thing," he put links to our competitors, then prefilled the query, so you'd just click on Excite and they would do a search on Excite for the same thing.
Certainly they don't teach you in business school to go point to your competitors, but it sent the right message to the users, which was, "It's all about you. We're going to get you the data you want. If it exists on the Web, we're going to find it for you, even if we don't make money off of it directly." But it keeps people coming back because they know we have their best interest in mind. I think that was a big idea. It was an acknowledgment that you, as a single company, can't be everything to everyone. We're not a walled garden like AOL. We're this connection point, and it's our job to get you to where you want to go.
15. Marimba is an unfair case because we were willed on like crazy by the investors. We really had an unfair opportunity because when we got funding, the VCs were calling us. They all wanted to invest because they had heard about us and wanted to find out what we were doing.
So we got a really good first round of funding $4 million from Kleiner Perkins. Though I thought they wired the money in these situations, they actually gave us a check. So we had two checks from the Kleiner fund and the Java fund-and Sami goes, "Let's go to Kinko's and make copies!" So he takes the checks to Kinko's and comes back with the photocopies, and he forgot to take the checks out of the copy machine! Luckily they were still there.
Another story I remember from our first round of funding was when they gave us the checks-the lawyers were there, Kleiner was there, and I said, "Oh great, now I can buy that espresso machine!" and they all jumped me and said, "No, you're not going to buy an espresso machine with this money. This is to start the company."
And it became a sticking point. We were very frugal and we didn't spend money on frills, but after the IPO there was a really bad time for Marimba when it was very difficult to hire people, and all the early people that had been there 3 to 4 years were starting to leave. Morale was very low, and so I went to the CFO and said, "Look, I want to buy an espresso machine." And he said, "No, we can't do that, it's too expensive."
A few weeks later, when another senior engineer quit, I said, 'Screw it, let's go buy an espresso machine." So Jonathan and went online and bought this super-duper Italian, fully automatic, $15,000 espresso machine on his credit card and submitted the expense form. The CFO almost had a baby. It was unbelievable. This was a beautiful piece of work, and they came and installed the espresso machine and it was the best money we ever spent. Every morning, people would meet and crowd around it. This thing was just it, the bee's knees, people loved it, they couldn't stop talking about it. A month later, the CFO came and said, "I'm sorry, we should have done this years ago." And it tells you something about where you spend your money and what you spend your money on. It's not just business-related expenses. You also have to create an environment that you like so that people are happy and feel they are valued.
16. I think, in general, people are uncomfortable with things that are different. Even now when I talk about adding new features to Gmail, if it isn't just small variation or rearranging a what's already there, people don't like it. People have a narrow concept of what's possible, and we're limited more by our own ideas about what's possible than what really is possible. So they just get uncomfortable, and they kind of tend to attack it for whatever reason.
But for me, I am more interested in things that are new, and so I'm always excited just to see what will happen. That was actually one of the biggest reasons I joined Google in the first place. It wasn't so much that H was convinced that it was a good business; I just thought it was interesting and I was excited to see what would happen.
Likewise, with Gmail, part of the excitement was just seeing how the world would respond. I kind of like uncertainty to some extent, because it's a little bit of suspense and excitement and adventure, almost, right? And you can learn a lot even if things don't work out. But not everyone likes adventure. A lot of people seem to be against uncertainty, actually. In all areas of life. I'm suddenly reminded that, for a while, P asked people, if they were playing Russian roulette with a gun with a billion barrels (or some huge number, so in other words, some low probability that they would actually be killed), how much would they have to be paid to play one round? A lot of people were almost offended by the question and they'd say, "I wouldn't do it at any price." But, of course, we do that every day. They drive to work in cars to earn money and they are taking risks all the time, but they don't like to acknowledge that they are taking risks. They want to pretend that everything is risk-free.
17. The following is not something from my personal experience it's a story told to me by the Mac team but they said that, when they first did the dialog boxes for the Lisa, instead of saying "OK," it said, "Do It." They found that people were reluctant to click on that, and they couldn't figure out why. Then, once they had a test subject there who just wouldn't click on it, they said, Why didn't you click on that little button there?" He said, "I'm not a dolt. Why would click on that?" People were reading it as "dolt," not "do it," because it was an unusual combination of words. So they changed dialog boxes to say "OK." That little change greased the skids for people to click on dialog boxes. It's very small stuff like that, very often-that somebody sees something and has the wrong impression. The only way to learn that is by doing a lot of testing. In fact, that's one of the reasons why the iPod was such a phenomenal success where the MP3 players before were not. The iPod had the design sensibility of an average person just trying to listen to music, whereas the previous MP3 players were kind of technical exercises in understanding how music files are stored, and perhaps required very delicate balancing of your fingers to hit the buttons the right way, and so on.
18. The thing that really got them was pausing live TV.
That was the hook. You go, "Blah blah blah and it can pause live TV." They'd look at you and go, "Wait a minute. Pause live TV? How do you do that?" "Well, technically, you do it this way and that way." "That doesn't work. You can't pause live TV. It's live!" We couldn't get people to understand it. We'd say things like, 'It's not like the actors take a break or anything. You pause live TV." Then you'd show it to them, and we got pretty good at this after a while, where we'd surprise them with this and we'd pause live TV and you could see them going, "Wow. I never thought that would ever be possible.'
So that was a big catalyst. Once people got that idea, they realized it was something really different.
The other things that people wanted to do and I don't know if it was because we did it and then they liked it or if it was because they asked for it and then we did it-but this idea of a season pass or a wish list where you just put in something a very small amount of information saying, "I want this"-and, for the rest of your life, you get it. So if you want to see The Sopranos and you want it every week, you do a Season Pass, and that Season Pass will look out for The Sopranos every time it's broadcast. It's clever enough not to get any repeats, so you only get the real one. And it's clever enough to deal with times changing and durations changing. So if you have a season finale that lasts two hours, TiVo will automatically figure that one out. People loved this idea of "Get me a Season Pass," and then they can forget about it. We expanded that to WishList, which says, "Get me all the Martin Scorsese movies," or stuff like that. "Clint Eastwood westerns." Those were very attractive to people, and over time it became pretty clear that this was something very new and different.
19. Before Viaweb we had a startup called Artix. We were going to put art galleries online. The problem was, art galleries didn't want to be online. They still don't want to be online. We spent a long time trying to convince these people to use something they didn't want before we had the idea that maybe we should make something people actually did want.
20. I think the main thing was that it was easy.
Practically all the software in the world is either broken or very difficult to use. So users dread software. They've been trained that whenever they try to install something, or even fill out a form online, it's not going to work. I dread installing stuff, and have a PhD in computer science.
So if you're writing applications for end users, you have to remember that you're writing for an audience that has been traumatized by bad experiences. We worked hard to make Viaweb as easy as it could possibly be, and we had this confidence-building online demo where we walked people through using the software. That was what got us all the users. The other thing was, we had good graphic design. Our secret weapon was that we knew that e-commerce was really about graphic design, not transaction processing. Unless you had a site that could convince people to buy, you didn't have a transaction to process, and what convinced people to buy was how good the site looked. So we made sure that our software made great looking sites not just better than our competitors, but better than most of the sites that big companies paid web consultants half a million dollars to make for them.
We didn't even process credit card transactions till about 2 years in. We would just forward the order to the merchant, and they'd process it like a phone order.
21. Well, I suppose they thought it could be doing better. We were getting users at a certain rate and maybe they thought we could have been getting users at twice that rate. I don't think we could have. We already had more users than anybody else. There just weren't that many users out there to increase the rate that much.
There was one investor who I think really wanted to run the company. He had just sold his own startup, and he was pretty young. It was hard for him to just be a passive investor. For a while he actually came to work for us, as a VP.
You know, in retrospect I think the big problem with our investors was that we weren't forceful enough with them. I think investors like to be bossed around, like horses. It reassures them when you're in control. But these guys were much older than us and had given us huge sums of their money, so it was hard for us to boss them around.
22. I found I could actually sell moderately well. I could convince people of stuff. I learned a trick for doing this: to tell the truth. A lot of people think that the way to convince people of things is to be eloquent-to have some bag of tricks for sliding conclusions into their brains. But there's also a sort of hack that you can use if you are not a very good salesman, which is simply tell people the truth. Our strategy for selling our software to people was: make the best software and then tell them, truthfully, "this is the best software." And they could tell we were telling the truth.
Another advantage of telling the truth is that you don't have to remember what you've said. You don't have to keep any state in your head. It's a purely functional business strategy. (Hackers will get I what I mean.)
23. There were a bunch of things. I released a bunch of projects I've done a bunch more that are halfway done. He keep an idea journal of stuff. I make ideas and I work on them a bit to see what they feel like, and then I move along. One was called Bookbook-because I never came up with a name for it-in which you could say, "I'm at this location and I don't want these books and I do want these other books." You would put that in an XML file on your website, like a feed-you would provide a feed and other people would do this and create a central crossing engine that would say, "You have this book and he wants that book, and you are not that far from each other." This was basically a distributed geomarket for books.
The problem was, the way I wrote it was fully decentralized. You didn't log in and create your data; it was just, "Here's a URL to my data" and the system would do the best it could. The problem is that it was so hard to use. You had to make an XML file. If that's your beginning user interface proposition, you fail. I think 12 people signed up for it, maybe. The UI was too hard. The elegance of a distributed system trumps the usefulness of centralized UI and control.
Similarly, there was a system called Loaf that I did with Maciej Ceglowski that was a fully distributed social network-no central server whatsoever. It used email as a carrier and could tell people you talked to about other people you corresponded with in an encrypted and compressed way. If I emailed you, it would attach a Loaf file. You couldn't open the Loaf file and read the contents of it; it just didn't work that way. It used Bloom filter, so it was sort of a statistical object. But you could take another email address and see if it was in there. With 99 percent accuracy, you could tell if someone was inside that file. So if you got email, you could say, "I think Joshua Schachter corresponds with this person." Without me exposing my address book to you, you could tell who in your address book you talked to. It was a pretty neat idea, but it was complicated to install.
The other problem was that it didn't work without Loaf. So that didn't do very well, but we got press for it. It was sufficiently innovative. Maybe I'll return to that idea someday.
24. Having your own company means that it's much harder to blame somebody else. If you are working inside a big company, you can always blame management, marketing, engineering, or something. But, when you are running it, you can't, because it's all your responsibility. I found that to be quite cathartic. The East Coast also has a little more of an aesthetic of complaining, and so I got a little bit over that, I guess.
Another, I thought, was expressed really well by Don Yannias of Encyclopedia Britannica. He said, "Now that I'm running Encyclopedia Britannica, I have to be Mr. Sunshine every day. Because people are looking to you, not just for the ideas, but for the general attitude toward how to make the whole thing work. Carrying a company is a lot of weight. You have to make sure that you keep on the uptick-not just financially, but also make it So that it's a fun environment and people want to work there.
25. We couldn't get the ad model to work worth a darn.
Our idea was to give very contextual ads. We knew what web page people are on, might as well give them an ad that made sense. But we couldn't find a way of selling ads in such a way that it worked. We had an unbelievable number of page turns. We had many opportunities to put ads in front of people, but we couldn't turn that into making money.
So our underlying business idea failed. We were very successful in terms of getting lots of people to use it. People liked it. Netscape bundled it into their browser. Once Netscape bundled it into their browsers, getting Microsoft to bundle it into their browsers was easily done. (We found the best way to get Microsoft to do something was to get the competitor to do something.)
So we got lots and lots of users-millions, tens of millions of users--but we couldn't figure out how to make the business work. At that point, when some folks from Amazon were looking around for data mining technology, they came and said, "Should we buy you for data mining technology?" And we said, "One, you shouldn't buy us, and the other is that we're doing something quite different from data mining. We have this toolbar we can get out there in front of people and things like that.
In talks with Jeff Bezos, the founder of [Amazon.com](http://amazon.com/), He said, "I tried being acquired, and it didn't work. By AOL, a great company, but my company got dispersed, and I don't know how to run a division; I know how to run a company." He said, "If we're going to buy you, why don't you run it as a company? What does that mean to you?" said, "Well, it has a board, and I meet with the board once a month and they give general direction and run the place." And he said, "OK, let's do it that way.'
So we got acquired, and we ran as a separate company. The company is still running. It's about 200 yards away from the Internet Archive, which is where I am now. I stayed for 3 years and then moved over to build the Internet Archive which had nobody working here into a real organization. Because once we had enough materials, then we could build the library. So Alexa was about the cataloging of the library, and the Internet Archive is trying to build the stuff.
26. Well, certainly if you remember back to that time in the office printing market, HP was in a very strong leadership position with the LaserJet. When we found out from HP that they wanted to come back and talk to us, that was a very important moment because we were, in fact, able to sign an agreement with HP and have them adopt PostScript on their LaserJet printers. That was a big coup for us as a company. It was at the same time that we managed to sign up IBM. So our strategy of not going to IBM early had paid off. Once they saw the market mushrooming for Apple, both IBM and HP decided they had to pay attention to it and that's how we got those business deals.
The other lesson that we had to learn, though, is that you can't be a one-product company. There's a very high risk when you're a single-product company that eventually a combination of changes in the technological landscape and changes in the competitive landscape will eventually cause you to begin losing market share. And once you lose market share, then your revenue and earnings begin to fall. Fortunately, we had decided that in order to be able to really demonstrate the capability that was inside the Laser Writer, we couldn't rely on the standard business applications-and even the graphics applications-that were out there. If you remember, Apple had a product called MacDraw, and they had another product called MacPaint. They were organized around the concept that you were going to be doing your printing on an Image Writer; they didn't have the characteristics that could really show off the fact that the Laser Writer was in fact a full printing press. On the LaserWriter, you could combine graphics and images and text in innovative ways that none of the application packages were enabling. More importantly, designers knew they wanted to be more creative but had no tools to enable their creative expression.
But there was also another reason for developing Illustrator. John's wife was a graphic designer, and once we brought out the LaserWriter, she wanted to get some of her design concepts out on that machine. So John was programming in PostScript by hand to get this output to come out and he said, "This is stupid. I need to build a tool that behaves more like what a graphic artist would expect to have in terms of pen and ink and drawing and so forth, and then let the tool write the PostScript code." So that's where Illustrator came from.
It was introduced in the winter of 1987. We also had been working with scanning equipment and photographs. Scanners were still very expensive at that time and so there wasn't a lot of opportunity in the area of photography yet, but we instinctively knew it was going to come.
We were introduced to two brothers from Michigan: Tom and John Knoll. They had built a package that would let you work with a photographic image and change it, modify it, enhance it, do a variety of things. But of course it was doing that on a Macintosh with 512K of RAM, a little black-and-white monitor screen, no color, a disk drive that maybe held 10 or 20 megs. There were no digital cameras and scanners cost $20,000. But the software looked really good. We thought that this had to be a great idea eventually and it was the missing component. There were applications that produced text. We had Illustrator, an application that could produce line art and drawings. But we didn't have an application that could deal with photographs, even though the printer could print them. So we began investing in Photoshop, and we paid a lot of attention to the Japanese who were beginning to work on digital cameras and lower-cost scanners. We introduced Photoshop probably 2 or 3 years before the market was ready for it.
I am not a hunter, never have fired a gun, but I'm told that if you want to shoot a duck, you have to shoot where the duck is going to be, not where the duck is. It's the same with introducing technology: if you're only focused on the market today, by the time you introduce your solution to that problem, there'll probably be several others already entrenched. It will be hard to dislodge them, and hard to convince people that what you have is so much better that they should make a change. Much better to figure out where the marketplace is going to be in a few years, focus on providing a solution to that, and let the market forces catch up to you. That's what we did with Photoshop and it turned out to have been a great decision for us, and good for the Knoll brothers. It paid a lot of royalties for their work and developed a whole industry around digital cameras and digital photography.
27. There were SO many things that happened.
Sometimes they almost feel like acts of God.
We were doing all this work for these CADO computer guys.
And there were many things we didn't know-like pricing strategy or how do you collect money from people? So I remember one very unsophisticated thing, in that we had been working with CADO and they said, "We're going to get all of our resellers together. Since you're the big application vendor, come and give a presentation and pitch them.'
So I get in front of these 60 or 70 guys and these guys are probably all in their 50s and I'm in my 20s, and we had a "blue light special," where we said, "If you give me a check today for $10,000, you can have unlimited rights to one of our modules". the general ledger or something like that. "But you have to write me a check today." These guys are looking at me like I'm goofy and I'm thinking, "Well, maybe they don't believe this great offer." (This is how naïve I am.) One guy says, "Well, we don't carry our corporate checkbooks around." And I go, "Well, you must have your personal checkbooks?" And they go, "Yeah." And I'm thinking, "Oh yeah, how are they going to pay us?" So I said, "I'm sure your company will reimburse you and, if you want to, put a note not to cash the check until Monday, but I need the check today.' And the CADO guys are looking at me like, "OK, what is she doing?"
That day I remember very well it was in the back of a warehouse because they manufactured these computers and it was a big building in Torrance, and it was nice and sunny there. They gave me a crate to stand on because the podium was so large for me. I stood on this crate and started going through the specifications of our product, and George Ryan, the CEO, said, "We're going to take a break now." And he said, "Ann, after the break, you gotta jazz it up a little bit. If you're gonna run with the big dogs, you gotta learn how to lift your leg.' That really empowered me to ask for that $10,000.
George Ryan was a great sales guy. The fact that he had this young girl there hustling software and so these guys are saying, 'Well, we can't write a check." And I say, "Won't your companies reimburse you?" I went home with, I think, like 12 or 15 of these $10,000 checks in my purse. For a young company, it felt like carrying gold around. We now have $120,000-all at one time! So that was pretty seminal of course today, things like that wouldn't work. It was a very unsophisticated market; we were their only choice. Probably, thinking back, half the guys wrote the check because they just wanted me to be successful. I think this is something that people underestimate-that there are always people out there rooting for you. That is probably part of what you have to develop. They probably went back to their offices and said the following: "We got a great deal on this software and this great little company-I think those guys might be successful-called Open Systems. And this young woman got up there, and she had the balls-or stupidity--to ask us each to rip out checks for $10,000."
28. The funny thing is that most people were impressed by all the stuff Basecamp didn't do. They were used to these big, honking products that tried to do everything, where they just needed something simple.
We had this dilemma that either you had MS Project or you had email, and there's a huge gap between them. Managing a project by sending emails back and forth is messy and doesn't work, but otherwise you had to adapt your process to what's mandated from these other heavyweight applications.
Basecamp was basically just trying to be one step above email. And by setting such a humble goal, we had to make a lot of decisions about how simple we could make things. We tried to make less software from the very beginning. It's one of the mantras we have. It's a win whenever we can get away with just a simple model, since we have to do less programming. I was the only programmer and I was dedicating 10 hours a week to this, while we were developing it.
37 signals was paying me to do this out of its consultancy revenue, since we didn't have funds to fund it. So we had only a quarter of a programmer dedicated to the development and no funds really for doing this. The designers were giving it a third of their time at most. And we realized through this process that those constraints-which sound negative were actually the greatest gift to the development of Basecamp.
That whole constrained development model really focused our view on what we needed, and it forced us to make tough decisions about making less software all the time. And we keep getting feedback from customers that say, "I love this, it's just SO simple to use. It's got just the features I need and not all the other stuff." There wasn't time for us to say, "Wouldn't it be cool to do this and that?"
It turns out that when you build only software that you absolutely need, you don't get more software than you'll actually use. And that's why we didn't fear competition from the big guys. If Microsoft decided to go after Basecamp, they'd say, "Get a team of 20 people to do this and we'll give them 6 months to come up with something." Because when you're in a big corporate environment, you throw a lot of resources at projects. You just could never arrive at the type of product that Basecamp is when you don't work under constraints like we did. It's just too tempting to try to do it all, or at least do too much.
It wasn't necessarily that we were great programmers and designers, but because we embraced the constraints that forced that upon us. If we took the same people and put them in an environment where we had all the money and time we wanted, we couldn't even make Basecamp again.
29. When you have to do a project like Basecamp and you only have 10 hours a week, you can't spend your time on things that don't produce anything. So you get extremely aware of tools that aren't necessarily helping your productivity and you go seeking tools that can help.
That's how I found Ruby. It was such a nice experience for me and a nice productivity booster. I was coming from PHP. I had also looked at Java and other environments and I wasn't finding anything else that would allow me, as a single programmer, to deliver all this stuff.
And then built Rails on top of Ruby to allow me to build Basecamp and drive this project in the way that we wanted to. Because we didn't want to bring on more programmers. We wanted to keep those constraints that we had and so we just had to make tools that allowed us to do that. And I think that's also a big explanation for why Rails is having the success that it is: it was born in an environment that was so focused on productivity and was so focused on being able to deliver within constraints. I'm building Rails while I'm building Basecamp-rather, I'm building Basecamp, and every step of the way, I'm extracting Rails.
So I'm doing what I need to do for Basecamp, then figuring, "Hey, this looks generic, I could pull this piece out and put it into the toolbox Rails." And as time goes by, this toolbox gets larger and larger and somewhere in the process I realized that this generic toolbox that I had was actually a very useful toolbox and perhaps other people could use that too to do the same thing we were doing at 37 signals, use less resources and build less software.
When we launched Basecamp, it was 4,000 lines of code-so not very much. One guy who's now involved with Rails told me that they had a single configuration file in XML that was 5,000 lines!
We released Basecamp in February 2005, and by then I knew that I wanted to release Rails. We went through the hectic time after releasing Basecamp where we would keep on pushing a whole bunch of new features.
We always give a major update within 30 days after we launch a new product. Because that's really something that reinforces people's feelings about the project. If they buy in on day one and then they see a major new update after 2 weeks, they're really pleased. So for us, one of the secrets about how we market the product is to make sure that launch is not the end. We don't say, "Whew, we're done now," and then go on vacation. It's then when you keep on pushing to show this product is alive.
So that happened in February and then we had pretty much a finished framework for Rails, but didn't want to release it yet, because I wanted to document it. I'd been using open source software for so long that I was really annoyed that a lot of it had terrible documentation. I didn't want that to happen to Rails, so kept it back about 2 months, and then pushed it out about 3 or 4 months after Basecamp.
30. One big turning point was getting Levi Strauss as a customer. They had acquired a small company that made custom-cut khaki pants, and they wanted a web front end for this new factory that they were building that could take your measurements and sew you a pair of khakis to your specs. They asked around MIT, "Who's really an expert on building this kind of thing?" They came to us and it was a happy coincidence, because they were happy to pay for lots of software and infrastructure and tools and let us keep the rights to it all. That was one good thing about working for non-technical companies. If you worked for IBM, they make their money by owning technologies, So if you build a technology for them, they want to own it. Whereas publishers or clothing companies, they make their money by having a brand or unique content. I did a lot of work for Hearst Corporation and they don't want to give away the content of Cosmo magazine or their relationship with Fabio, but if you build some Perl scripts for them to do server administration, it doesn't occur to them that that's something that they have to own and prevent other publishers from getting hold of.
So Levi's was a great client and it was a big turning point because it gave us the money to build whatever we needed to build.
31. That was part of it; it was hard to hire people.
No matter what you did, most of the people with really good credentials and experience were occupied. There was so much money chasing a relatively limited talent pool. The folks who were in their 30s were simply not available. They were tied up working at their own startups. So we thought, "OK, how are we going to hire and grow people?"
For programmers, I had a vision-partly because I had been teaching programmers at MIT-that I didn't like the way that programmer careers turned out. Now that I fly airplanes, I realize that the average programmer is really much less happy in his/her job than the average airplane mechanic, which is pretty sad when you consider that becoming an airplane mechanic is an 18-month trade school education. For $30,000 and a year and a half, you can become an airplane mechanic (even less if you want to work as an apprentice for 3 years and get your FAA certification). You work in a small group, you meet the customer directly. You don't have the alienation from the customer that Karl Marx talked about as being a bad thing about factory work versus craftsmanship that you never find out if your work really connects with people because you're in a factory and the customer is at the other end of a railroad line.
Airplane mechanics have a direct interaction with the customer. A lot of the jobs require two to three people, so it's kind of social, and I noticed that they're just really happy. Programmers are isolated. They sit in their cubicle; they don't think about the larger picture. To my mind, a programmer is not an engineer, because an engineer is somebody who starts with a social problem that an organization or a society has and says, "OK, here's this problem that we have-how can we solve it?" The engineer comes up with a clever, cost-effective solution to address that problem, builds it, tests it to make sure it solves the problem. That's engineering. If you look at civil engineers, architects, they're all dealing directly with the customer and going through the whole process.
32. When they're young, people need to work pretty long hours to build experience and get things done. But the benefit was that then they get a big chunk of the project, and they are able to say, "I built half of the site for the customer." They put their name on something, instead of their résumé just saying that they were part of a 20-person team.
You never really know what most programmers have accomplished. There are a handful of people that you can say that about. Linus Torvalds built the Linux kernel, but it's hard to say what the average programmer working at a big company has ever accomplished. Maybe he or she knows, but, from the outside, the projects are so big and their contributions were SO small.
I wanted them to have a real professional résumé. In the end, the project was a failure because the industry trends moved away from that. People don't want programmers to be professionals; they want programmers to be cheap. They want them to be using inefficient tools like C and Java. They just want to get them in India and pay as little as possible. But think part of the hostility of industrial managers toward programmers comes from the fact that programmers never had been professionals.
Programmers have not been professionals because they haven't really cared about quality. How many programmers have you asked, "Is this the right way to do things? Is this going to be good for the users?" They reply, "I don't know and I don't care. I get paid, I have my cubicle, and the air-conditioning is set at the right temperature. I'm happy as long as the paycheck comes in.' It's no surprise that programmers' salaries are headed down to what an illegal immigrant working at a slaughterhouse in Nebraska would get paid, because they just don't think about if they are doing high-quality work for the end users. I think because of that, managers have said, "I'm tired of these people. I don't want to see them. I haven't had a good experience. They've been late, they haven't done what they've promised, and what they've done has been bug-ridden and not very good for the end user. So if I can't have a good experience with these people, then I'll just get rid of them. I'll have them in India or China where I can't see them and they won't get on my nerves as much." So think there's an emotional component to why programmers are being offshored: it's simply that the businesspeople hate them.
33. When we do fill a req, we have a fantastic success rate. Many observers and people that have done due diligence on TripAdvisor over the years have commented on the caliber of individuals here. But if I ever start another company again, I'd love to have as a founding or very early team member someone who was a trusted recruiter. Because the difference in almost any position between someone who does a good job and someone who does a great job might be 20 percent more in salary, but it's 100 or 200 percent more in throughput. If you can have enough people in the company that work twice as efficiently as the person sitting next to them, because they just know what to do, what not to spend time on. I mean everyone, they're more or less all working the same number of hours. It's rarely a work ethic issue. It's just, hey, you give this engineer a task, and it's just done right in half the time as the next person. That it's done right, that's the first important part; it's done quick; and there's just less communication if the teams are smaller, because everyone's getting twice as much done. Now how the heck do you fill a company with people like that in every single department? Well, you tap out of your friends pretty quick; but absolutely, go hire your friends.
As I advise other startups from time to time, if you find someone you like, pay what it takes to get them to come to your company in options or in salary, depending on the company's stage. But getting the right people especially in that first dozen -is SO much more important than getting the req filled.
Unfortunately that slows down the hiring process a lot, which slows your growth a lot, which is how I circle back to say, "In the next company, I'd hope to have a recruiter on board within the first half a dozen people to help get the right next 12 people.' Most recruiters don't work that way, don't think that way.
Recruiters want to know, "What requirements do you need in the job?" My answer is, I want passion. I want people that really care about doing a great job. It's just a different mindset. That's software, that's customer acquisition, that's branding, that's PR. It's really not in any one department. It's an attitude. And it makes a company a hell of a lot more interesting to work at.
34. I'd say do it. There's kind of a backwards logic that says: when you are young, you should learn from people who are experienced, so later on, if you want to do a startup, you can take the risk. And that's a myth that was created from school. You need to learn to get to the next level.
The biggest roadblock to the entrepreneur are liabilities in your life. It's not whether or not you can be a good entrepreneur, it's whether you have to make a mortgage payment or support other people.
Experience will come when you face certain problems and live through them. And the best way to do that is to put yourself squarely in the path of those problems.
35. I think entrepreneurs want to make money. It's not that they do it for the money, but they want to make money. Because money is the measuring stick; it's how they know if they've won or not. And I think a lot of what drives entrepreneurs is the kind of legacy they are going to leave. They want to make a mark in the world and feel like their life mattered. Entrepreneurs are the kind of people who love ideas and want to build things, and add value to the world.
Part of that is to quench their ego's thirst and say, "I matter.' That's why people like Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla spend a lot of time doing nonprofit things. It was never about the money. Carnegie dedicated the latter part of his life to giving all his money away. He was trying to convince people to give your money away once you make it. Because that's when it can start doing real good, too.
36. The hardest decision you make as an entrepreneur is not one that you make while you're building the company. For me, the hardest decision was not about solving the hosting issues and all that. It was the one I made years before HOT or NOT even existed. When said, "I'm going to be an entrepreneur," what I was really saying was, "I'm going to forgo the normal, safe route, where there's a clear path. I'm going to take a higher risk and go for a higher reward.'
It's like Hewlett-Packard. Do you know what their first product was? A bowling foul line indicator. The point is, they decided that they were going to be entrepreneurs before they knew exactly what they were going to do, and that's very common. All these things come out of new ideas. If you're not in school and you're not an entrepreneur, you're not working on new ideas. You are just a cog in someone else's wheel, and you'll never make anything new. So the hardest thing is to say, "I'm going to put myself in the position of being an entrepreneur by having ideas and trying things, and not giving up when I fail."
You never know unless you try, and we live in a world where building websites and other small things doesn't take that much time and effort to try, so why not just try different things?
37. There are a lot of people, especially competition, who really criticize the company for no reason. They personally attack us. They say we're stupid. It's really mean. That stuff bothers me. Not as much anymore, because you have to realize that people don't do this sort of stuff unless they're really It's like when your mom tells you that the reason a girl is picking on you in school is probably because she's depressed. You have to understand they're coming from a place where they feel like they have to do it. We've never done things like that. Sometimes I wish these people would get told off. But we're successful and that's one of the reasons why we get picked on. You don't pick on the underdog.
But it's hard, and that's why I'd recommend doing something like the LiveJournal for some friends that know you in real life, because it's not fun to be torn apart or written about. I got a lot of that and that's kind of why I stopped blogging because people were critical of me.
There was one post where I made a joke about wanting a banjo, and it was like, "Ben, he's such a tyrant, he won't let me have a banjo." I don't have any instruments, and why should buy a $300 banjo?
He was right, but I was trying to make him seem like this villain. The point of the joke was, "Boy, she's really stupid about wanting something and he's being reasonable." And I got all these emails saying, "You should leave your husband," and "How much does he spend on beer in a year?" All these things that were such judgments. And it's like, (1) you didn't get my joke (it's really hard to translate humor on the Web), and (2) shut up, don't talk about my husband that way.
That was the peak of my wanting to talk about everything. Or wanting to talk to a lot of people.
38. A couple of things happened. We were significantly late on one of the next generations of our computers. You would think that high-performance computers designed out of the most advanced parallel processing technology, with a number of patents behind it, would be a highly differentiated product. In reality, it was just the opposite of that.
High-performance computers are the ultimate commodity. The reason is that the customer comes in and says, "Here's my benchmark; here's my program. Run this on your computer and tell me how long it takes to run." So they wind up buying a computer based on performance divided by dollars, megaflops per dollar. It's just like buying a tank of gas.
When you miss a generation-when you miss a major product cycle or you're late significantly, and the competition has caught up with you and they're providing performance that's better or the same as yours you're at a very significant loss because that's really all that matters. We were selling engineering or scientific computers. Ease of use, reliability, and all those things were small factors. The major factor was, "How fast is your machine and what's it cost?"
The other thing that affected us, that we just simply weren't smart enough to turn on a dime, was the workstation. It's a market that's disappeared now completely, but workstations were personal computers that sat on a desk of an engineer or scientist that they could use for computing rather than having to send their job to a centralized computer facility, run it, and then get the results back the next morning. Workstations began to really take off in the mid '80s. Sun Microsystems and Apollo Computer pioneered that.
As that was coming, the personal computer was getting faster and faster all the time. So many of our large customers Bell Labs for example stopped buying the large computers like Vaxes and our kinds of machines and started buying workstations and personal computers.
At the same time that was going on, the Cold War was coming to an end. Many of our customers were defense-related. Major customers were large intelligence agencies in the United States, for example, or other defense-related applications. So that market dried up. Revenues turned down very steeply in the late '80s.
39. We had a situation where a lot could be learned about the pros and cons of using venture capital. Things were going south quickly and badly. We at the board level had to make a decision as to what we should do. One part of the board was saying, "Let's take our time; work this thing through; live with this for 2 or 3 years; get things fixed; transition into another segment, and move in that direction." Another segment of the board was saying-and don't mean this in a derogatory way -"Let's take more risk, roll the dice. If it works, it will work out big, and, if it doesn't, it disappears and let's move on to the next deal.'
One of the things that I think is dogma within venture capital is that you don't want to manage what they call the "living dead." I don't know what the numbers are now, but back when I was working with venture capitalists, their rules of thumb were: typically one out of ten companies is a really big hit; roughly three out of ten go belly up pretty quickly, and you get rid of them. The other five to six are what they call the "living dead." They grow nicely, organically, but don't generate spectacular returns, and they take management time and energy. Those are the kinds of companies they prefer not to deal with, because it simply doesn't make sense. They have a fiduciary responsibility to their limited partners to generate a significant return, so they want to deal with firms that will tend to do that.
The lesson I learned at Alliant in dealing with venture capitalists was that they're quite impatient with a difficult situation. They have to be. They have no choice.
So it came down to making a decision. What were we going to do with the company and how were we going to transition it? I was in disagreement. was saying, "Let's take the slower, more methodical approach over time, and we can work it out." The other approach was, "No. Let's change the architecture of the computer, move into the newer technologies quickly, etc." You can argue either one.
So I left the company. I left the board of directors. I was chief executive for 10 years. I basically got fired when it came down to saying, "I can't live with this strategy because I think it's wrong. They said, "We understand that; we respect you; but you can't stay." So I left.
And, unfortunately, it didn't work out. A year later, the company was bankrupt. Certainly, at the point that I'd left, I'd left a lot of problems for them to clean up. The company was not healthy; it was headed in the wrong direction. So I share a good deal of that responsibility.
40. I had a couple of very clear criteria in my mind. I wanted to build a business that had a recurring revenue stream. At Data General and Alliant even more so, because it sold computers that were in the half million to one million dollar range to large defense companies, universities, and the government, who had very sophisticated purchasing agents-we typically generated 80 percent of our revenue the last 2 weeks of the quarter. People don't believe this today, but it's true. And we were a public company. So if we had to make $15 million in revenue in a quarter, we'd be 2 weeks from the end of the quarter and we might have $3 million on the books. We were fairly confident we'd close the other $12 million, but it was horrible.
I remember one time we got a call on a Friday, the last day of the quarter. The call was from a very large defense contractor located in Sunnyvale, California. It was a purchasing agent saying, "Well, it's 5 o'clock in Boston right now, isn't it?" I said, "Yes, sir, it sure is." He says, "It's the last day of the quarter, isn't it?" I said, "Yes, sir, it is.' He said, "Well, let's negotiate.' So we went into extended negotiations with this guy for a couple of hours, until 7 p.m. our time, until he signed the contract and faxed it to us. Having been through that, I said, "I really want to build a strategy that has a recurring revenue stream.
The second thing was, having been chief executive at Alliant for 10 years, about halfway through that process I realized, "As the boss, I'm spending 40 percent of my time on things that don't directly contribute to getting computers out to customers." In other words, raising money, dealing with investors, dealing with lawyers, those kinds of issues. So I said, "In the next company do, I want to be able to spend 98 percent of my time focused on the customer and only 2 percent on secondary factors that lead to that.
I said, "I want to start a company that I can bootstrap up from a small amount of capital that gives us an opportunity of being a big fish in a small pond. Because I can't be in a big pond if I'm going to take just a small amount of money. I can only do SO much. And then just let the thing grow organically, just take our time.'
I actually made the conscious decision to, rather than put together a 5-year business plan, put together my basic thoughts on strategy and manage the company quarter to quarter. Turn quickly if things have to change, but manage it that way.
The third requirement, having been through Alliant with all people working in good faith but losing control of the company, said, "I ain't going to lose control. I want to be the sole owner. I'm going to be the majority owner of the company. I want to be the sole founder. It may be harder that way because I have to do most of it myself, but I've got control."
If you liked the above content, I'd definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯
Until We Meet Again...