While I learnt a great deal from the entire TechStars family—mentors, investors, alumni’s and friends, I’m dedicating this post to what I learnt from fellow TechStars teams. The teams that were going through the same experiences as we were, in the same location, and at the same time. For much like children, we learn more from watching other people do than from what they say.
1. Don’t take life too seriously
One thing I struggled (and sometimes still struggle) with, is how to not take life too seriously, yet work hard and care immensely to succeed at this crazy mission called building a startup. Robi Ganguly, CEO of Apptentive, has this all figured out. If you learn how to stay chill yet care at the same time, you reduce stress and allow room for creativity and innovation. You end up being more productive, your mind is clearer and you can focus on what really matters. Most importantly your attitude is contagious, it will rub off on your team whether you want it or not. Unhappy managers can not inspire; you must take care of yourself to take care of your team. I can’t picture Robi’s face, without picturing a huge smile on it. He works hard, plays hard, and doesn’t seem to ever get tired. His positivity is undoubtedly benefiting his team.
Looking beyond your team, one great side effect of positive attitude is that it makes other people in your network like you. How is that important? Well, we live in a world where we need other people’s support and help. And, people help people they like. It’s in our DNA. We can learn from team Maptia; their positive energy and passion in their business attracted support and help from numerous mentors and friends at TechStars. They were fun to hang out with!
2. Don’t underestimate your body language
It didn’t take long for Eli Rubel of Glider to get noticed for his pitching skills. Close to demo day, he shared with us this ted talk by Social psychologist Amy Cuddy. Body language affects how others see us. Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and they express powerlessness through closed, contractive postures. But can these postures actually cause power? Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions. The psychological and physiological changes will in turn change our behaviour, and might even have an impact on our chances of success. Her advice most definitely came in handy for me.
3. Always think 'Divide and Conquer'
It takes a lot of skill to make a company succeed. The good news is that founders acquire new skills very fast. They have to. They learn whatever skill is most needed in their team; how to code, how to market, how to pitch, how to hire, how to design, …etc. The bad news is, it's not enough to just know how to, you actually need to be really good at all these things. What is really effective is for the founders to 'divide and conquer'. Instead of each having to learn all the skills, focus on separate areas. It sounds obvious. But, in practice it's not. When you're learning new things, you always need someone to bounce ideas off of, and usually that person is your co-founder. So, even when founders 'divide and conquer', they still have to be on top of it all.
Whether the founders start with mostly overlapping skill set or complementary skill set, doesn't matter much. What matters is to know who is focused on what, because whether your skills are complementary or overlapping, chances are there is a lot more that you need to learn. So roll up your sleeves and be ready to get your hands dirty, and acquire new skills every single day. Deciding how to split the responsibility is something all new teams need to work out early on, and keep adjusting as their company grows. At TechStars, some teams already had set dynamics and some teams were newly formed and were building and creating these dynamics. Lewis Lin and Adam Loving from ContactReady did a fantastic job going through how to divide and conquer.