yeah, i know it's gonna be tough. and the credit crunch / downturn / whatchamacallit has already changed the balance of power from entrepreneur to investor in less than a month. if you are lucky enough to *GET* financing, your term sheets are gonna suck ass (learn about liquidation preferences & protective provisions). if you are running an existing startup, you are probably going to have to cut spending, cut hiring, and you may even end up firing people / doing layoffs. and then you pay taxes and then you die.
sorry, life's a bitch.
but listen up:
Silicon Valley isn't Wall Street.
Internet Startups are not mortgage finance companies.
and... Entrepreneurs are not supposed to be ClarkKent.
in other words... WAKE. the FUCK. UP.
if you came to Silicon Valley to do a startup (or to join one), it ain't always fun & games. this isn't Disneyland, or a Harlequin romance novel (unless of course you're Tom Perkins). you don't always win every hand of poker, you don't always get a free lunch, an Aeron chair, or free child care.
the popular [mis]conception of startups being free rides to a pile of cash and/or stock options is just so much horse shit.
twenty years ago, i moved out to Silicon Valley after graduating from college. i did not do so with the intent to get rich quick, but neither to live among sheep. i came here for geeks & technology, ultimate frisbee, and a free-wheeling, entrepreneurial spirit that has electrified the valley since The Traitorous Eight walked out of Shockley Semiconductor over 50 years ago and started a Revolution.
while i don't profess to understand credit or capital markets, i do know that internet startups cost less money than ever to get started. and unless i missed something, there are more people online now than ever, spending more money online than ever. and i doubt any of these trends will likely reverse in the long-term -- lower costs, more people online, more e-commerce. doesn't that seem like a pretty good environment for building new online businesses? if not, then what the fuck are you doing here? go back home & get a safe job in insurance or mortgage appraisals (oh, wait a sec...)
you mean the current market environment scares you?
try making payroll on credit card advances when you're carrying over $100K in personal debt (been there). try dealing with your servers being stolen on new year's day while you're in the middle of trying to close an acquisition (yeah, that sucked too). try looking yourself in the face every morning, knowing 10-20 people depend on you for their jobs & families & kids, and feeling like you're completely inadequate to the task and can't hide it (every day for 3 years).
being an entrepreneur is a friggin' FEAR FACTORY, and a living nightmare every day of the week. this is nothing new. 4 out of 5 small businesses fail within the first few years, and the odds aren't that much different for startups. you are going to be embarrassed, ashamed, labeled as an idiot, shunned, ridiculed, and occasionally driven from the village with pitchforks. on average, YOU ARE GOING TO FAIL. MULTIPLE TIMES, in NEW & INTERESTING ways.
GET USED TO IT.
in fact, the more you are used to failing -- and failing fast, with data on how you fail -- the better off you will be. for a great presentation on how to use speed & fast failure as the ultimate startup weapon, check out mike cassidy's presentation on SPEED: The Ultimate Startup Weapon.
and while we're at it, let me take on this issue of "conserving cash". personally, i think it's the wrong message. the point is not to spend less cash. the point is to FIND YOUR FRIGGIN' BUSINESS MODEL. if you know which direction you're going, it's ok to RUN... on the other hand, if you have no friggin clue where you going, it doesn't matter how slow you crawl you ain't gonna get there. you can slow down your spend until you figure out your business, but once you DO understand it, then by all means
STEP ON THE GAS! use your cash effectively to build product features,
expand marketing, and hopefully use cash-flow positive arbitrage to
to put it more succinctly: in a down market, it's even more important for you to understand the fundamental metrics of your startup, how activation & retention work, how customer acquisition & referral work, and how to make money. these were always important, just more so now when people are looking harder at #'s.
Silicon Valley has never been without risk or fear. in fact, quite the opposite -- Silicon Valley is rife with fear & paranoia. and yet GOOD entrepreneurs somehow manage to overcome their fear, somehow make their hopes & dreams bigger than their fear, somehow manage to find imaginative solutions to problems whilst being backed into a corner by a guy with a .44 Magnum who outweighs you by 75 lbs, and nothing in your pockets but a butter knife and a paper clip. it doesn't matter.
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Robert just penned a pretty good post on how to tune up your resume for the "economic slowdown". He gets it mostly right (write?) -- do your best to stand out, write a regular blog -- however, i think he's a bit long-winded on his recommendations and overlooks some fundamentals (which he actually does practice, but doesn't mention so much).
So as i commented on Guy Kawasaki's blog almost 2 years ago, i'll summarize again why Resumes are for Shit, and why all you need are 4 basic things to get a kick-ass job (or whatever u want really -- still have to write that post later on why money-sex-power-drugs-guns are pretty much commutable):
a simple LinkedIn profile is nice, but it's not what i'm talking about. you better work, sister(sashay, chante!) -- get your connections into LinkedIn, fill out a work history with different positions you've held & expertise gained, get recommendations from people & partners who you worked with (not just your boss), answer questions on topics that matter in your line of work, etc. most importantly, reference companies, products, skills, and other keywords that are important to you & others (see below).
note that other social networking profiles don't substitute for LinkedIn. there was a time when i thought Facebook might eventually subsume LinkedIn, but i was clearly wr... wr... WRONG (ok there, i said it). both LinkedIn & Facebook -- and for that matter, MySpace as well -- have broadly established & well-entrenched userbase that likely prefer one of those 3 primary SNS platforms. but still most people who call themselves "professionals" should maintain a LinkedIn profile, even if it's not their primary hangout. LinkedIn is *THE* place that most recruiting (or any) professionals use for people search, and LinkedIn search results generally rank at the top for many Google name searches. note: if you have a common name like John Smith, even more reason to create popular content attached to your name to distinguish you from other John Smith's who rank for basketball, accounting, or other types of specialized content.
fyi, Guy was initially a bit of a Luddite re: my suggestion to use LinkedIn + Blog as alternatives to a traditional resume, however he came around later and penned one of the single most useful posts about LinkedIn i've ever read (tip: an old friend may have helped change his mind on that one). if you haven't checked it out, i strongly encourage you to do so. Guy doesn't really need LinkedIn, but his suggestions are top notch.
surprisingly, this doesn't take as much work as you'd think.
if you write regularly, passionately, & intelligently about topics people care about (ie: search for), use appropriate keywords in headlines & titles, you'll start to rank for that content rather quickly. in fact, i've accidentally blogged about topics / keywords i don't really care about, but ended up ranking for anyway.
let me explain.
NEWSFLASH: there are a lot of people out there who blog. a few of these crazy people blog regularly. a few of those few know how to use keywords in headlines, and how link text & basic SEO fundamentals work. a very small further few write well and are fun & interesting to read. however, there are very very VERY few people who blog regularly, interestingly, & specifically with respect to the keywords they care about. if you are one of these people, you can rather easily become king of your (perhaps small but focused) hill, by using regular & interesting blog posts that score well and rank for search keywords of note. it also helps if you include or embed photos or other media (see #4).
you can of course use other search-friendly sites & services as
distribution for your content & keywords, but blogs (& blog
headlines) are pretty well optimized for search so it's probably the
easiest place to start... tho twitter & friendfeed & a few other notable services work well to amplify & distribute original signal from your blog or other social platforms. i'll describe some of these below.
4) create notable online social media (video, pictures, presentations, etc) relevant to your line of work and link [to] them / embed them on your blog, your LinkedIn profile, and other online sites.
people love images, and they watch a lot more TV than they read. you've heard "a picture says a thousand words"? well as far as blogs are concerned, it's damn well true. i'd even go so far as to say there is such a thing as keyword visual arbitrage -- essentially, that there are high-volume search terms with low-volume associated images or video, that you can draft off and use to discover & attract new audience. this may seem like link-baiting, but actually it's just satisfying market demand for visual imagery around key terms that people have expressed an interest in.
in fact, i'm often criticized by several folks who say that my trademark "ransom notekidnapper" font style choices -- bold, underlined, enlarged, or many-colored fonts -- clearly let people know i am both childish and insane. and some folks may be right that it is incredibly annoying and odd, but it is a visual brand choice i've made (whether consciously or not ;) whatever your perspective, i've developed my own special (olympics?) audience. the choice of using "AARRR!" as an acronym for my "Startup Metrics for Pirates" is pretty much the auditory complement to the visual point above.
if you don't care to be quite as lunatic as i, you can simply use embed code and links to bring your popular social media from other sites & services into your blog or social profiles. i'm particularly fond of Flickr (graphics), YouTube (video), and SlideShare (powerpoint), as these services are also destination sites in themselves, and drive their own unique traffic to content you distribute on those sites. many people who do embed rich content also overlook this fact -- that the same content redistributed on multiple platforms can draw incremental users & attention, and that some of these platforms may be better at driving relevant traffic than your own blog or text-based sites/services.
in short, the rich media you associate with your blog and certain keywords also DEFINE WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU MAKE / USE / ENJOY. if you can cleverly associate social media -- literally, media to share with other people -- with your persona, and with specific tags & keywords, then you can merge these things into one.
in summary: you become a notable social object by associating rich media & keyword text with the person you are on blogs and social network profiles.
in closing, i include below examples of the graphic, video, and powerpoint content associated with "Startup Metrics" that i typically embed on my blog & social profiles: