10+1 Lessons from Serial Entrepreneur Justin Kan – a16z Podcast

Check out the a16z Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Justin Kan is a repeat entrepreneur who co-founded KikoJustin.tvTwitchSocialcam, and now Atrium.

Key Takeaways

  • If you’re relying on external factors to drive your inner happiness, you will always be disappointed in the long run
  • If you’re a young founder with minimal experience and skills, focus on areas where there’s lots of market risk
    • What’s market risk? – When you’re heading into an area where a market might not even exist
  • “If you want something to be part of your identity, talk about it. If you want to learn something, teach it.”
  • Advice for founders:
    • Have high expectations (it’s only natural), but realize that no matter what happens you’ll be okay
  • “The best entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, the ones who create lasting companies and lasting value, they stick with their thing for DECADES”

Books Mentioned

Products Mentionted

Lessons From the Startup World

  • “The number one vehicle for personal growth that I’ve experienced in my life has been startups”
  • “If you’re relying on external factors to drive your inner happiness, you will always be disappointed in the long run”
    • Many startup founders have an ego attachment to how well the company does, but Justin recommends trying to mitigate this as much as possible
    • Your identity is NOT your company
  • “The best part about Silicon Valley is that there are people here who have done it before who are willing to help you”

Market Risk vs. Execution Risk

  • Market Risk
    • “When you have nothing going for you except for the fact that you’re willing to put in long hours and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, then you should focus on things where there’s a lot of market risk”
    • AKA – when you’re fresh out of college with minimal skills
    • What’s market risk? – When you’re heading into an area where a market might not even exist
      • Because of this, competition is very low
      • Examples: Airbnb, Twitch, Uber, Tinder 
        • “It takes a lot of people who have nothing to lose to discover those ideas”
  • Execution Risk
    • BUT – if you have a lot of experience/skills under your belt, focus much more on execution risk
      • (The things where a market already exists, but you just have to figure out how to do it 10x better)

When does it make sense for a startup to raise money out of the gate?

  • “I’m not convinced that raising a ton of money out of the gate is the right strategy… when you have a ton of money, you spend a ton of money”
  • Consider the market you’re entering
    • “If you’re in an industry where trustworthiness is really important, then being well-capitalized is key” – Jason
      • If you were to build a new bank where you’re going to be asking consumers to trust you with their money – it probably makes sense to raise a seed round and bring on strong executives/board members/investors (to boost trust)

Justin’s Self-Improvement Journey

  • In his early entrepreneurial days, Justin says he was doing close to nothing to improve himself
    • He would frequently eat pizza at lunch and crash all afternoon
  • To add – “I was not dealing with stress very well at all. If there was a problem in the company, then I would be very emotionally avoidant or I would drown my sorrows in alcohol”
  • But now…
    • He’s been gratitude journaling every morning using The Five Minute Journal
      • “It really helps me contextualize all the ups and downs you experience as an entrepreneur… the downs become not as big of a deal because you’re writing down all this stuff you’re grateful for in the morning”
    • He’s been following a ketogenic diet
    • He’s been meditating

Justin’s Twitter Feed

  • It’s quite philosophical 
  • Why? – “If you want something to be part of your identity, talk about it. If you want to learn something, teach it.”

Company Culture

  • “Company culture eats strategy”
  • “When you’re not intentional about your culture or what type of company you want to be, then the culture ends up being the accidental collection of good and bad choices, personality quirks, and the good and bad behaviors that your founding and executive teams propagate”
  • Related:
    • “I think a lot of companies in Silicon Valley succeed despite their management, not because of it”

Advice For Founders

  • “Startups are not, contrary to popular belief, a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
  • Have high expectations (it’s only natural), but realize that no matter what happens – you’ll be okay
    • “Whatever happens, you’re going to be fine. You won’t be happier or less happy. Most people don’t internalize it, but I firmly believe it’s true.”
  • Figure out how to always be okay with what’s going on (because what’s going on will always be hectic)
    • “If you don’t figure out a way to be psychologically okay with that.. you’re going to give up, you’re never going to see your startup to its ultimate potential”

Reading

  • Justin recently deleted all the entertainment apps off his phone (including the browser) AND locked the ability to install new apps
    • How? – You can delete the app store and put a passcode lock on it for re-installing (which only his wife knows)
    • Because of this, Justin has been reading a lot more
  • A few of his latest favorites:
    • The Untethered Soul
      • One lesson learned from the book – “Most people go through life thinking that they’re the experiences they have, the thoughts they have, or the emotions they have… but really you’re just the observer of these things that are happening”
        • Think – your life is like a movie and you’re just the observer
    • Leadership and Self-Deception
      • The fundamental idea behind the book – treat people with empathy, not as objects

Justin’s Advice to His 23-Year-Old Self

“The best entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, the ones who create lasting companies and lasting value, they stick with their thing for DECADES”

  • Great things take time

Additional Notes

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