Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #17
Studying entrepreneurship with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, talking to the man behind Fark.com, and advice on co-founder dating
I’m excited to share something I’ve been working on for a while. The awesome team at Marker, one of Medium’s in-house publications, invited me to become a contributor, and they published my first article this week. Even better: the article is about Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. How cool is that?????
Most people don’t think “entrepreneur” when they encounter The Rock, but Dwayne Johnson is one of the savviest entrepreneurs alive. If you want to learn why… well… read the article!
Lots of other good things to read and listen to in this issue as well, including a conversation with the incredible Drew Curtis, founder of Fark.com. So check it all out below. And reply with any questions you’ve got about entrepreneurship or startups so I can answer them in a future issue.
Can you smell all the entrepreneurial lessons The Rock is cooking? If not, you should start following his Instagram account. It’s like taking a master class in launching business ventures.
The Farker Who Monetized Doom Scrolling
In 1999, Drew Curtis started feeling guilty about constantly spamming his friends with emails linking to funny news stories. Rather than sending emails, he decided he’d build a website and let people come check it out if they wanted to. He called it Fark.com, a humorous play on the F-bomb pulled from old text-based video games on the early Internet that would censor curse words. The website quickly became one of the most popular communities on the Internet for sharing funny articles about what was going on in the world. However, unlike other humor sites of its day, Fark still exists and has a thriving community.
Get the full story from Web Masters via:
…or just search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
Like it or not, entrepreneurs have to be salespeople, too. At the very least, you have to be able to sell your vision. There's also a good chance you'll be the first person selling to customers. Are you prepared to close deals?
Office Hours Q&A
I really enjoyed your piece about the cofounder relationship and how it is and isn’t like a marriage. I completely see the value in finding a cofounder who adds complementary skills to your own, and would like to be able to do just that. But, people tend to have networks of people like themselves (e.g., how your co-founder was also a coder). Personally, I’m an ex-consultant and MBA who knows lots of ex-consultants and MBAs, but there’s only so much MBA-ing you need at very early stages and you definitely need more “doing” than consulting.
What methods do you suggest for seeking out co-founders or early team members who will add complementary skills to a business?
Finding great co-founders is notoriously difficult. In fact, it’s so difficult it’s spurred a phenomenon that always makes me chuckle because of the seeming irony: entrepreneurs who create startups specifically to help other startup founders find co-founders. It’s very Inception-esque.
These kinds of startups are often referred to as “co-founder dating” services, and, every time I see one, I enjoy imagining the mental progression of a frustrated entrepreneur that led to the idea.
“How am I ever going to find someone to help me build my awesome idea? Finding a great co-founder is really hard. Wait a minute! I just had an even better idea! What if I built a service to help other people find awesome co-founders?!?!?”
Every time I encounter a co-founder dating service or meet with an entrepreneur struggling to find a perfect co-founder, here’s what I like to remind them: It’s a good thing that finding a great co-founder is hard.
Think about any great adventure story you’ve ever read. Once the main character begins the adventure -- what Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces calls “crossing the threshold” -- the hero always encounters a “first test.” It’s where the hero is forced to recon with the consequences of deciding to embark on the journey.
For entrepreneurs, finding great co-founders is this first test. It’s where we all have to be reminded of how difficult the startup journey will be. In addition, passing this test by finding a great co-founder (or co-founders) is a compelling sign that the company has a good chance at succeeding.
For the record, this is part of why VCs, when they’re evaluating startups, place so much value on teams. For VCs, being able to put together a great team is more than just an assurance that smart and talented people will be working on the company. It’s also a signifier of other important qualities in the company (and its management).
So… now that I’ve completely avoided answering your question, I suppose I owe you some advice. But I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.
My advice for finding great co-founders is: meet lots of people. Take every opportunity you can to attend events with other people interested in startups, and don’t be a wallflower. Talk to everyone. In fact, the people you’ll likely be most uncomfortable approaching -- the people who maybe don’t look like you or act like you or seem to have the same interests as you -- are probably the most important people to engage because they’re most likely to bring a different perspective to the project and a complimentary skillset.
By the way, I write that advice having done a terrible job following it myself. As I alluded to in the article, I took the easy way out for finding a co-founder by launching a company with my childhood best friend. It’s not terrible to work with someone similar so long as you recognize this from the beginning (something my co-founder and I didn’t do well).
If you do choose to work with someone similar to you, address the issue up front by making “learning new skills” a core part of your startup’s ethos. For example, once my co-founder and I realized we were too similar, we made a company policy that everyone had to learn one new skill each month and teach it to everyone else. This didn’t scale well, but, in the early days, it helped create a culture and mindset of always trying new things and creating a better team. That culture persisted throughout the life of the company and added immense value.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!