The Startup Therapist

My long time friend Jeff Hyman has started a new business called Startup Therapist. In addition to a different hair style and some great content, he has an interview up with me.

I was a seed investor in Jeff’s first company, Career Central. It was the very first investment I did at Mobius (via Softbank – prior to us raising our first fund) and it was doing great until the Internet bubble collapsed and no one was hiring anyone. We kept in touch over the years and I was an early customer and big supporter of Retrofit, Jeff’s most recent company.

Jeff’s awesome. We’ve learned a lot together over the years. I expect he’ll be helping a lot of founders for the days to come.

  • Did you mean “a” different hair style referring to an individual or just different hair styles referring to the entire interview!!

  • awaldstein

    In the bit of CEO coaching I do, that seems to be the role at times.

    More an expert by dint of my own experience and self awareness though then by training.

  • First of all, I really like the startup therapist. He conducts a great interview.

    And secondly, the episode is *packed* with serious wisdom.

    “Work / life harmony vs balance”, “make deep leadership changes gradually vs yanking the steering wheel”, and more.

    BTW, some may argue that the work / life harmony vs balance point is simply an exercise is semantics, as some people may mean harmony when they say balance; however, definitions matter, and there is fundamentally a huge difference in how to approach the problem as a result of appreciating what that difference is. Entrepreneurs are going to be entrepreneurs, and if you’ve married one and expect a 9 to 5 affair, you’ll both be grandly disappointed.

  • I watched it on the week-end as it helped me round-up a couple of thoughts for this short post I was writing
    – Startups are like Patients. They need Doctors and Hospitals.

    • Jeez. With respect to Jeff (I hope his new business does well!) and William, what’s with all this encounter group stuff? If you’re not in a good place mentally for whatever reason, you probably shouldn’t be in a startup in the first place. This is stuff that needs to be filtered out if you’re in that environment. Product, product, product. The rest is noise.

      • Rick

        I think that what’s happening is people are trying to compete in a “capital intensive” arena using lean methods. It’s like trying to compete against big box discount stores by opening a small high priced store that carries the same products. Why would anyone pay more for the exact same item?

        • RBC

          V interesting point about the ‘capital intensive’ arena. My sense is the development of better/cheaper online tools/education is fundamentally changing the need for capital in start-ups (not to mention different funding methods such as crowd sourcing). Interested to hear which capital intensive areas you are referring to?

          • Rick

            From what I’ve read every market starts new then matures over time. When new you face problems like educating people. When the market is mature and served well. Companies start competing on price.
            Again look at retail. To compete with WalMart or KMart or Target or Amazon you must be able to buy large quantities of numerous products to compete on price.
            So every time someone decides to build yet another community website they will follow the same approach even maybe the same business model. They think and announce they are different. But in reality they have the same core business as the other 10 million community sites. The site may look different and the programming code is not the same. But the business is. They are wanting to draw visitors to sign up and see ads or whatever.
            To boil this down look at it this way. I was a programmer for 15 years. My day was filled with looking for patterns in the software requirements so that I could write abstract routines that would express those patterns.
            As I look at the start up landscape I see patterns. Lots and lots of them. Just like retail is a pattern that defines a mature market so do the start up patterns. Mature well defined markets lose their innovative status and start to require more and more capital to compete.

      • @fwmiller:disqus I respectfully disagree.

        • OK, I respect that but can you be a little more specific?

          BTW, sorry it took so long to get back to this thread, but I was very lucky
          this afternoon to tour the Coast Guard cutter docked at the San Diego
          Naval Base that recently brought in the submersible carrying 16000 lbs
          of cocaine. My distant cousin by marriage is from South America and she was on the team that siezed the vessel as a Spanish translator. Very
          fun afternoon.

          • Per your note above, mental health issues don’t mean that you aren’t 100% committed to your startup. I think that’s where our frame of references diverge.

      • Hi Frank – I appreciate your note. I’m not about all the soft fuzzy encounter group stuff. My main principle is that the “people part” of startups is most overlooked and yet most vital. And that starts with the mindset of the founder. –Jeff

        • I too appreciate your reply. As I mentioned I hope you are very successful! I actually think there are a lot of startups that will take advantage of what I’m sure (especially if Brad is advocating for you) will be great assistance that you can provide to make others succesful as well.

          I have a very different view of the startup world than many others that I read replies from here. In my experience, the startup is always the first priority. Anything else that comes along in the founder’s or employees lives is a distraction for the company. Going into a startup is a commitment I see as analagous to going into Special Forces or a Monastary. Its all encompassing, affecting every part of your life, your family, your health (both physical and mental), etc. Its like going to war. If the members of the startup are not able to do that, they should not be there. It has to do with the health and potential success of the startup. The flip side is, if any of the members become less than 100% commited for whatever reason, and that can be manifest in many ways, they become a distraction from the main goal. The best thing for the person and the startup is to not be together, whatever that means at whatever time it happens. For example, were I a CEO and it came to my attention that someone was having issues, I would investigate the seriousness of it and then if deemed, I would get that person the help the need and then suggest they leave the startup, at least for a period of time, until they can heal themselves. While you or others might advocate for help while they continue working, I would not have that opinion. Its the reason I will not do another startup probably. I know I can’t make that kind of commitment anymore.

  • Sweet. I’d highlight two things out of a bunch of great thoughts. One, I like the notion of work harmonization, not work/life balance. You shouldn’t be defined by your work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t carry it with you. Sometimes you might see something in your outside life that sparks something inside your work, and vice versa. It’s key to get away from work to give your brain space. But, if you are like me it’s always with you.

    Second, at the very end, Jeff says if you are in it for the money you will fail or something like that. So true. If money is your motivation, you will lose.

    • Rick

      “If money is your motivation, you will lose.”
      I’m not sure on that one. An entrepreneur applies resources to areas that he thinks will provide greater returns. A businessman finds markets that are proven and enters them to eliminate risk and get satisfactory returns. .
      What follows with entrepreneurship is usually the fact that newer markets with innovative products/services provide those higher returns. Mature markets tend to start to compete on price and returns tend to drop.
      There was a book about this that looked at thousands of companies and hundreds of markets over decades of time.
      I guess a good test is ask investors to fund your start up that you project will only lose money and not ever make a dime. See what happens.

      • Here is where I am coming from on this.

        When I was a senior in college (Univ of IL, class of 1984), I got in a massive argument with Prof. Gregg Oldham in my class on Organizational Behavior in companies. It was over the theory of workplace motivation. Oldham-Hackman theory postulates (and proves) that there are better motivators for workers than money. In fact, setting jobs up to be intrinsically motivated is more powerful than paying them more within a lot of parameters.

        I became a commodity trader. If you think that VCs are highly competitive and self centered money grubbing capitalists, you would be shocked at what you would have seen on a trading floor. Obviously, money was a huge factor in driving me to become a commodity local. But, what I found after a few years in the job was that I absolutely loved the complete freedom I had. Every success was mine, failure mine. I answered to no one but my wife and family. I did whatever the fuck I wanted to do. I traded as big as I wanted to. I traded whatever I wanted to. I called every single shot. When I went on vacation, I chose the time, and how many days, weeks etc I was off.

        I called up Professor Oldham. I apologized, and told him he was exactly correct. Money wasn’t the prime motivator for workplace performance. He’s at Tulane now.

        Yup, entrepreneurship has outsize rewards. But, you have to do the little things along the way to build a great company to get them. Just because someone tells you the company you are in is worth $200M post money doesn’t mean that if you have a 5% equity stake it’s worth $10M. Doesn’t mean dick until you exit. Focus on the money, gonna be hard to get through that exit door. Focus on the little goals that get you to exit, gonna be easy to walk through the entrance door of the Porsche dealership.

        • Rick

          I think our difference is in overall objective and daily objectives. Or maybe you might call it owner objective and worker objectives.
          The overall or owner objective should be all about making fat stacks of cash. The daily or worker objective should be about getting things done that support the overall objective.
          BTW… I dig VCs. Wish I could be one. I recently spent my fat stack on a start up that failed. So I need to look at other things.
          Investors want lean startups so they can get value on the cheap. When I buy a stock for long term that’s what I want. I want to “buy dollars as cheap as possible.” Also I want all workers from executive down to general labor to work hard every day to make me more money. Creating quality products and services support that goal.

    • Thanks Points. Every time I see a Founder that’s in this crazy journey for the money, I smell trouble. Instead, I dig & dig & dig to find other things that s/he wants to accomplish with the startup. Things that will make it all worthwhile even if the $ never comes.– Jeff

  • Rick

    Again this is all about Phat vs Lean. Do you as a leader and founder of a start up have the resources needed to build the start up in the proper way?!!!
    I like the idea of a therapist for start ups. I think it falls under having the proper resources.
    Also I agree with the depression thing. I think it stems from lean start up methods. Lean was great when it was great. But now that tech has grown so much you must follow other methods. Following the wrong methods makes a leader feel like a failure thus the depression.

    So it appears to me, this is the first time I’ve said this, that the start up world has reached a pinnacle. It’s now about funding to win. Just like other mature business areas where you compete on price. Start up methods must now change to work in this new environment.
    One thing I’ve noticed is that people, even tech people, are moving back to in person working. Less email, less anonymous processes and procedures, more relationship building, more hand shaking, more it’s all about the people.
    The evidence of this for me is that bureaucrats are now using email and other electronic methods as ways to be… well… bureaucrats. As methods to stall people, as methods to claim they are getting work done, as methods to keep the wheels turning without getting anything done! This to me is the glaring proof that tech start ups and internet communities have now fully mainstream.

  • You know… watching this… it makes me think Feld himself should have his own podcast. Something short, in the 20 minute range, once a week. That would be sweet. FeldTalks, there’s your name.

    • Rich

      I like the idea. I’ve mentioned it before when Fred Wilson and his buddy did one. Their podcast was top notch. Well scripted and made it a joy to listen.
      I tried returning your calls but the 415 number is disconnected.

      • Rick

        I should go ahead and say Brad’s podcast was good too. I was thinking of having a little fun with him and busting his balls about it. But I have things to do today and have exceeded my 30 minute web usage allotment for today so must sign off.

      • Sorry bout that. My skype number is 415-TRUESELF. Easy to remember. Im usually around during the day, EST.

  • Glenn Whitney

    As Brad notes, physiology (and bio-chemistry) play a big part in depression. Whether it’s 30% or 60% or somewhere in between, it’s a very significant contributor and absolutely necessary to address. Three words of advice: Improve your sleep!

    • I learn this over and over again. I didn’t sleep much last week (< 6 hours / night on average), saw my resting heart rate climb from a normal of 65 to 76 on Saturday morning, and find myself feeling very off today.

      • Glenn Whitney

        On zero caffeine? (I know, it’s hard!) Plus have you tried blue light blocking glasses after about 8pm? Speaking of heart rates, have you tried the Maffetone Method? (a radically sensible approach)

  • Matt Kruza

    Didn’t have time to watch (will try at a later point). Can you provide a full disclosure of your pricing? My gut is probably 200-300 per hour ? Now perhaps worthwhile or not, but would greatly appreciate the pricing structure to properly evaluate. Was not able to glean from the website.

    Thanks in advance Jeff!

  • Wonderful discussion. Great questions & comments Jeff! Brad, the passion you have for healthy CEO/startups comes through so well here. BTW it’s funny how one word can make all the difference (e.g. Work/Life Harmony instead of Work/Life Balance — love it!). And I always enjoy when you talk or write about Harmonix. Personally I’m so glad they kept at it — I worked on the mobile versions of the game back in the day, and it was a very rewarding experience.

  • “It’s about being authentic in your way of being a leader”, this section caught me, it’s important to reground ourselves in being transparent, vs. being protective through disinformation. Thanks for the share Brad.

  • Just managed to catch up on this – Super thanks for sharing this, Fred.

    Have touched on the topic of focussing on the journey and being authentic (which, I personally believe, gears you better for the long run ahead) here:

    Cheers & Best,