Dave Concannon


In Pure Water, No Fish

Guest Post: You are those you surround yourself with

This is a guest post by Giang Biscan Phd. Read more about Giang at the bottom of this post.

Power to the people fist7:00 am: Happy music!  Thanks to a music alarm app, I am up and ready for the day.

8:30am: Brainstorming and collaborating with others.  Thanks to Google docs, Basecamp, Codeita, Mindomo…

12:30am: Staying in touch with my friends through twitter and emails while I am out for lunch. Thanks Seesmic, Hootsuite, and other mobile apps.

5:00pm: Magic moment at the playground with my kids.  My phone can capture and upload it instantly for my family & friends in Asia and Australia to see.

6:30pm: Driving to a startup event to mingle with other startup entrepreneurs. The trusted voice of my GPS guides me there.

3:00am: Conference call with a development team in India. Vokle, Skype or Tinychat allow that.

And publishing this to you right now?  Thanks, Wordpress.

I am never ceased to be amazed at how much technology is allowing us to do today.  Throughout the day, integrated in almost every one of our activities, we are surrounded and supported by amazing technology. Things that seemed so science fiction not that long ago, or even dreamed or thought of, is now at our finger tips.  We are in control. But this article is not about technology.  It’s about people. (Before I go on, please allow me to thank Dave for the opportunity to guest post here on his blog.  It is an honor. The honor is all mine Giang!)

Technology or People?

Whatever the technology, there are people behind it.  Creating. Building. Using.  Sharing. Thriving.  This is why wise investors like Fred Wilson (@fredwilson), Chris Dixon (@cdixon) or Mark Suster (@msuster) and many others make their investment decisions based mainly on people: the team or the entrepreneurs behind the startups.  How incredible is that?  We, someone, many among us, are making it happen.  These are people that aren’t just strangers or celebrities you read about in magazines or see on TV -  these are people like you and me, in the startup/entrepreneurial community (and beyond) that we are friends with, talk to, meet at events, or are at least within reach.

I love this quote:

You are those you surround yourself with

That quote is true either ways you look at it: how you see yourself inside, and how others see you from the outside.  Whether you like to admit it or not, the people around you have a huge influence on who you are, how you think and what you do.  Sometimes the influence is affirmative: we admire/respect someone and want to do things similar ways.  Sometimes the opposite is true.  We learn what not to do by making assessment about someone around us.

The Power of Referral

As for outsiders, you could try to sell yourself by saying how fantastic you are.  But the real impact to the outsiders’ opinions come from those surrounding you.  I am not just talking about “designated” people who give references about you, but also people that others may hear or observe about you from.  Check this tweet by Francisco Dao about how he screens people for his by-invitation-only event “The Retreat“. That type of 3rd party opinion is often considered less biased, and thus has a real impact.

So if we know that we ARE “those we surround ourselves with”, why wouldn’t we try to surround ourselves with bright, energetic, ambitious, supportive, thoughtful (insert more positive words here) people?  What if you don’t have the right people around you right now? Well, then start!  It is never too late.  Life is a journey, it’s not a dress rehearsal for a one-off performance.

This is a high level step by step of how I am approaching it:

How to Surround Yourself with Great People

  • Step 1: Set goals before decide the type of people you like to surround yourself with:

I took it as an important task to think about my goals in life as in who I want to be and what I want to do before deciding on the types of people I like to have around me.  It’s like Dr. Stephen Covey said “Begin with the end in mind”.  Or as Simon Sinek’s approach: Figure out your “Why” first, and everything else will become obvious.

  • Step 2: Figure out the right environment:

Figure out the types of environments that the people you like would likely be spending time in.  I love the startup community and love to surround myself with other startup entrepreneurs.  The natural environments for us are (surprise, surprise!) the internet such as twitter, Mixergy, Hacker News, blogs, ThisWeekIn network, and offline at various startup events.

  • Step 3: Emerge in the right environments:

Once you figured out the right environment, what are you waiting for? For me, it’s full on.  This is my philosophy: No watching from the sideline.  I will write more about this on my blog later, but I truly believe that you should jump right in. Blog.  Tweet.  Events. Whatever it takes.  You can only surround yourself with the right people if you meet the right people.  A great way to meet people is to put yourself out there.  Mark Suster has written some great articles about this.  See for example an article about why you should write a blog, or how great Twitter is to connect with others.

  • Step 4: Focus on building relationships:

This is a huge topic, but the fundamentally very simple. Focus on building relationships.  That means focusing on giving, creating value, rather than “what can this person do for me”.  Gary Vaynerchuk often talks about how he is comfortable for the giving balance to be 80% of giving on his side in any relationships (see for example this chat with Kathy Sierra). Gary is a living proof that giving and genuinely caring about people are the golden ticket here.  I will be writing more about this topic on my blog, but don’t worry about getting the short end.  If you focus on giving, the universe has its way of rewarding you in much bigger ways.

On a side note, if you admire someone, and think that they are out of reach, it’s time to think again.  Reach out.  They are more accessible than you think.

  • Step 5: Never burn bridges.

Many people can rattle this off the tip of their tongues, but not many live by this:  Never burn bridges.

Unlike financial bankruptcy where your credit record legally comes clean after 7(?) years, the record for some relationship bankruptcies NEVER reset. Never burnings bridges means never deliberately making someone look bad, or do things that harm them.  Even when it’s good for your ego, or business,  or whatever.  If you, hopefully accidentally, do something that may hurt a relationship, make sure you go out of your way to fix it.  We are all human, so mistakes are sometimes forgiven, providing that you show sincere remorse.  If you did everything you could to fix a mistake and it still didn’t work, learn from the experience and move on.  “A friendship lost is one that never was.”  Even after a fall out, keep the door open to allow the other persons to come back and a chance for the relationship to heal.  Never say never. There will be people you meet that you do not want to surround yourself with.  Just politely stay away.

These are the steps that I have been following.  They have helped me meet and create hugely rewarding friendships with many people that I respect and admire.  You may call it technology.  You may call it business.  You may call it networking.  Everything to me is about people and relationships.  Obviously you have your own ways of approaching this, and I would love to hear it, if you are willing to share here in the comments.

Giang BiscanGiang Biscan, PhD is the Producer of Mixergy.com and AsAble.com.  She loves the startup community.

Catch her on Twitter at @giangbiscan, her blog at AsAble.com, on #StartupWeekly chat every Monday at 12pm PST, or in person at many startup events.

Giang is an inspiring and generous entrepreneur – you should connect with her on twitter here: http://www.twitter.com/giangbiscan

15 Great Customer Development, Lean Startups, and Entrepreneurship Resources

The types of sites I read have slowly migrated away from pure technical sites talking about monkeying around with with code towards sites discussing business, customer development, marketing, and general startup concepts. Here’s a list of my favorite authors, blogs, podcasts, and forums dealing with these topics. Who else should I be listening to? Let me know in the comments.

Update: All the best Lean Startup and Customer Development resources in one place: http://www.leanstartupfeed.com/

Customer Development and Lean Startups

Steve Blank Steve Blank

Steve Blank is a successful startup veteran and MBA lecturer in the Haas School of business at UC Berkeley. He took the lessons he learned in successfully marketing his startups to develop the concept of Customer Development in the must read book “The Four Steps to the Epiphany“. Seriously, if you’re working in a startup – you need to read this book.


Eric Ries Eric Ries

Eric Ries developed the Lean Startup methodology by combining concepts from the Toyota Production System (Lean Manufacturing), Agile Software Development, the OODA loop, and Steve Blank’s Customer Development model. The combination of these ideas results in a low-cost startup that is critically focused on rapidly producing a product which satisfies customer needs. There are some fantastic concepts in his writing which will inspire (Minimum Viable Product) and possibly scare the crap out of you (Continuous deployment for example).


Dave McClure Dave McClure

Dave McClure is a successful entrepreneur and angel investor. Dave mainly writes about using startup metrics to drive success. His “Startup Metrics for Pirates” presentation describes essential metrics any web application needs to measure to turn first-time users into obsessed fans. His refreshingly informal writing style pulls no punches, and his violent use of text color will make your eyes bleed. (The reason I have pictures next to each of these authors is mainly due to this loud advice. He’s right.).


Individual Article of Merit:

This epic saga by Recess Mobile tries to map out the entire landscape of Customer Development and Lean Startups. I can only imagine how long it took them to write this one.

Startup Marketing

Sean Ellis Sean Ellis

Sean is a seasoned startup marketer having led several companies through to IPO. He writes about Customer Development, PR, and startup marketing.  As a quick taster, check out his Venture Hacks interviews on bringing a product to market – Part One on what to do before Product/Market Fit & Part Two on what to do after Product/Market fit.


Brant Cooper Brant Cooper

Brant is another very experienced startup marketer who is developing a series of tools and models based around the Customer Development methodology. He recently conducted a survey into the current Customer Development landscape which can be found here: Customer Development Survey. Most recently he put together a simple model which ties Customer Development, the standard sales funnel, and Dave McClure’s AARRR metrics into one cohesive whole [Available Here]. Highly recommended.

Together with Patrick Vlaskovits (@vlaskovits), he wrote the excellent “Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development“, which I reviewed and would recommend highly.


Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship

Fred Wilson Fred Wilson

Fred is a VC at Union Square Ventures based in New York, which funds companies such as FourSquare, Boxee, and Etsy. His blog covers a wide variety of topics in the area of entrepreneurship and business strategy, and also a little bit of venture capital concepts. He provides a very interesting critical eye on technology industry news.


Mark Suster Mark Suster

Mark is a successful British entrepreneur who has “gone over to the dark side” to become a VC. He covers the gamut of entrepreneurial topics from raising startup capital, marketing, right down to the definition of  “Entrepreneurial DNA“. His fantastic interview on Mixergy was quite probably the most inspiring thing I listened to last year.


NiviNaval Nivi & Naval (Venture Hacks)

Nivi and Naval have founded successful companies, and invested heavily in startups like twitter. They  cover a full range of startup essentials from securing funding from angel investors, how to choose company advisors, the psychology of a board of directors, and a fantastic selection of case studies on all of the above and more.


Business Model Hacking

Alexander Osterwalder Alexander Osterwalder

Alexander’s blog centers around the Business Model Canvas methodology which involves analyzing business models, pulling them apart into their constituent parts and then reassembling them in interesting ways. Lego for business if you will. He uses an interesting tool sheet to aid this, which I think meshes perfectly into the lean startup concept of ‘pivoting’.


Podcasts, Interviews, and Videos

Andrew Warner Andrew Warner – Mixergy

Andrew Warner co-founded an internet business with his brother which went on to generate over thirty million dollars a year in sales. With Mixergy, Andrew has conducted some of the most inspiring and amazing interviews with entrepreneurs you’re likely to find. He conducts frank and probing interviews that dig deep into the mindset of his interviewees – people who have either taken their business to dizzying heights, or failed spectacularly trying.  As well as my personal favourite interview with Mark Suster listed above, you should check out this interview with Ben Huh of “Failblog”, or this amusing interview with Neil Patel of KISSMetrics. This is quite simply an amazing resource.


Jason Calacanis Jason Calacanis – This Week in STartups

Jason co-founded weblogs Inc which grew to be a huge network of niche content sites, and was eventually acquired by AOL for a giant bag of money. TWiST interviews a wide range of guests in the technology sphere, and intermittent shows where listeners can ask Jason for advice. Very entertaining and informative.


Bob Walsh Bob Walsh -  Startup success podcast

Bob specializes in news and advice aimed at MicroISVs at his blog 47 Hats. As opposed to the more general entrepreneurship podcasts listed above, the Startup Success Podcast digs into the more specialized issues faced by independant software vendors.



Lean Startups Circle

A Google group centered around advice for entrepreneurs running lean startups.


Business of Software Forum

Joel Spolsky’s forum covering a range of issues faced by developers trying to market software.


Hacker News

Everything under the sun relating to technology and entrepreneurship. User driven article voting, hosted by Paul Graham’s startup incubator Y Combinator.


Customer Development Guide

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