大きなビジョンの一部であることを心に感じながら、仕事に打ち込めているか?

April 26, 2017
Image credit: peshkova / 123RF

先日、私が賞賛していて、時々連絡をとるテック CEO が、実に心に響く発言をした。彼は素晴らしい起業家で、私が知る中でも最も素晴らしい起業家の一人で、その業界では優れた先見の明の持ち主だ。成長の速いテクノロジー企業の多くの CEO と同様、彼はしばしば旅に出かけてはビジネスの話を決め、世界中に会社のことを知らしめている。

彼の行動で特筆すべきは、予定を伸ばして長く旅を続けることで、きつい職務へ戻る気力を取り戻すために、リフレッシュしているのだろうと言う社員もいた。

私は、この話に全く驚くことはない。彼の会社の従業員たちが、日々仕事の説明が無い状態で働けないような、自発的に仕事しない人ではないわけではない。それとは対照的に、あるスタートアップの従業員たちは——一般的なスタートアップの例にもれず——優秀で野心に満ち溢れていた。彼らは、創業者がもたらす方法のみによって、この根本的にイノベーティブな会社に、自分たちをどう適応させるかを知らされないままでいることに禁断症状を覚えた。

ある種の特性を持った候補者だけが、スタートアップで働くことに魅力を感じることは事実だ。安定性、予測可能性、満足のいく額の給料は彼らの目に魅力としては映らない。むしろ、実績を上げることこそがチャンスとして捉えられる。

人は、大きなものの一部だと感じていたい

これは人間の本性だ。(心理学者アブラハム・マズローが提唱した)欲求5段階説の最上層にあるもの(=自己実現の欲求)である。この感覚なくしては、我々は魂を失う。空が失われた場所で何も考えない会社キャリアのゾンビとなり、やがて、自らを守るために戦うシステムに依存してしまうことになる。

職場でのモチベーションがいつも最適な状態ではなかったり、キャリアがぐらついていると感じたりする場合は、根本的な問題について考えてほしい。職場環境を見渡してほしい。自己裁量は与えられているだろうか? 奮起させてくれるリーダーのために仕事しているだろうか? 熱意あふれる同僚に囲まれているだろうか? 毎日のように、成功や失敗を繰り返せる機会があるだろうか? 自分が、大きなビジョンの重要な要素であると感じられているだろうか?

スタートアップで仕事をする上で、大きなものの一部だと感じることは、最も心を満たしてくれる理由になり得るだろう。

Panel discussion on hardware investing

April 20, 2017

The other day Yohei Sawayama (500 Startups) and I gave a panel discussion on hardware investing at the DMM.Make hardware incubator in Tokyo. Some people requested a recap of our points, so here are some of the key takeaways. I’ll post the video when I get it.

Thoughts for hardware entrepreneurs

  1. IoT is not the future. It’s the present.
  2. IoT is not a trend. It is a technological shift.
  3. The opportunity in enterprise is monumental compared to consumer.
  4. Hardware is hard. People that suggest otherwise are doing a disservice to entrepreneurs.
  5. Large firms have an advantage in hardware innovation. It’s no coincidence that few genuine VCs invest in hardware startups. VCs prefer hardware-enabled software, which is different.
  6. It’s cheaper than ever to start a hardware business, but:
    – contract manufacturer selection, quality control
    – distribution costs
    – slotting fees
    – channel management
    – inventory holding fees
    – working capital challenges
    – maintenance / support costs
    –> this is why large companies are generally better at bringing hardware products to market
  7. Consider crowdfunding as a tool for marketing campaigns more than as a sole funding source.
  8. Explain how your business could scale (subscriptions, product extensions, etc.).
  9. Find the right positioning and partner with a deep-pocketed VC to have staying power.
  10. Every hardware entrepreneur should visit SXSW at least once.

General closing advice

  • don’t be afraid to try. to experiment. to be wrong.
  • don’t be afraid to engage with people outside your comfort zone. there’s value in diverse perspectives.
  • don’t be afraid to ask for help. assemble a diverse collection of advisors and solicit their advice.

So you want a job in Venture Capital?

April 13, 2017

There seem to be an abundance of blog posts lately advising on how to get a job in venture capital. Or perhaps more have just come across my desk.

One of the recent themes centers on the concept of drafting sample investment memos of potential startups to gain the attention of a VC fund by showcasing your deal screening chops. This is not bad advice. Drafting a hypothetical investment memo could demonstrate not only your ability to think critically about an opportunity, but also your ability to reason thoughtfully on an investment thesis about a market.

However, I hold a slightly different view on the most effective way to beginning a career in VC, at least from a European perspective.

A common misconception of VCs in Europe is that they spend the bulk of their time reviewing new investments. Some prolific investment funds (Kima Ventures in France comes to mind) bear this out, and to their credit have honed their investment process into an efficient machine. The vast majority of European VC funds, however, invest in a relatively limited number of new companies each year on a per partner basis.

Funnel math of course means that for each new deal, probably hundreds of pitch decks were skimmed and dozens of meeting sessions were held. Still, I would posit that the investing partners of the major VC funds spend more time helping their portfolio companies than on any other activity.

I personally spend 1/2 to even up to one full day, per week, on each of my portfolio companies. People tell me that’s on the high side, but we lead deals and always take active board positions in our investments. With that comes a certain level of commitment and responsibility.

So if the principal activity of the job is supporting the venture portfolio, then as an aspiring candidate for a job in VC, your appreciation of this aspect is what interests me most.

Being an effective venture capitalist usually requires drawing upon a diverse set of talents to help your investments overcome obstacles. I like to think of it as a combination of experience, moxie, and humility.

Experience

Have you started companies before? Do you have experience operating and scaling small ventures into large ones? Is there particular industry expertise in your background relevant to our investment sectors? Beyond the obvious domain knowledge, do you have experience in fostering diverse points of view? Do you have experience making decisions under conditions of extreme uncertainty? Are you comfortable being uncomfortable?

Moxie

How will you convey your message and if necessary be persuasive to a management team over whom you hold little official authority? Have legitimacy when holding those difficult conversations with a portfolio CEO? Be your portfolio company’s best unpaid salesperson? Can you be an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove?

Humility

The VC is not the hero, but rather enables heroes. Are you willing to play this role, or do you prefer to own the glory? Are you willing to be a fixer, clean up messes, soften up arch rivals, handle nasty litigations, and in general play the Michael Clayton on behalf of the portfolio company? Are you intellectually curious and willing to recognize that often, you are not the expert? Are you argumentative, or rather, inquisitive? Are you attached to academic theories, or rather, pragmatic and willing to simply get things done?

The VC industry is changing, no doubt about it (although it’s evolving much more slowly in Europe, I would argue). New models are emerging. There is no universal truth, such as “Only experienced entrepreneurs can become VCs,” or “Journalists and lawyers will never make it unless they come from money.”

On the contrary, practically anyone can become a VC. It’s easier today than ever before (unless of course you’re a woman or minority, but that’s a topic for another rant). There even seems to be a proliferation of self-annointed VCs these days. However, I submit that becoming a VC should not be your goal. Your goal should be to fulfill the role well, to selflessly support and add value to your portfolio companies, and to be a good steward of your own investors’ capital.

 

Emerging sectors in Japan: interview with FrenchWeb

April 7, 2017

France’s tech media site FrenchWeb visited Slush Tokyo last week. Here’s an interview I gave them about Japanese innovation in IoT, AI, Fintech, and Agtech (in French).

Also joining were: Benjamin Joffe of HAX, Jean-Dominique François of LaFrenchTech Japan, Vincent Bruneau and Steve Furukubo of Magency, Yan Fan of Code Chrysalis, and a demo with Touchy.

Special thanks to RougeFrog for compiling this.

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‘Empathy’ is jumping the shark

March 31, 2017

One of the most powerful yet understated human emotions is under threat. Empathy is the capacity for understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another. In contrast with its close cousin sympathy, empathy approaches a truer shared experience. It is more credible because the empathizer has been in your shoes, and thus shares your experiences and values.

The trouble is, businesspeople are glamming onto the concept of empathy in order to self-promote or simply sell more crap.

Purveyors of cars, cat food, and coffee are increasingly telling us not only which brands we should buy but how we could live our lives based on collective shared values. On-demand transportation services commiserate with our oppression by the transportation incumbents and entice drivers to break free of their shackles. Travel and lodging services remind us that by staying at their properties we celebrate the aiding of refugees, or help the world come together. Even VCs are clamoring to express how much empathy they have for the entrepreneurs in whom they invest.

Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this last one. I used to emphasize how my three prior startups, which included two flame-outs, made me a better VC. “I’ve been in your entrepreneurial shoes, with some success yet not devoid of frequent struggle and disastrous failure, so this makes me a better financial partner for your startup,” I would claim. Actually, I genuinely believe this, but it now feels contrite when I say it.

Perhaps the extent to which empathy as an advertising technique has become fashionable is best demonstrated by this video ad from the InterContinental hotel brand. Stories of the InterContinental Life Presents: Empathy – A Bespoke Connection.

The accompanying podcast’s episode notes characterize it as a “chat with a pair of philosophy experts about the rewards of empathy in our daily lives.” Seriously?

As this trenchant piece in The Atlantic sums up perfectly, current ads that evoke the ethic of empathy reflect not only our cultural moment but also our technological one. They focus on empathy-infused user experiences which put the “sell” in the celebration of human connection.

I fear that empathy is jumping the shark, and that triggers my profound sympathy.

Sumo in Osaka: Time for Spring Renewal

March 26, 2017

Since I’ve started the habit of posting on sumo championship days, I figure why not keep the momentum. This Osaka basho was especially significant for a few reaons:

First, it was Kisenato’s first tournament as a newly-minted grand champion Yokozuna. The first Japanese native Yokozuna in 19 years, “Kise” set out to prove to the skeptics that his promotion after his first and only basho victory was merited. His consecutive Emperor’s Cup with an exciting playoff victory coupled with his consistent sumo over the past year makes it hard to dispute his talent. In a nod to the skeptics, however, the way Kise was mowed down by fellow Yokozuna Harumafuji on Day 13 allows for some lingering questions.

Additionally, this tournament represented former Ozeki (and January 2016 winner) Kotoshogiku’s last chance before permanent demotion. The “Giku” needed 10 victories to automatically bounce back up to his Ozeki rank. He fought well but came up short. Athough no announcements have been made yet, I fear this may be the last we see of Kotoshogiku in the dohyo.

Once Ozeki Goeido pulled out in the first few days, only Terunofuji remained at this rank. And boy is “Terror-nofuji’ back! This was the Terunofuji I admired from 2015, before he became dogged by injuries. During this basho, Terunofuji looked stronger than every other rikishi, all three Yokozuna included. He will definitely be one to watch at the Natsu basho in Tokyo in May. I also look forward to seeing more from Mitakeumi, Ikioi, and Ishiura.

Finally, it feels like sumo is transitioning into the end of the era of Yokozuna Hakuho’s dominance. Hakuho pulled out with an injury and an early loss. If a change of reign is approaching, Terunofuji strikes me as the only prospect to take over the mantle, but that’s only if he remains consistently healthy. More likely is we enter an area of relative parity among the grand champions, which will make for more suspenseful sumo.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure (or, How to enter the multiverse)

March 15, 2017

I just read a sci-fi thriller about parallel universes that may be a candidate for this year’s summer reading list. Part of the plot invokes the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

In the past I’ve reflected on the impact of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in journalism, but this novel in combination with this excellent interview with Chris Anderson inspired me from another angle.

Quantum physicists have identified the principle of superposition, illustrated by the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s Cat. Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger posited that a cat locked inside a steel chamber along with a quantum particle will remain in quantum superposition until it’s state is perceived by an outside observer.

In the novel, a scientist discovers a way to travel into parallel universes by using a drug that inhibits his ability to observe his state, thus allowing him to maintain a state of quantum superposition.

In other words, he overcomes the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle by not collapsing the channel to parallel universes because his mind cannot measure the state.

So if the act of measuring something changes its attributes, what about the inverse?

In order words, can you change an object’s attributes without measuring them? I would agree with Chris Anderson that the answer is not much. In business parlance, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Or at least you cannot optimize the management of something without having the capacity to measure it. As an entrepreneur, how do you optimize your company’s growth if you can’t know the results of your actions?

In the digital world, where concepts like A/B testing, click-through rates, user acquisition costs, lifetime values, etc. are ubiquitous, precision measurement has now become commonplace. Using multivariable analysis on big data sets, one can determine how likely you are to click on an ad, whether you qualify for a loan, or what kind of movie you’re likely to enjoy next.

Experiment, measure, and adjust

The startups on whose boards I sit know that I’m a stickler for measuring: experiment, measure, and adjust is my favorite rant. Perhaps it’s driven by my fear that if we don’t make a habit of doing it, our competitors that do will eat our lunch. They will be running what people in robotics call closed-loop systems, while we’re running an open-loop one.

Now the amazing thing about the internet of things is that the proliferation of sensors will enable better measurement in the physical world. As Anderson puts it, “We are going to be able to close the loop in industry, agriculture, and the environment. We’re going to start to find out what the consequences of our actions are and, presumably, we’ll take smarter actions as a result.”

Mind-blowing.

Back by popular demand: Buy, Sell, or Hold

March 9, 2017

A year ago I played Buy, Sell, or Hold on a trip home to Silicon Valley (the logic being that not all but many global trends start in California). The post proved so popular that I decided to play the game again last week.

(For those not familiar with the game: Buy, Sell, or Hold? is quite simple. If <X> were a stock, would you buy, sell, or hold ?)

1. Buy, Sell or Hold on… Snap – Buy at the IPO, Sell on the short-term gains

Wisdom suggested that the investment bankers would assure a first day IPO pop whereas the business fundamentals would weigh down the long-term prospects for the stock. I blindly followed the advice, which paid off. However, this eagerly-anticipated milestone may not open the flood gates for tech IPOs as many VCs had hoped.

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2. Buy, Sell or Hold on… Paying extra for avocado – Buy

Until innovation in agriculture can reduce the water consumption of avocado cultivation in drought-stricken California, paying extra for guacamole is here to stay. The phenomenon has apparently reached prime-time with American late night talk show hosts finding fodder in it for their stand-up jokes.

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3. Buy, Sell or Hold on… The white alpha male – Sell

Consensus was that this beast’s days are numbered. Feels like each early morning Tweet and afternoon HR scandal corroborates this hypothesis.

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This week’s conferences on Mobile and Gaming trigger a nostalgic trip down memory lane

March 3, 2017

[Note: this is the English version of yesterday’s piece I wrote for Japan’s publication, The Bridge. The Japanese version can be found here.]

This week we have the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Both major technology conferences; both happening at the same time. So difficult to choose…

Although never a hard-core gamer, I can think of three video games which hooked me over the course of my life. Perhaps symbolically, each corresponded to a different stage of my life as well.

First there were the Nintendo Game & Watch devices which I collected as a young boy. My favorite was Fire, but I managed to amass games like Octopus, Helmet, Parachute, and then later the double-screened Game & Watches like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. My version of Fire still has the dents from when I hurled it across the room in frustration, but the others remain in practically mint condition. That’s how I know that Fire was my favorite. A stroll in Tokyo’s Akihabara district the other day made me realize how valuable these collector’s items have become.

In the modern era, a game consultant in Japan introduced me to GungHo’s Puzzles & Dragons in 2012. This mid-core smartphone game fascinated me in two ways. First, the combination of a Match-3 game with a dragon battle game represented a level of sophistication that I had never seen in the West. Additionally, the innovation around the gacha monetization technique opened my eyes to the business potential of mobile gaming in Japan. Although after five years PazuDora is finally in decline, the game is the most profitable F2P game ever. (Incidentally, I’ve written previously about the present-day threats to the gacha technique).

For the decade in between, i.e. around the turn of the century, the game that hooked me was Snake on my Nokia feature phone. Remember those old Nokia feature phones? A Nokia was my first mobile phone, and I must have cycled through half a dozen of those reliable devices during this period. That was of course before the smartphone revolution, back when we still used mobile phones for talking. Navigating through the memorized key sequence to Snake probably fell second only to checking voicemail among my daily routine.


The union of the snake is on the climb

Two major announcements broke this week for nostalgic fans like me: At MWC, HMD Global (which now owns the rights to make Nokia phones) announced that they are bringing back the classic Nokia 3310 phone. They announced the retro re-launch as a “One More Thing,” underscoring the only three things that matter: its battery lasts a month, it has Snake, and it has the Nokia ringtone.


And on the other side of the world, our portfolio company CoolGames announced that they’re bringing Snake into the new generation. CoolGames is launching Snake on Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games, a harbinger of the next form of disruption in mobile gaming in my opinion.

Perhaps I fit perfectly into the demographic motivated by nostalgia. I for one look forward to the return of Nokia’s 3310, to the return of Snake, and to how this future paradigm of mobile gaming will entertain us while still letting us hold on to the things we cherish.

 

One of the most basic errors in pitching a VC rears its head again

February 27, 2017

A lot has been written on why entrepreneurs who are pitching for VC funding should aim for endorsed introductions rather than sending unsolicited emails as strangers. I’ve even crafted some guidelines for entrepreneurs in How To Pitch Me (connect via one of my portfolio companies, engage with me on my blog, approach me at a conference even, etc.).

The other day I experienced the antithesis of this wisdom. An entrepreneur whom I did not know — I’ll call him “Jean-Michel” (not his real name) — sent me his pitch deck. I noticed that his background included a long stint at the same company where one of my VC partners had worked years ago. So I asked my partner if he had ever heard of Jean-Michel. My partner’s response astonished me.

First, yes, not only had my partner heard of Jean-Michel, but they had even worked together directly at one point. Additionally, his recollection of their short collaboration had been positive. Finally, my partner was completely unaware of Jean-Michel’s new entrepreneurial aspirations and current project.

So Jean-Michel already had a favorable, pre-existing business relationship with someone in our VC fund, but instead tried pitching me unsolicited, “over the transom” as a total stranger.

This incident led me to the following reservations about Jean-Michel:

  1. Jean-Michel missed an opportunity to increase his odds of a warm reception with our firm. If he’s not capable of stacking the odds in his favor during a fundraising process, how will he perform when pitching to clients, partners, and new recruits?
  2. Perhaps Jean-Michel wasn’t aware that his former colleague was now my current partner at our fund (after all, some years had elapsed since they had worked together). However, this means that Jean-Michel did not even spend 30 seconds to review our fund’s website.
  3. Alternatively, perhaps Jean-Michel was aware of my partner’s presence but deliberately chose to circumvent him. This deception underscores a naïveté that my partner and I wouldn’t talk with each other, leaving me scratching my head and leaving my partner a tad annoyed.

The disruption in mobile gaming monetization that few are talking about

February 21, 2017

With GDC approaching next week, mobile gaming is on my mind. Truth be told, I was never much of a gamer myself, yet the industry has always fascinated me from an investment perspective.

In 2016 we witnessed numerous noteworthy events in mobile gaming: the record-breaking success of Pokémon Go, the critically debated walking start to Super Mario Run, the demise of Flash games, the return of HTML5 with FB Messenger’s explosive launch of Instant Games, etc.

Earlier last year I wrote about a looming threat to the most powerful tool in Japanese game companies’ business models. This potential disruption seemed to receive little attention in the markets, yet I contended that it represents a potential ticking bomb for the mobile gaming monetization of the industry. I’m referring to the guidelines governing Gacha mechanics, self-imposed by the Japanese online gaming association back in Q2 last year.

The monetization technique of gacha has proliferated in Japan while remaining relatively unheard of until recently in the West. (It’s a mechanic derived from the original gashapon ガシャポン in which vending machines popular in Japan would dispense capsule toys at random. Here’s a more thorough explanation of the various gacha mechanisms).

Under gacha monetization, game companies target big-spending “whales.” The dependency of certain mobile games’ business model on whales cannot be understated. According to marketing firm Swrve, the top 10% of players contribute to nearly half of all mobile game revenues, and 48% of revenues come from a mere 0.19% of all players.

Due to a controversial incident where a “whale” player spent over $6,000 during a single evening in pursuit of a gacha character, Japan’s Online Game Association sprung into action.

In an effort to stave off more draconian government measures, the Association self-imposed a new regulation that established two significant constraints on gaming monetization: a minimum 1% payout ratio, and a maximum 50,000 JPY billed per player. Technically, these industry “guidelines” are not law.

I expected most game companies to adhere to these guidelines to avoid stricter government intervention.

Adhering to such guidelines would however drive a sword into the heart of one of the most profitable monetization techniques in history. For publicly-listed firms, I expected the corresponding hit to earnings to result in stock price corrections.

It’s hard to conclude definitively that such a sector-wide stock correction is taking place. Here’s why: several of Japan’s notable mobile games companies have not adopted the new gacha guidelines.

It will be interesting to see how established mobile games companies confront the new market environment in 2017.

12 employee incentives for your startup which hardly cost a cent

February 13, 2017

I like to preach that Silicon Valley no longer has a monopoly on tech innovation. Startup ecosystems around the world have emerged and have produced many game-changing innovations over the past couple decades.

Yet in one area several of these communities (not all, but many) remain in the dark ages relative to North America: employee incentives management.

Readers of my blog know that one of my recurring gripes is the regulatory difficulty in granting equity to stakeholders of French startups. France, however, is not uniquely guilty. The government in the Netherlands, for example, has made granting stock options in startups so fiscally unappealing that the instrument is useless.

Between bouts of complaining though, I had also promised to expand on some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years on establishing non-monetary incentives in venture-backed startups across Europe. Many of these lessons could be applicable to innovators in any geography.

A personal story

First, a detour into a personal anecdote. When I first graduated from university with a degree in Electrical Engineering, like most clueless 22 year-olds I didn’t know which career to pursue. I just knew that I didn’t want to become an electrical engineer for a living. This was in the 90s, a period in which the default career step for new grads who didn’t know what to do was… consulting.

Despite not really understanding what management consultants actually did, I miraculously received a handful of job offers from the main firms and decided to join one which seemed like the best fit for me. No offense to this firm, which is world-class, but within three months of my first job out of college I realized that I was not the best fit for consulting.

I began spending spare weekends (spare evenings were non-existent) with a former classmate brainstorming on new business ideas. The positive energy from these sessions drew a stark contrast with my day job. I almost resigned in anticipation, but then my employer pulled a jedi mind trick on me which completely shifted my momentum:

They gave me a prize.

The partners of our firm’s office presented me with an award of recognition for my purportedly extraordinary efforts on a client engagement. It was a glass trophy, with no monetary award attached, but a plaque inscribed with my name and the words, “extraordinary achiever” or something like that.

And you know what, it worked. This glass trophy (which probably cost a mere dollar to manufacture in China) re-energized my motivation and loyalty to my firm for another year. Crucially, I was presented this award during a quarterly all-hands meeting, on a stage to the applause of the entire office. This event motivated me more than any bonus or raise ever could have. Even when I try to look back on the occasion with detached hindsight to laugh, I can still sense some of the residual pride I had felt that day.

With this demonstration of human psychology as a backdrop, and in the spirit of spurring creativity among all company-builders reading this, here are a handful of ideas to attract, motivate, and retain your employees on a startup budget.

12 cost-effective ideas to motivate your team:

  1. Give awards. Recognize performance in a manner visible to the whole company. Prizes could take the form of inexpensive trophies, French Open or Stade de France tickets, Michelin restaurant vouchers, etc.
  2. Hold internal competitions. For example, create an 8-week internal hackathon comprised of cross-functional teams (1 salesperson, 1 developer, 1 designer) to produce a viable new revenue line for your company. Teams present their creation in front of the company at the end of the period. Allocate one hour every Friday morning on company time for teams to collaborate. Pride and ego will probably encourage teams to work on their project outside of company time. The winning team receives a prize, but the real winner will be your startup.
  3. Invite a star performer to join a board meeting on occasion (for those whom would enjoy this and not feel intimidated by it).
  4. Grant extreme flexibility in work arrangements: let employees work the hours they wish, from the location they wish, and measure them solely on deliverables, not “office time”.
  5. Create a warm and fuzzy office environment where employees enjoy spending time. Let employees decorate their own desk, provide free monthly catering from a company like GoCater (in France & Germany) or an original private chef experience with La Belle Assiette (I’ll even give you a 40€ voucher if you’re in Belgium, France, Germany, or the UK). Or consider relocating your office to a place like Station F. I recently visited one office that put a barbershop in a side room with a barber on-demand which I thought was really cool.
  6. Invite a visiting speaker once a semester, such as a Silicon Valley type on vacation, or a developer to talk about the latest techniques in Rails, or anyone that might be of interest to the staff.
  7. Be creative in granting job titles. Job titles cost the company virtually nothing yet can deliver immeasurable perceptual value to the employee.
  8. Give employees the latest iPhone. As with job titles, there’s an arbitrage opportunity here between the perceived value vs. cost of free smartphones.
  9. Hold periodic company retreats to brainstorm on strategy in a remote environment like a wine-tasting outing, a farmhouse, a kayaking trip, etc. The key is that everyone be invited to contribute to the discussion. You can abandon company hierarchy for a day.
  10. Empower your employees. Give them some autonomy and the ability to fail without repercussions. To the extent possible, allow them to control their own budgets up to a certain limit.
  11. Communicate as openly as you can about the opportunities and challenges facing your business. Twitter and Medium founder Evan Williams is frequently praised by his employees who remain fervently loyal to him. Keeping employees in the dark is a recipe for underperformance.
  12. Make your employees feel that they’re a part of something big. Treat your employees like fonctionnaires if you want to run your startup like a government agency and go nowhere.

 

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