Psychology for Startups


I’m finishing up a guest post for CoFounders Lab blog on psychological aspects of founding a startup.  I’ve worked with the topic quite a bit, but had not seen this excellent overview from Justin Singer via Slideshare – from a recent presentation at Columbia.  It’s worth some time and reflection if you’re interested in tools and concepts for managing the uncertainty of early-stage life.

The concepts apply to leadership and decision-making in general — not just within startups — because they are rooted in universal human cognitive and emotional tendencies.


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Lean Startup Conference – Narrated Slides

Great experience last week at the 2012 Lean Startup Conference.  I’ll be digging through my notes for a while and plan to write a series of posts based on insights I gained while there.  For now, I’ve recorded a narration of the slides from my Ignite talk on Sunday night. In the real talk, the slides advanced automatically every 15 seconds — Here, I fudged a bit, just to get complete points across!  Enjoy, and I look forward to your comments.

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Psychological Undercurrents and the Lean Startup


Heading to San Francisco in a few days for the Lean Startup Conference and am looking forward to being an Ignite speaker on Sunday night.  I’ll focus on psychological undercurrents that make or break a founder’s effectiveness in applying lean startup methodology.

I’m a big fan of lean startup concepts pioneered by Eric Ries (and the customer development framework developed by Steve Blank that helped give rise to the lean startup movement).  One of our goals at ReadyFounder Services is to help popularize these approaches within the broader world of the everyday entrepreneur — beyond the technology arena — to aspiring founders of restaurants, law firms, construction companies, etc., and with any leader who’s attempting to launch a high-impact innovation.

But the effective use of these rational, market-centric tools requires the sound use of human judgment, an area where unconscious biases always come into play.

A few of the questions I’ll attempt to address (or at least tee up) during the talk:

  • What neurological factors underlie a founder’s or investor’s tendency to become emotionally/intellectually attached to their creation? 
  • What cognitive biases should every entrepreneur know about? 
  • How can a 4-year-old kid help a startup team?
  • What are “Icarus Qualities” and how do they drive entrepreneurs too close to the sun? 
  • Why do we avoid “people pivots” when they are needed? 

That’s probably a lot to aspire to for a 5-minute talk — but we’ll give it our very best shot!

Hope to see you in SF.


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Give Your Idea Time to Take Flight — (Part 2 ): PERSONAL ENDURANCE

Get rich quick.  Swing for the fences.  Change the universe.  Do it now.

These are the hopes that fuel many an entrepreneurial dream. But turning even the greatest idea into a viable, sustainable, and healthy business usually takes time. Lots of it.

Startup Businesses are Adventures

That’s why the most effective founders figure out how to lengthen their startup runway. They give their idea time to develop. They create space for experimentation and discovery. They know that the vast majority of home runs are the result of many swings at the plate.

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SXSW 2012 Follow-up: How to be Extremely Passionate and Absolutely Realistic

Just returned home from the 2012 version of the annual stimulation-provocation-fest that is South by Southwest (SXSW).  Thank you to everyone who attended my solo talk on Saturday about the “war” between passion and realism. Great crowd – great engagement, input, and conversation.

As promised, here are:

  1. Selected slides from our session:  Click here, or on the above image. (For those of you who were not there, I’ll post a narrated version soon).
  2. A PDF version of the handouts:  2012 SXSW Handouts

The last page of the handout includes a discount code for you to take our entrepreneur profile (ECCP) and receive a full report on how your personality matches 11 qualities associated with entrepreneurship. Anyone reading this post can use the 30% discount for the next few weeks.  To take the assessment, click here and enter the code eccp.30 when prompted.

A Snapshot of Visual Notes from the session by Stacy Weitzner of

I’ll post more follow up thoughts in coming weeks, including an upcoming article on the topic for American Express OPEN Forum.

Until then, may you be strong in startup passion and realism.


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Dodging the Passion Trap (2-minute video)


What’s your book about?

I took some time today to pull together some slides from a few recent talks. This 2-minute piece (I hope) does a decent job of articulating the core premise of the book:



If you want more, you can download Chapter 2 (for free) to get a full understanding of how entrepreneurial passion — while absolutely vital to startup success — can also limit and endanger a venture.

In terms of what to do about it — that’s what the rest of the book is for    : )

Of course, I’m interested in your reactions and ideas. Please fire away.

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What is Your Entrepreneurial Profile? Find Out (for free) in the “Name That Tool” Contest


Several months ago, we launched a beta-version of a personality assessment tool called the Entrepreneurial Core Characteristics Profile (ECCP).  The tool provides feedback for entrepreneurs and aspiring founders on eleven characteristics associated with entrepreneurial success.

We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about the tool so far, but we’re looking for your best ideas for a new name.  We hope that the tool’s name appeals both within academic settings (e.g., business schools and entrepreneur programs) and within the broader world of startups and high-growth businesses.

Name That Tool:

As a way to generate great ideas, we’re offering coupon codes for you to experience the assessment for free (retail price = $35).  All that is required from you is at least one idea for a killer name for the tool.

Here’s how the process works:

1)  Click on the assessment link:

2)  Enter the following codes:

      • User ID  – 238
      • Password – 1238

3)  Complete the assessment — This will take 10-15 minutes (don’t second-guess or agonize over your answers).

4)  You will receive a thank you email, and will be asked to reply with at least one great idea for a new name for the tool — one that you think is simple, marketable, and descriptive.

5)  After you have replied with your idea(s), you will receive another email with your 14-page results report, providing feedback on how your personality matches up with 11 characteristics associated with entrepreneurial success (see graphic below). The report will also include implications for your role as an entrepreneur, as well as ideas for growth and development.

A few more points:

  • We will cap participation at 250.  First come, first served.
  • If you offer a name that makes it into our Top 5 list, you’ll receive a free copy of my book, 6 Secrets to Startup Success.
  • If we choose your name as the winner, you’ll receive a $100 certificate, good for any product on the site, in addition to a free book.

So have at it!  I look forward to sharing results with everyone in a few weeks.


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“6 Secrets . . . 5 Founders” (Excerpted)

On September 1, in partnership with Charlotte’s Business Innovation and Growth (BIG) Council, I was honored to pull together four founders and investors, all featured in my recent book, to share observations and lessons from a multitude of startup launches and investments. Here’s a description of the event and panelists.

Also in the room was a great audience of 90+ seasoned and aspiring entrepreneurs, business owners, investors (angel and VC), social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders. I’ll post a complete video of the conversation in a week or two. For now, here’s an excerpt from my set up and a few panelist comments on “founder readiness.”

Thanks especially to Terry Cox, President/CEO of BIG Council, for expertly promoting and convening the event.

More to come in following weeks.


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Cultivating Trust as a Business Tool (or Why 5-Hour Meetings Might Be a Great Idea)

If you want to launch a business from scratch, it’s hard to find a better entrepreneurial role model than J.C. Faulkner.  J.C. is one of the four core founders whose startup stories I follow throughout my book, and is a long-time client and friend.  In developing D1 Mortgage into a business valued at $100 million over roughly three years, J.C. built a strong culture of trust, accountability, and high performance — starting with his talented, cohesive management team.

I was cleaning out some files this past weekend and re-read the text from a conversation between J.C. and me in 2001.  Although his startup journey occurred before smart phones and Web 2.0, I believe the lessons are enduring and valuable for any management team.

I hope you find this brief segment useful:

JB: How did you cultivate trust as a business tool?  Did it come with the team that you recruited, or did you work on it?  If so, how did you build it?
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Posted in Alignment, Execution, Relationships/Support, Trust | 1 Comment

Execute on Your Market Opportunity


Executing on your market opportunity

I’ve had a good time as a guest on Jim Blasingame’s Small Business Advocate radio series over the last 5 months. Jim and I have a good time talking to each other. I appreciate his tendency to drive a concept down to its practical core. In my most recent stint on Jim’s show, we talked about the importance of executing on your market opportunity.

As simple as it sounds, that phrase, “executing on your market opportunity,” could be the basis of an entire show, an entire book, or an entire career. Three of the five words in the phrase are absolutely vital to startup success:

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Posted in Market, Marketing/Sales Strategy | 2 Comments