100,000 startup hours

A few weeks ago, I met David Cummings, founder and CEO of Pardot and Hannon Hill at Flashpoint, and asked him for an appointment because I love reading his blog 10,000 Startup Hours [1] which is chock full of very practical and thoughtful advice for entrepreneurs. It is incredible how many times his daily post touches a topic I have been thinking about.

David is the only entrepreneur I personally know who simultaneously leads two very successful companies he co-founded, and has bootstrapped both. To my surprise[2], I learned that early on, Hannon Hill’s focused on selling to Universities, just as with RideCell.

We are going through a very interesting time at RideCell because we are trying to decide what is an appropriate growth pace to aim for. Being a fan of Warren Buffet’s “infinite horizon” approach to investing money, I take an identical approach to investing my time: I invest my time in RideCell with the intention of building a company that will last, and generate a lot of value on an ongoing basis for customers, and hopefully excellent returns for me eventually. But even when you take a long term outlook on things, there are opportunities when you must decide if you want to capitalize on short term environmental conditions to accelerate growth. The challenge is doing this only when the intended outcome is in line with your long term vision for the company, and not merely a a play for short term gains.

David’s success in both building companies that have lasted, and in generating impressive returns, quite likely stems from his nearly 100,000 hours of deliberate hard work on his startups and his focus on the long term vision.  I hope to incorporate two things I learned from David into my daily routine:

(a) To be more deliberate and thoughtful about business decisions, especially those aimed at accelerating growth

(b) To write daily, and deliberately, starting with a daily blog post such as this one.

What do you think? What is your take on the balance between growing fast and staying true to the vision? [3]




[1] The title of David’s blog is rooted in the thesis that no one is born an expert. Expertise requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Malcolm Gladwell popularized this thesis in his book Outliers but this idea and others that are equally interesting, along with a ton of supporting evidence, come from The Cambride Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. It is a thick but interesting tome, with paper after paper shows that deliberate practice for an extended period of time results in expertise in domains as divergent as computer science and ballet. If you are associated with Georgia Tech, borrow it from the library (via Galileo) like I did, instead of paying $73.00 for it.

[2] ..and a bit of embarrassment because I didn’t notice this earlier

[3] Although I started copying David’s style of ending with a question here just in jest,  I realized that the questions he ends with serve both as a succinct summary, and a call to action for his readers. Smart!

2 Comments on “100,000 startup hours”

  1. In my experience it is a very narrow tight-rope the entrepreneur walks. On one side I have seen and been a part of a company that went from $0 to $500K in revenue (not profit) in a 1.5 year period only to bankrupt on cash flow issues and on the other hand watched a close friend put 5 years into business that was flat for the last 3 years before exiting to pursue other opportunities. My opinion at this point is to surround yourself with a diverse and informal network of advisers to help determine an appropriate decision based on your unique context.

    • That’s good advice Joe. One of the great things about being at 75 5th St. is the amazing community around ATDC. Being a part of Flashpoint has also been a great way to meet very good advisers.

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