Jan 20, 2015
Welcome back to another SuccessLab Podcast, Episode #33! Here with me is Matt Racz, COO and Co-Founder of his startup USEED, which provides crowdfunding resources for higher education. We're talking all things startup, how to identify your passions, and how to stay true to your vision as your business grows.
USEED just turned three years old (or I guess, three years young!) in December of this past year. Those three years have been quite an adventure, a crazy roller coaster ride. I certainly feel like I've led 10 different lives within USEED since we began.
The idea of USEED really started back in 2011, and it came out of the idea of being really passionate about education and helping student entrepreneurs pursue their passions, but in a way that set them up for success in today's world.
It's a really challenging thing to stay true to your mission, and it's certainly difficult to identify what you believe in. But I think it's also the number one critical thing you need to do. If you're starting something, you need to identify why you're doing what you're doing. Certainly, if you're going to start your own business, whatever it might be, you're going to be dedicating a tremendous amount of resources, time, energy, and your life to it. If you haven't got a good reason for it, you're probably going to burn out or fail.
What it comes down to is discovering what problem you want to solve. What are you really passionate about? If you look at the world today, in 2015, there are massive global challenges that are happening, and there's a lot of opportunity to solve many of them. Instead of thinking, "How can I create the next Snapchat or Instagram?" ask: How do you find something you're really passionate about, and how can you build a mission and a life around it? You have to be pretty open with yourself. You have to be introspective and ask yourself, "What problem am I really passionate about solving, and why am I passionate about it, and how can I communicate that to other people?"
Lean Startup Machine, StartUp weekend, the book —all those things came out when we first started USEED. That became the big trend. We said, "Woah." There's this whole resource and framework to test and validate some of your assumptions and to build a product and be super lean, be really scientific. As people who are really passionate about learning, we absolutely want to be scientific. But at the time, Lean Startup was really geared toward apps, or a B2C-type company. For us, it's really hard to be lean when selling a client takes anywhere from three to six months. How do you be lean? We used the Lean Startup principles to test if our go-to market strategy would be better going directly to students or working with institutions.
People can tell you really positive things about themselves; anyone can do that. We've learned this through our hiring process because we've been trying to do it for three years. We've hired many people, and a lot of them didn't work. It's about behavior. If you say you're going to do something, and you don't do it, there's a broken contract there. Then, I don't trust you as a person. You've broken my trust, and therefore, I don't care if you're a culture fit or not.
Here at USEED, we're such a small team, but we have a lot of demands individually in many different areas. We use a lot of different apps for our workflow to make us more efficient: communication tools, task management tools, things like that. Some of my favorites that I use religiously are:
RedBooth, which is a collaborative task management system. I use it to manage my own, weekly tasks.
Hipchat for team communication. One of our biggest challenges as a company is communication. We're all over the place all the time, so communication is really key.
This tool has revolutionized my entire workflow: TextExpander. It takes hotkeys to the next level. You get to create your own shortcuts for text.
Also Moom, which allows you to create hotkeys for resizing the windows on your computer.
Have you ever had one of those days where you just can’t get going? Suddenly, it’s 3 p.m., and you realize you haven’t accomplished anything you set out to do that day?
Oftentimes, this is just a matter of being physically and mentally fatigued, overloaded, or building up a particular goal or task into a monumental challenge that feels impossible to tackle. Naturally, any one of these situations are total productivity killers. So how do you overcome it?
Well, first diagnose if it is fatigue. If so, it may be worth it to take a quick nap or do something to mentally recharge. If it’s overwhelm, one work-around to apply the two-minute rule. You may be familiar with this approach from the book Getting Things Done, in which author David Allen suggests this: If a task takes less than two minutes to do, just get it done immediately rather than letting all those little tasks build up.
If you apply this to your work, goals, or in forming new habits, it can be very powerful. Of course, most larger tasks, goals, and habit formations cannot be accomplished in two-minutes, but what is the toughest part of these? Typically, the toughest part is just getting started. So just break off the first two minutes.
Once you get going, it’s easier to continue doing it.
Do you need to write a blog post or article? Give yourself two minutes to write just one sentence. Need to create a marketing campaign? Give yourself two minutes to simply brainstorm what could go in that campaign.
Two minutes can have a massive impact on your productivity.
Give the two-minute rule a try. Keep in mind that this approach may not work for everyone, but give it a try. What is one thing you’ve been putting off? Give yourself two minutes to get it going.
"To be successful you must accept all challenges that come your way. You can’t just accept the ones you like." ~ Mike Gafka
Next week I’m in The Lab with Patrick Mathieson, a junior venture capitalist at Toba Capital. We talk about how entrepreneurs can gauge if in fact they need funding, and if so, how to work with a VC, as well as the process his VC uses to set up the startups they invest in for success. Until then, have prosperous week!