Micah Baldwin

Founder (6 companies). Failure (2 companies). Building the Happiness Algorithm. Venture Advisor to Crunchfund and mentor to Techstars, 500 Startups and more.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 04, 2016

Discussion

Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
I’m Micah, over the years I have founded or been early at 6 startups which raised more than $350mm and exited for more than $200mm. Means lots of success, lots of failure and I am old. Other fun things I’ve done include #followfriday, which lead to death threats, a documentary and once broke Twitter. Primary area of effort is around helping founders be better CEOs and product folks think more holistically. Mentor, invest and advise startups and now at Amazon. Eats donuts. Likes dogs. Might have reversed that.
Diane Florescu@dianeflorescu · Marketing Assistant @ConnectiD Ltd
Hi Micah! Got a couple of questions: Q1: We see start-ups failing/exiting the market every day. What have been your biggest challenges to date? Q2: What would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing? Q3: For someone looking to embark on their own start-up journey, what tips could you offer? Thanks
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@dianeflorescu wow, lots of questions! Ok, Q1) Realizing that my biggest hurdle is my own hubris. Q2) feel pretty certain that I won't kill myself that day. (That is not a joke. I think about suicide every day, and some days its easy to come up with a reason to not do it; and some days, not so much. So much better on the former kinda days. Q3) Talk to a lot of people about your idea. Not for feedback, but for reaction. Make lots of friends. Don't ask for money too early. Believe that if a punk high school kid can build a company and sell it to Yahoo! that you can too. Remember that we live in a collaborative community, not a group of cut-throat assholes. Just find your place within that community.
Drew Russ@drewwruss · Business Development
What is the best trait in a team member/colleague? Intellect? Sense of humor? Dogged work ethic? Etc...
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@drewwruss I look at people in two lenses: personality and production. I can work with someone I dont like as a person, but who produces; but cant work with someone I like who doesnt produce. Im binary like that.
Drew Russ@drewwruss · Business Development
LA? What's up with that?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@drewwruss Its raining right now in SF. Done. I also think that the LA scene is at the right point in its maturation. There is no longer a need for LA to point to its successes as validation of its as a startup ecosystem, it just has successes...being involved in that scene will teach me a ton, and I am excited to be there.
Dave Schappell@daveschappell · Startup BD, Amazon Web Services
How do you define what a startup is, and isn't?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@daveschappell love this question. Is Uber a startup? They still care about revenue, but they have raised a pile. @rabois said yesterday that they have no need to IPO because they can raise billions in weeks. For me, its more of a feeling. Nice offices, salaries, and worrying about death gone? you arent really a startup any more. Maybe its by counting the time between the presentation of grey hairs? I also think that the word startup has become a marketing ploy. So large companies are creating "startups" within the businesses, or promoting that they "operate like a startup." I find this disappointing and disingenuous.
Gordon Weiss@gordon_weiss · Bassline
How undervalued is strategic partnerships or business development in a start-up, Or will a great product proliferate on it's on merit?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@gordon_weiss it really depends on where they are in the life cycle of the business. Leans on partnerships too early in the product lifecycle, and you may end up creating a yoke around your neck that you dont want to give up (cuz the money is good!). Be smart, start slow, dont elephant hunt. I don't believe great products find their market. All grew due to a hack of some sort. Either in their initial marketing (Mailbox); or their buzz (Slack); or their constraint (Facebook). Rarely does a deal make a company long term viable.
Gordon Weiss@gordon_weiss · Bassline
@micah Thank you. Do this again, much appreciated!
Aaron Batalion@abatalion · Cofounder/1st CTO, LivingSocial
What is Founder Donuts? Can you share why you created it and what it's become?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@abatalion its just a couple of people, now more than a couple, that get together on Saturdays to talk about life first, startups second. Its only founders and investors, and we get a chance to strip off all the BS that founders feel that they need to be wrapped in daily, and just enjoy each other as people. Somewhere, in the world of building companies, we forgot that people are interesting because of who they are rather than what they built or how much money they have.
Tyler Willis@tylerwillis · Asteroid Hunter
How do you define success? Who are some people you consider successful?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@tylerwillis I knew you would ask the hard questions, dammit. I have often said that the days I say "I am successful" should also be the day I die. After all, other than having complete satisfaction in my accomplishments, and knowing there is nothing else I can do, what else is there to live for? As for people I consider successful? My dad. 3 good kids, who are not in jail. Cornel West, has a message and articulates it. And you. Because you seem to smile more often than you dont.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are your favourite questions to ask founders?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@bentossell I really like to focus on the whys behind the company. First time founders dont really know what they are getting into, so understanding their grip on reality matters most.
Eric Friedman@ericfriedman · Partner @ BlockTower
You have said that you get other offers often, what about your role is most fulfilling that keeps you there - what entrepreneur achievements you help them hit are best for you?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@ericfriedman I am very focused on adding value. I have said that my goal in life is not to make a $1,000,000 (have done that, kinda useless), but to help 10,000 people become millionaires, so they in turn can help 10,000 more. That is what drives me daily.
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
What lessons did you learn from Graphicly that you apply to other businesses?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@jspepper listen more. Believe in the numbers. Its ok to be wrong. As a founder if you dont know the numbers, if you cant find measurable, important metrics, you will fail. miserably.
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
@micah And should have told me a week or so before you were in places.
Jeremy Pepper@jspepper · Consultant
What is it with the height jokes. Why do you hate short people?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@jspepper I'd tell you, but it would go over your head.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Whats your opinion on how different accelerators operate?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@bentossell this is a great question. If you were to build a matrix when deciding on an accelerator, it would have total raised, geo focus, mentorship across the top, and marketing/sales, technology, fundraising on the left. Take the top three accelerators, YC, Techstars, 500 Startups. YC and TS were both started by former CTOs, and 500 was started by a CMO. Techstars leans heavily on mentorship, 500 in the middle, YC at the bottom. YC has raised the most, TS next, 500 third. So, if I were a technical founder, who needed mentorship (curriculum) and was focused on raising money, Techstars might be the best. If I was a product focused technical founder who wanted to have space to build and fundraising mattered, YC. If I was a founder (technical or otherwise), and scaling revenue mattered, 500.
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Is it networking or is it NOTworking (cc @justinkan)? 😀. How do you avoid distractions/focus on what's most important?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@mscccc @justinkan Im a massive introvert and hate people. My therapist used to tell me that a schedule wasnt about listing when you had to start something, but rather when you should end something. So I am brutal about time management when its something that isnt driving my core purpose.
Justin Kan@justinkan · Partner, Y Combinator
Arseniy Strizhenok@arseniy_strizhenok · Co-Founder, SMEDGE
Micah, which of the areas of start-ups over the promising? Regarding the outlook for the year, two or three years. I mean your personal opinion. Based on your experience and vision of the market, thank you!
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@arseniy_strizhenok the pebbles that create the tsunami tend to look like pebbles today. Think about the stupid Oculus Kickstarter. They looked lame. And have been lame for end users for years. Self driving cars? They look moronic. I would love to see the death of money. Not bitcoin, which is equally lame for the common person, but the absolute removal of money in the decision making process.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What of all your achievements to date are you most proud of?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@ems_hodge that I am only 1/2 a shit head. I could have been a totally horrible person, and I am very proud that most people think I add value to the world, even on the days I dont.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What three things should every new founder be constantly thinking?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@ems_hodge 1) why does this matter? Does it matter for me, or for others; 2) does the team still believe in the mission, or are they BS'ing me; 3) What do I prefer to do today? Sleep or wake up. If its the former, then change your life.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What is the happiness algorithm? 😄
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@ems_hodge I answered it elsewhere, but here is two best things I have ever done: I bought a $20 alarm clock. I set two alarms (7am and 7:30am) between those two alarms, its 100% about me. My phone is in another room. I focus on my pleasure, I sleep sometimes, read sometimes, tend to my pleasure sometimes, and sometimes, I just think. As the second alarm goes off, I get up, take my bipolar meds and eat breakfast. Then I feel my pets (dogs and cats). Then I might work out. Then I shower. Then, and only then. I check email. And guess what I learned ... the world didn't end. The other thing I do? Is at some point in the day, I spend 15 minutes doing something that makes me 100% happy. For me, thats hanging out with Taylor, my dog. It's why I never travel more than 3 days.
Jordan Gonen@jrdngonen · trying my best.
What is the biggest mountain you have to climb this year?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@jordan_gonen Im over 300lbs. I dont climb mountains.
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@jordan_gonen ok. Being serious. At the end of last year, my dog Billie died. I have never been so crushed in my life. Despondent doesnt even begin to describe how I was. Followed that up with a flu so bad I broke a rib coughing. So my biggest mountain this year? Me. Lots to fix.
Maxime MANSEAU@maximemanseau
Micah, What's the happiness algorithm ??
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@maximemanseau I do believe there are 5 or 6 things you can do daily that make you happier. I havent figure out all of them, but most of them. Spend the first 30 mins of the day on nobody but you, find your "happiness moment" and commit to doing it daily. Understand that happiness is fluid and an ill defined state. End the day having accomlished no more than 3 things.
Maxime MANSEAU@maximemanseau
@micah super interesting! I m currently exploring all this; trying to find my own algorithm like 10min meditation, write 20 min, gratitude...it looks like it s all about energy and sustainable energy comes from daily habits. Why do you think we need to keep our daily goals short?
Micah Baldwin@micah · Old Founder. Grey hairs and everything.
@maximemanseau too much commitment is work. Improving your life should be joy.