Thoughts on Entrepreneurship & Life by Sam Huleatt

Buying Talent

fire poi
In an interview with Semil Shah, Keith Rabois remarks that he (Rabois) worries startup talent has become too fragmented. Rabois’ conjecture is that to have a true break-away company (a la Facebook, Twitter, etc) you need a concentration of very talented folks.

For the most part I agree with this — although I think certain types of Internet driven companies may require less technical human capital than before*.

Anyhow, a trend I have observed is that some A and/or B round companies seem to be raising large amounts of cash — more than they would seemingly need so early. Examples are Coinbase and 500px. My theory is that we are starting to see larger rounds where portions of the capital are used 1) to take some money off the table earlier (see SnapChat) and 2) using the funds for early acquisitions.

In an emerging space like Bitcoin, I think it makes a lot of sense to acquire talent with niche knowledge to ‘pour gasoline’ on the growth. What’s also ironic is that despite all the rhetoric about VC going away, these two trends could ultimately bring relevancy back to VC if hot startups opt for bigger checks earlier on to take advantage of the aforementioned points.

*My company Heights Media is an example of this phenomenon

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Are We Better Informed Than Ever Before?

scotch on the rocks


I watched a recent webisode of Stocks and Scotch featuring Howard Lindzon, Felix Salmon, Henry Blodget and two others discussing the future of media.

One of Henry’s comments stuck out to me: “we are better informed than ever”.

Directionally I think this is true — after all, information has been democratized. As recently as our parents’ generation, most Americans were limited to a couple of news sources (your local newspaper and a few TV channels). That said, I also find myself falling into the trap of consuming endless amounts of information relevant to certain niches I care about. Based on conversations with friends, I feel that we have the potential to be better informed than ever before, but many of us choose to over index our media consumption in certain areas. We go deep, but not wide.

I still get a paper delivered to me door, partially to keep me from solely existing in my own bubble: on any given day I’m much better informed of Twitter’s stock price or the latest profiled AngelList company than I am on what’s happening in the Middle East or even in US politics. 25 years ago, the news sources may have been more limited, but perhaps I would have been “better informed” citizen.

This was the first Stocks and Scotch episode and it was great. And speaking of changes in media — I had no idea Google offered a service called Hangouts on Air . Free. Incredible.


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Startups as a Career

risk strategy game

I’ve been reading a lot of opinions that there are too many startups right now. Too many investors, too much money at work. I tend to agree.

That said, I was thinking the other night about a contrarian view point.


  • The smartest people I know wants to become entrepreneurs
  • Everyone I know who has exited a company wants to start a venture/seed fund (more funds coming!)
  • Many friends would rather risk money investing in themselves than than the stock market
  • The traditional ‘security’ model of working for a big cooperation is finished
  • Private companies are getting liquidity on secondary markets

So I ask — is it possible that the number of new startups and early stage investors is just the beginning? A paradigm shift? Introducing startups as a career.

What if the new normal is that in lieu of steady salaries, most skilled, educated people instead opt for starting and/or joining startups as a career? These startups will/are funded by an ever increasing number of angels/investors/corporate vcs. The norm becomes to forsake the ‘steady pay check’ of our parents generation and instead bounce around opportunity to opportunity with the expectation that you will eventually hit a pay day that makes up the difference.

As startups become more transparent publishing their traction and numbers and as secondary market transactions become more normal, it might become a “safer” bet that breakout startups will be acquired, find liquidity, or merge with the more successful (‘unicorn’ startups). In the future people maybe can purchase salary insurance so that if they never hit that big payday they still have some retirement. Perhaps health insurance will move to the cloud so that it is moveable as folks bounce between opportunities.

The consensus view is that the number of startups is unsustainable and it’s probably accurate.

But part of me believes it could be the beginning of a new era in employment/careers.


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What It Feels Like to be CEO of a Startup

What does it feel like to be CEO of a startup?

Paul DeJoe answered this question on Quora. His response quickly became one of the most popular answers of all time.

I wanted to resurface Paul’s answer, as it encapsulates the mindset of the audience I’m targeting with my newer posts:

Very tough to sleep most nights of the week.  Weekends don’t mean anything to you anymore.  Closing a round of financing is not a relief.  It means more people are depending on you to turn their investment into 20 times what they gave you.  

It’s very difficult to “turn it off”. But at the same time, television, movies and vacations become so boring to you when your company’s future might be sitting in your inbox or in the results of a new A/B test you decide to run.  

You feel guilty when you’re doing something you like doing outside of the company.  Only through years of wrestling with this internal fight do you recognize how the word “balance” is an art that is just as important as any other skill set you could ever hope to have.  You begin to see how valuable creativity is and that you must think differently not only to win, but to see the biggest opportunity.  You recognize you get your best ideas when you’re not staring at a screen.  You see immediate returns on healthy distractions.

You start to respect the Duck.  Paddle like hell under the water and be smooth and calm on top where everyone can see you.  You learn the hard way that if you lose your cool you lose.

You always ask yourself if I am changing the World in a good way?  Are people’s lives better for having known me?  

You are creative and when you have an idea it has no filter before it becomes a reality.  This feeling is why you can’t do anything else.   

You start to see that the word “entrepreneur” is a personality.  It’s difficult to talk to your friends that are not risking the same things you are because they are content with not pushing themselves or putting it all out there in the public with the likelihood of failure staring at you everyday.  You start to turn a lot of your conversations with relatives into how they might exploit opportunities for profit.  Those close to you will view your focus as something completely different because they don’t understand.  You don’t blame them.  They can’t understand if they haven’t done it themselves.  It’s why you will gravitate towards other entrepreneurs.  You will find reward in helping other entrepreneurs.  This is my email:  Let me know if I can help you with anything. 

Your job is to create a vision, a culture, to get the right people on the bus and to inspire.  When you look around at a team that believes in the vision as much as you do and trusts you will do the right thing all the time, it’s a feeling that can’t be explained.  The exponential productivity from great people will always amaze you.  It’s why finding the right team is the most difficult thing you will do but the most important.  This learning will affect your life significantly.  You will not settle for things anymore because you will see what is possible when you hold out for the best and push to find people that are the best.  You don’t have a problem anymore being honest with people about not cutting it. 

You start to see that you’re a leader and you have to lead or you can’t be involved with it at all.  You turn down acquisition offers because you need to run the show and you feel like your team is the best in the World and you can do anything with hard work.  Quitting is not an option. 

You have to be willing to sleep in your car and laugh about it.  You have to be able to laugh at many things because when you think of the worse things in the World that could happen to your company, they will happen.  Imagine working for something for two years and then have to throw it out completely because you see in one day that it’s wrong.  You realize that if your team is having fun and can always laugh that you won’t die, and in fact, the opposite will happen:  you will learn to love the journey and look forward to what you do everyday even at the lowest times.  You’ll hear not to get too low when things are bad and not to get too high when things are good and you’ll even give that advice.  But you’ll never take it because being in the middle all the time isn’t exciting and an even keel is never worth missing out on something worth celebrating.  You’ll become addicted to finding the hardest challenges because there’s a direct relationship between how difficult something is and the euphoria of a feeling when you do the impossible.    

You realize that it’s much more fun when you didn’t have money and that money might be the worse thing you could have as a personal goal.  If you’re lucky enough to genuinely feel this way, it is a surreal feeling that is the closest thing to peace because you realize it’s the challenges and the work that you love.  Your currencies are freedom, autonomy, responsibility and recognition.  Those happen to be the same currencies of the people you want around you. 

You feel like a parent to your customers in that they will never realize how much you love them and it is they who validate you are not crazy. You want to hug every one of them. They mean the World to you. 

You learn the most about yourself more than any other vocation as an entrepreneur.  You learn what you do when you get punched in the face many many times.  You learn what you do when no one is looking and when no one would find out.  You learn that you are bad at many things, lucky if you’re good ata handful of things and the only thing you can ever be great at is being yourself which is why you can never compromise it.  You learn how power and recognition can be addicting and see how it could corrupt so many.  

You become incredibly grateful for the times that things were going as bad as they possibly could.  Most people won’t get to see this in any other calling.  When things are really bad, there are people that come running to help and don’t think twice about it.  Tal Raviv, Gary Smith, Joe Reyes, Toan Dang, Vincent Cheung, Eric Elinow, Abe Marciano are some of them. I will forever be in their debt and I could never repay them nor would they want or expect to be repaid. 

You begin to realize that in life, the luckiest people in the World only get one shot at being a part of something great.  Knowing this helps you make sense of your commitment.  

Of all the things said though, it’s exciting.  Every day is different and so exciting.  Even when it’s bad it’s exciting.  Knowing that your decisions will not only affect you but many others is a weight that I would rather have any day than the weight of not controlling my future.  That’s why I could not do anything else.



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Tough Workouts Revitalize Mindset of Top Football Coach

From a Wall Street Journal article this weekend on Sean Payton’s (New Orleans Saint’s head coach) love for the anonymity and intensity of CrossFit workouts:

Payton became immersed in CrossFit last year, in Dallas, amid that lost season which wasn’t really a season, at least not for him, since he was suspended from football amid New Orleans’s Bountygate scandal. Even before that mess, Payton was recovering from a freak injury he’d suffered during a 2011 game against Tampa Bay, when a Saints player collided with his leg, tearing his meniscus and fracturing his tibia.

He needed to get better and stronger. He found an outlet. Payton started coming to a CrossFit gym in Dallas, Tiger’s Den, where the owner, J.D. Thorne, didn’t recognize the NFL celebrity. “I know this sounds dumb, but I don’t watch football at all,” Thorne said. “I had a couple guys say, ‘Dude: That is Sean Payton.'” Thorne looked up a photo of the gym visitor on his phone. “I was like, ‘That’s an actual famous person.'”

But there was no special treatment. CrossFit is known for its check-your-ego, egalitarian ethos, and the Super Bowl-winning coach soon blended in with the crowd. That’s exactly what Payton wanted. He was hooked. He liked how the routines changed and challenged him. “You just kind of disappear somewhere, not knowing what the workout is,” Payton said. “And it’s a lot different than I think many would expect—there’s a very welcoming attitude.”

…Is there a CrossFit effect brewing in New Orleans? After’s last year’s forgettable 7-9 campaign, the Saints are having a revival season. New Orleans is 5-0, atop the NFC South, heading into Sunday’s showdown with the New England Patriots. The Saints have relocated their mojo, and a lot of credit has been given to equilibrium brought by their head coach.


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