30 tactical takeaways from leaders at Notion, Plaid & other top startups

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July 20, 2021
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This week, we're looking back on the big ideas and tactical takeaways that have stuck with us from the first 30 episodes of our podcast, In Depth.

The 30 Best Bits of Advice We’ve Heard on Our Podcast (So Far)

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It feels like just yesterday we were penning a newsletter about our latest undertaking — a brand-new podcast called In Depth. Our goal with the show? To take the very same signature style we’ve cultivated over the years here on The Review and deliver it in a new way, giving you a chance to listen in on these deeper conversations firsthand.

Truth be told, we weren't totally sure what to expect from this little experiment — and were admittedly apprehensive to step outside our comfortable zone of the written word. But we're thrilled to report that 30 episodes later, we've loved reading your positive feedback as we've published audio interviews with incredible startup leaders all across the org chart, from companies like Notion, Lambda School, Plaid, Segment and many more. 

To celebrate this milestone, we listened back to each episode we’ve produced thus far and plucked out our favorite pieces of advice from this collection of interviews. From management advice, to tips for honing in on an ICP, and guidance on assembling an early team, there are tactics to lean on regardless of where you're at in your startup journey.

Whether you're a long-time listener or haven't pressed play yet, we hope you find a new idea to put into practice — and that you join us on our journey to tackle the next 30 episodes.

As always, thank you for reading, listening and sharing! Got ideas for who we should feature on an upcoming episode? Drop us a line!

-The Review editors

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Here's a sneak peek at the tips: 

- Tip #1: Never create a second patient. “It’s almost impossible to help anyone as a manager if you're drained and burnt out. As a manager, one of the hardest management skills is learning to take care of yourself first. It can feel selfish, especially if you're a giving person. But trust me when I say that unless you are your best self, there's no way you can make other people into their best selves." — Molly Graham, COO of Lambda School.

- Tip #4: Dive seriously deep into the metrics. “As some organizations grow, the leaders think, 'My job is just to focus on the big picture.' At Amazon, leaders are expected to know what's happening with their business at an incredible level of detail. You can't get to a place where you don't know if your business was better this week than it was last week or this quarter over last quarter — otherwise, it will continue to get worse, undetected." — Former Amazon execs, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr

- Tip #7: Be the gravity assist slingshot for your direct reports. “If you've ever seen a space movie, there's always a gravity assist launch out into the far reaches, as in ‘We don't have enough fuel to get to Mars, so we better do a slingshot around the Earth.’ I say to managers, that's your job here. You only have this human being for a very short period of time over the full span of their career. Your job — in addition to everything else — is to make sure you’re that gravity-assist slingshot that launches them out into the far reaches of their career.” — Qualtrics' Russ Laraway

- Tip #19: Hire for empathy by pushing past practiced answers to "Tell me about a time you failed." “Some follow-ups that can really help you get a little bit deeper are: ‘Talk to me about how that impacted you. How did you feel?’ I find it relatively easy to see someone who has a pat story about a failure, but they don't really think it was a failure — watch out for when you ask them about their emotional journey and they can't talk about it with feeling." — Mark Frein, Chief People Officer at Lambda School

Apply to First Round's mentorship program:

Fast Track has steadily grown since launching in 2016, and we’ve matched over 2,000 Mentor-Mentee pairs so far. We believe strongly in the power of mentorship and are always aiming to increase access to this impactful program while maintaining a white-glove, tailored experience. 

We’re pleased to officially announce the 11th cohort of First Round Fast Track, running from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. If you’re interested in joining our next cohort as a Mentee or a Mentor, learn more here and apply here by August 1.

Recommended resources:

First Round partner Meka Asonye stopped by Harlem Capital's podcast to chat about his journey to tech and his advice for getting started with angel investing.

This read on GTM funnel stages, metrics, & goals. 

The 2020 SaaS Product Benchmarks Report from the OpenView team.

Merci Grace adapts Google Venture's 3 Hour Brand Sprint methodology for a remote-first world.

Trending this week — Review Reads:

The 25 Micro-Habits of High-Impact Managers
Sharp folks from across the First Round community share the small habits that great managers do, including delivering feedback with care, opening up about failure, and sending praise up the chain.
Starting a Company in a Space You're Not an Expert In — This Founder Shares 6 Lessons
From the importance of founder naivety, to seeking out the doubters, to rigorously assessing founder/market fit, Irving Fain shares his lessons from building Bowery Farming in a space he wasn't an expert in, as well as other takeaways from the earliest days.
Hierarchy with arrow
Hiring a VP of Engineering? Use This Framework from Shopify’s VPE to Get it Right

From the skills that are most important, to the questions to ask and red flags to watch out for, Shopify's Farhan Thawar's advice will help founders dive several layers deeper as they approach this hiring search.

Made with ✨ by First Round Capital.
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