Greg van den Dries is the founder of Rocktape, a maker of brightly colored kinesiology tape you might have seen wrapped around the body parts of athletes during the Olympics. He's turned a $10,000 initial investment into a company with annual sales of more than $20 million. Here are the 7 lessons he learned along the way:
Stories by Dave Schools (contributor)
Tech execs say these are the questions CEOs must answer
Company founders can suffer from tunnel vision, so here's a collection of questions executives at companies like Facebook, Apple, and Y Combinator (and Kevin Durant's investment firm) posed during their interviews on the main stage of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017.
Why this matters: Knowing the answers can help entrepreneurs steer their companies from good to great.
- Sam Altman, founder of Y Combinator: As you grow your company, and its impact increases upon its city, its nation, and the world: will it be a force for good? Some companies aren't meant to grow past a certain size. The sooner you know how big your company should be, the better you'll be at leading it.
- Lisa P. Jackson, VP of environment, policy and social initiatives at Apple: What does your product say about your values? If you look closely at the launch keynote slide for the iPhone 8 and X, you'll find the words low carbon process. "If we care about something, it shows up in our products," she said. "This new "low carbon process" is not going to be the headline like the camera, but it's there."
- Luke Woods, head of product design at Facebook: Are you more of an artist or a designer? "I don't think of myself as an artist. The difference between an artist and a designer is the designer is more focused on people." As an entrepreneur, your job is to solve problems for real people. This question is a self-check to make sure you're actually designing something and not just expressing yourself for your own gratification.
- Shawn Carolan, managing director at Menlo Ventures: If there was one job your product can do that you can't do with any other existing solution, what would it be? During a Battlefield session pitch, a project-organizing app index came across as general and helpful but not as critical or necessary. Carolan's question hit upon the importance of focus and niche-targeting. If you can't answer his question simply, your vision may need work.
- Richard Klein, partner at The Durant Company: Can you distill your pitch into one sentence? Klein communicates investment opportunities to Kevin Durant in one sentence pitches. "I put it quick to him," said Klein. "In one sentence. And if I get the reaction — his eyes open up and he has this excited look on his face — that's the first line of defense."
- Sebastian Thrun, founder and CEO of Udacity: What limitations have you left unchallenged in your problem-solving approach? "I'm not in Hyperloop because of the cost of infrastructure. Digging is expensive." Instead, he said, "The air is so free and unused compared to the ground." Don't let anything hold you down. Even gravity.
Work like Elon
Elon Musk is upending the automotive industry (Tesla) and space travel (SpaceX), not to mention some side projects he has digging tunnels (The Boring Company) and connecting mind and machine (Neuralink). As an entrepreneur with a demanding schedule, Musk runs his day on high-efficiency habits.
Why it matters: When we think we're getting too busy, we can take a page out of Musk's playbook.
- Don't skimp on sleep. Asleep by 1a.m., Musk sleeps a healthy 6-6.5 hours a night, otherwise he feels "grumpy."
- Get inspired in the shower. On two separate occasions, Musk cites the shower as the time and place where he gets creative inspiration and positivity.
- Hyper-efficient meetings. A former Tesla employee reported a conversation with another teammate who recalls a meeting with Musk. In the middle of the meeting, Elon said to a quiet meeting member: You haven't said anything. Why are you in here? While perhaps a bit harsh, it shows meetings should serve a clear and distinct purpose.
- Hiring test. Musk asks candidates the question: "Did they face very difficult problems and overcome them?" If they're telling the truth, they will understand the problem intricately and be able to answer any detailed question.
- Don't work over 100 hours a week. He tried that. 85 is good.
- Diet for productivity. Drink two coffees a day and diet Coke. Skip breakfast half the time. Cut down on sweets. Scarf lunch in five minutes during meetings.
- Exercise 1-2 times a week. Usually treadmill and lifting weights.
- Schedule everything, even if it's in 5-minute time slots.
- Manage your emotions ruthlessly. "I feel fear quite strongly. But if what I am doing is important enough, then I just override the fear," Musk said in an interview.
- Email. Check messages while your kids are running around; "I'm able to be with them and still be on email. I can be with them and still be working at the same time."