I know you've heard of Steve Jobs. But do you know Lars Albright? Two of his startups were sold for a total of $550 million--and Steve Jobs paid $300 million for the one he built before starting his current venture.
Albright attributes part of his success to doing the opposite of one of Steve Jobs's most well-known management practices.
Before getting into that, Albright started his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 11. He lived in tony Boston suburb, Brookline and started a business selling organic eggs. He bought them at Boston's only operating farm--Allendale Farm--and sold them at a markup to the citizens of Brookline.
Albright graduated from Harvard with a degree in government--focusing on African politics. He went out to Silicon Valley and learned from his time in finance and a less-than-stellar startup experience before earning his MBA at Dartmouth.
In the last decade, he was a member of the executive team of two startups that yielded $550 million to their owners. One was mobile ad firm, M-Qube, that VeriSign acquired for $250 million in 2006. Apple acquired Quattro Wireless, another mobile ad firm, in 2010 for $300 million.
And in 2011, Albright started SessionM--it gives people points for watching mobile ads--and now has "a network of the top 2,000 mobile apps in all categories, reaching over 100 million consumers each month" and partnering with "Old Navy, Post Foods, the Weather Channel, TMZ, Warner Brothers Interactive and Sony," according to Albright.
SessionM is growing fast. Notes Albright, "We are growing revenue at about 200% a year, our headcount is up from 3 to 72 in the last three years, our user base has grown 10-fold, and we expect to hit $100 million in revenue in the next two years."
Albright offers four tips that you can follow to boost your odds of hitting it big in the startup game.
1. Be transparent
Steve Jobs was wrong. At least that's what Albright believes. Rather than let only a tiny team of trusted executives know what is going on as Jobs did, Albright believes success depends on sharing information with his team.
Albright makes a compelling case. As he said, "I ran a college startup with closed-door meetings among the top team and it did not work well. If you don't share information with your team, you shut off ideas and lose the excitement and motivation that makes people want to join a startup in the first place."
Albright shares the good and bad with his team. "We have senior staff meetings where we discuss all the top priorities for the week. And we have monthly company meetings where we talk about how we're doing on our revenue and margin targets, whether we need to raise more capital, and cool new stuff we're developing," he explained.
2. Hire talented people who can work well together
Almost everyone I have interviewed about growing a startup talks about hiring talented people. But Albright provided an interesting twist. As he explained, "My success with previous startups makes it easier for me to hire people I have known for a long time. I can tell that they have the ability to handle the pace, stress, and excitement of a startup and have a pretty good sense of who will fit well together."
3. Delegate, don't micromanage
If you want to grow, you have to give trust the talented team you hire. Otherwise, you end up doing everything yourself and the whole operation gets bogged down. "You have to hire people you trust and delegate to them. Don't micromanage," explained Albright.
4. Build a product that can satisfy fast-rising demand
The final piece of advice has to do with how you design your product. If you want to grow fast, you must anticipate what your product will need to be able to do as you add more customers.
A huge risk to your startup's success is a product that can't keep up with fast growth in the number of users. You do not want to be forced to rebuild your product just as demand is taking off.
The remedy? "Talk to your current and potential customers when you are designing the product so you can build in the ability to add features that will meet their evolving needs," noted Albright.