Well known technology executive and angel investor Elad Gil has worked with high growth tech companies like Airbnb, Twitter, Google, Instacart, Coinbase, Stripe, and Square as they've grown from small companies into global brands. Across all of these break-out companies, a set of common patterns has evolved into a repeatable playbook that Gil has codified in High Growth Handbook. Covering key topics including the role of the CEO, managing your board, recruiting and managing an executive team, M&A, IPOs and late stage funding rounds, and interspersed with over a dozen interviews with some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley including Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Marc Andreessen (Andreessen Horowitz), and Aaron Levie (Box), High Growth Handbook presents crystal clear guidance for navigating the most complex challenges that confront leaders and operators in high-growth startups. In what Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn and co-author of the #1 NYT bestsellers The Alliance and The Startup of You calls "a trenchant guide," High Growth Handbook is the playbook for turning a startup into a unicorn.
A recent Twitter discussion on the future of book writing as a more public, collaborative process brought to mind Elad's town hall, where he told us that HGH started off as a series of blog posts on questions that he & friends faced with their companies.
Repetition and consistency helped him build a body of work (and an audience!) over time. But in a sea of online content, a publisher's approval still matters: “One thing that really surprised me is that once you have a physical book, people start treating your writing very differently, like it suddenly has a level of seriousness that, if it was a website, people wouldn’t have treated the same," he told us.
Another example of the web book is Ryan Singer's Shape Up: https://m.signalvnoise.com/how-i-wrote-shape-up/
tweet thread with with @dk and @nbaschez: https://twitter.com/m1shti/status/129873
I was intrigued that @elad mentioned at the Highlighter Live town hall last night that only a fraction of the content he'd originally outlined made it into the book.
I've always thought it would be super interesting to read old pre-print versions of notable books to see what was edited out. Sort of like peeking into the writer's mind throughout the writing process. As people write and publish more online (with easier ways to track edits/changes) and “note sharing” (a la Roam) becomes a thing — I wonder if releasing writing in an object that shows process or "real time edits" will be a way for creators to teach their craft or interact with reader communities more closely.
If you're going to hire someone externally, I think generally the way to retain people who are performing and who you really want to retain is to hire someone that they can learn from. And if that's true, a lot of well-motivated people will stay. Where they don't perceive that they can learn from the new executive, it may be better for them, psychologically or professionally, to go somewhere else and get on a steep learning curve again. So it does depend. But I don't think it's a reason to avoid hiring
So clearly you can constantly look to improve. You don't have to find the magical solution right away. If you aim for zero-defect hiring, it's a little bit like zero-defect decision-making: you're probably too conservative. We teach, and I subscribe to the view, that you want to pull the trigger on an initiative or an executive hire when you're about 70 percent confident that it's the right decision
One technique I learned, actually from Brian Chesky at Airbnb, is to go find the five best people in Silicon Valley that do that role, and just have coffee with them. And just chat. In that dialogue, I think you form an ability to benchmark the differences between an A+ and a B+, so that when you
meet new candidates, actual candidates, you can triangulate against the people you've met that are clearly stellar. And so you should use your board, your investors, any connections you have to get introduced to the five best people, and then spend some time
"Once you hire your first seasoned exec who works out, you will be grateful for her presence. All sorts of things will magically just get done. People will get hired, deals will get closed, process will tighte up. It can be a wondrous experience."
What are your thoughts on the helpfulness of “celebrity” board members from domains outside tech? e.g. would a former president of the US be a helpful board member for a high growth technology startup?
was talking to him about how things aren't going that well, and he said that one of the mistakes he made is that he has 74 investors. But he was really proud, because for those 74 investors, he responded to every annual audit request. They told him that he was one of the only CEOs that responded right away. He was really proud of this. And I said, “Look, this is a crazy thing. Your company is on fire. You got one not-important tactical thing done while the company is failing, and you feel great about that
But really the only universal job description of CEO is making sure the company wins. And so deciding what the company is going to do and making sure the company gets that done—that's the most critical part of the job
Some of the most valuable long-term employees of a high-growth company join early on. These employees often have earned the trust and admiration of the founders and CEO, and they have the cultural context and long-term mission of the company in mind, which enables them to achieve outsized things in a high-growth startup. Examples like Susan Wojciki (Google employee #16 and eventual CEO of YouTube) and Google and Chris Cox at Facebook (who joined as an engineer in 2005 and is now chief product officer) come to mind.
Also, Salar Kamanagar at Google, probably Jason Goldman at Twitter, maybe even Reid Hoffman at PayPal. It seems like every company that wins has these “old timers” who really know how to think with a shared DNA.
Ensure that you have diverse candidates for each role. You will never have a diverse employee base if you do not ensure diverse candidates in your funnel. Building a diverse funnel means not only sourcing a broader spectrum of candidates, but also thinking through the language in your job descriptions, how employees are represented on your website, and other factors that will impact who applies.
Every company I have ever worked for, or with, has realized that one of the biggest determinants of candidate conversion is how quickly you interview them and how quickly you can make an offer. Beyond conversion, a key metric to track is how long candidates spend in each step of the interview process. You should optimize for shorter times between each step and for rapidly getting offers out.
You can keep the board small in multiple ways: one is, don't give up more than one board seat per round. The most common mistake I see entrepreneurs make is this: they want to get two investors involved, they do a two VC round, and they've got two board seats from one round. That adds really fast. Because then when you get to series C, series D, series E, you've suddenly got a six-, seven-, eight-person board.
Now, it might be as a board member you say, “I think you should build product X,” or, "you should build feature Y,” or “you should execute strategy Z.” Those are possibilities. But they should always be phrased as questions. For example, you might ask, “You know, I've thought really hard about the strategy that you guys have been doing, and the following thing strikes me as a risk. Do you think it's a risk or not? I thought of a way to measure it, or to mitigate it. What do you think?" If you do it that way, it's a conversation.
When hiring executives, look for people who have the experience and background that would make them a good fit or hire for the next 12–18 months. Anything shorter than that and they will not be able to scale sufficiently far relative to the time it takes to hire them. Anything longer and you will over-hire and end up with someone who is a bad fit for the job.
This insight is not something I’ve considered before, but makes a ton of sense and seems incredibly accurate when I think about execs I’ve worked with and how they’ve succeeded or failed in the role they were hired.