The NEW Streamlined VIPA
We are excited to announce the NEW VIPA available right now. We listened to your feedback and made the changes your wanted. While most of you love our mascot Winky, which is what the original VIPA format was based on, you wanted a more streamlined look. So, effective today, we are excited to present the new VIPA to you first. We hope you will enjoy the new simplified format and find even more uses for the VIPA than ever before.
The new VIPA format
Startup Work Ethic and Health
Startup Culture, Work Ethic, and Sleep Deprivation:
How taking care of your health is good for the health of your startup.
Over a year ago we started a journey of bootstrapping our startup Inacronym.com. Today, the site it is up and running great but the toll personally on my body getting to this point has been hard. Lack of sleep, improper diet, and depleted adrenals from the workload I put on myself led to 4 cases of kidney stones, 2 hospital visits, a case of shingles, and numerous sinus infections. I crashed. At one point I literally went months eating only Hot Pockets, Jack in the Box, pretzels, and Diet Coke and getting only 4 hours of sleep a night. Clearly, I had to make changes to build myself back up because the startup journey for us had only begun. I needed to find ways to get more sleep, eat better, and relax on demand (harder than it sounds).
To keep going, I needed to re-evaluate every second of my time and determine what was optimal. In business terms, I had to decide what was a “must have” versus a “nice to have” for my personal health and the health of my startup. I knew I could merge the startup work culture with a healthy lifestyle because I am an optimist. One thing entrepreneurs need is optimism, because the road to getting an idea from a paper napkin to reality is almost always 100 times more work and commitment than you ever envision. You have to believe in your idea strongly enough to keep working long after the dreams of ovemight success get a reality check.
The truth is that most startup entrepreneurs begin to build their startup in their “free” time after they get home from a job and on weekends. This free time, after the realities of life are accounted for, is usually 9pm until 2am each weeknight and as much as possible on weekends. This means that it is almost inevitable that startup founders will work a regular job (at least 40 hours a week but usually more) plus potentially up to 25 hours on weeknights and another 16 hours on weekends. So, a startup team could be working up to 81 hours a week or more for long periods of time just to get off the ground.
The flip side of this is that startup entrepreneurs almost always are getting less sleep than they need. If you look at a typical work schedule for a job starting at 8am, this means the entrepreneur wakes up at 7am. This equates to and average of 5 hours of sleep a night or ~25 hours during the work week. Given the dearth of sleep during the week, it’s no wonder that many startup founders sleep in on the weekends. In fact, my mom and sister knew never to call me before lpm on Saturday or Sunday! However, for startup founders that have small kids, even weekend sleep dissipates (as was the case for two members of our team).
For non entrepreneurs and non startup types, this kind of schedule seems ridiculous. Startup founders and entrepreneurs, however, accept it and press through because ofthe hope of an ROI down the road. They will keep doing it because they believe in the idea. To be sure, startup culture encourages it (Gary V) and the ethos of the strong work ethic is closely tied to American culture and other cultures. I remember going to a book signing for Gary Vaynerchuck and being so tired that I was delirious. I walked up to him and handed him an Inacronym business card and said “I’m not going to pitch you because I’m too tired from working on my business.” He smiled at me and said “that is what will make you a success” took my card, and signed my book. I had confirmation from one of the best.
Gary was and is right, but to be fair, he wasn’t advocating killing yourself to
make something happen. He just meant you cannot be successful by being lazy. You have to work hard to make things happen. However, the question arises: how can startups live through the inevitable deluge of late night and weekend work sessions to get to a tipping point without crashing and burning physically and emotionally? The answer, I have found, is integrating the following four things that I call R2IR: Rest, Release, Integrate, and Remember.
Sleep deprivation according to some experts impairs creativity and insight, and degrades relational memory (link 1, 2). For people like startup entrepreneurs who need to constantly be creative and integrate and gain insight from constantly changing variables, it should be a clarion call to actually get some sleep. However, it’s inevitable that we will work late throughout the week though…because we just will. The way around this is to be smart and realistic. Here is one thing I do: pick at least one night a week to go home and go straight to bed. What I do is make Wednesday my early to bed night. It’s the middle of the week and helps me recharge.
Another way to get to more sleep: Get a one-track mind when working. Try to go to bed earlier (12:30am instead of 2am) by being more productive when you work. For me, Twitter, Facebook, email, and TV are just too invasive of my concentration. Humans actually don’t multitask well anyway (especially when sleep deprived). Close all unnecessary browser tabs, turn the TV off, and just sit and make yourself focus for 3 hours after dinner. Another interesting tip I have found helpful is to take a 15 minute power nap during lunch a few times a week. The body’s circadian rhythm is designed to naturally rest 2 times a day: a big sleep at night and a small nap in the afternoon. Understanding this and trying to integrate a quick nap into your lunch break can help. Professor Jim Horne of the Loughborough University Sleep Research Centre says the nap only works if it’s kept under 2O minutes before you enter deep sleep. This is especially helpful if you did not get 8 hours of sleep during the night (link).
A common problem for startups is to wait until your product is “perfect” with all the features you want on it before you release it. This is wrong and it contributes to more stress, loss of sleep, and ultimately lost productivity. Many startup advisors and experts will tell you that releasing a bare bones product early is better because you can get immediate marketplace feedback on your idea (which is critical). This will allow you to be nimble and retool or pivot the product before you have invested too much time into features that people may not want. Imagine spending months working on adding a widget feature to your startup that delayed your launch. Later you discover that people actually prefer your product without the feature! You then spend another month removing the feature or worse…you leave it in because it’s too late. This is why it is better to always frame your features list into the question: Is it a “must have”, or a “nice to have”? Prioritize all the “must have” features to make the product work at a base level and release it quickly. Doing so will take less time for development and give your team more of a chance to get rest. By reducing features, the mental list of pending tasks in your head is reduced thus leading to reduced stress.
Integration is the process of being relaxed and cognizant enough of what is happening around you to consolidate ideas into a usable form. How do you allow yourself to integrate? You need to allow yourself to relax mentally. The goal is to be able to detach and live in the moment. You need to get what productivity guru David Allen calls achieving a mental state called “mind like water”. Being able to do this is often tough for entrepreneurs because they are literally always thinking and talking about their startups. For me, I find ways to relax and integrate by employing what I call Agent Cooper Theory. For the uninitiated, Agent Cooper is the fictional FBI agent character from the popular 1990s TV series called Twin Peaks. Cooper had a recommendation for the Sherriff in that show for being able to live in the moment: Surprise yourself randomly with guilty pleasures (cherry pie and coffee). Don’t plan it. Just randomly do something nice for yourself. For me, I often buy new music on iTunes, or go out to eat somewhere on weeknights at the last minute. I have also gone to a movie immediately after work. The point is to find ways to release your mind long enough to avoid getting tunnel vision about what is going on around you.
When you have tried everything to get more rest, be more productive, and take care of yourself, but you startup workload seems too much to bear, you may just need some perspective. Take a minute to remember why you started this journey to begin with. Focus on the hopes that you had for making something better and reducing pain. Try to temporarily forget about all of the headaches you may be experiencing getting your startup up and running. Instead focus on what the central concept behind it meant to you personally the first time you came up with the idea. Often just focusing on the original idea and solution you wanted to build will guide you through tough times. It can also help you make business decisions with more clarity. Sometimes it is unavoidable that business models and pivots can modify your execution. The question is: are the changes killing what your original goal was or are they simply modifying it? Remember what your goal was to help give you renewed passion to keep moving forward. You may find that all the stress causing you loose sleep isn’t what you need to focus on.
The R2IR Tips In Summary:
1. Rest by being more creative and focused.
a. Humpday Earlyout
b. One-Track Working Focus
c. Quickie lunch Siestas
2. Release something even if it is not the full vision of the product.
a. Must have vs. Nice to have test.
b. Less really can be more.
3. Integrate using the Agent Cooper theory
a. Randomly surprise yourself with guilty pleasures.
b. Try to reduce mental tasks to achieve a “mind like water” state.
4. Remember the reasons why you started the company in the first place.
Inacronym at SFBeta
Inacronym is excited to be a part of the September SFBeta in San Francisco. SFBeta is San Francisco’s largest monthly startup mixer bringing in thousands of startups, media, entrepreneurs and investors. We will be demoing as part of the unconventional advertising & marketing theme. That theme sure does fit us! The event will be on September 15 in downtown San Francisco’s 111 Minna Gallery. For more details check it out at SFBeta.com.
I just updated my VIPA text message fun….
A funny conversation in MMS with friends.
V-shaped recovery? Who needs it.
Recently, I came across this picture from one of our very first marketing events. We had just launched and it happened to coincide with the long downward economic tailspin. Many businesses had started to lay off workers and there were a lot of unemployed people at the meetup. In a moment inspired by frivolity and a perhaps a few cervesas, we put these little signs on the table. Funny thing, it brought in 40 new user accounts that night. Here we are over a year later and the economy seems only marginally better. Guess what? The wisdom on those sheets of paper still holds true today.
- Barista: Are those symbols on your shirt that new symbol social network?
- Me: Yes, they are called Inacronyms and it is much more than a social network.
- Barista: How did you say it again? In-acro what?
- Me: Say it like this In-Ackrow-Nim.
- Barista: Oh, ok...that is what I thought. So, you seem to know a lot about this stuff.
- Me: Yep, you could say that.
- Barista: Is there an Inacronym for musician?
- Me: Yes, why?
- Barista: Because that is what I want to be rather than a Barista.
The Inacronym Cartoon
We recently spoke with some members of the Inacronym user community about our cartoon. To our surprise many of them had not actually read the cartoon until after they joined Inacronym. The consensus was that everyone liked it. Many suggested that we place a link to the cartoon on the blog. We listened and here it is. We have given the cartoon prime real estate on the main menu of the blog. If you haven’t checked it out yet, just click on the link here or on the menu above for the blog.
The new Inacronym Blog
The official Inacronym blog has finally moved to the Inacronym west coast office in San Francisco, CA. It has been a fun journey finally getting our blog back up and operational after a brief hiatus.
The blog used to be maintained in our east coast offices in Greenville, SC, but is now at home in here in the Bay Area of California.
Now we can get back to doing all the fun blog updates we used to do, but now we do it from the comfort of the Inacronym west coast office.
It’s good to have our blog back!