Startup Secrets Sandbox
Startup Secrets Sandbox
Personal Entrepreneurship

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People First

Start with self awareness, find a mentor and identify your super powers.
The world is driven by people, so I always put people first in all my thinking. This is a principle that runs deep for me and applies wherever and whenever I think of anything.
For example as an investor it applies as the first thing we consider for an investment. We look at and evaluate the team we are considering investing in, individually and collectively. We look for 7 A's as attributes of the founders and who they've attracted around them. (See
for more on this.)
Why could this matter for you in a startup?
And what could People First as a principle do for you as a founder?
It's simple really. If you get it right, your people will be happy and productive teaming around their strengths and weaknesses and serve your customers and partners in the most effective way, using their super powers to everyone's mutual benefit and enabling your startup to gain competitive advantage compared with anyone who isn't putting their people first.
As a next step, I'll pick out just one of the 7 A’s that we attribute to great founders...

Self Awareness

Self aware people are easy to work with because they know their strengths and weaknesses and are therefore most likely to team with those that can fill in their weaknesses or amplify their strengths. (Personally, the older I've become, the more I've realized how many weaknesses I have and how much I have to learn. It's helped me ask for more help and enjoy self improvement.)

Good news - you can start with yourself! In order to adopt the "People First" principle you actually need to put your own Oxygen Mask on before helping others. This means getting self aware yourself.
Ask yourself a few basic questions:
Do you know your strengths and could you identify your super power? If not who could you ask? Think about asking them things like
"What strengths do you think I have that I could develop, and which if any could be super powers?"
"Where do I do best for you and the rest of the team? Where would you not just want but (uniquely) need me involved?"
Who can you trust to tell you your weaknesses and where you need help? Think about asking them things like
"What weaknesses of mine hold you or any of the team back and where should I be aware to not enage?"
"Specifically where don't you need me, and where do you really think it's not good for me to be involved?
Use these kinds of questions in an ongoing fashion and encourage your team to regularly give you feedback on how to develop and stay in your " super power zone".

Super powers

A super power is something you’re uniquely good at. Or even if it’s not unique it’s something people turn to you for help with because they know you're great at it and love doing it. It will also most probably give you "
" doing it and so you'll have the energy to really persist and nail it. If you or others feel you don't have a superpower, where do you feel you get into "flow" and where do you or others tthink you could develop one best over time?
Sometimes you have to develop the experience, knowledge and skills to have a super power. Be persistent and patient with yourself if that’s the case. (See .)
What's a good way to develop and sustain your super powers?


Find someone who can hold the mirror up to you when you can't see yourself, so they can help you with what they and others see and help you gain self awareness. I call this a Mirror Mentor because they can help you get and keep perspective of yourself. This is vital if you’re to ensure you’re going to not just gain self awareness but confirm how others actually perceive you.

You also need mentors who can help you identify, develop and connect with your super powers and develop them. Ideally, find someone who can offer this in a mutual mentoring relationship so you can both help each other to be your best. Learn more about Mastering Mutual

A Do and a Don’t and a Tip:


reach out to diverse resources that know you and can be honest and constructive with you, be they family members, friends, neighbors, peers or professionals. A diversity can provide broader more representative feedback of the real world you’ll encounter. Of course feel free to just take this as input and shape it in your own unique way, to develop the skills and mindset you need to succeed.


fall into the trap of copying someone. We are all unique and deserve to find our own path. That’s why Startup Secrets is not a rote approach. It’s designed as a series of frameworks to help you find your feet and then build in your own shoes to run faster than anyone else, just like

Tip: Find your “flow”

It's very unlikely you're going to build a superpower if it's something that is really taxing on you as you do it. Whereas by contrast if it's something that you really enjoy and you get into "
" while you're working on it, it's going to make you happy, bring you energy and it's going to cause you to do more of it in a very strong self reinforcing motion.
As I referenced above, it's why I encourage you to really understand the concept of "
" and look for it yourself or ask other people to observe where you get into that state. (FYI I'm in flow writing this article because I really get excited thinking of you finding your flow and super powers!)
If you're not finding flow at work, a suggested next read is this

Conclusion - it’s up to you!

People first is a powerful principle that starts with you! So if it appeals to you, get going by writing you own self awareness profile with two columns for your perceived strengths and weaknesses and compare them in the second column with what others see you to be.
How I see my strengths and weaknesses
How others see them
There are no rows in this table
This will be a great baseline for you to learn from. It’s also a great starting point for you to talk to potential mentors. In turn it can help you develop your super powers and use them to get ahead as an entrepreneur, and even lead others to do the same as a founder.
Suggested next reading:

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