Rappers are entrepreneurs. If you listen to enough rap lyrics, you’ll glean all kinds of helpful (and not-so-helpful) pieces of advice on getting rich and being the next big thing. I was just listening to Notorious B.I.G.’s “The Ten Crack Commandments” and thought of how very applicable his rules are to us founders. Admittedly, some are more applicable than others and some will steer you entirely in the wrong direction. So let me guide you through how we can apply the 10 Crack Commandments to startup living.
1. “Never let no one know how much dough you hold, that cheddar breed jealousy.”
I’m all for transparency, and internally everyone should be on the same page. But this advice is indispensable if you are speaking to others and especially if your company has just been purchased. It's easy to gloat because the Valley breeds the idea that everyone ALWAYS HAS TO BE CRUSHING IT. Just take the applause and keep moving.
2. “Never let them know your next move.”
This commandment applies to the competition, but not necessarily if you’re just starting out and trying to grow. If you're an established company in a market with competitors, then talking about your next move might give your competitors an advantage. Don’t do that.
But if you're a new startup, you should be screaming your next move while walking down the street (please not before noon). Don’t worry about people "stealing" your great idea. Chances are they aren't crazy enough or they don’t have enough heart to actually build and see your idea through to market.
3. “Never trust nobody.” (People do strange things for money.)
Actually, you should trust the personal network you've created. Learn to trust your network's network. Learn to trust strangers if they can show that their word is their bond. Reach out often. But be selective about the people you let in, especially people who have had bad dealings in the past or have broken their word. You can ask around, and while you may not get an exact answer, someone’s hesitation or uncomfortable body language will be a dead giveaway. Then you’ll know how sensitively you should handle this new connection.
4. “Never get high on your own supply.”
Sorry, gotta disagree with this one: ALWAYS GET HIGH ON YOUR OWN SUPPLY. If you're not using your product, you are absolutely not feeling your users' pain points and working to fix them. If you're building/founding a product that you don't use, chances are it's not going to be a good founder-product fit, or a good product-market fit.
5. “Never sell crack where you rest at.”
Again, it’s okay to merge work and home if you do so delicately. As a founder, you need to sell your product at all times. You should be your company's biggest advocate. If you're not out there cheerleading and you feel shy or have hesitations about explaining what you're doing, you're probably working on the wrong thing. Leave or pivot.
6. “Credit? Forget it.”
Engineers, unless you truly believe in your heart of hearts that this product will sell and the other founders are trustworthy, screw working for equity alone.
And, let’s be honest: Venture capitalists, odds are against you that this investment in a hot new Snapchat clone will work out. You probably won't see that money again.
7. “Keep family and business separated.”
Two takeaways here: First, some families work great together, some don't. Know your dynamic. Second, startups are like families, especially the small ones where everyone has to work together in a room no bigger than a closet. So just remember that this dynamic will be unavoidable and will provide strength when times are tough. Unfortunately, it could tear your heart out if it doesn’t work out, so make sure you're founding a company with someone you know won't screw you over.
And two takeaways on those takeaways: 1. Founder problems are the rule and not the exception. 2. Pro-tip: Talk equity early, be up-front with responsibilities.
8. “Never keep nobody waiting on you.”
Other people's time is just as important is yours. Get to meetings on time. Hit your milestones and deadlines on time. It keeps resentment out of the team dynamic and let's everyone feel important.
9. “If you’re not getting a badge, don’t fuck with police.”
I'll interpret this as just not fucking around with the police if you sell crack. If anyone has any interpretations here, I’m fully open to them… I got nothin’.
10. “Consignment… If you ain’t got the clientele, say hell no.”
For the startup world, consignment can be a powerful thing if done correctly and in the right market. If people use your product to sell their products and they make money, then you take a cut only when it works for them. Think Etsy. It’s a good business model, but you’ve got to have the clientele.