natasha

general technology editor at hackernoon.com.

Advice for Founders from a Veteran Startup Accelerator

This post is part of the Hacker Noon Shareholder Series, where we interview some of the super-investors who made the site you're on right now possible.
Louis Lebbos has been helping tech startups scale-up for over half a decade.
We sat down to find out what he’s learned. 

In your role as a founding partner, how do you cultivate a culture of collaboration and innovation within the team at AstroLabs?

Two of our core values are to dream big and make it happen. Our mission to have a real impact over a very long horizon coupled with the constraint to make it happen in the immediate future force us to be creative and innovative in the way we design and deliver our products and services. 
I think the other core element of our culture is that we take our work but not ourselves seriously. So this combination of humor and mental flexibility ends up playing an important role in freeing us from constraining intellectual frameworks and a specific “right way” to do business.

What do you think is most important for founders to know about attracting and retaining the right talent to grow their startup?

Be an organization that truly cares about developing its team. A group of people who are living authentically attracts other people who have similar values and aspirations.
Where do you think the biggest opportunities are for tech entrepreneurs and/or software developers in Dubai?

What would be your number one piece of advice to a wantrepreneur, sitting on a startup idea s/he hasn’t yet had the courage to begin?

Don’t do it! Kidding. Do it — but bake it on the side, while working somewhere else. Honestly, it takes a couple of years to get something going and if everyone is saying “Quit and do it” we end up seeing so many people who have exhausted their savings but the traction is not there yet to be able to fundraise. 
Bake it while you are getting a full time salary or a paying gig and when it has generated traction you can jump onboard and take it to the next level.

What would be your advice to a founder in the process of pitching for funding?

RECONSIDER! Funding is not for everyone. There’s like 2–5% of business models and founder types that fit the Venture Capital model.
For everyone else, consider bootstrapping, consider alternative modes of funding. (If you are in the US, the team at indie.vc and Earnest capital are doing interesting stuff.)
It is tempting to have a funding announcement be the milestone you are proud of. 
Read Joel Gascoigne, Sahil Lavingia, DHH and Jason Fried first.

What would be your advice to a founder, looking to scale-up and finally find profitability this year?

Two things:
1. Look at anything you are spending $ on because of ego and cut it out. You will get there.
2. Don’t be shy about charging money for what you do (and charge more).
Freedooommmmmm!!!! <insert braveheart gif :) >

What are your personal approaches to decision-making, focus and prioritization?

First, it’s important to not feel like you need to be busy to be effective. 
Effectiveness correlates to how clearly you think & your ability to make sound decisions. Time is not the bottleneck, but people still feel the urge to fill-up their time with “work”. If you analyze outcomes you will notice that true value was driven by 10–20% of the time spent.
The second element is a robust filtration mechanism. Some practical examples:
Eliminate notifications; distraction is the enemy of clear thinking (Apps, email, junk newsletters). Limit the use of messaging (No WhatsApp).Manage a clean inbox (Inbox zero + Gmail Snooze + getting off of CC loops).Professionally, only work with people (clients, partners) who get things done.Spend most of your time with the people you value the most and on the challenges that excite you the most.Meditate.Social Media: the eternal time suck. How have you learned to use social media to your advantage, as a public-facing profile in Dubai’s tech ecosystem?
In brief:
Twitter as a learning mechanism, LinkedIn for recruiting, publishing and feedback, Facebook for family and really close friends, Instagram… haven’t mastered that one yet :)

Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Hacker Noon community, Louis! Is there anything else we should know?

To the whole hackernoon community in the MENA region or visiting, we would love to have you join us as speakers at one of our meetups or instructor in our Academy; and we obviously would love to have you join us as well. Reference Hackernoon and get a month off your annual membership! :)

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