10 Nuggets of Advice for Early Stage Founders

Name Katie Mulligan Director of Platform at Pillar VC

One of the core shared traits across many founders who have risen to success is curiosity — a relentless desire to learn from others. Building a company can be lonely for many CEOs, but it doesn’t have to be; many of the strongest founders we know spend time learning from people who have traveled the road ahead, an incredibly powerful way to avoid making preventable mistakes. 

It’s not easy to make time to seek those people out when you’re a busy founder. We spun up the Founder Playlist to solve this challenge, meeting CEOs where they are with short, simple, concrete audio clips with advice from founders of some of the companies we most admire, CEOs like Brian Halligan (HubSpot), Corey Thomas (Rapid7) and Gail Goodman (Constant Contact).

Here are some of the biggest takeaways.


Set your own definition of success.

You will face moments where the feedback you receive is negative: someone might not give you money, or even tell you your idea is terrible. Be humble, but don’t get caught up in the noise. When you start defining success by those around you, you will have a really hard time powering your way through.
CEO at The Leadership Consortium

Find a great co-founder.

Enough said. ​
CEO at HubSpot



Take the time to really listen to your customers.

Make a list of every question you can think of — everything from positioning to pricing and branding — and go out and talk to your current or intended group of customers. Never stop talking to them, and never assume you know what they want and what they care about.
Founder at Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs
Director of Product Management at Drift

Commit to the problem you are trying to solve, not your particular solution.

Over time, you might find that there are better ways to solve this problem, and creating this mindset from the outset will allow you the flexibility to pivot. Growing a company is a constant series of course corrections. The earlier you start to get feedback and can begin to course correct, the better.
CTO at HubSpot



Know your value proposition.

What are you doing and why are you doing it? This is your North Star. Be able to effectively and concisely communicate this, and once you have mastered it, it will allow you to attract the talent you want, it will help in identifying your target market, and everything in between.
SVP, People Operations at Drizly

In the early days, make room to meet with people outside of your company.

You may get advice that you should focus all of your time and energy on the product, but this doesn’t account for how much you can gain by simply going out and meeting people. Obviously this shouldn’t be all that you do, but try blocking time on your schedule to take coffee chats. Pro tip: try starting a podcast. It doesn’t have to be successful, but you can learn so much from interviewing someone about a topic.
CEO at ProfitWell



Keep your eyes open, and never stop learning.

Failure truly is part of the process. Entrepreneurship is a long journey, and the key is not avoiding failures along the way — but responding to them and learning from them.
Founder and Principal at Company Counsel

Learn how to scale yourself.

Be intentional about how you use your time. Reflect on what activities have the highest ROI either because you enjoy doing them or because you are the only one who can do them. Strike a balance between these, and then delegate other tasks. Scaling yourself and making yourself replaceable is actually a good thing. As your business grows there are going to be more complex problems and you shouldn’t be the one solving all of them.
Fmr. Head of Restaurant Operations at Uber
Fmr. COO / CFO at PillPack



Make time to invest in your mental health and wellness.

When you are building a company, it is easy to put taking care of yourself as your last priority, but over time this will lead to burnout which is completely inefficient. Whether this looks like taking time to exercise every day, developing a practice around meditation, or taking time off periodically to rest and recharge, it is so important to build this time into your schedule. You can only be a strong leader for your team when you are showing up as the best version of yourself.
Partner at Pillar VC

Understand that it’s going to be harder than you ever would have imagined, but equally rewarding.

You will have to live, breathe, and sacrifice to bring your idea to life. It will be incredibly fulfilling, and you will learn so much, but you need to know what you’re signing up for. Do a big gut check and decide if you are willing to fully commit to this idea.
Chief People Officer at Rapid7
CEO at Spotted


As a founder, you’re going to be bombarded with advice on your journey, so we’ll leave you with one final nugget — listen, process, and follow your conviction about which advices is most relevant for you, feeling confident in how you personally choose to apply it to your journey.