In startupland, which is full of Hackers and Hustlers, the Hacker spends their effort on excluding potential issues, features, product paths, partners, technologies, etc., while the Hustler focuses on including, well, everyone.
Its in the DNA of the Hustler to work towards getting a ‘yes.’ Its what drives them. Getting users, investors, partners and the like to say yes to their vision and passion is the penultimate effort for a Hustler.
For most, it creates the appearance of a lack of focus (for some) and a complete lack of focus (for others).
This is the primary rub between Hackers and Hustlers and the #1 reason that founders divorce. Hackers demand focus. Hustlers demand ‘yeses,’ which, by definition, require a high level of flexibility which leads to a lack of focus.
I am a Hustler. Yes, a Hustler with a capital H. And because of that, my #1 fault is my apparent inability to realize when I am being unfocused.
I love the word yes. Who doesnt?
Yes means work. Yes means shifting priorities. Yes means roadmap adjustments. Yes means late nights and frustration. Yes means a loss of faith.
I hate the word no. Passionately hate it. It doesn’t compute. How can we become a better company because people are saying no. When I raised my Series A, 37 potential investors said no.
That’s more than enough no to last me a lifetime.
About eight months ago, I realized this very dynamic. To help a Hacker be successful, they need the space to focus on problems and solutions, and to do that, everything that is not core to that mission has to be thrown away.
The Hustler has to learn to say no, and by doing that gives the Hacker the ability to build awesome things, because they arent spending time in meetings or thinking about how to “just make it work,” or make “that deal that is going to make the company” work.
They are just building.
Eight months ago, I started to force myself to say No multiple times per day. I started with my dogs. And, yes, those punks didnt listen, but at least I learned I could say the word and not feel bad.
Then I took our product roadmap, and every time an idea or potential deal was brought to the table, I weighed it against that roadmap, and as a default, I said No.
No. Not right now. And the quality of our product and the speed at which it was developed – and more importantly, the ease at which its selling – has accelerated.
The power of no.
Saying no for the Hustler is a learned skill. It seems like a simple thing, but its really the antithesis of a Hustler’s core value.
Does that mean a Hacker should learn to say yes?
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Every year when people start applying to Techstars (now in 3 cities!), I get emails and phone calls asking for my advice.
I always ask the same question, “Do you have a Hacker and a Hustler?”
Sometimes, I get the response, “Im both.”
To which I suggest that they rethink their application. Its nearly impossible for a single founder to have much success building his startup, let alone getting through a program like Techstars (or Y-Combinator or any of the dozens of others). One person can not do it all. Its really that simple.
What do I mean by a Hacker and a Hustler?
A Hacker is more than a code monkey, who can quickly build software and find interesting ways to hack together code. Thats a developer. Thats someone who is definitely an important part of a startup, but not critical to its success. A Hacker is someone who looks the problem, and solves it in a unique and special way. A Hacker finds the process of problem solving exciting and interesting, and spends the majority of their time looking at the problem in multiple ways, finding many potential solutions.
Often the Hacker is a coder, but not always the best coder you have on your team. Nate and Natty, of Everlater, are decent coders at best. In the last couple of years, they have taught themselves, by trial and error, how to code. I would imagine if you asked either one of them if they considered themselves amazing developers, they would probably indicate otherwise. But as Hackers? They are amazing.
A Hustler on the other other hand is a relationship builder. Someone who can build direct relationships with their customers. They arent really promoters, although they do a lot of promotion. They arent salespeople, although they do a lot of selling. They are passion people. They have the ability to articulate their passion clearly and in a way that gets other people equally passionate.
A true Hustler can get people using their product, or raise money, with little to no capital expenditure. Any one can run a Google Adwords campaign, or buy a billboard. Only a Hustler can get you to love their product in a way where you will speak passionately about it to your friends. A true Hustler is patient zero in a viral campaign.
My favorite young Hustler is Garry Tan of Posterous. Their recent campaign about switching from “dying” services to Posterous is genius, and a great example of the Hacker/Hustler dynamic. To figure out how to import data from one system to another is never easy, yet Posterous has hacked together some great importers. Rather than just releasing an “All-in-One” importer, Garry decided to release one a week, and build some noise around it. Not only has their been noise, but Posterous’ growth has been reported on (since they are self-proclaimed not dying) several times.
Was it just Garry’s idea? I would guess that with investors/advisors like Tim Ferriss, Chris Sacca, Paul Graham and others that it may have originated from the larger group, but his execution of it has been perfect.
A Hacker and a Hustler. Every great startup has a pair. Woz and Jobs are probably the most successful Hacker and Hustler tandem out there, there are thousands.
Ask yourself, as you begin down the path of building a great startup, are you a Hacker or a Hustler? Does your team have both pieces?
If you lack one or the other, your ability to be successful greatly diminishes.
(BTW: A topic for another post, but a company doesnt need a Hacker and a Hustler forever. Its why most startups see at least one founder leave.)
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