February 12, 2015

Startup Grind: ‘Find your golden purpose’

Jeff Hoffman, who was part of the founding team at Priceline and now runs ColorJar.

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startup teams, businesses, anyone who cares about innovation.

JD LasicaI‘m back from Startup Grind 2015 in Silicon Valley’s Redwood City, an annual two-day affair that attracts thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world.

Here’s my Flickr photo set of 47 shots from the conference, which featured Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, Bill Maris of Google Ventures, Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison and Houzz co-founder Adi Tatarko, among many others.

But the talk I was most taken with was by Jeff Hoffman, a veteran entrepreneur and public speaker who was on Priceline’s founding team and now runs ColorJar. Jeff encouraged the assembled startup founders to “find your golden purpose.”

I’ll be writing about my new startup, Cruiseable, in the coming weeks, and during my entrepreneurial journey I’ve come across many of the two-dimensional characters that Hoffman inveighed against: founders who are in it for the money, entrepreneurs who can’t decide which of a half dozen great ideas to focus on, investors who probe for an exit strategy before the startup has a solid entrance strategy.

Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, at Startup Grind and part of my Flickr set

Steps to achieve your golden purpose

Some of Hoffman’s admonitions may sound familiar to those who’ve been in the startup trenches for a while. But it’s worth holding up as an example of stellar advice to anyone who’s looking to make a difference in the world, whether you’re working at a startup, a nonprofit or elsewhere. New entrepreneurs in particular should find his advice salient.

First, solve a real problem. When you encounter it, see if others have that problem too and want it solved.

Second, don’t focus on the money. “Focus on excellence, because money follows excellence when you build something amazing. Until then, it’s just a PowerPoint.”

Third, if you have six excellent ideas, set five of them free and focus on one. “You achieve excellence by finding something in the world that you can be the best at.” Amazon, he reminded us, “won a gold medal in books” instead of starting out as a marketplace for everything.

Fourth, you can’t do it all yourself, so assemble a great team. “Hire people smarter than you. From day one you should be planning to hand off everything you’re not great at.”

Fifth, find and understand your customers. “You can’t talk to them in sales mode or service mode. Go and hang out with them, have pizza and beer. Find out about their lives and desires.”

And finally, Hoffman advised, find your golden purpose. “You’ll find your golden purpose at the intersection of three things: Are you doing the thing you’re the best at? Are you doing the thing you love? And are you doing something the world values? If you are, then amazing things happen.”

Bravo.JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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