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Startup co-founder and CEO: Advice for running a startup

Jon talks about the challenges of running Kodable and shares advice for prospective startup founders.

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Video transcript

The best reason I've ever had for starting a start-up is that you can't not do it. You have to see a need. You have to have something. You have to have some itch, that you know, this needs to exist in the world and if you don't build it, no one's gonna build it. And, you can't go into it for the money, you can't go into it 'cause you wanna work for yourself, 'cause you end up working for everyone else. You just need to go into it with that goal. So I think the most important skills a start-up founder can have is really, you have to be formidable. And, the way you think about that is, there's gonna be days that you feel like you're on top of the world, and there's gonna be days where every ounce of your being wants to just quit, and go get a nice cushy job, get your catered lunches, and your nice desks and everything else, and just stop this whole dumb start-up thing. And, you have to be able to fight through that. You're gonna screw up. There's gonna be times where you have a lot of problems. You're gonna have a lot of things happen that go wrong. Whether it's your fault, or whether it's someone else's fault, things are gonna go wrong. And, you have to get through that. You have to be able to handle that, and a lot of people can. You will make all of the mistakes. You won't make mistakes, you will make all of the mistakes as a start-up founder. Especially as a first-time start-up founder, which most people are. Most people don't have the resiliency to do this two or three times. So, you're gonna mess things up. I've messed up everything. So, a long time ago back when Kodable was just an app, we had this game, and we would make money by selling in an app purchase, which was additional levels. And, at the time, it was just me and my co-founder, and we wanted to ship an update before Christmas. And the app store closes down for like three weeks over Christmas, and it's the biggest volume sales part of the year for a lot of apps because everyone's getting their new iPads. So, we shipped an update, and in that update, I messed up the code, and everything was unlocked for everybody. So, the only source of revenue we had, people couldn't buy. So I tried to submit an update to fix the problem, and they wouldn't expedite the request. So the app store ended up shutting down. So for the most of the month of December, we couldn't make any money, and that was kinda, kinda screwed that one up pretty bad. But we survived, you know? I think one of the other biggest mistakes I've made is not firing people quick enough. That is hard, very hard. I think most people don't understand how hard it is. They think on paper, "Oh yeah, if they're messin' up, fire 'em." But it's harder when you have a small company when, if you fire that person, there's gonna be a big impact on what you can produce, what you can do. But usually when you start thinking that to yourself, you need to do it pretty quickly. I think the thing I love most about start-up life is I'm getting to build something. I'm a builder, it's who I am in my nature. Everything I do, I wanna build. And, I'm building a company which is pretty close to the top of the list of things you can build. And, I'm impacting millions of kids around the world. And I'll look at, you know I'll walk into the office and I'll see all these people working on something that didn't exist a few years ago. We get pictures from kids all the time. Or teachers, pictures of kids all the time. And, that's amazing to me. It never gets old. It's really awesome. If we weren't making such a big difference in the world, I do not think I could've put up with all the garbage that I have for the past five years. I like to phrase it, that that's the cost of making a difference. It'd be a lot easier to start something else but working in education, you've gotta pay the price to make a difference.