Startup Success Relies On Resilience

"I was tired of being a founder and desperately needed a break," said Leah Culver in 2013. Fast forward today, Culver recently sold her third startup, a podcast app called Breaker, to Twitter. However, it wasn’t always a piece of cake. Culver’s recipe for success called for resilience, resourcefulness, and influence.

Resilience is falling nine times, getting up 10. While rising back up is just part of resilience, the other is adopting a positive attitude. Harvard Business Review describes how a lack of resilience makes it “harder to see the bigger picture and the positive, creative possibilities.” Resilience is the key to success because it changes your perception and the way you respond to challenges. Those who develop this skill, view setbacks as catalysts of growth and progress rather than threats.

One of the biggest predictors of success is resilience. Take it from Culver. Her ability to remain open, flexible, and adaptable to the startup landscape makes her what she is today: A resilient founder.

What Makes Leah Culver A Special Founder

  • Resilience: With a decade worth of startup experience, you need resilience to keep pushing forward. In 2011, Culver shared three startup lessons: Don’t add too many features right away, startups are emotionally taxing, and be patient when building a company. Culver found that with her first and second startup, Pownce and Convore, she struggled. However, she was persistent and adjusted to the startup lifestyle, switched her thought process from, “Can I build it?” to “Should I build it?” and understood that a product needs time to mature. Resilience isn’t developed overnight. It comes from the chance to work through the toughest challenges.  
  • Resourcefulness: In 2006, Culver was an interface engineer at Instructables. At the time, she had been using an old G3 Macintosh computer but had her eyes set on a new MacBook. Unfortunately, Culver didn’t have the means to buy a laptop, so she hatched a brilliant idea to raise the funds by selling ad space on her computer's case. If that isn’t resourceful, we don’t know what is. Culver quickly sold ad space and soon after purchased a brand new laptop. The takeaway here is that no matter what constraint or obstacle you’re facing, take the opportunity to be imaginative and persistent.
  • Influence: Needless to say, Culver has made a major impact on Silicon Valley. In 2008, Fast Company named Culver one of the Most Influential Women in Web 2.0 as Pownce’s lead developer and founder. And in 2019, Fast Company again nominated her as one of their Most Creative People with her influence of OAuth. Ever heard of it? Culver authored this “open-standard authentication” framework for users to access sites like Amazon, Google, and Yelp without giving up their passwords. Oh, let's not forget she co-created OEmbed, a format designed to embed content from one website onto another page. Whether you’ve noticed or not, you’ve encountered Culver’s work.

There will be many times throughout your career where you'll feel like throwing in the towel at nine. But, it's getting back on your feet the tenth time that truly shows your character. While building resilience takes grit, perseverance, time, and practice, the long-term outcomes are well worth the effort. If Leah Culver can push forward, so can you.

Quote of the Week:

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” –Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox

Conversation Starters

  • Candor: We’ve all encountered good and bad career advice. Which of these truths resonate with you the most? (Source: Twitter)
  • Coaching: January is National Mentoring Month! Reflect on those who have positively impacted your life and find opportunities to pass the torch. (Source: Forbes)
  • Empathy: While empathy may not be the cure for a divided nation, abandoning it could deepen the partition. (Source: The Washington Post)
  • Hiring: Jennifer Kim, a startup advisor, compiled a list of tweets on hiring, career advice, and startup/tech culture. (Source: Twitter)
  • Social Media Management: The internet is donzo with Trump. After Twitter's permanent ban, social media giants like Snapchat, Pinterest, and Reddit are restricting pro-Trump violence and conspiracies. (Source: Axios)

Editor’s Corner

Question of the Week: “Lately, I haven’t been receiving any feedback from my co-workers or manager on my projects. Is there such thing as zero feedback?” —Reena, social media marketer

Editor’s Recommendation: No, there’s no such thing as zero feedback. There’s always room for improvement. If you aren’t getting feedback right away, this is your opportunity to be proactive and seek it out. Here’s what I recommend: Identify the right people for feedback, set up a meeting, ask clarifying questions, and follow up later.

Once you’ve set up a feedback session, come into the meeting prepared with open-ended questions like, “What are specific ways I can better support our team?” or “What do you think is currently working and not working with my time management?” Also, encourage your peers to be candid, direct, and specific when giving feedback.

After you’ve implemented the feedback, make sure to share your progress with your peers. It’ll show them that their constructive feedback truly made an impact on your professional growth.

Now’s Your Turn

It's time to bounce back. Ask your peers to see how much progress you’ve made with your resilience skills.

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