How To Build a Rocketship

This is a collection of notes I took over the years while running my company. I’m sharing them here to help other founders avoid the same mistakes I made.

I highly recommend the 📙 High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil

Suhail wrote down some good thoughts on what to focus on in the first 18 months of a startup.




See People


See Product

Go To Market

See Go To Market


See Engineering




Focus means saying no to a thousand good ideas (Steve Jobs)

Leverage deadlines


Be careful with team@ - constant battle for the right level of messages.

Avoid anonymous Q&A or AmA. It gives a megaphone to people who just want to stirr the pot and allows them to spread negativity. Instead, create a culture of open communication and feedback, no retaliation, and encourage team members to speak up when they see something wrong or know how to do it better.

#wins channel where deals, releases, press articles and other wins are posted. Encourage everyone to post.

#kudos channel where people can give each other kudos.

Avoid acronyms! Cognitive overhead and hard to decipher for newbies, ambiguous

Leadership Tools

  1. clarity of purpose
  2. clarity of plan
  3. clarity of responsibility

The 5 Whys

The 5 whys is a tool for finding the root cause of a problem quickly by simply continuing to ask why something happened until you find the root cause. It originated at Toyota.

For example:

  1. Why did the release ship late? Because we didn’t finish all the work.
  2. Why did we not finish all the work? Because we thought it would take less time.
  3. Why did we think it would take less time? Because we underestimated the complexity of our design.
  4. Why did we underestimate the complexity of our design? Because we didn’t look at alternatives.
  5. Why did we not look at alternatives? Because we always just go with the first design.

So to solve this problem, let’s look at alternative, simpler designs before starting to build.

Decision making

Make provisional decision fast based on information available. Then define what new information would disprove it (Reid Hoffman)

You can’t steer anything until it moves.

📖 Jeff Bezos on Decision Making


Manage orgs by budget, not headcount. Your functional leaders know better how to allocate resources within their team than you do. Your job is to set the right goals and the budget. They will figure out the best way to achieve those goals within the budget.

One-on-One Meetings

Good questions to ask in a direct or skip-level 1:1:

Staff Meetings

Remember the purpose of the meeting may be more for your reports then for you. While you have context on what every executive is doing, the other executives will not otherwise have clarity into their peers’ organizations. The weekly staff meetings are meant to create a forum for knowledge sharing and issue raising, relationship building, collaboration, and strategy.

Start meetings with a trip report or other personal things to foster relationships between every team member. This may feel like a waste of time when there are so many tasks to get to, but it is a good investment that will pay back in the form of a more collaborative and supportive team.


Key questions:

  1. What can we be the best in the world at?
  2. What drives our economic engine?
  3. What are we passionate about?

Good to great.

Simple plan - hedgehog

Change is your default. Change it unless it is crystal clear that the old way is substantially better. Execution involves change. Embrace it.

📖 Many Strategies Fail Because They’re Not Actually Strategies

The Five Questions Of Strategy

  1. What are our broad aspirations for our organization & the concrete goals against which we can measure our progress?
  2. Across the potential field available to us, where will we choose to play and not play?
  3. In our chosen place to play, how will we choose to win against the competitors there?
  4. What capabilities are necessary to build and maintain to win in our chosen manner?
  5. What management systems are necessary to operate to build and maintain the key capabilities?

📖 The Five Questions Of Strategy


Messaging / Positioning

📙 Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action