Your willingness to participate and support organizations like ACP AdvisorNet is appreciated. What drove you to pursue web development, being that the internet was so new in 1995? Can you please provide some insight on what you did to take such a risk?
Jeremy, it wasn’t such a risk, since I got lucky with my timing.
In early 1995 I left Charles Schwab, where I’d been evangelizing the Internet, telling people that e-commerce, including brokerage work, would migrate to the Net. This was based, in the short term, in working with an unrecognized guy (Darius Milewski) showing me the earliest Web technology, the NCSA server and the first graphic browser.
That built on my nerdy tendency to read science fiction, which, seriously, prepared me for the changes that the Internet would facilitate. (This is a real “paradigm change”, leading right now to a major “power shift”; apologies for using outdated business cliches.)
My first real gig was helping build the Bank of America site HomeBanking, while running craigslist by myself, as a hobby.
After two years, Silicon Valley job posters were asking to pay me to post jobs, and I just followed through.
The biggest risk taken: in ‘99, when I had to make craigslist into a real company, I declined the usual industry thing to take a huge amount of money, deciding that I know when enough is enough. Seriously, no one needs a billion dollars.
Hi Craig, thank you for taking the time to participate. For those of us who are finishing school and would like to go into a startup or pursue our own entrepreneurial endeavors, what advice would you give?
Well, decide if you want to build something which is cool or something which is useful. Sure, you can do both, but I’d suggest the useful part.
Start building your own branding and identity, both for you and as an individual. You’re responsible for your own reputation, which is as important as what you create. Plan for worst-case scenarios if you get traction, when bad actors might attack via unscrupulous media.
Treat people like you want to be treated.
In what direction is social media headed? What niches do you see for veterans to capitalize? Thanks for all you do- I use craigslist all the time.
Levi, social media is just about how people talk to each other, it’s getting greater and greater usage, and becoming the usual thing for everyone everywhere, over time. Some media tools will continue to be big, or maybe fade away, and new ones appear that might appeal to particular groups.
I figure find ones that feel right to you, and use them, to connect with people socially and professionally, and then, I’d like you to use social media to support the causes that matter to you. Like maybe you can use social media to support veterans and military families.
What is the most important part of my résumé: education and certifications, or my military experience? Are organizations more interested in your experience if you are a veteran?
The most valuable skills vets possess are the most difficult to articulate to civilians, including even myself. Those include:
- attitude and ability to get stuff done
- situational awareness
- ability to articulate a cogent sitrep
- fast adaptation to changing circumstances
There’s more, but these are major vets’ skills that are really valuable in business that are hard to communicate with a civilian hiring manager.
The problem is the civilian-military cultural divide, and it’s really bad in hiring, since civilians aren’t trained to understand military culture, and vets aren’t trained in civilian life. (I’m quietly pushing DoD to do a better job in the Transition Assistance Program, but change is slow.)
A hiring manager will usually want to give a vet a break, but won’t understand what a military résumé will be talking about. (Also working on that with DoD TAP and other efforts, but little progress.)
I’d recommend a frank discussion with the hiring manager about the skills that I list above and ask the manager to help you translate that into the language and culture of his or her company. That’s extra work for him or her, but I feel it’s okay to ask. You can blame me for the extra time required.
What was the biggest challenge for maintaining quality and integrity on user-generated content within craigslist?
In early years, where I handled it myself, it was building a tough skin.
This is part of customer service, and in such a position you get no respect and a lot of abuse, earned or otherwise. Dealing with that abuse is hard.
(I do lightweight customer service only these days, fifteen or so years of intense customer service is enough.)
What advice would you give to technology consultants establishing a new firm?
I’d build something useful, maybe cool, but focus on useful.
Take responsibility for your individual and team branding, identity, and reputation since that will largely determine if people want to work with you.
Talk to lawyers and tax people from the beginning, there’s a lot of trouble in law and taxes that could become a very ugly surprise.
Hello Craig, welcome to ACP. I got out of the Army in December and decided to start a business selling Renewable Energy Systems. I open my office in April, but I worry about the first 3 months of the business. Do you have any advice on finding supplementary income sources during this time?
Christianah, I’m not so good in this area, but… Sharing economy jobs might offer you the best opportunity to make some cash in a way that suits your needs.
For example, Uber’s hiring a lot of vets. I talk to a lot of drivers, many of whom are building their own startups, and it’s working for them. Also, the networking might be really valuable. In one case, I’ve asked for a résumé from a programmer, or, I decided the use of emerging services from a coupla drivers.
I am an emerging speaker and author releasing my second book. My website is www.MooreMotivated.com, and my wife and I have been doing what we can with our limited budget since we both just got out of the military. What are some easy, inexpensive or free ways to stand out in a desired, but crowded, market?
Dave, there’s a lot of people who want to do the same thing you do, and the only response is to do high quality, meaningful interaction with people in social media.
Provide useful stuff for people and be generous with ‘em.
Role models include Gary Vanderchuk, Guy Kawasaki, Marcia Collier, and Sean Gardner.
How do you find investors for your business if neither you, nor your friends or family can afford to invest?
Steven, I got lucky, since I ran my thing for a few years for fun, spending little money… and then people asked me to let them pay me. So, I’m not good at this one.
However, the use of crowdfunding, like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, work for a lot of people. The key is organizational realism and discipline. Planning a new product requires that you’re realistic about what it takes to make something new, and the discipline to do actual manufacturing. In particular, outsourcing is harder than you think.
I am in a temporary contractual position. At the end of the first month, is it appropriate for me to ask my supervisor to critique job performance and/or ask how to better my job performance?
Patrick, I’d suggest you do it. In particular, I’d suggest that any vet do so, due to the civilian/military cultural gap. It’s really hard for your manager to cross that gap, he or she will be reluctant to do so, and it’s up to you.
If that’s awkward in any manner, blame me.
What traits do you think every leader should have?
Treat people like you want to be treated.
BLUF: bottom line up front; get to the point, or “brevity’s the soul of wit.”
(I figure you know that better than me.)
Hello Craig. I've been in the Army for ten years. My major in college is Public Management, and I am just over one semester away from graduating. What is the most important thing a veteran can do when looking for a job right out of college?
Caleb, it has to do with the civilian/military cultural divide that I talked about above. Civilians and vets don’t really know how to talk with each other when it comes to job culture.
I’d talk to local and national VSOs to get a hand with that, even go to networking events put on by companies. IAVA can help, and VetsInTech is really good to get vets to tech companies.
Also, I’d go for interviews and tell the hiring manager that you’ll need her or his help making sense of military skills in civilian job terms. Ask for a little extra time, and if he or she balks, tell ‘em I said it’s okay.
Craig, I am interested in entrepreneurship and I want to start my own company, but I don't have any great ideas. How can I find worthwhile problems to solve and help others out?
This is really hard, since people are always looking for the great new idea, so there’s a lot of competition for any potentially saleable scrap of novelty.
I’d suggest looking at the way you work, and then, figure out how it could be done better. You might not be the only person who needs something to work better, and your solution might be marketable.
Thanks for doing this Craig. I am launching a new app with web integration. When you first started, how did you find the right leadership to help you scale?
Eric, I got lucky.
I’m a nerd, and after running the company for a year, people helped me understand that as a manager, I suck.
Fortunately, I’d already hired a good guy who had more natural management skills than I had, and then I delegated it all to him.
The lesson is to admit to oneself one’s shortcomings, and to get outta the way as necessary.
Thank you for your support to our veteran community. I have submitted hundreds of résumés online, but I am getting a lot of "sorry" and rejections. I’m a service- connected disabled veteran and I fear it's hurting me by self-identifying, but in the same respect, I feel inclined to tell potential employers I am. Any advice?
Michael, this reflects some of the advice previously given, citing the cultural divide between vets and civilians.
I can suggest that if you sense a combination of possible job fit, and convenience, ask the hiring manager to bring you in for an informational interview. If it feels right, ask for a little coaching and also for a civilian style update to your resume.
(Maybe I should ask all American hiring managers to do this, now and then.)
Do you have any thoughts on a pipeline for transitioning veterans into a Lean Startup ecosystem? Being exposed to a fast-paced, mission-oriented, doing more with less, and "one-mind one-team" mindset, this field makes a nice fit for military folks. I've been in Silicon Valley a few years, and the non-agile, self-service politics are opposites of military strategy and I can't un-train team-based thinking.
Mark, I don’t have a really good suggestion, except find a way to hang out in a coworking, collaborative work space, where the approach is flexible and agile.
In NYC, I’m offering scholarships to vets for a new civic tech space called Civic Hall. Small program, but it’s a start.