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Tech start-up lessons to learn from The Interview

Nine start-up lessons tech co-founders can learn from Aaron and Dave
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(Photo: Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nine start-up lessons tech co-founders can learn from Aaron and Dave from The Interview.

1. Founder chemistry. A must. It's almost like you are married to one another. The bromance between Dave and Aaron is palpable. Larry Page and Sergey Brin definitely demonstrated that.

2. It's OK to be a contrarian. Work on things you are passionate about, even if the world doesn't agree with you.

After Dave and Aaron got an opportunity to interview Kim Jung Un, everyone thought it was a bad idea or they weren't qualified. But they went against the grain and trusted their gut.

Investor Peter Thiel is famous for his question, "What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on?" Ben Silberman (Pinterest) and Tim Westergren (Pandora) were contrarians before any investor believed them.

3. A good team makes the ride worth it. Don't worry if you are not solving problems right away. The team is really the most important thing that will get you there.

For Dave and Aaron, it was Aaron's itch to find a meaningful pivot as a serious interviewer and Dave honoring Aaron's wish.

Slack started out as an online video game and eventually had to pivot to productivity portal. The founders had to let 30 employees go before they found a way to solve enterprise productivity. The company is valued at $1.1 billion now.

4. Nothing but the truth. Disagreements happen between co-founders but it's important that they are able to withstand that with an honest and transparent conversation without being hurt.

When Agent Lacey was convincing Dave and Aaron to carry on the plan "to take on Kim Jong Un," Dave jumped to be on board until Aaron played the bad cop and pointed out he might be in a "honeypotting" situation.

This blog post from Berkley Entrepreneurship Center discusses how to have an honest conversation. In fact in his book, The Alliance, Reid Hoffman speak about how organizations in general should be honest so everyone benefits from that.

5. Delegate — you can't do it all. Sometimes you have to listen to your co-founder and let them make important decisions -- even if that means losing control.

Dave trusts Aaron on his decision to trust Sook with the operation. Kathryn Minshew of The Muse has talked about delegation and decision-making with co-founders.

"Avoid thinking that you have to do it all," Meetup.com CEO Scott Heiferman said. "Divide and conquer. Do what you are best at and let others take care of the rest. Each founder should focus on his or her strengths."

6. Give credit. Don't forget to give your co-founder credit and appreciate them for what they bring to the table.

Dave told Aaron that the show grew in viewership because of him and he wasn't ashamed of admitting to that.

Apple's Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had a similar relationship and they appreciated what each of them brought to the table. "I think what made Apple products special was very much one person, but he (Steve Jobs) left a legacy," Wozniak said.

7. Fail Together Grow Together. Blowing things up (literally and figuratively) and trying to find an escape together will bring you even closer.

Dave and Aaron were close to begin with but became closer after this experience in North Korea.

The story of DodgeBall's is similar. From those ashes of frustration at Google, came Foursquare.

8. Partner up. Find someone much smarter, talented and connected than you to accelerate.

Dave Skylark was going flat with his viewership until he found Aaron Rapoport to produce him, which helped the show become popular.

Vitamin Water partnered with 50 Cent, Instagram that got even awesome-er after being bought by Facebook with 300 million monthly users

9. They hate us cuz they aint us. Don't get distracted by critics. If you learn from Aaron and Dave, with a little luck, your start-up will grow. When it does, it will catch the attention of analysts, bloggers and others who might try to shoot you down.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been fighting such criticism from regulators, competitors and investors from the beginning, but the company is valued at $40 billion today and at a much higher growth trajectory than it's competitors.

Be confident in who you are and what you built. As Dave puts it, "They hate us cuz they ain't us!"

Shruti Gandhi is an investor, entrepreneur and engineer. She was previously with True Ventures, Samsung's Early Stage Investment Fund and three other funds.

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