Our CEO and co-founder Laura Behrens-Wu has gotten her share of startup advice over the years. Some advice was quite formative. For example, a former boss told her she needed to create a product that’s a “painkiller not a vitamin.” The tip was fundamental in her shift from running an e-commerce marketplace for artists to developing a solution that would solve not only her shipping pain points but the pain points of e-commerce shippers across the globe.
Not all of the startup advice Laura’s received has been quite as memorable, but coupled with the things she’s learned launching Shippo, she has a lot of stories to share with aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders.
Charu Sharma at Huffington Post sat down with Laura to chat about what drives her and the best startup advice she’s received along the way. Here are a few highlights from the interview.
What is one accomplishment you’re proud of?
Laura: While there have been many achievements on Shippo’s journey, I am relentless when it comes to reaching the next company milestone. Whenever we’ve reached a significant milestone, I’m already looking to to the next, so it’s hard for me to identify a single accomplishment that I’m proud of.
If I had to name something I’m proud of today, it would have to be our team — now a wonderful group of 60 people (and rapidly growing). My co-founder and I are thankful and privileged to be surrounded with such talented people who share our vision and are working towards the same goal everyday.
When have you gone against the flow to achieve your goal?
Laura: Working hard to gain customer traction is a great example of “going against the flow” when we were first trying to get Shippo off the ground. At one point in our early days, we could have easily folded against the pressure of long enterprise sales cycles working against us. But instead, we fought to keep Shippo going. We needed our shipping volume to earn revenue that would make Shippo sustainable and allow us to gain credibility with enterprise companies. Today, we serve over 10,000 business of all sizes that rely on Shippo to make their business successful.
What drives you? How do you measure personal success?
Laura: Being a startup founder means that you learn and experience a lot career-wise in a compressed amount of time. The opportunity to constantly learn drives me each day.
Personally, success means being surrounded by people who are smarter than me, who can teach me something at every turn and help me grow. Growing both personally and professionally is important to me. I never want to be in a position where I later regret not pursuing an opportunity.
What advice can you offer anyone who wants a career in your industry?
Laura: I started in tech as an intern and adopted the approach of taking any opportunity I could get — and then working hard to make the most out of it. I recommend this approach to others as a way of getting their foot in the door.
Over the years, I’ve learned that building your network is important, but it is equally important to not waste your time at superfluous networking events.
If you want to be a founder, my advice would be to build something that resembles “painkillers not vitamins”— sage advice my former CEO once gave me. You’ll want to solve a real problem, rather than just build something that’s “nice to have.”
What is the best startup advice you have for aspiring founders?
Laura: Again, it’s hard to pinpoint a single pearl of wisdom as a catch all. I’ve taken a wide spectrum of advice from mentors before me — and to them, I give my thanks:
- Painkillers not vitamins
Painkillers not vitamins
- It’s better to have a hole in the organization than an a**hole
It’s better to have a hole in the organization than a a**hole
- Stay optimistic, work hard, and don’t give up
Stay optimistic, work hard, and don’t give up
- Fake it until you make it. Perception matters, but you’ll have to actually make it later on
Fake it until you make it. Perception matters but you will have to actually make it later on
- Hire slow and fire fast
Hire slow and fire fast
- Building a strong culture will be a driving force of your business
Building a strong culture will be a driving force of your business
- A good co-founder is invaluable
A good co-founder is invaluable
For more startup advice, check out Laura’s life lessons for starting a startup.
Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.