I never thought I’d end up in a wooden box at age 31, but here I am, surrounded by timber. I buried myself in the jail cell version of a hotel room. When I landed in Singapore, I found several “capsule hotels.” Since I was exploring minimalism, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take my experiment one step further. My two-square-meter capsule is the ultimate reduction to the essential. If anything were taken away in my cell, it would become a coffin. One light switch and one power outlet seems enough. Less would be impractical, but more already feels like a waste.
In startup-land, not many people think about minimalism. Growth equals success, and success is the result of focus and ambition. But ambition itself can be the biggest enemy of focus. During my 10-year journey from zero dollars to tens of millions in revenue, I was really good at doing “more.”
As CEO, I had the power to put anything on the agenda. The gravity of my aspiration pulled me toward doing too much of that. Out of ambition, I was shoving too much food on our plate. After eating up, the team and I usually felt a little sick.
The phrase “less is more” in an architectural sense was employed by the famous Bauhaus-affiliated Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. I’ve actually been living in one of his apartment buildings for the last 10 years, but applying these three simple words in my companies is still one of my biggest struggles—hence my experiments with minimalism and waking up in a wooden cell in downtown Singapore.
Now that I’ve successfully exited my company, I can better reflect objectively on where I should have done less. I’m pretty sure we could have achieved more and spared ourselves a lot of growing pains by doing less in several respects. So here is my list for you, you overly ambitious, overly energetic startup founder, a list of less to do in order to achieve more in the long run.
Set fewer goals
I remember sessions where we would set 15 quarterly goals. That’s not being laser-focused. That’s the dim light of a candle hardly seen from far away. Don’t just start by brainstorming your objectives and key results; decide first how many OKRs you want to set. Three should be enough. When you have…