Cultivate a Culture of Accomplishment: Team members need to feel personal accomplishment. There is a huge culture in the startup community to focus on “the team” or the collective. This stems from founders wanting to remain humble and ensure they are giving credit to their team but make sure this doesn’t pass on to your team members. Not celebrating personal accomplishments is dangerous and can make someone feel like they are being swallowed up by the machine.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.
Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?
In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Yehuda Neuman.
Yehuda Neuman is a Miami based tech entrepreneur focused on the intersection of immersive entertainment and connectivity. He is the co-founder of Lantern, a dating app that uses gamification to connect users. He is passionate about the evolution of the digital space and the “democratization of experiences,” where anyone, anywhere, at any time can experience anything.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Absolutely. So I’m originally a film & psychology lover. I learned about connectivity from my Father, 12x Oprah featured psychologist M Gary Neuman. Growing up listening to his wisdom, helping with his research gave me a unique insight into how people bond and why. My early career was all film. I love storytelling and had the opportunity to work at EUE Screen Gems right out of college, running some of the biggest sets in Manhattan was a dream come true for 22 year old me. I was hired away by Michael Heller, one of the main powerhouse celebrity managers turned venture capitalist in the game. After ten years helping him build a successful celebrity endorsement agency in Manhattan I came back to Miami to form Lantern.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My co-founder Caroline and I were both on all the dating apps. Bumble, Hinge, Tinder… you name it. One day I went to my matches and noticed I had around 50 people I never spoke to. Other than the fact we both “liked” each other we had absolutely nothing in common (that I could see).
I turned to Caroline, “I just want to talk to somebody about great movies. Why isn’t there an app where I can find someone with the same favorite movie and talk to them? This isn’t that complicated.”
Turns out it was extremely complicated from an engineering perspective, but we got it done!
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My Grandfather, Senior Judge Stuart M Simons. He was a giant of a man, Senior Judge of the Miami courts for 40+ years, and a true gentleman. There’s a story in our family that he saw a little girl caught in the waves being thrown up against a coral reef. The girl was screaming. My grandfather plunged into the ocean and rescued her. He was really beaten up and had been roughed against the coral but he didn’t give it a second thought.
I carry his example idea of selflessness with me. If we aren’t making a better world for other people, what are we doing here?
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are the only dating app that’s actually built for women. Current dating apps feel like men’s dream scenario, even Bumble: everything is based on how good looking you are, swipe through an endless sea of people, put in zero effort to find someone. Instead, we flipped this idea by focusing on you, what you love and self growth. Lantern leads users through self exploration while also meeting people. This allows our community to really connect about the things they want to connect over.
We had a recent couple reach out to us, they matched over one of the scenarios involving Harry Potter and then went on a Harry Potter themed date (I’m still waiting for details on what they did though!). But the point is they got to connect over something meaningful to both of them and live out their dreams together.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The beautiful thing about Lantern is our success and growth is the method to spreading this. Lantern is different than other dating apps. It’s more like a movie where you decide what happens. So by guiding users through these aspirational scenarios it allows them to really imagine themselves in their best light. It’s pairing two self aware people who are working on themselves, creating a new generation of self aware people and hopefully, maybe, changing the world.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Balance of patience and urgency: you have to move fast to beat competition and continue growing but you also have to have patience to not get frustrated. There was a point early in development where I was simply pushing the team too hard. I forgot about the patience side of it and it set us back as our engineers got burnt out. I had to work hard to recalibrate.
- Not Being Connected to Outcome: if you’re worried about how things will turn out you will make decisions reflective of fear. Conquering that is so essential to success.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Watching your savings twindle as you get closer and closer to launching is terrifying.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?
The confirmation that we were onto something real gave me the boost.
We saw results pretty early on from friends and family testing the app. We saw users going through all of content, loving the format. That really helped me. I remember the first time I showed two friends the app, the look on their faces is something I will never forget. It was a mixture of wonder and fear. I continue to see this look from people discovering our app and it never gets old.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
Great question wow. Surround yourself with family. It is so easy to forget how important they are but the only thing that will keep you relaxed and feeling good enough to continue is absolutely family. There is no Xanax substitute for spending time with people who genuinely want nothing but the best for you.
Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?
Bootstrapping is great if you have a product that can return revenue right away. I tend to see physical products a bit easier to bootstrap since there is no long ramp up period, the more you grow the lower you can get your production costs… it scales pretty nicely naturally.
Most technology platform require critical mass of people to hit profitability. You have to spend a ton of money to hit that number. Then you have to spend a ton of money to monetize. I’m personally of the belief that tech platforms need to first focus on creating a truly in depth experience for their users that will last.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Find Great Partners: I got extremely lucky here. First, my incredible Co-Founder Caroline Gyllensporre; she is just a force of brilliance.
So our first call was to Jo Overline, owner of Swing Dev, a San Fran based development company. We shared the idea with him and on the call he invested, pledging tons of additional resources from his team. We were able to come to market with a truly beautiful design and algorithm because of his belief in us and our idea to change the dating world forever.
- Don’t do everything yourself — but have a plan for how it should go: Many startup founders are in the position where they feel they need to do everything. It’s a mixture of fear and love. You fear giving over control to someone outside yourself. This is why it’s common for start-up founders to say the first team member after your co-founders is the most important one. This person is going to set the culture, stage and feel for everyone coming in after them.
I had to actively work on handing things over to others and getting out of the way. Each person is different but if you can do that, they will deliver work far better than anything you could.
- Cultivate a Culture of Accomplishment: Team members need to feel personal accomplishment. There is a huge culture in the startup community to focus on “the team” or the collective. This stems from founders wanting to remain humble and ensure they are giving credit to their team but make sure this doesn’t pass on to your team members. Not celebrating personal accomplishments is dangerous and can make someone feel like they are being swallowed up by the machine.
Early in our startup, my co-founder brought a huge investor into the door. The way she did it was brilliant and while we were celebrating she said “We did it!” I quickly corrected her; “You did it. This was all you. The team supported you but you took the initiative and you walked this person into our door. Don’t let your accomplishments be overshadowed. Right now we are celebrating you.”
4. Celebrate Small Wins: Because the big ones will be too scary to celebrate. Big wins are great but they make you think about the pressure that comes after those wins. You close an investment round: amazing! Now you have to grow your business to reward those investors belief in you. Now you have to go out there and do everything you promised in that pitch deck. Its a little overwhelming and try as hard as you might, it’s hard to celebrate. Little wins however, those are the best. You get to feel accomplished without being overwhelmed by what’s to come.
5. Try Everything: I’m a little against consultants early on in the startup process. They tend to make you afraid to try things without a lot of research and thought. There are absolutely some great ones and if you have one listen to them but the truth is nobody knows what’s going to work. Some people have better ideas than others sure but nobody has the answer. If you think it will work, try it!
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
My personal, humble opinion: Going too big too fast. Scaling slowly is beautiful because it allows you to listen to your customers, refine your product, so when you blast off you can continue scaling that growth in a meaningful way. Too many companies get huge amounts of funding, or pop years before they are ready and we see CEO’s / Founders making reactive decisions to these events. Vs being able to anticipate issues, smooth them out and grow slowly so your users enjoy the experience and stick with you vs a competitor. The second you show success, ten other companies will launch in your space… better make sure you have a great head start and a truly unique value proposition.
Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
Mornings are the absolute most important moment of your day. How do you wake up? What do you do after? Taking a moment to meditate, shower, get ready for the day is important.
Exercise: There was a period of three weeks where I did not go to the gym at all. I was stressed, dealing with development and the last thing I could think of was lifting weights or running on a treadmill. But not going was a terrible decision and the moment I started again I realized I could never let that happen.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The influence one wields is directly related to power or kindness. I would rather influence through kindness. I would love to start a movement that really encourages people to place their mindset into the minds of people they look down on. A teacher once told me that even the bad guys still think of themselves as Luke and Han from the rebellion. It below my mind as a kid and as an adult in todays world its even more prevalent. Every single person we look down on or hate has a family that loves them. Has the same exact dreams as you or me. If we can tap into that side it will create a more empathic, more self aware, more peaceful world.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Mark Cuban has become a personal hope lately not because of his business success but because he spends his spare time giving back to the business community. When you reach that level of success I’ve seen a lot of people guard their time more closely and Mark seems to do the opposite, reinvesting back into the community. It’s a model for what I want to do when I’m in that position.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check out the App Here: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/lantern-dating-focused-on-you/id1533737117
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!