Patience: The secret to building a $5B+ startup

By David Frankel

You can’t build a $5B startup without a bias towards action.

Patience is a virtue but it’s one rarely associated with entrepreneurship.

Olo CEO Noah Glass recently shared some lessons about how *not* doing things, or sequencing them strategically, helped deliver success.

In a world where startups try to ramp headcount as quickly as possible, Noah deliberately kept the team tight for nearly a decade. You need less (money/people/products) than you think to build a great business.

Olo was a superlative solution, but adoption was slow at the start.

Then Uber came on to the scene and Starbucks launched mobile ordering.

All at once, the industry was searching for an online ordering solution, and Noah’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing.

At one point, Olo had three viable, venture-backed competitors. Each one was acquired, and each time, the product was rapidly run into the ground by the parent company, leaving Olo largely alone in the field. Be thankful for shortsighted competitors.

Olo used to offer trial periods to potential customers. However, Noah found that this process didn’t help companies decide; it just let them postpone the decision, all while incurring huge costs Olo.

Now he gets buy-in early.

Every week the ops team at Olo sends out an email touting the service’s uptime record. SLA agreements aren’t sexy, but they’re core to keeping the business afloat. Celebrate endurance as much as creative epiphanies and enormous new contracts.

Years before going public, Noah was twice involved in serious discussions to sell Olo.

Both efforts failed, and he left both processes dejected.

If you follow $Olo, you know it all worked out in the end.

Keep your team focused, grow the business, and own your destiny.

A couple of final thoughts:

I want to be crystal clear that sloth has no place at a startup. Patience is a matter of taking a long-term view, not an excuse for going slowly or shirking urgent responsibilities.

Also, Noah is one of the hardest-charging CEOs I’ve ever known. His enthusiasm is infectious, and he electrifies his team. It’s possible to be patient without taking your foot off the gas pedal.

Patience is a perspective, not a personality type.

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