The Founder’s Field Guide to (Reaching Your Summit)

Stephen Buehler
Stephen Buehler

Creator of Astra Insights & Founder of Astra Ventures

First Round Review (a publication of First Round Capital) is publication that should be at or near the top of any entrepreneur’s reading list.  This post is a tip of the cap to their compendium entitled “The Founder’s Field Guide to Navigating the Crisis”. The First Round Review article is jam-packed with wisdom from business leaders who have navigated troubled waters and provides perspective on both their successes and failures. They summarize the relevance right off the bat.

Although we’re living in unprecedented times and every path is unique, we’ve found that some lessons come in handy over and over again.

First round review – the founder’s field guide to navigating the crisis

As someone who has both started a company from scratch and worked with many startup founders, I know all too well that the life of an entrepreneur isn’t glamorous most days. In fact, it can be a very lonely journey where your looming shadow is the constant and uncomfortable feeling of self-doubt.

I imagine entrepreneurial life is similar to climbing Mt. Everest. It is a journey where you give everything you have to give to make progress. But then to make sure you’re not overextended you have to backtrack to base camp to regroup. And you do this over and over again, each time carefully evaluating if the conditions are favorable enough to take your journey to the next stage higher up the mountain. And your ultimate success is dependent not on some Hollywood-worthy act of dodging a landslide or jumping across an ice ravine but, instead, on using your tools and basic training to execute hundreds if not thousands of basic steps.

For the few that are fortunate enough to make it to the apex of their own entrepreneurial mountain, the moment of celebration is brief. Like the ascent of Everest, climbers spend up to three months to reach the summit and only minutes there to take in the sights at the top of the world. With this in mind, to justify the harrowing journey one must learn how to reflect and enjoy the journey. I have found that one of the best ways to manage through startup life is to embrace the fraternity of entrepreneurs. Learn from their successes. More importantly, learn from their failures. Take comfort in their advice and use it to illuminate your path and hopefully diminish your own shadow of doubt, even if ever so slightly.

A number of the most impactful nuggets from this long-form article are below. However, you should read the entire First Round Review article. In fact, you should bookmark it and use it as a working reference guide.

Day in and day out, CEOs are tasked with making decisions about the future based on the information available at present. In other words, you’re placing bets on how to allocate your resources. “The job of a founder is always to predict the future. When you’re starting a company, it’s because you have a prediction of how the world could be different,” says First Round’s Josh Kopelman.


These graphics on the range or variance of Decision Aperture are similar to how investors should think about ranges of potential outcomes for investments (I write about this for investors here). By definition, greater variance in outcomes, whether it applies to decisions or returns of public securities is an indication of higher risk. Therefore, careful analysis of decisions is critical.

Kopelman expands on the concept of widening potential outcomes and how this intersects with the need to evaluate all decisions.

Oftentimes, when founders opt to do nothing for now, they think they aren’t deciding just yet. But they are. This is omission bias at work. Changing things feels like a decision, whereas staying the course doesn’t. But they are both decisions and need to be viewed as such.


The team at First Round Capital focus on scenario planning and have developed the following template to help visualize how to navigate a multi-variate environment.

First Round provides so much more than what I’ve touched on here. They take you through an 8 step journey in their Field Guide.

  1. Making sense of Sense of Macro Conditions and Market Signals
  2. The case for responding quickly and thinking through scenarios
  3. The nuts and bolts of scenario planning
  4. Broader thoughts on extending your runway
  5. How to reduce burn – strategies for cutting costs
  6. How to bring in more capital
  7. Supporting your team and leading through crisis
  8. Ending on a high note – the upside and next wave

The writings of First Round Review are a wonderful service for entrepreneurs. The stories they tell are as enlightening as they are comforting. I highly recommend subscribing to their newsletter and reading this article in full. And I also recommend that you let First Round Review be your personal Sherpa on your journey to the summit of your own entrepreneurial Mt. Everest.

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