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Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Lessons from a two-time unicorn builder, 50-time startup advisor, and 20-time company board member | Uri Levine (co-founder of Waze)

Lessons from a two-time unicorn builder, 50-time startup advisor, and 20-time company board member | Uri Levine (co-founder of Waze)


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Uri Levine is the co-founder of Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, acquired by Google for over $1 billion. He’s also founded nine other companies, been on the board of 20 companies, and advised more than 50 companies. He’s most recently the author of Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution: A Handbook for Entrepreneurs, hailed by Steve Wozniak as the “Bible for entrepreneurs.” Uri is dedicated to creating impactful startups that solve real-world problems and has seen everything from failure to moderate success to big success. In our conversation, we dig into:

  • Why falling in love with the problem is key to startup success

  • The phases of the startup journey and how to navigate them

  • Why firing is more important than hiring

  • How Waze iterated to achieve product-market fit

  • Tactics for telling a compelling story when fundraising

  • Much more

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.

Some takeaways:

  1. You need to “fall in love with the problem” that you’re solving. This is the biggest driver of startup success. It will help you deliver value to users, tell a more inspiring story about your company, and recruit a team. “Falling in love” means feeling enough passion about the problem that it can drive you to persist through hard times.

  2. The ultimate measure of product-market fit is customer retention. If customers keep coming back, it indicates that your product or service is meeting their needs and providing value. Achieving product-market fit requires patience and iteration. With Waze, the team went through countless iterations, incorporating user feedback to improve the app. Uri stresses that you must “keep trying different things until you find the one thing that works.”

  3. The first and last slides in a pitch deck are the most underused. They show onscreen the longest—while you get set up and while you take questions afterward—so they should contain your strongest point. Don’t waste this valuable real estate on showing your company name or “Thank you.”

  4. Use the “30-day test” to maintain a high-performance team. Create a reminder to ask yourself this question 30 days after someone joins the team: “Knowing what I know today, would I hire this person?” If the answer is yes, tell the person you’re excited about them and give them more equity—you’ll gain a lot of loyalty. If the answer is no, you need to fire them immediately, to avoid the inevitable damage they will cause to you, your team, and themselves.

  5. Watch users, especially those who use your product in unexpected ways. Different people use products differently, so observing a diverse range of users is key to building the right solution. Uri also advises focusing on those who didn’t convert to uncover barriers and points of friction.

Where to find Uri Levine:

• X: https://twitter.com/urilevine1

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/uri-levine

• Website: https://urilevine.com/

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Uri’s background

(02:50) Falling in love with the problem

(09:01) Signs this is a big enough problem

(10:52) The importance of passion

(12:04) A pivot example

(13:59) Where to find startup ideas

(21:55) Finding product-market fit at Waze

(29:43) The different phases of a startup journey 

(36:45) What investors don’t want to hear

(39:51) Fundraising tips

(48:00) How to make your presentations stronger

(50:30) A wild fundraising story

(53:44) Firing and hiring

(59:48) The 30-day test

(01:04:10) Understanding users

(01:12:08) Talking to the right users

(01:15:34) Lightning round


Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution: A Handbook for Entrepreneurs: https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Love-Problem-Solution-Entrepreneurs/dp/1637741987

• Waze: https://www.waze.com/

• Ben Horowitz on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/behorowitz/

• Ben Horowitz quote: https://quotefancy.com/quote/1635284/Ben-Horowitz-As-a-startup-CEO-I-slept-like-a-baby-I-woke-up-every-2-hours-and-cried

• Michael Jordan quote: https://www.forbes.com/quotes/11194/#:~:text=I've%20lost%20almost%20300,that%20is%20why%20I%20succeed.

• Steph Curry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Curry

• How Airbnb Used Word of Mouth to Change the Travel Industry Forever: https://truested.com/story/airbnb

• Space Mountain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Mountain_(Disneyland)

• How Netflix builds a culture of excellence | Elizabeth Stone (CTO): https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/how-netflix-builds-a-culture-of-excellence

• Steve Wozniak on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wozniaksteve/

• Uri’s post about the conference in Guatemala with Steve Wozniak: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/uri-levine_jewishnewyear-speakers-book-activity-6980089544079486976-0ADa/

• Leonardo da Vinci quote: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/9010638-simplicity-is-the-ultimate-sophistication-when-once-you-have-tasted

• Geoffrey Moore on finding your beachhead, crossing the chasm, and dominating a market: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/geoffrey-moore-on-finding-your-beachhead

• Nana Korobi Ya Oki: https://ikigaitribe.com/vlog/nana-korobi-ya-oki/

That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea: https://www.amazon.com/That-Will-Never-Work-Netflix/dp/0316530204

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones: https://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Habits-Proven-Build-Break/dp/0735211299

• 8 Great Chess Apps for Beginners and Grand Masters: https://www.wired.com/story/best-chess-apps/

• Pontera: https://pontera.com/

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.

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Lenny's Newsletter
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.