Joshua Reeves: The Startup Journey: A Marathon, Not a Sprint [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

February 27, 2015
Stanford eCorner
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Joshua Reeves: The Startup Journey: A Marathon, Not a Sprint [Entire Talk]

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In this video, the speaker shares his entrepreneurial journey, discussing his upbringing, college days, prior startup endeavors, and the creation of ZenPayroll. He emphasizes the importance of curiosity, exploring different industries, and discovering what interests you. He also highlights the value of academic and tactical learning and the power of introspection to understand what you enjoy doing and what you want to do differently. The speaker talks about the importance of values in building a team and having a mission, as well as the role of a CEO in setting direction, organizing, and leading by example. He concludes by encouraging listeners to find a problem that matters to them and start a business to solve it.

Questions & Answers

Q: Can you tell us about your upbringing and college days?

I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County. My parents are both teachers and the first in their families to go to college. Though I didn't have much exposure to technology growing up, I was always curious about how things worked. The entrepreneurial journey my parents took to move to a new country inspired me. When I came to Stanford in 2001, I was excited to study electrical engineering as I loved understanding complex systems and the mathematical aspect of it.

Q: How relevant is electrical engineering (EE) to your current work?

While I don't use specific EE concepts like Fourier transforms in my day-to-day job, the ability to understand complex systems and simplify complex problems has been valuable. Whether it's in hiring, making business strategy decisions, selling products, or other areas, having the mindset to break down complex problems has been more valuable than specific coursework.

Q: What advice do you have for college students in terms of exploring different interests?

College is a time to discover who you are, what you care about, and what interests you. It's important to experiment, work in different labs, and have different internships to gain exposure to different industries and gain deep knowledge. Don't be afraid to reach out to people for advice or mentorship. Most people are willing to help, and as a student, you have the advantage of being able to reach out and ask for guidance.

Q: How did you choose the idea for your startup ZenPayroll?

We had prior startup experience and had all run payroll before. When we talked to customers and realized that a third of businesses get fined for incorrectly doing their payroll taxes and that many still do payroll by hand, it seemed like a problem that needed solving. We wanted to create a product that simplifies and automates payroll, making it easier for small business owners and improving the employee experience.

Q: What values are important to you and your team?

Our values include ownership mentality, where everyone in the company is treated as an owner and given the information to think like an owner. We also believe in building for the long-term, not just focusing on short-term outcomes. Transparency is another key value, as we believe in open and honest communication within the team. These values guide how we hire and organize the company.

Q: Could you explain the role of a CEO in a startup?

As a CEO, my responsibilities include setting direction and strategy for the business, organizing and communicating within the team, and leading by example. It's important to fire yourself from as many jobs as possible, delegate tasks to others, and focus on the long-term vision of the company. Hiring is also a crucial aspect of being a CEO, and a significant portion of my time is spent interviewing potential hires.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Find a problem that matters to you and start a business to solve it. There are countless opportunities to create businesses that solve existing problems or invent new use cases for the future. Take the time for introspection and set aside time to think deeply about what you want to do and what problems you want to solve. Don't be afraid to reach out for mentorship and surround yourself with a team that shares your values and mission.


In conclusion, it's important to explore different interests and industries, use college as a time for self-discovery and experimentation, and set aside time for introspection. Building a team with shared values and a common mission is crucial. As a CEO, it's important to set direction, organize the team, and lead by example. Find a problem that matters to you and start a business to solve it. The entrepreneurial journey requires dedication, perseverance, and a passion for making a difference.

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