Josh Tong

Startup Leadership
For Product & Data Science

I've worked in 6 VC-backed startups ($200M+ funding) serving early-stage product and data science teams.I write about the unique challenges and learnings I've experienced along the way.

© Josh Tong. All rights reserved.

My Story

After college I called the corporate recruiter, "Thank you, but I'm declining the job offer.""I'm going to launch a startup."A month later, I launched InnovateLife and some how survived on $28k a year.

Since then, I've worked in 5 VC-backed startups.

Two failed. Two did okay. One's too early to tell.Startups are gut-wrenchingly difficult.Take VC money and you're committed to 2-3x revenue every 12 months.Pure exhilaration sure. But, startups pushed me to my limits.Rapid hiring, frequent re-orgs, operational overhauls, layoffs of good people, executive firings, hard conversations, major customer wins, first-of-their-kind products, last-minute saves, and looming 'zero cash' dates.Friends and family used to ask, "Do you really want to join another startup?""Have you considered a more stable job?"

But, I chose to stay in the game.

I reflected on successes and failures.I looked for patterns...lessons...clues...anything to help me crack the code.Two things happened:

#1) I found my niche.

Serving early-stage product & data science teamsCollaborating with founders, solidifying product-market fit, building the first teams, evolving process, creating strategy alignment.

#2) I started cracking the code.

Not completely. Not all at once. But, I started identifying patterns.I corrected past mistakes. I began accumulating wins.My confidence and outcomes improved.

During my journey, I worked closely with 12 highly-accomplished startup execs.

These individuals super-charged my growth and trajectory.They showed me decades of experience in the span of months.I soaked it up.

My instincts improved. I'm now playing a better game.

I'm much better at building products -- especially data products -- that deliver results.Startups are still hard. Product is still hard. Data Science is still hard.But I'm confident in my craft.Always learning? Absolutely.Much to improve? Heck, yes!

In the words of legendary entrepreneur-investor, Ben Horowitz:

"There aren't any silver bullets, only lead bullets"I've accumulated many lead bullets.I've seen what works – multiple times. I'm no longer just guessing and hoping.Battle-tested principles, tactics, and a few secret hacks that I use every day as a full-time operator.My goal here, is to share those lessons and learnings with others on the same journey.


I'm a full-time operator -- not a consultant or guru.I simply want more founders and startup teams to thrive. And oftentimes, having a battle-tested partner along for the journey makes a big difference.To that end, I carve out time to advise and support a handful of teams each year. If you think there might be a fit, drop me a note and we'll find a time to chat.



Have a question or want to chat? Feel free to reach out.

Thank you

Thanks for reaching out.
I'll be in touch shortly.