On 25 March 1997, the Notorious B.I.G. released the song "Ten Crack Commandments" which was co-written by DJ Premier and himself. The song is also featured on his double-disc (for the younguns, this is back when we bought music on CDs) album, "Life After Death".

In the song, he lays out the ten rules that crack drug dealers need to follow in order not only to survive but to be successful. It's quite obvious that drug dealing is not glamorous or honorable trade (and you shouldn't even consider doing it) one can choose. Added to that, it is illegal.

Having said that, the trade seems to have taught those who could escape from it some good business (and life) lessons that can possibly be used in almost any business, including technology startups.

So, what can startup founders learn from Notorious B.I.G.’s "Ten Crack Commandments"?

1. The cheddar breed jealousy

“You know, the cheddar breed jealousy.”

Never let anyone (outside your startup) know how much profits you hold.

Unless you’re a publicly listed company, you have no business flaunting your profits.

What purpose does it achieve?


Chill. Focus on being great and delivering a great product, let people focus on that. You don’t need the negative energy that comes with people knowing how much profits your business is making.

It’s a distraction.

2. Do more and talk less

"Never let ’em know your next move. Don’t you know, ‘Bad boys move in silence and violence’"

Violence, in this case, can be taken to mean a bias for action. Quit the talking, let the actions speak. Let the services and products you ship from your startup do the talking.

3. Validate everything

It’s rough out here, especially in business and when you are starting out. So take Biggie Smalls’ advise.

“Never trust nobody.”

Once again, think about what matters for your startup. Validate everything. Sometimes trouble doesn’t announce itself, it sweet talks its way in.

4. Never get high on your own PR

Your public relations is meant, at best, to tell a good story about your startup and hopefully get potential customers hooked on whatever it is you offer, but never get high on it. You know very well your startup has areas it needs to improve on so instead of basking in all that PR, focus and keep working on getting better.

You don’t want to get addicted to that, you know what happens to crack addicts right?

5. Rest

“Don’t care if they want an ounce, tell ’em bounce!”

Home time is home time. You are not a machine. Your body needs rest away from startup life (which is strenuous as it is). Although Biggie Smalls probably meant it as a way of protecting your home from crack heads and the police, another way of looking at it is when you are off work, be off work and spend time with loved ones, you need them (and the rest).

6. Dead it!

"That gahddamn credit, DEAD it! You think a crack head paying you back? Forget it!"

Make customers pay, up front. If you don't do this, you will learn this the hard way especially when starting out. Just don't offer things on credit, as Brooklyn's finest advices against,

7. Don’t mix

“Money and blood don’t mix”.

You could say this rule (Keep your business and family separated) is debatable in terms of startups, but think about it from a diversity point of view.

It is probably better from a decision-making point of view to have people that are different from you (but have the requisite skills) helping you make decisions from a different perspective.

With family, chances are you all believe in the same things and most probably view the world the same way so when it comes to solving business problems you might suffer from the “to a man who has a hammer, every problem is a nail” syndrome.

Diversity is key.

8. Delegate

“Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jums too.”

You are not superman. You can’t save the world on your own despite what you might think of yourself (which should serve only as motivation).

Get people who are capable and you can trust on your team and spread the workload.

9. Snitches get stitches

“If n----- think you snitching they ain’t tryn’a listen. They be waiting in your kitchen, waiting to start hittin'.”

Look, don’t bad mouth no one in their absence unless you are able to say the same thing in their presence. Walls have ears, word goes around. It’s that simple, just focus on your business.

10. Bootstrap

“Strong word called consignment, strictly for live men, not for freshmen If you ain’t got the clientele, say 'hell no!' 'cause they gon’ want they money rain sleet hail snow!”

Early on, when you are starting your startup. Don’t even think about taking on investors or bank loans. The best bet is to ask family (maybe friends too) but stay the hell away from bank loans and “investors”.

— By Tefo Mohapi

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