I was able to head up to my alma matter and attend most of Startup School today. Here's my "gems", I tried to note the themes that were common:
Joe Kraus (Jotspot)
- Persistance Pays - (See Paul Graham below too)
- "No false positives" - Will reject a number of possibly good candidates in order to not hire taint employee pool.
- "You make what you measure" - Metrics pay off. The only goals you'll be able to make are those that you measure.
- "Better to be a (early) trend spotter than trend setter" - Position Jotspot as a wiki company (because people know what a wiki is), even though Jotspot does much more. Ride the buzz wave. (See Tim Oreilly below)
- "Put business model into 'beta' when you put product in 'beta'"
- Taking less funding allows for more exits options....
Page Mailliard (WSGR)
- Start company off on the right legal footing
- Incorporate in Delaware as a C Corporation
- Don't start a company with someone else while they are doing a internship at Microsoft. It's possible that MS owns anything they did.
- Best leverage for a term sheet (funding from VC) is another term sheet.
Mark Fletcher (Bloglines)
Started 2 companies, ONElist and Bloglines. ONElist raised $48 Mil in funding, Bloglines was self funded with 200K. Recommended no/low funding as possible.
- "Release Early/Often" - Product doesn't have to be perfect (See Paul Graham too below)
- Listen to users - They will give you good ideas that you never would've thought of. They will be loyal if they see that you are listening and implementing features for them. (See Paul Graham/Caterina Fake here too)
- Use Elance - Outsourced a small windows utility for $500, as well as translation and ppt creation.
- "Viral growth" - Make it easy for users to tell others about your service
- UI - see http://shufflebrain.com/etech06.htm
- Hardware - recommended renting machines instead of owning.
3 Ann Winblad (Winblad-Hummer Ventures)
- When pitching to VCs need to hook them in 15 minutes
- Admit your assumptions. "Know what you don't know"
George Willman (WSGR)
This talk seemed a little out of place, since most of the audience seem to be pretty much against patents. Especially after they were defined as a "right to exclude, not a right to practice".
- "Watch the alpha geeks" - These are like the early adopters from crossing the chasm. They can indicate coming trends.
- "Find a parade and get in front of it" - Marketing
3 Paul Graham
Supposedly this talk will be part of a forthcoming book.
Hardest Lessons for a startup
- Release Early - Makes you work harder since it is released. Can update based on user feedback
- Keep Punching out features - Just like muscle building, improvements allow for more improvements. Customers also like improvements, so this also helps with marketing.
- Make Users Happy
Fear the right things - Don't fear google (they are now susceptible to innovaters dilemma since they are big (Note Chris Sacca of Google also echoed this when he stated that the worst thing about google is that it is now a "big" company)). Shouldn't worry about google or established players, worry about other startups since they are like you, "cornered animals".But competitors are not the biggest threat. Those are:
- Internal disputes
- Ignoring user (worst)
Commitment is a self-fulfilling prophecy People succeed because they are determined, not smart or intelligent.People are more likely to buy you (finance you) if they know that you will stick around. (Otherwise they will miss out on a good deal and you will improve)
- There's always roomFor adding features. We won't be using google search in current state in 10-20 years.There is no limit to the number of startups, since they make wealth.
- Don't get your hopes upAssume the worst about the machines and what other people will do. Only can assume the best for yourself (shield your optimism). Assume that deals are not going to happen, then if things work out then you can be pleasantly surprised.
Caterina Fake (Flickr)
- Marketing through blogs and viral useage
- Online communities need a host, just like any other social gathering.
- The Flickr app as known today was one of many apps they were making. This one seemed to get the most traction. They listened to their users (were in the forums for "24x7") and were able to attract more users.
Om Malik (Business 2.0)
Successful apps/companies are those that cause behavior change:
"Web 2.0" seems to be catering to the "firefox folks" and ignoring the "ie folks"
- SIMPLIFY - Should be understandable very quickly.
- Time is the only finite thing. Every thing else is quickly becoming commodity. If it takes 15 minutes to understand it, it's going to fail.
Chris Sacca (Google)
- Google now has a bio-diesel bus, with wifi to San Fran. And is the largest single consumer of organic goods in California. They also have a cafeteria that only creates dishes with foods found within a 150 mile radius.
- Google has given some ~$80 Million in "founder awards" to internal employees who have created something worthy of being acquired.
- All Web2.0 companies are boring, and not doing anything innovative. They all look the same.
- Create something that normal people will find useful. (This includes people in 3rd world countries). Oh, by the way, Google donated some machines to a school in India
- Google.org is poised to help society more than Google.com
- Google doesn't provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to make you stay at work all day (as well as laundry, hair cutting, oil change, etc). They do it because people are creative/innovative during mealtime.
- Chris posits that people are only "in the zone" for 1-2 hours a day.