Startup School 2010 was a success! both on the quality of the turn out of entrepreneurs, speakers and the organizers – Y Combinator and Stanford BASES.
The day started on a nice crispy Saturday morning 16th October 2010. Breakfast was provided to all those that attended while the Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University was prepared.
The theater got packed out with many great minds of all ages – even entrepreneurs 12 years of age eager to start changing the world. The following are notes I took during each of the speeches + video. Hope you enjoy the content and find it as valuable and inspiring as I did.
Founder Arista Networks; Founder, Sun Microsystems
Wow, what a great start to this day. Andy went over how Silicon Valley got to where it is today and then touched up on the following interesting topics:
- The process in creating a business is in 3 steps: Discover –> Design –> Deliver
- “Discover” phase has more value but typically less money is spent while moving to the right to “Deliver” has less value but more money is spent on it.
- “The Horizon Effect”, also a topic in psychology, outlines how the majority of humans only purse goals which are in our horizon, stuff we can see, instead of stuff we cannot see. Aim past the horizon like Christopher Columbus did when he sailed past to the horizon only to find that he would not fall off the edge of the world.
- Great companies:
- Apple – spends the least on R&D ($1.2b) and consumer research. They trust their gut instinct to deliver super products. They also have less products to maintain than most companies.
- Google – expects to solve the impossible. Most of their success today is attributed to the 1 day per week given to their employees to brain storm & prototype new ideas.
- Innovation is the never-ending search for better solutions.
- Most successful companies have more than 1 founder.
Partner, Y Combinator; Founder, Viaweb
Paul spoke of Super-angels vs. VCs and how the landscape has changed. I didn’t take notes during Paul’s speech since Paul made it available online here.
The New Funding Landscape – http://www.paulgraham.com/superangels.html
- Initial site was a WordPress blog where Andrew would copy and paste group buy requests from ThePoint.
- Early hiring advise:
- Avoid titles (unless required for hiring purpose) and
- Don’t create too much structure.
- How to defend yourself against competition:
- Build an awesome product and
- Never get out-innovated.
- Lessons from Groupon’s journey:
- You’re building a tool, not a piece of art. Don’t be blinded by the vision.
- Recognise and Embrace your constraints.
- Have a Growth plan.
- The best tools aren’t always that cool – email is worth 10x more to Groupon than Facebook/Twitter followers.
- You will probably fail – failure is real but you don’t have to fail.
- Quit now – signs are always pointing but you get to decide.
I highly recommend you watch the videos below of Andrew talking about Groupon since it’s both educational and entertaining (plenty of humor).
Video part 1 of 2 – Andrew Mason – Founder of Groupon @ Startup School 2010
Video part 2 of 2 – Andrew Mason – Founder of Groupon @ Startup School 2010
- The best way to have a good idea is to have plenty of ideas.
- When something makes you angry, write it down. Then find a solution to fix it – that’s an idea right there. The question then becomes “how do you filter many ideas into a few to action”.
- Key to business traction: Make someone awesome so that they show it to their friends who too want to become awesome. Hence they end up using your product.
- Finding a good co-founder is like there is now 2 of you doing this.
- Early on you don’t need offices, go virtual with a product like CampFire.
- Private offices eliminate idea generation and progress. It is detrimental.
- User “Experience” is the most relevant, not the technology. You are selling the experience not the technology.
- As a founder, optimize your business venture for happiness. Read book “Drive” which outlines 3 human needs: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Seek Freedom and Autonomy.
- In the end, you want to have a choice and be happy about it.
- Over drinks (after work) is where most ideas come from. People are more relaxed and free to let their imagination run wild.
- Establish a business agreement (contract) at the very beginning of your venture. This should outline who does what and equity split. This eliminates nasty legal issues once the business becomes successful.
- Books recommended by Tom for every entrepreneur to read:
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
- Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
- Secrets of Power Negotiating, 15th Anniversary Edition: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator
- The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works
- Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
- Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Partner, Sequoia Capital
- “Leverage” is very important to demonstrate value in attaining VC funding.
- Read about Achates Power “Fundamentally Better Engines” and how they did what GM couldn’t do in 20 years with half the staff.
- Key points on the success of startups getting VC funding:
- They thought differently.
- They don’t throw money at problems, but ideas.
- They built simple easy to use products.
- They stay closer to the customers.
- They do more with less.
- They ship something early.
- They put a price on it early.
Partner, Greylock; Founder, LinkedIn
- There is around 7 +/- 2 of sites people have in their mind. Your goal is to be one of those 7. Search is in the 7.
- Competition is the noise you need to get above. One way to do this is to make sure they sux and you don’t.
- Release version 1 of your product asap to test your hypothesis early and to prove your ideas. If you are not embarrassed by version 1 you have released too late.
- Build an intelligence network early, from investors, co-founders etc to help with testing your hypothesis (pivot).
- Make social features available for when new customers ask – “who else is here that I know”.
- Don’t plan for more than 6 months forward since the consumer internet changes rapidly.
- Hire people who cohere as a group and learn quickly.
- Solve your venture’s hardest problem of distribution e.g. how to get to massive size. And then you are on your way to success.
If you are on LinkedIn let’s connect. Just let me know who you are.
My LinkedIn profile is located here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/semerda
Partner, SV Angel and former co-founder of Altos Computers
- Provide a service where users are happy and then monetize.
- Entrepreneurs build and innovate companies and investors should be lucky to be a part of it.
- Never forget its your company, the founder’s company.
- Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur.
- It takes guts but anyone can do it.
- It’s crazy to start a company with 1 founder. It’s all about building a great team. And if you are a founder you have to build a great team some day so why not build it the day you start the company – the 1st hurdles to get over.
There is more in the videos below where Ron outlines his journey and the journey of great friends from Napster, Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Video part 1 of 2 – Ron Conway – Partner of SV Angel @ Startup School 2010
Video part 2 of 2 – Ron Conway – Partner of SV Angel @ Startup School 2010
Founder, Quora and ex-CTO of Facebook
- It’s ok if something doesn’t scale as long as it strengthens your position.
- Facebook leanings:
- Good infrastructure early on saves future development time to correct it.
- Get as much start-up experience as an employee so that later you can climb your own mountain with this knowledge behind you.
Quora is a great Q&A product with quality content.
You can find me on Quora here: http://www.quora.com/Ernest-Semerda
Founder, Picplz; Founder, Imeem
- Don’t be a cannon fodder. Work on things you love. Life is too short.
- Key before you start your own music startup:
- Artists are poor so they won’t pay you,
- The market is totally saturated,
- The economies are challenging with required payments to labels every quarter and lawyers waiting for you to become big so they can sue you.
If you want a good laugh and learn heaps about the risks of starting up a music venture then you should watch Dalton’s music business review (videos below) of his 6 years of building Imeem, what worked and what didn’t.
Video part 1 of 2 – Dalton Caldwell – Founder of Picplz & Imeem @ Startup School 2010
Video part 2 of 2 – Dalton Caldwell – Founder of Picplz & Imeem @ Startup School 2010
- Facebook’s mission is: Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
- Mark stated that he acquires companies primarily for the excellent people. “Past handful acquires were a success so why not more.”
- The goal is to build Facebook as the McKinsey of Entrepreneurship.
In the video below Mark speaks with Jessica Livingston (Y Combinator partner) on the initial days at Facebook, about the new movie Social Network and answers popular questions about Facebook.
Video part 1 of 2 – Mark Zuckerberg – Founder of Facebook @ Startup School 2010
Video part 2 of 2 – Mark Zuckerberg – Founder of Facebook @ Startup School 2010
- If you have an idea put it up there online, no matter what it looks like. You need the feedback early on.
- Inventors of Obama O’s: Hope in every bowl! and Cap’n McCain’s: Put a maverick in your morning cereals – when the times were tough and money was required.
- Had many unsuccessful launches but persistence got them through. Paul Graham stated “you guys won’t die, your like cockroaches”.
- Michael Seibel from Justin.tv introduced Brian and his co-founder to the Y Combinator methodology and eventually to Paul Graham. Initially, Paul didn’t like the business idea. That changed quickly.
- Brian used a classic motivation / psychology approach that Anthony Robbins teaches: “Whatever you focus on expands (you get)”. So he decided to focus on revenue by printing a positively inclined graph depicting revenue and pasting it on the bathroom mirror. This way it was the 1st thing he saw every morning and the last before going to bed to dream. It worked!
- Paul Graham advised: “Go to your users”. So Brian and his co-founder flew to NYC, Washington DC and Denver and knocked on people’s doors to sell their service – “do you know how much your bedroom is worth?!”.
- Then, David, Barry Manilow’s drummer posted his apartment for rent while he toured with Barry Manilow. This changed the direction of AirBnB and the 1st “wiggles of hope ~ PG” appeared. AirBnB launched version 5 of their product and started to be Ramen Profitable.
- Today, AirBnB is in 8200 cities, 166 countries and traffic has started booming in the last 5 months.
- AirBnB is now a “Community market place for space”.
- All this started with an airbed in a living room to solve an accommodation problem.
The following videos are titled “Powerless and obscure” – 1,000 days ago (October 2007). How Brian started AirBnB and it nearly fell apart only to survive after the 5th launch. Very inspiring and educational.
Video part 1 of 2 – Brian Chesky – Founder of Airbnb @ Startup School 2010
Video part 2 of 2 – Brian Chesky – Founder of Airbnb @ Startup School 2010
I also got to meet Brian the following day during Y Combinator Open-Day at AirBnB headquarters in SF.
And that wrapped up an amazing, day at Startup School 2010.
My top 3 take away (learnings) from Startup School 2010 were:
- Find a solution to something people are hurting (strongly need) and they will pay you for it.
- It’s all about the “Experience”, not the technology. You are selling the experience not the technology.
- Build an awesome product that makes your competitor’s version sux.
Now it’s time for action!