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12 Terrible (But Hilarious) Places To Work [slides]

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Apr 22, 2013


work runAfter the week we've had in Boston this week, I found it hard to focus on any overly heavy work this weekend.

So, instead, I created the slide deck below.  This is unlike the prior deck I worked on (Culture Code), which had 150+ slides, and proved to be useful.  This one is 14 slides, takes a minute to go through and is almost 

completely without use.  

But ye, it's fun. Hope you enjoy it.


(And, disclosure: This was not completely for amusement.  There's a call-to-action at the end, and the deck is intended to collect some data and tips for an upcoming talk I'm giving).

Oh, and as you'll see from the deck, I'm not the best comedic writer in the world, so if you have a better caption for some of those slides, please leave them in the comments.  

Thanks for indulging me every now and then. Now, back to real work.

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Classes They (Thankfully) Don't Teach At Startup School

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Tue, Feb 19, 2013


The following are some hypothetical classes that I'm thankful they don't teach at places like Y Combinator, TechStars and 500 Startups.student airplane

11 Classes They Should't Teach Founders

1. Dress To Impress VCs: The Art of Wearing A Tie

2. Click, Drag, Extrapolate: How to Use Excel For Startup Financial Projections

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Writing a Business Plan.

4. My Parking Spot:  A Founder's Guide To Executive Benefits

5. The Care and Feeding Of a Tradeshow Booth Babe(*)

6. How To Design Software Systems For Infinite Scale on Day Zero

7. You Win, They Lose: Brass-Knuckled Tactics To Use Against Your Team

8. Ego Marketing: How To Buy A Superbowl Ad

10. How To Be a Patent Troll For Fun and Profit

11. Selling On Stage: Hocking Your Wares To An Unsuspecting Conference Audience

* For the record, I completely detest the whole idea of a booth babe. Reprehensible.

What are some of the classes you're thankful they don't teach?  Please share in the comments.

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The Backuisition and 9 Other Types of Acquisitions [humor]

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Nov 11, 2011


It's time for some Friday fun.  The following list was sparked in part by my hatred of the term "acquihire" (which no matter how many times I try to train myself, I can never say it correctly in my head when I read it).  

Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed coming up with them.

big fish10 Types of Acquisitions

1. Backuisition: A few rogue employees from BigCo went off and started their own company (NotAsBigCo) a couple of years ago. The CEO never got over it, so worked out a deal acquire their startup to get them back.

2. Crackuisition: BigCo is addicted to acquisitions. If more than a few weeks go by where some sort of deal isn't consummated, the twitching and shakes start. They need their “fix”. Like right now. Before somebody gets hurt.

3. Hackuisition:

BigCo: How many hackers do you have?”

NotSoBigCo: “You mean programmers?”

BigCo: “No, we need more hackers. People that read The Hacker News blog. Do you have hackers?”

NotAsBigCo: “Um, sure, we have hackers…”

BigCo: “Great! We need to get ourselves some hackers.”

4. Sackuisition: This is a deal that's all about the customers or the IP or anything other than the people. Once the deal is done, most of the people get laid off. [Not to be confused with the deal where most of the people get laid. That's the mythical, inthesackuisition]

5. Shaquisition: BigCo has a company basketball team consisting mostly of white guys that can't jump. They're embarrassed and want to remedy that.

6. Packuisition: Executives in corporate development at BigCo are used to traveling a lot. For some reason, they looked at their calendar and saw that there were 3 straight weeks with no travel coming up. This would drive them and their family insane. So, they go off looking for an out-of-town acquisition to do. Choice of potential company to acquire depends primarily on two variables: weather and availability of golf courses.

7. Snackuisition: BigCo tends to do really, really big deals. The kind that get written up in all the newspapers and magazines (and also, in something called “blogs” that the executives have heard of). But these big deals sometimes take time, and in-between, their blood sugar can get low.

8. Knackuisition: When a deal is done because the company being acquired has a particularly valuable and rare knack for doing something. Like building operating systems. Or natural voice recognition algorithms. Or the ability to use MongoDB successfully while resisting the temptation to eventually simulate SQL-like features.

9. Attackuisition: A deal that's done specifically to attack another company in a particular industry, primarily out of spite and CEO arrogance.

10. Frackuisition: When the value trying to be extracted from the deal is so deep, it requires knowledge of hydraulics and a really good PR firm to convince the world that you're not going to destroy the company, the industry and the world in the process of getting to this value.

 Do you have any of your own that you think I missed? 

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New Google Chrome OS Runs On Your Car Bumper [cartoon]

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Jul 10, 2009


 onstartups google chrome os

 Did you like the cartoon?  Tweet it to your friends. TweetIt from HubSpot


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Angel Investor Non-Admissons: 10 Things They Won't Say

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Jun 15, 2009


As a tribute to the very funny VC Non-Admissions and the follow-up Founder Non-Admissions, I offer to you my own take on this — from an angel investor perspective.  Sorry that mine aren’t in a cool presentation form with pictures and such.  I don’t have that kind of talent.  OnStartups Angel Non-Admissons

10 Things An Angel Investor Will Never Say

1. I really want to support entrepreneurs — but just those that are going to make me money.

2. I dread having to explain your business idea to my spouse (who can veto any deal).

3. I don’t really have enough stake in your company to spam my network on your behalf.

4. I was lying when I said that some of my best friends were VCs.  Even VCs aren’t best friends with VCs.

5. I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about 50% of the time.  What’s a socially-semantic mobile platform for non-virtual currency mean?  (Oh, it’s an iPhone/Facebook payment app).

6. The other 50% of the time, you have no idea what you’re talking about.  Anti-dilution provisions in a termsheet are not about beer.

7. How the public market did last week does impact my decision making.

8. I like to invest in cool startups because it helps make up for high school.

9. I don’t understand what half the things in the funding agreement mean either, but I’m betting that most of them are to protect me, not you.

10. I really didn’t put the check in the mail the day I said I did.  I was golfing that day.  I sucked.

11. I’m in it to mostly have fun.  If I wanted to do unpleasant work, I’d have my own startup.


Feel free to add your best ones in the comments section, or if you prefer, you can tweet me @dharmesh

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Flat Is The New Up: Introducing Hockey Stick 2.0 [cartoon]

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Thu, May 28, 2009

onstartups hockey stick 2.0

Did this tickle your funny bone? Please tweet it. TweetIt from HubSpot

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Startup Advice from George Costanza: Do The Opposite

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Jul 02, 2008


The Seinfeld fans out there will clearly recognize the reference to "the opposite" episode.  Basically, George tries to change his life by going against his natural instincts and doing the exact opposite.  [For the fanatics out there, I think this is Episode #86, aired May 19, 1994.

Here are a couple of clips from the episode:

George : Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but ... I was perceptive. I always know when someone's uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I've ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat ... It's all been wrong.

Jerry : If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

George : Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do...something.

As it turns out, this "do the opposite" strategy works out for George.  Things start working out for him.  By going against his natural instincts, he ends up doing things "right".  He's noticed.  He comes off as being different. 

So, what does this all mean for startups?  Well, I've found that often "doing the opposite" (zigging when others are zagging) can actually work.  Conversely, if you take the tried and true path of others (like your competitors), in your best case scenario, you kind of wind up where most startups wind up -- in an unhappy place.  Why not try to be different?

A few examples to mull over:

A Startup Doing The Opposite

VC funding negotiation:  Tell the VC:  "We don't know what the pre-money valuation should be.  You have a better sense than we do about this.  We're not looking for the highest "price".  We just want a fair deal and a board member that is not a jerk.  You seem like you're smart and not a jerk.."

Recruiting early employees:  If you're just looking to make a lot of money, this is probably not the place.  Sure, we're going to give you some options but nobody knows what those are going to be worth (including the founders and the investors).  We all work our butts-off and make less money than we could likely do otherwise.  We all must have some sort of genetic flaw that makes us do this.  If you have that genetic flaw too, you'd probably enjoy it here. 

Early customer conversation:  Yeah, the software kind of sucks but we use it ourselves and it does do useful things.  Why am I charging you to be a beta tester?  Although your input is priceless, we think it just distorts the relationship for you to get it for free.  If you're a paying customer, we're going to kill ourselves to make you happy. 

The idea is to be honest, direct and surprise people by taking an approach that they're not used to seeing.  A lot of times this may fall flat -- but lots of things fall flat anyways.  Why not try it? 

By the way, each of the examples above are based on reality from my own startup adventure

So, next time you're in a situation go against your instincts to "spin" things and be super-sophisticated.  Just do the opposite!

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10 Reasons I Didn't Start The Bubble [with troubling but funny video]

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Dec 05, 2007


Here's an exceptionally funny video about the current Web 2.0 bubble (I don't usually post YouTube videos on this blog, but this one was just too good to pass up). After the video, find 10 reasons why I can safely say that I didn't start the bubble.



10 Reasons Why I Didn't Start The Bubble:

1. No missing vowels or double consonants in the company name.

2. A naive non-bubbly approach to business (charge customers real money for real value).

3. No way to throw sheep at other users in our software.

4. We're only revolutionizing one industry, not two.

5. For us, "exit strategy" means figuring out how to leave work at 9:00 p.m. (and go home to work some more) and not look like a slacker to the other members of the team.

6. Pathetic lack of Web 2.0 gradients on our website.

7. Have nobody with the title "BizDev" anywhere in the company.

8. We use overly simplistic metrics like growth in customers and revenue to see how we're doing.

9. Nobody creates the illusion that they're working -- but instead try to create the illusion that they have a life. Some succeed at this illusion better than others.

10. When we watch the underpants gnomes, we find it funny and don't find a striking resemblance to our business strategy.

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Why Startups Have Fewer Dilbertian, Pointy-Haired Bosses

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Nov 05, 2007


If the title of this article made you smile, then chances are that at some point in your life you've worked for a big company and/or been subjected to a Dlibertian pointy-haired boss/manager.

If you're not familiar with the stereotype of the pointy-haired boss, wander on over to The Dilbert Site.

One of the things I personally *love* about startups is that the likelihood of any given startup management team being totally clueless is much, much lower than that within a big company.

Lest you think I'm completely biased, because I've worked in and around startups for so long, I will let you know that I've experienced companies with billions of dollars of revenue and thousands of people -- all the way down to companies with two people and no revenues. Though my opinions might be biased, I don't think they're wrong.

Why Startup Management Is Usually Less Likely To Be Pointy-Haired

1. Closeness to Customers: Even within startups that have grown quickly, the management team is usually pretty close to real customers. They don't just sit in wood-panelled conference rooms and plot strategy. They're on the street talking to real prospects, closing real sales and addressing real issues that customers report. Startups where this is not the case are usually dead startups (or soon to be dead startups).

2. Aligned Incentives: Though it would be nice to think that managers everywhere are incented to act in the interests of the companies they work for, it's just not the case. In big companies, there are any number of possible motivations for management behavior -- only one of which is the success of the company. The primary competing incentive is job preservation and career growth. In a big company, career growth can often be independent of passionate committment to the company. In startups, the company *is* your career. There are few corners to hide in if you're not performing.

3. Emotional Commitment: Startup manangers often "live" their startup. They're committed. They have skin in the game. If the startup fails, *they* fail. Sure, they're likely recover and go on to live productive, satisfying lives. But, the experience will leave it's mark. In bigger companies, not so much. You go out, you find another job. More often than not, it's better.

4. Execution Counts More Than Strategy: In a big company, managers can often overly focus on strategy. They plot big, company-changing things. They think out-the-box. They pontificate on what they think will drive innovation, quality, service, sales, or whatever it is that they happened to be focused on. This is all fine and good, but it takes a while to measure whether a given manager's strategy was actually "good" (i.e. effective). At startups, managers are more often than not measured by less lofty things: like what they get done, or help get done. Nothing wrong with strategic thinking, but I've never read a Dlibert cartoon where the pointy-haired boss actually did something useful and productive. He's usually doing something "strategic" (and lame).

So, what do you think? Am I being overly harsh on big companies? Have I spent too much time at startups and as such have a distorted view? Or, do you find yourself nodding your head at most of these points and think I've got an uncanny knack for the obvious? Would love to read your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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