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Y Combinator Finally Gets Some Kick-Butt Competition With Y Permutator

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Thu, Apr 01, 2010

I’ve been following Y Combinator for several years and have a (sometimes grudging) admiration for them.  The “grudging” comes from the fact that they abandoned Boston and are now exclusively running their program in the Bay area.

onstartups ypermutator

Given YC’s success, several organizations in the past have tried to replicate or improve on Y Combinator’s revolutionary micro-funding model for startups.  Most of these have not really accomplished the objective.  The reasons for their failure have been varied, but the primary one was that unlike Y Combinator, they aren’t revolutionary.  Nobody sat down and said “how do we really take what YC has done and turn it on it’s head.”

Until now.  I just read about Y Permutator.  There’s a lot I don’t like about YP — one of which is it seems to be backed by some old school venture capitalists.  Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I just have a hard time believing that those that made all of their money in the 1990s and maybe even the 1980s (gasp!) are really going to understand what it takes to start a new kind of investment vehicle.  But, I have to give credit where credit is due.  It’s different

It goes back to the basics and brings back some of the same things that made VCs so successful across the decades — but adds some new twists.

I'm going to be particularlly interested in seeing what folks like Brad Feld, Davic Cohen, Dave McClure, Eric Ries, Fred Wilson and Michael Arrington think of this.  But, somehow, I don't think the top-tier VCs are going to be shaking in their boots.

If you’re in the market for some micro-funding, check out Y Permutator and let me know what you think.  Is this the future of micro-investing?  What do you think?

Article has 27 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Notes From SXSW 2010 And A Fabulous Startup Dinner

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Thu, Mar 25, 2010

onstartups sxsw I am writing this on the plane trip back to Boston from SXSW in Austin, Texas.  This was my first time down to the conference that’s been referred to as “Spring Break for Geeks”.  I’ve been meaning to go for the last couple of years, but have always had some conflict.  This year, I was invited as a speaker to talk about my new book, “Inbound Marketing”, so I went.  


Super Awesome Startup Dinner

The highlight of my entire trip was not the conference itself, but a last-minute dinner I organized with some startup founders that also happened to be there.  Here were the folks in attendance:

1. Jason Fried, 37signals

2. Drew Houston, DropBox

3. Mike McDerment, FreshBooks

4. David Greiner , CampaignMonitor

5. Kevin Hale, Wufoo

6. David Heinemeier (DHH), 37signals

7. Adam Smith, Xobni

8. Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot (me)

This was a fantastic group of startup founders all of who have been doing some amazing things with their companies.  We spent 4+ hours at the table eating, drinking and debating some of the finer points (and not so finer points) of running a software startup.

So, what did we talk about?  A bunch of stuff including (but not limited to): hosting (managed services, colo and EC2), the importance/unimportance of a board of directors, user/customer analytics, referral programs, credit card info and the pain of PCI compliance, user incentives, employment agreements, Jason/DHH’s new book (“Rework”) and whether expensive Scotch was really any better than non-expensive Scotch. 

Sessions / Speakers

I attended as many sessions as I could, and live-tweeted many (apologies if you follow me (@dharmesh), and you’re not into that kind of thing).  In most cases, I attended the “featured speaker” session (vs. some of the smaller ones).  Exceptions were when I knew the speaker.  This was for a couple of reasons:  a) I figured it was a “safer” bet in terms of quality of the presentation and b) As a frequent speaker myself, I’m always looking to get better and watching the pros helps a lot.

On average, I’d say the sessions were very good — but not great.  A few of the sessions fell a little flat.  I’ll admit, my expectations were high because I’d figured that SXSW has the pick of the litter when it comes to who gets to speak there.  But, given the sheer volume of sessions at the conference, I can’t really blame them for all of them not hitting it out of the park.

And, Of Course, The Parties!

As an introvert, I find it hard to have a good time in large groups but I decided that if I really wanted to get the full effect of SXSW I had to go to the legendary parties.  So I did, for several nights.  Even at these, I find myself talking “shop” with smaller groups of folks which was fun.  And yes, the parties were big.  

Overall, I liked SXSW -- a lot (and will definitely be going back next year).  It was a great opportunity to meet people I've known online for years and chat with old friends. 

Look forward to SXSW 2011.  Will you be there?

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Inbound Networking: 42 People I Want To Connect With at SXSW

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Mar 10, 2010

I’m going to be presenting at the big and boisterous SXSW conference in Austin, Texas this Saturday.  I’ll be talking about Inbound Marketing.  More specifically, I’ll be talking about some insider lessons we’ve learned building a marketing machine at HubSpot.  We’ll even be sharing some relatively confidential data.  The session is at 11:30 a.m. on the Day Stage. Here are the details: Inbound Marketing at SXSW

In any case, from what I hear, the event is supposed to be lots of fun, but huge.  As an introvert, I’m generally not a big fan of huge events.  So, I made a list of people that will also be at SXSW who I’d love to connect to.  I figured by having a list, I’ll feel more guilty if I head back to Boston and haven’t talked to at least a few of them.  I’m also hoping that a few of them will come across this article and be kind enough to reach out.  I made it a bit easier on myself by including some folks that I know pretty well.

If you’re on this list and reading this, please leave me a comment.  I’d be very grateful.

People I Want To Connect With At SXSW

1. Lane Becker, GetSatisfaction

Why:  I met Lane at a Startup2Startup event in Palo, Alto.  He was at my dinner table.  Smart guy and I’m intrigued by this overall category (though I’m hoping Lane doesn’t ask me why I’m a customer of UserVoice instead of GetSatisfaction).

2. Chris Brogan,

Why:  I always learn something new from Chris and it’s been a while since we had our list dinner plotting global domination.  It’s unfortunate that despite living within driving distance of each other, we don’t meet more often. 

3. Dries Buytaert, Acquia

Why:  I’ve talked to Dries a couple of times on the phone and Acquia’s a local (Boston area), venture-funded startup.  Have met several people on the Acquia team (they’re great).  Want to ask Dries how Drupal Gardens is going.  I’ve been meaning to play with it, but havn’t yet.

4. David Cohen, TechStars

Why:  I’m an investor in the new TechStars Boston cohort for 2010 and will be a mentor again this year.  David’s super-smart and a big supporter of early-stage startups.  I love startups.

5. Evan Cohen, FourSquare

Why:  My most recent project (currently in alpha) is SquareGrader (a free tool for analyzing FourSquare users)

6. Dennis Crowley, FourSquare

Why: As I noted in #6, I’m building a new, free tool for FourSquare.  I reached out to Dennis just a couple of days ago and he was gracious enough to respond almost immediately.  Would love to help FourSquare win in their market (and I’m an avid user too). HubSpot reaches over a million users a month -- many of them should be FourSquare users.  We can help make that happen.

7. Chris Dixon, Hunch

Why:  I’ve been reading the blog for a while (Chris has been on fire!),  it’s one of the better, more practical ones out there on the topic of startups and funding. 

8. Laura Fitton, oneforty

Why:  I’m an investor in oneforty and Laura’s great.  I’m always happier after having met her.  She’s energy-generating.  And, she might introduce me to some folks because she’s a rockstar and a networker extraordinaire.

9. Pete Cashmore,

Why:  I’m an avid reader of Mashable.  Mashable frequently writes about HubSpot or one of our tools — and I’ve love for them to write even more.  And, Pete’s a social media celebrity that at least a couple of the women at HubSpot have a crush on (not naming any names or anything, you know who you are).  It’ll raise my street-cred to go back to the office and say I met Pete.

10. Jason Fried, 37signals

Why:  Jason was kind enough to let me interview him for my graduate thesis and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.  Want to chat with him about how his new book Rework is doing and what I can do to help. 

11. Paul Graham, Y Combinator

Why:  He’s on my short-list of really, really smart entreprenerus and I’m a major fan of Y Combinator (and many of its portfolio founders).  I also understand that the recent Y Combinator conference went well (Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz spoke there) and that the next one is going to be about monetization, lead generation and freemium.  I’m going to see if I can finagle an invite to it.

12. Kevin Hale, Wufoo

Why:  I just love what he’s done with the company and Kevin’s got talents that I’d give-up 10% of my net worth for.  And, he says useful, practical stuff about how to actually grow a startup.  If I accepted board positions (I don’t) or they’d invite me (they havn’t), Wufoo’s on the short list of companies I’d actually do it for.

13. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

Why:  Major, major fan and not just because LinkedIn is so successful.  He’s just a super-savvy, strategic thinker (and angel investor).  He’s the kind of guy that I’d love to have involved with HubSpot some day.  (Yes, I aim high).

14. Beth Kanter,

Why:  I first came across Beth because my wife is passionate about non-profits and was working on a paper for a Harvard class she was taking (the paper was on social media).  Beth is just awesome.  Smart, well-written and has done more to help non-profits than anyone I know.  And, she was kind enough to provide some great feedback on a recent, mostly-failed idea I ran to help Room To Read.  She’s speaking at the NewComm forum in California — but unfortunately, my session is at the exact same time as hers. 

15. Guy Kawasaki, AllTop

Why:  Guy’s written what I think is the best books on startups, ever.  Art Of The Start and Reality Check.  He’s also been kind enough to respond to my emails, write a back-cover blurb for my book and all-around supportive of my entrepreneurial efforts.  Would love to actually meet him in person.

16. Ross Kimbarovsky, CrowdSpring

Why:  CrowdSpring’s an interesting company, and I’m working on a crowdsource-based project for HubSpot this year.  Want to hear how his new project is going and see if there are ways I can help.  [Disclosure:  I’ve also met the founder of CrowdSpring’s main competitor, 99designs, and like him a lot).  I wish both companies well.

17. Jason Kincaid, TechCrunch

Why:  Jason’s going to be talking about scaling LAMP applications (which I could totally use help with).  He also writes for TechCrunch, and it never hurts to know people at TechCrunch (they’ve been kind enough to write about HubSpot and several times).

18. Marshall Kirkpatrick, ReadWriteWeb

Why:  He fundamentally gets all of this new fangled social media stuff.  I’m an avid reader of ReadWriteWeb.

19. Scott Kirsner, Innovation Economy

Why:  He’s a great guy that I’ve gotten to know pretty well.  I try to meet up with Scott every chance I get — will be interesting to see this “other side” of him (i.e. film/movie stuff).  I always think of him as being a tech/startup kind of guy.  He’s done a lot for the local tech scene here in Boston.  I’m also speaking at his Nantucket Conference coming up next month.

20. Andrew McAfee, MIT

Why:  He’s smart and witty and is now at MIT (instead of that other top-tier school in the Boston area).  Andy’s a good friend of HubSpot so it’s always fun to catch-up.

21. Dave Mcclure, Founders Found

Why:  He’s the hardest working man in show business.  I wish I had half his energy or had done a tenth of what he’s done to help startups.  It’s humbling, really.

22. Mike McDerment, FreshBooks

Why:  All-around great guy and growing a great startup.  I learn something from Mike everytime I meet him (which has been several times now). 

23. Lori McLeese, Room To Read

Why:  I’m a big fan of Room To Read and given my recent failure to generate much money with the Inbound Marketing Charity Challenge, would like to see how I might do better next time.

24. Marc Nathan, Bulldog Financial

Why:  I feel like I’ve known Mike for years and am surprised we’ve never crossed paths in person.  Hoping to fix that.

25. Charlie O’Donnell, First Round Capital

Why:  Charlie and I go way, way back (he may not even remember).  We’ve intersected many, many times online — but have never actually met.  Now, Charlie’s an investor in Backupify (a company I’m a seed-investor in), so we have even more reasons to meet-up.

26. Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group

Why:  One of the more analytical and thoughtful writers on the topic of social media.  Minimal hand-waving and such.  Would like to hear his thoughts on weighted social graphs. 

27. Aaron Patzer, Intuit

Why:  Had dinner with Aaron during my last trip to the west coast.  Smart guy.  Would like to hear how things are going post-deal.  I have a suspicion that he’d actually tell me

28. Aviva Rosenstein,

Why: I’m really impressed with the business they’ve built at  I’m also a customer.  I’d love to hear how Aviva is tackling some of the usability challenges in the product.  We’re dealing with some of those same issues in my startup.

29. Darren Rowse, ProBlogger

Why:  Much of what I know about blogging in the early days, I learned from ProBlogger.  He gets this stuff.

30. Chris Sacca, Lowercase Capital

Why:  He’s a legend in the tech/investor/startup world.  Chris and I are now co-investors in Backupify.

31. Ryan Sarver, Twitter

Why:  He’s from the Boston area and I almost met him several times.  Now he’s at twitter so a little harder to connect with. 

32. David Meerman Scott, WebInk Now

Why:  The “Inbound Marketing” book wouldn’t have happened (literally) without him.  Great supporter and an all-around fabulous guy.  We need more of him.

33. Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Why:  Earlier tonight, I did a late night webcast/seminar thing for his members in the earn1k program.  Oh, and he’s a NYT Bestselling author.  Want to get some inside secrets as to what it takes to break into the list — and what impact it’s had since.

34. Brian Shin, Visible Measures

Why: Brian’s a friend and former classmate.  I invested in Visible Measures, and he invested in HubSpot.  We go waaay back.

35. Julien Smith, Blah Inc.

Why: He’s partner-in-crime with Chris Brogan on “Trust Agents” and I feel like I should know him.

36. Brian Solis, Future Works

Why: Great guy and recently came out with a new book “Engage”, which I’m reading on my Kindle.  Want to show him Book Grader.

37. Jonathan Stark, Jonathan Stark Consulting

Why: Because he knows a thing or two about building iPhone apps.  And, I want to do one of those this year.

38. Wayne Sutton, @waynesutton

Why:  Wayne’s big in the whole social media thing and was nice enough to be one of the first alpha testers of Square Grader. 

39. Gary Swart, oDesk

Why:  Awesome entrepreneur that was kind enough to spend some time with me to talk about startups and fund-raising (we were raising our Series C at the time).

40. Gary Vaynerchuk, Vaynermedia

Why:  Because he’s a force of nature.  And, to congratulate him because he’s #1 in the web marketing books category on Amazon.  And, I’m usually #2 or #3.

41. Tim Walker, Hoovers Inc.

Why:  Heard him speak at the Inbound Marketing Summit and chatted with him briefly afterwards.  Really nice guy — and he knows his stuff.

42. Chris Winfield, 10e20

 Why:  Have had the chance to spend a bunch of time with him in the last year.  Great guy, and was kind enough to donate directly to Room To Read as part of my (mostly failed) experiment, the “Inbound Marketing Charity Challenge”. 


Phew!  That took some effort.  If you’re on the list, please leave me a comment if you’d like to connect (or if you’d like me to stay the heck away, that’s fine too).  And, if you’re attending SXSW, and I happen to be on your list — leave a comment too.  I’m planning on carving out some time while at the conference to meet with folks.  The best way to (initially) find me is to attend my inbound marketing session at the conference.  It’s going to be a busy few days.

Hope to see many of you there.

Article has 12 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Lamenting The Loss of Reddit

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Aug 03, 2007


Reddit and I go way, way back.

I was there when Alexis and Steve presented the early idea (and a working application) at one of the early Web Innovator's meetups in a small, cramped bar in Kendall Square, Cambridge.

Several months later, there was a startup meetup at MIT.  I was one of three groups presenting at a startup gathering at MIT.  The guys from Reddit spoke right after me.

When I kicked off, reddit readers were an early source of traffic and helped build the readership of the site to what it is today.  Back in the early days, the content was great and I found myself going to reddit several times a day to find useful and interesting content.  (It didn't hurt that my own articles were making it to the front page of reddit on a pretty regular basis).

Now, I'm saddened when I look at the front page of reddit and what is popular there.  It seems that the system has been overtaken by articles on the political, the weird and the arcane (and sometimes all three).  I could post some of the links on the front page here to make my point, but it's subjective.  Go see for yourself.  As a result of this deterioration of quality, I find myself going to reddit much less often than I used to. 

I'm not sure what caused the downward trend.  In fact, it may not even be a downward trend (that's subjective).  Perhaps what's popular on reddit now simply reflects what's going on within the user base.  It's just not for me.  Perhaps it was when Conde Nast bought reddit that the decline began.  Perhaps Alexis and Steve just lost interest.  Perhaps the trend was inevitable as more and more people joined reddit and became a diffuse audience instead of a clustered community of like-minded people.  I don't know.

Of course, losing me as a frequent user has almost zero impact on reddit.  The site seems like it's continuing to do well (in terms of traffic and popularity).  But, I still feel a sense of loss. 

Article has 28 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments