Adam Smith Video On The Story Of Xobni

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Adam Smith Video On The Story Of Xobni


As noted in my previous article on startup marketing, I had the opportunity to speak at the MIT Startup bootcamp recently.  My friend, and an all-around great guy, Adam Smith (founder of Xobni) spoke earlier that day.  Adam did a great job capturing the experience of starting a company and watching a company grow.  Adam's both brilliant and articulate.  Well worth watching the video.


Here are some quick notes from the video (to help entice you to watch).

1.  If you can improve email just a little bit, you can create a lot of value.

2.  PG: "Go shake your friends tree, and see who falls out"
3.  Met co-founder originally on Craig's list (when looking for apartment)
4. All our passwords in the early days of Xobni were "xobni rules"
5. Drew Houston wrote the first lines of code for his startup at our place.
6. In the early days, after the Series A, we hired about 1 employee a month.
7. Once we realized that Xobni Analytics (Google Analytics for your email) was interesting, but not something people used every day, we decided to change the product completely.  I'm not telling you this so you can short-circuit this, but so you can forgive yourself if you do the same thing.
8. Expect and hope that a quarter of your projects fail.  If not, you're not taking enough risks.
9. Focus on the user.  
10. Have lots of experiments, but make sure they're strategically focused.  That's one of the problems Yahoo! has, they're spread too thin.
11. If you're starting an enterprise software company (God help you), hire a VP of sales.
12. Hit the high notes.  Find things that only you can do really well.  This helps you raise the barrier to entry and please your users at the same time.
13. We decided to move out West, because when we asked people, half said it doesn't matter, the other half said, move out West.
14. Ron Conway (the biggest angel investor in the world) is getting more dealflow now than ever before.
15. Paul Graham's essays are required reading.  They're going to be my kid's first reading.

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Nov 16, 2009


Great highlights and more reading suggestions are always greatly appreciated.

posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 2:39 AM by Clinton Boyda

It's an entertaining video, no doubt, well-presented and thought-provoking. 
But, when watching videos like this, I always think that a person who never started a company before could watch a 100 great "how to startup" videos and, not only have no more real knowledge as to how to start a company, but take all the wrong lessons away such that they'd likely be less able to start a company. 
I guess that it just goes to show that watching a video is a pretty passive and intellectual activity and starting a company is just the opposite, an active activity.

posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 10:35 AM by Dan Howard

@Dan, yes that's a good point. I don't know of any hard/scientific data but the point does resonate. 
I know there is a science to encouraging retention in TV based learning, pioneered by the Sesame Street folks. No doubt I didn't know or use any of those. ; ) 
Empirically I've found most of my academic startup learning has come from reading and listening, not watching. For example, I've read Paul Graham's essays many times over. I've also listened to two of his talks several times on audio, available from the O'Reilly IT Conversations series. (you can find those via google.) 
But I've never found any of the videos to be as academically powerful. Interesting...

posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 1:29 PM by Adam Smith

Hi, I was researching about attrition in start ups and stumbled upon this thesis of yours 
Did you profs say "We knew him when he was just a stressed out ..."? 

posted on Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 5:31 PM by Shan

Excellent talk. Candid. Like your notes Dharmesh.

posted on Monday, November 23, 2009 at 1:08 PM by Max

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