The following is a guest article by Philip Crissman.
OnStartups partially sponsored Philip's trip to Startup School (hosted by Y
Combinator) in exchange for capturing some key insights from the session to
share with those of us that could not make it. -Dharmesh
Startup School Takeaways
my attempt at a broad overview of the whole day; what I took away from each
speaker. You'll notice that some of the takeaway's may contradict each other.
Well, a few of the speakers seemed to contradict each other, which is a topic
for another post. Here's a very broad summary of the
David Lawee, VP
Corporate Development, Google; founder, XFire.
Main take-away: Hurry Up. David emphasized the role of speed in a startup,
and how the modern timetable is considerably shorter than a more traditional "2
years until product launch" strategy. Your ability to turn on a dime and do
things quickly is highlighted as a major advantage for the startup.
Sam Altman, Founder, Loopt.
Main take-away: If you can avoid having to raise money,
then don't do it. If you do need to raise money, get it out of the
way and get back to work; many startups have been sidetracked by the
money-raising process, even fizzling out along the way.
Jack Sheridan, Lawyer, Wilson Sonsini.
Main take-away: Some legal decisions that you may make
early on never go away; pay close attention to these sorts of issues.
- Who owns the company
- Who owns the technology (IP)
- Who controls the company
- Who gets what in a liquidity event (sale, IPO, etc.)
Paul Graham; Founder, ViaWeb,
Main take-away: Build something people
want + Don't worry too much about money = Non-profit. Doing "good" is
a strategy. The "Tamagotchi" effect -- making
something that attracts users and a community gives you something to take care
of; this can be a powerful motivator.
Greg McAdoo, Partner, Sequoia Capital.
take-away: Greg's wave & surfer metaphor. It takes a great surfer
(entrepreneur) to ride a great wave (business/social/technology trend). The surfer has to pick the wave, but can't control the
Know your market; as
much about it as possible.
Have a market "whose hair is on fire" --
who needs your product badly, now.
Heinemeier Hansson, creator, Ruby on Rails, partner, 37Signals:
Main take-away: Your odds are better to not try to be the next Facebook/YouTube/billion
dollar acquisition. You can do very well just creating a great
product and charging money (gasp!) for that product.
Don't be in such a hurry, don't try to be so big, don't look for a wave.
creator, Gmail, founder, FriendFeed.
Main take-away: On listening to
users; listen != obey. Listening to your users, you
don't necessarily do exactly what they tell you they want; interpret their feedback to try to determine what the real problem
is. Then find a solution to that problem.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon.
take-away: Cloud computing will be increasingly important, and doesn't need to be an industry with a single winner.
Unfortunately, aside from this, his talk was largely a commercial for Amazon Web
Services. The insight into why cloud computing could be important
was more interesting than the commercial; would have been nice to have more of
that, or more practical entrepreneurial advice.
Mike Arrington, blogger, TechCrunch.
take-away: Getting press for your startup: have a compelling
story. Stand out; stand out in a different way than other people have
stood out (used Seth Godin's purple cow analogy).
Marc Andreesson, Founder, Netscape, Ning, etc.
Main take-away: Be so good they can't ignore
you (via Steve Martin).
Be prepared for everything to
look like it will fail... and nearly doing so. Don't quit.
business model that doesn't depend on a great economy (especially right now).
Peter Norvig, Director of
Main take-away: Start small, go fast, iterate
rapidly. Leverage data; especially other people's
data. A challenge: anyone can go out onto the web and get 1.7 billion words. Go
get them and do something (analysis, algorithms, searching, etc.) with them.
Of course, there was much more in each talk. But
those were the highlights, the main points, from where I sat. Full recorded
talks can also be found at Omnisio.