Categories: archive

Startup School 2012

Last weekend, I had the priviledge to attend Startup School. The lineup for this year’s event was insane:

It was just me, the founders, and 1000 of our closest friends. I arrived in Palo Alto (Stanford) via Caltrain from San Francisco, having stayed with a friend. It was pretty easy to get there. I then took a nice walk up Palm and then on to the event. Before the start, there was some breakfast type foods (fruit, bagels) as well as coffee and juice. I grabbed a little to eat and started talking to others as they arrived. I couldn’t believe how many people were at the event. It was pretty awesome. Registration didn’t go super smoothly, as the scanner couldn’t scan the barcode from my smartphone. Instead I typed in my reservation which somehow blew up the app. Then upon reloading the app, it printed my badge. I’m not entirely sure what happened there. Before the event, and during the breaks, I had the opportunity to talk to a few people, namely Joel Spolsky, Tom Preston-Werner, and Patrick McKenzie (Patio11). I thanked Joel thoroughly for Stack Overflow, Tom for Github, and Patrick for all of his awesome posts on Hacker News.

Anyway, here are my take aways from each of the presenters (in order of presenting):

Mark Zuckerberg

  • Bootstrap your idea: Facebook used .edu email only
  • You can’t 80/20 everything; you have to be the best at something
  • Scaled college-by-college, which made it easier to grow. Baking helps
  • “I always knew you would drop out of college” - Zuckerberg’s mom. Apparently everyone knew Zuckeberg would drop out of school before he did
  • “Explore what you want to do before committing.”

Travis Kalanick

  • “When I’m having a bad day, I go to our revenue graph.” Charge for your product and actually make money

Jessica Livingston

  • Weapons to fight monsters that kill startpus: determination (resilience and drive)
  • Monsters:
    • Rejection
    • Cofounders
    • Investors
    • Distractions
    • HR Acquisitions
    • (Difficulty of) making something people want
    • Rollercoaster (emotions)

Patrick Collison

  • “It probably won’t be all that hard.” - Jon (his cofounder and brother)
  • Turn up the dial on user feedback

Ben Silbermann

  • 4 months in, only 3000 users
  • Timeline: May 2008 leave job, November 2009 start code, March 2010 launch, June 2010 3000 users
  • Making things can take a long time
  • Committing matters: “do it or stop talking about it” - Silbermann’s wife

Ben Horowitz

  • What matters? Do something that’s 10x better
  • Take the number 1 spot in the market; number 2 doesn’t matter
  • Sleep like a baby… wake every 2 hours and cry
  • Two emotions of startup entrepreneur: Euphoria and Terror

Tom Preston-Werner

  • People are the only thing that matters
  • Product is the only thing that matters
  • Philosophy is the only thing that matters
  • “Everything that you add (to your product) dilutes the entire product”
  • “Focus over features” - Kyle Neath
  • Mission (< 10 words): you can change your mission
  • Github’s future? “Fixing collaboration around the world”
  • Don’t squander your opportunity (like the TV Show Lost)
    • Note: I personally thought Lost was great. Last season, meh. But you can’t please everybody, especially with a hardcore mystery show like Lost…

Ron Conway

  • 650+ Investments
  • Misses: Pandora,, Kickstarter
  • Patterns of why investor miss: being the 1st at something

Hiroshi Mikitani

  • 38x businesses in Japa
  • Number 1 in ecommerce

Joel Spolsky

  • Two types of businesses: get big fast and organic growth
  • Both are viable, but you have to choose which type your company is and stick with it
  • Get big Fast versus Organic Growth:
    • Land grab/new tech/network effect/lock-in versus established competitor
    • Need to be big to creat value versus break even quickly
    • Solve problems with money versus frugal and cheap
    • Move fast and break things versus mistakes kill you
    • 1% chance at big money versus 90% chance at low-mid money
    • VC versus bootstrap
  • Failure to decide which type of company you are will kill you

David Rusenko

  • 6 months after launch, only 12 users signed up
  • 2% of all websites on web
  • 15% of US traffic hits a Weebly site daily
  • Always know your runway
  • Number 1 lesson- you can’t succeed if you quit