Startups and growth

September 22, 2012 | Leave a comment

Y Combinator founder Paul Graham’s essays are invaluable if you want to be a part of the startup ecosystem. His latest, Startup = Growth, is required reading, and defines, once and for all, the difference between a “startup” and a “new business”:

A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.

[...] Starting a startup is thus very much like deciding to be research scientist: you’re not committing to solve any specific problem; you don’t know for sure which problems are soluble; but you’re committing to try to discover something no one knew before. A startup founder is in effect an economic research scientist. Most don’t discover anything that remarkable, but some discover relativity.

You should read the whole essay over here.

What’s important to remember is that this is one model – you don’t have to go the Y Combinator / venture capital route if you don’t want to. If there’s one thing I learned at XOXO, it’s that a lot of people are earning a living in a lot of ways: there’s many routes to covering your costs, living a sustainable life and doing what you love. Patrick McKenzie and Amy Hoy are worth paying attention to here – as is virtually every successful technology project on Kickstarter.

10 rules for startups

March 2, 2012 | 2 comments

  1. The user isn’t the product being sold. The user is the customer.
  2. Startups become big by empowering their customers with great products and services that allow them to do things that were previously difficult or impossible.
  3. A company is a group of people with a shared goal.
  4. Everyone deserves a chance to make progress on meaningful work.
  5. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
  6. You aren’t Steve Jobs, so don’t be a jerk.
  7. Meetings are toxic, but necessary. Manage them in a constructive way.
  8. Everything is a conversation.
  9. Everyone must bring something to the table. There is no room for “ideas guys”.
  10. Businesses make money.


February 10, 2012 | 1 comment

In the comments to this 37signals blog post (which is excellent), dhh and commenter Dave Christiansen collaboratively coined a term for startup companies that aim to go into the black as soon as possible and grow under their own steam: bootstraps.

I’m in love with this. Bootstraps give entrepreneurs full control over their businesses, without interference from venture capitalists or other interests, and put the onus on finding an actual business model that works on day one. To me, it seems like a responsible, autonomous way to create a product and grow a business.

Right now, startups are sexy, and maybe they always will be – but watch the people hard at work bootstrapping, and take note of their reasons for doing it. The risks are great, but so are the potential rewards. And there’s a lot to be said for doing business on your terms.

Spire Magazine: a teenage (mis)adventure

September 3, 2011 | Leave a comment

My high school yearbook entryI wrote a piece over on Google+ about Spire Magazine, my first real Internet project:

I became the editor and publisher, roping in our friends with the promise that they could get free games if they reviewed them. We considered static text files or the web, but decided that neither had the possibilities for layout and design that we wanted. So instead, every month I would edit everyone’s articles and compile them down into Windows Help format: an encapsulated hypertext format that could easily be downloaded. (These days, I’m convinced I would have used epub.)

[...] One piece we ran several times was called “What do you do on the Internet?” Nowadays the answer would be “everything”, but back then usage was still emerging. So people like Nicholas Negroponte, G.B. Trudeau and Roger Ebert would reply with very specific examples. I wish I still had a copy of these early issues.

These experiences still color everything I do; you can read the whole post over here. What was your first Internet project?

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