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Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas

Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas
March 2012 One of the more surprising things I've noticed while working on Y Combinator is how frightening the most ambitious startup ideas are. In this essay I'm going to demonstrate this phenomenon by describing some. Don't worry, it's not a sign of weakness. There's a scene in Being John Malkovich where the nerdy hero encounters a very attractive, sophisticated woman. Here's the thing: If you ever got me, you wouldn't have a clue what to do with me. That's what these ideas say to us. This phenomenon is one of the most important things you can understand about startups. [1] You'd expect big startup ideas to be attractive, but actually they tend to repel you. 1. The best ideas are just on the right side of impossible. The point when it became clear to me that Microsoft had lost their way was when they decided to get into the search business. Microsoft : Google :: Google : Facebook. The way to win here is to build the search engine all the hackers use. 2. Whatever you build, make it fast.

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Crowdfunding Law Will Turn the Start-Up World Upside Down - Tim Rowe - Voices Remember that special moment when we all realized that the Web was going to remake yard sales and auctions, but we didn’t know yet who was going to win? (And then eBay left the rest in the dust?) Such a moment has come again, and with a choice prize: Investing in start-ups. What would this mean? Everybody likes the innovation and jobs that this could propel. Here’s how this is going to play out: Intermediaries (the future eBays of this space) will spring forward to handle the paperwork, do background checks on issuers (required), ensure that offerings are well described and enforce balanced investment terms. This could be big. Up next? Tim Rowe is the founder and CEO of Cambridge Innovation Center, which houses approximately 450 start-up companies in a large office tower in Kendall Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Angel investor Bill Bryant: Here’s what I look for in startup entrepreneurs Seattle angel investor Bill Bryant Seattle angel investor and venture capitalist Bill Bryant has been around the block a few times in the tech industry, estimating that he’s met some 5,000 entrepreneurs in the past 25 years. So what does Bryant — an investor in companies such as Isilon Systems, Swype and Z2Live and an early employee at startup companies such as Visio, Qpass and Netbot — look for in the entrepreneurs he backs? That was one of the topics Bryant addressed Monday night at a Seattle angel investor and entrepreneurial meetup in Seattle. As you might imagine, it is more art than science trying to pick the winners from the losers. “I’ve met, I am sure, like 5,000 entrepreneurs over the last 25 years, and have been pitched like 2,500 times. Bryant continued after sharing a story of Isilon co-founder Sujal Patel, who he said exhibited many of the traits he looks for in an entrepreneur. Later in the program, Bryant was asked about what makes a good entrepreneurial pitch.

Wannabe entrepreneur symptoms and cures I was once a wannabe entrepreneur. Fresh out of college and a summer internship at a VC firm, I thought I knew what I was doing. Though this was 2000, and all startup & VC blogs we've grown to love didn't exist yet, I did have mentors available. I should have leaned on them a lot more, but I didn't, or at least not in the right ways. But all the ways I've failed, and there are certainly many, is not the point. Since 2000, I've been doing and thinking about startups constantly. What follows are some symptoms I've seen over and over that usually (though not always) indicate a wannabe entrepreneur. There are cures. Symptom: a year has gone by and you have nothing to show for it. Cure: get stuff done. Symptom: you haven't really talked to any real customers/users. Symptom: you're going around calling yourself a CEO. Cure: you're a founder. Symptom: you aren't knowledgeable about startups, especially your own space. Cure: read stuff & regularly talk with the smartest startup people you know.

by Eran B.Y You will fall in love with someone who annoys you, whose orgasm face looks and feels pathetic. Despite all of this, there’s something keeping you drawn to them, something that makes you want to protect them from the harsh world. What you fail to realize, however, is that you are the harsh world. You aren’t their noble protector — you are someone to be protected from but it takes a lot of dates, a lot of nights where you question whether or not you are actually a good person, for this to ever resonate with you. You will fall in love with someone who’s cold and always seemingly pushing you away. You will fall in love with someone for one night and one night only. You will fall in love with the old couple down the street because to you they represent the impossible: a stable, long-lasting love. You will fall in love with smells, the good and the bad kind. You will fall in love with your friends. So fine.

The myth of the overnight success tech Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd game. They spent eight years and almost went bankrupt before finally creating their massive hit. You tend to hear about startups when they are successful but not when they are struggling. Startups are hard, but they can also go from difficult to great incredibly quickly. [Excerpt] Fundraising: From $1,000 To $1,000,000 Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Onswipe CEO Jason L. Baptiste’s new book The Ultralight Startup: Launching a Business Without Clout or Capital. To coincide with giving the chapter away, Jason will be choosing one entrepreneur from the TechCrunch audience to meet four of the best venture capitalists today to pitch their idea, which include Andy Weissman, Partner at Union Square Ventures, Alex Finkelstein, Partner at Spark Capital, Brad Feld, Parter at Foundry Group, and David Tisch, Managing Director of TechStars NYC and angel investor. To enter, go here and fill out some simple information about your startup. The winner will be selected by April 20th, 2012. If you pay attention to the headlines about startups getting millions of dollars of funding from investors, venture capitalists, or partnerships, you might think the fund-raising process happens overnight. The reality is a little trickier. The Real Purpose Of Raising Money And Why it Might not Make Sense For You

Agency problems “Agency problems” are what economists call situations where a person’s interests diverge from his or her firm’s interests. Large companies are in a constant state of agency crisis. A primary role of senior management is to counter agency problems through organizational structures and incentive systems. For example, most big companies divide themselves into de facto smaller companies by creating business units with their own P&L or similar metric upon which they are judged. If you are selling technology to large companies, you need to understand the incentives of the decision makers. Agency problems also exist in startups, although they tend to be far less dramatic than at big companies. One of the reasons The Wire is such a great TV show is that it shows in realistic and persuasive detail how agency problems in large organizations consistently thwart well intentioned individual efforts.

Stanford 2012 Lean LaunchPad Presentations – part 2 of 2 Today, the second half of the Stanford Engineering Lean LaunchPad Class gave their final presentations. Here are the final four (the first five are here.) Team ParkPoint CapitalThis team spoke face-to-face with 326 customers. As often happens, this team came into class convinced that their market research proved that their business was providing credit to underbanked customers. 8 weeks later they ended up as a financial service provider for immigrants. If you can’t see the slide presentation above, click here. The ParkPoint Capital customer discovery narrative blog is here. We thought the team summarized their lessons learned well: If you can’t see the image above, click here. Team DentalOpticsTeam DentalOptics spoke face-to-face with 72 customers. If you can’t see the slide presentation above, click here. The DentalOptics customer discovery narrative blog is here. Team MiCasaThey spoke to 105 customers and surveyed 98 more. If you can’t see the slide presentation above, click here.

10 powerful branding insights that will keep your business moving forward Flickr photo via Woodleywonderworks Just because you’ve built a successful company doesn’t mean you can relax. Succeeding in this ever-changing business world demands that you constantly strive to get ahead…and stay ahead. Easier said than done, right? Well, the following branding insights I’m about to share with you will help you create a brand and business that grows year after year. 1. Sure, this seems obvious, but if you want to start taking some of your competitor’s market share, it all starts with a strong brand. Start with the why – Apple explains why they exist before they even get down to building products. Knowing the basics isn’t enough to dominate your market. 2. Neil Patel Do not ask your customers want they want—just give it to them. That is nothing more than the same old thing with a little improvement. You can only create a strong brand and move your business forward when you create a product that breaks from the past and creates a new path on how we live. 3. 4. 5. 6. Wrong.

Fink warns of emerging market 'black swans' Speaking at the National Association of Pension Funds’ annual investment conference on Wednesday, Fink (pictured) said: “I meet with companies all over the world, and I am seeing the massive effect of new technology on the creation of jobs. And one thing I have learnt is that technology is now cutting jobs more rapidly in the developing world than it is in the developed world.” He said: “These are countries that still have millions of people who need good, 21st-century jobs. I just don’t know if we have enough global GDP to create those jobs. That’s my worry. It’s my black swan of the moment.” Fink added that he expected the term “emerging markets” would cease to have much relevance for investors. He said: “We talk about emerging markets as if they are one compatible, cohesive market – but within emerging markets we have some very good examples of well-run countries, and we have some real garbage. “When China was growing at 10% to 12% a year, it hid the garbage.

How To Increase Your Productivity 500% Altucher Confidential Posted by James Altucher I missed investing in Google. I missed investing in Foursquare. I made fun of the guy who started Lycos. I want to be productive, healthy, and happy.When you spend even two minutes mentally debating the worst people in your life (as I did the first two minutes after I woke up today) those two minutes add up. People say, “well I played too many games. Better to not have 80% of my thoughts (or more on some days!) Nine types of thoughts that will prevent you from succeeding at your business or in your job. 1) Pessimistic thoughts: For instance, judging myself too harshly. Or, before I give a talk, thinking that I’m going to do horribly despite the fact that I’ve prepared well and it’s a friendly crowd, etc. 2) Vice – My vice thoughts start when I wake up. Perfectionism is a form of bondage. 4) Possessiveness– there’s that Sting song, “if you love someone, set them free.” 5) Painful – We just had the Thanksgiving holidays. 6) Fear. 7) Obsessive. 8) Sadness.

Crowding out angels from startup financings? Photo via Bigstock As early as next week, we may know whether Congress will change US securities laws to permit startups to sell stock to the general public over the internet. You know how, today, companies raise money on Kickstarter by offering products, t-shirts, and other bennies? Imagine those same companies selling stock to investors over a Kickstarter-like platform. Sound too good to be true? Where does this leave angel investing? To borrow from the vernacular of Occupy Wall Street, angels are part of the 1 percent. William Carleton Some angels like the idea of crowdfunding because they know it will be good for entreprenuers to have more financing alternatives. But many entrepreneurs and angels I’ve talked to want to know if angel deals and crowdfunding deals can exist side by side. To put it in legal terms, how should a crowdfunding exemption and the all-accredited Reg D exemption synch up? Let’s use a hypothetical to illustrate some of the potential problems. It’s a bit ironic.

Misunderstanding Apple We’ve come to expect analysts and pundits to misunderstand Apple. More puzzling is when Apple misunderstands itself. My three-week Road Trip of a Lifetime, driving all the way from Key West, FL to Palo Alto, was interrupted by a bout of pneumonia, low blood oxygen, paroxysmal cough and, most alarming, a loss of appetite. Thankfully, all indicators are looking good and I’m back walking Palo Alto’s leafy streets. The succession of wheel time and downtime gave me an opportunity to contemplate two recent controversies: Fred Wilson’s prediction of Apple’s imminent fall, and rumors of Apple’s purchase of Beat Electronics. These are both manifestations of what I’ll call, for lack of a better term, Misunderstanding Apple. I’d be surprised by Wilson’s facile, insight-free truisms, except this isn’t the first time he’s shown a blind spot when considering Apple. Calling Apple “too rooted in hardware” misunderstands the company. Horace is right; Fred Wilson clearly hasn’t done the numbers.