Dropbox – The Power of a “Value Based” Startup Drew Houston, CEO/Founder of Dropbox, gave an amazingly forthcoming presentation at the Startup Lessons Learned Conference chronicling his team’s path from idea to their current position as one of today’s hottest startups. Because of the importance of protecting user data, they modified the “launch early, launch often” mantra to “learn early, learn often.” And they aspired to gain the “best understanding of customers as early as possible.” My favorite quote from Drew’s presentation highlighted the power of focusing on what is really important: “If you make a feature matrix of Dropbox versus all the other products out there, we’ll never come out in front. We wanted to do a few things [really] well as opposed to a lot of things kind of well, presented in a way that’s confusing.” Dropbox struggled to find effective paid marketing channels, but Drew states: “The one thing that saved us was that we put all of our effort into something that worked, that was an elegant solution.”
What Startups Are Really Like October 2009 (This essay is derived from a talk at the 2009 Startup School.) I wasn't sure what to talk about at Startup School, so I decided to ask the founders of the startups we'd funded. What hadn't I written about yet? I'm in the unusual position of being able to test the essays I write about startups. I hope the ones on other topics are right, but I have no way to test them. So I sent all the founders an email asking what surprised them about starting a startup. I'm proud to report I got one response saying: What surprised me the most is that everything was actually fairly predictable! The bad news is that I got over 100 other responses listing the surprises they encountered. There were very clear patterns in the responses; it was remarkable how often several people had been surprised by exactly the same thing. 1. This was the surprise mentioned by the most founders. What people wished they'd paid more attention to when choosing cofounders was character and commitment, not ability. 2.
The Current State of Web Design: Trends 2010 - Smashing Magazine Web design is a fickle industry. Just like every other form of artistic expression, Web design has undergone a continuous and surprisingly fast evolution. Once a playground for enthusiasts, it has now become a mature rich medium with strong aesthetic and functional appeal. In fact, we are experiencing what could be the golden era of Web design — or at least the best period thus far. We have powerful new tools at our disposal (CSS3, HTML5, font-embedding, etc.), a plethora of freely available resources, a strong design community and also (if you needed any more!) reliable support of Web standards in the major browsers. We’re seeing better interaction design and more aesthetically pleasing designs. Please note: this article is the first in our series on the current state of web design. 1. As designers, our job is to communicate ideas effectively. Attractive things work better and help focus and keep the user’s attention. 20Large version21 Further Reading Link 27Image source3128 FFFFound! 3.
The Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators I keep hearing people throw around the word “curation” at various conferences, most recently at SXSW. The thing is most of the time when I dig into what they are saying they usually have no clue about what curation really is or how it could be applied to the real-time world. So, over the past few months I’ve been talking to tons of entrepreneurs about the tools that curators actually need and I’ve identified seven things. First, who does curation? Bloggers, of course, but blogging is curation for Web 1.0. But NONE of the real time tools/systems like Google Buzz, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, give curators the tools that they need to do their work efficiently. As you read these things they were ordered (curated) in this order for a reason. This is a guide for how we can build “info molecules” that have a lot more value than the atomic world we live in now. A curator is an information chemist. So, what are the seven needs of real time curators? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 1. 1.
Ten Rules for Web Startups #1: Be NarrowFocus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful. Most companies start out trying to do too many things, which makes life difficult and turns you into a me-too. Focusing on a small niche has so many advantages: With much less work, you can be the best at what you do. Small things, like a microscopic world, almost always turn out to be bigger than you think when you zoom in. #2: Be DifferentIdeas are in the air. #3: Be CasualWe're moving into what I call the era of the "Casual Web" (and casual content creation). #4: Be PickyAnother perennial business rule, and it applies to everything you do: features, employees, investors, partners, press opportunities. #5: Be User-CentricUser experience is everything. #6: Be Self-CenteredGreat products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. #7: Be GreedyIt's always good to have options. #11 (bonus!)
A TC Teardown: What Makes Groupon Tick Editor’s note: Group buying sites are growing like mushrooms. In this teardown, guest author Steven Carpenter goes through a detailed teardown of the largest social commerce site, Groupon, and its competitors to see what exactly is going on here. Carpenter was the founder and CEO of Cake Financial, a TechCrunch40 Finalist that developed a service for mainstream investors to manage their investments, which was sold to E*Trade earlier this year. Much has been written about the rapid growth and success of Chicago-based local daily deal company, Groupon. The Teardown To find out, I did a teardown of Groupon’s business with data available on its website over the most recent quarter, compared my findings to what I calculated for the final three months of 2009, and then looked at how all of this compares to the top competitors. How Groupon Makes Money Groupon takes the old Entertainment Coupon Books that your mom used to buy and brings it to the social web. Traffic What Are People Buying?
Insiders Tell The Story Of LinkedIn's Stunning Success The Age of the Mobile Mash-Up By Lars Erik Holmquist of the Mobile Life Centre, Kista, Sweden The rate of innovation in mobile services is just about to take a quantum leap. We are going from a divergent and messy ecosystem, where every new concept has to be made into a specialized ”app” that works only on a small sub-set of mobile handsets (even the mighty iPhone only has around 3% of the global mobile phone market), to an environment much more like the web. Today, new services can easily be composed out of existing components and run on a common platform – the browser. We are entering an age where the creation of a new mobile service – taking advantage of such features as the user’s location, social network, personal data, and even phone-specific functions such as the camera and accelerometer – can be mashed-up and put on-line just as easily as Web 2.0 services have been for several years already. So what does this mean? Today, of course, we could have done the same as an app and reached many more users.