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Ten Rules for Web Startups

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!)

Minimum Viable Product rant Lately, you can’t swing a dead cat at a gathering of Internet entrepreneurs without hitting someone in mid-sentence talking about their “minimum viable product.” The problem is that half the time, I don’t hear them talking about minimum viable products. I hear them talking about “minimum products.” As a startup, attacking the minimum problem speaks to capital efficiency; but it still needs to be viable. The goal of a startup is to find the sweet-spot where minimum product and viable product meet–get people to fall in love with you. Do It Now by Steve Pavlina When going to college many years ago, I decided to challenge myself by setting a goal to see if I could graduate in only three semesters, taking the same classes that people would normally take over a four-year period. This article explains in detail all the time management techniques I used to successfully pull this off. In order to accomplish this goal, I determined I'd have to take 30-40 units per semester, when the average student took 12-15 units. It became immediately obvious that I'd have to manage my time extremely well if I wanted to pull this off. I began reading everything I could find on time management and putting what I learned into practice. I accomplished my goal by graduating with two Bachelor of Science degrees (computer science and mathematics) in just three semesters without attending summer school. I wasn't considered a gifted child, and this was the first time I had ever done anything like this. Clarity is key. The first step is to know exactly what you want. W.

How A Startup Named Hipster Got 10K Signups In Two Days, Without Revealing What It Does By now you might be familiar with the startup with the funny name, as its very existence made news outlets as diverse as the Washington Post, and Hipster Runoff. And while Hipster CEO Doug Ludlow still refuses on the record to say what the site is about, at this point we’ve heard the words Yelp, Quora and location-based Q&A site being tossed around by sundry reporters, savvy Googlers and one ambitious tipster who sent us an in-depth analysis of its Javascript. But just like the hipster tribe themselves, what Hipster does is besides the point (at least at the moment). How did Ludlow do it? Aol’s Ben Roodman (ID #63) fell for it and tweeted out his invite link with a the hilarious, “I tell people I’m too fat to be a hipster but you can apply here: After the initial TechCrunch bump (we posted in the evening of the 11th) pageviews slowed down but Ludlow says that signups didn’t. Okay Hipster, now’s your turn to delight.

Communicating with code Some people can sell their ideas with a brilliant speech or a slick powerpoint presentation. I can't. Maybe that's why I'm skeptical of ideas that are sold via brilliant speeches and slick powerpoints. Or maybe it's because it's too easy to overlook the messy details, or to get caught up in details that seem very important, but aren't. I also get very bored by endless debate. We did a lot of things wrong during the 2.5 years of pre-launch Gmail development, but one thing we did very right was to always have live code. The great thing about this process was that I didn't need to sell anyone on my ideas. The most dramatic example of this process was the creation of content targeted ads (now known as "AdSense", or maybe "AdSense for Content"). However, we needed a way for Gmail to make money, and Sanjeev Singh kept talking about using relevant ads, even though it was obviously a "bad idea". More importantly, I wasn't the only one who found the ads surprisingly relevant.

Reading List: Fog Creek Software Management Training Program by Joel Spolsky Tuesday, November 22, 2005 The management training program we're starting up here at Fog Creek will take about three years and will be relatively intensive. Among other things, there will be a required reading list consisting of about 75 books (we're working on the theory here of one book every two weeks). We're trying to collect a combination of the best business books of all timethe best software management books of all timeand every worthwhile history of a software/computer company that we can find. This is my very first-draft list. Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? Want to know more? You’re reading Joel on Software, stuffed with years and years of completely raving mad articles about software development, managing software teams, designing user interfaces, running successful software companies, and rubber duckies. About the author.

- This is going to be BIG! - Startup Recruiting Hacks Yesterday, First Round had its annual CEO Summit. One of the cool things about being a fund that works with so many early stage companies is that bringing the whole portfolio together in one place results in a lot of collaborative learning opportunities. One of the topics that was discussed in a breakout session was recruiting. From what I've seen, most companies simply don't get enough people in the top of the funnel. Actually, startups tend to drop the ball on recruiting the same way they mess up in PR. These are some tips focused on getting as many relevant people in the top of the funnel as possible--the most challenging thing for a growing company long on expansion plans but short on time, brand awareness, and extra money to spend on recruiters. Events Events are the single easiest way to get a bunch of hiring leads in and to inform them about what you're up to. Social Media Content from your Employees Want to find a whole bunch of Ruby devs in a hurry? The Meetup Ground War Contests

Minimum Viable Product: a guide One of the most important lean startup techniques is called the minimum viable product. Its power is matched only by the amount of confusion that it causes, because it's actually quite hard to do. It certainly took me many years to make sense of it. I was delighted to be asked to give a brief talk about the MVP at the inaugural meetup of the lean startup circle here in San Francisco. Below you'll find the video of my remarks as well as the full slides embedded below. But I wanted to say a few words first. First, a definition: the minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. Some caveats right off the bat. Second, the definition's use of the words maximum and minimum means it is decidedly not formulaic. Without further ado, the video: Slides are below:

The top 20 IT mistakes to avoid | InfoWorld | Analysis | 2004-11-19 | By Chad Dickerson We all like to think we learn from mistakes, whether our own or others’. So in theory, the more serious bloopers you know about, the less likely you are to be under the bright light of interrogation, explaining how you managed to screw up big-time. That’s why we put out an all-points bulletin to IT managers and vendors everywhere: For the good of humanity, tell us about the gotchas that have gotten you, so others can avoid them. As it turns out, our many contributors to this article had a lot to say -- but precious little to say on record. 1. Mistakes relating to outsourcing could easily fill our top 20 list on their own. The other mistake is to hold on to functions that could easily and effectively be outsourced, such as running your own messaging environment. 2. For better or worse, many IT shops are susceptible to “religious” behavior -- a blind, unyielding devotion to a particular technology or platform. 3.

Some thoughts on recruitment – instinct over CV | The Equity Kic Having the right team is crucial for a startup and keeping the team right as a company develops is a critical discipline. I think this is one of the areas where a good investor director can add the most value: by leveraging experience across many startups to advise entrepreneurs on the likely impact on team requirements of growth and the other twists and turns of startup life by leveraging their network to find good candidates and recommend good headhunters (and leverage their reputation to make sure the headhunters deliver to the best of their ability) by leveraging their experience of working with many different types of manager and entrepreneur in many different situations to advise on the strength of individual candidates In other words helping our portfolio with recruitment is an important part of the VC job description. I am a big believer in the power of instinct in recruitment, and I have made many more mistakes ignoring gut feel than I have going with it.

Post Mortem on a Failed Product Just over two years ago, at the beginning of 2008, we set out to build a web content management system with community functionality infused throughout — eCrowds. The idea was that companies would need a solution for facilitating product communities with the following functionality: Content managementForumsBlogsIdea exchangesWikis We were solving the traditional challenges brought on by disparate silos of data with separate user authentication systems and inconsistent interfaces/template designs. 2008 was spent building the product and we launched it for our own internal customer success communities after nine months of development. It was a failure. Here are some of our lessons learned: We spent way to much time building it for ourselves and not getting feedback from prospects — it’s easy to get tunnel vision. What else? Like this: Like Loading...

Esquire Magazine: My Outsourced Life Whom Should You Hire at a Startup? (Attitude Over Aptitude) This post originally ran on TechCrunch. Startups.We know the mantra: Team matters. Is this philosophy exaggerated? Overrated? Cliché? No. Whatever you’re working on now, the half-life of innovation is so rapid now that your product will soon be out-of-date. The nature of the Internet and global knowledge is such that even if you’ve stumbled on to a super interesting area of innovation there will be many teams tackling the same problem at exactly the same time. The company with the best team on the field will win. So how exactly do you assemble such a team? 1. Is this a universal truism? So if you’re trying to scale your team be focused on quality. Aim high. 2. It means that many management teams I know feel the need to hire people who have “done it before” and frankly many VCs encourage this. Importantly, you also find people who are too quick to undermine the authority of the founders. So what do it mean to “punch above one’s weight class?” You said, “Eff experience. 3. Really? 4. 5. 6.

Three Rivers Institute » Blog Archive » Approaching a Minimum Viable Product The purpose of the MVP is to answer your most pressing question or validate your most pressing business assumption. Work backwards from question, not forwards from a feature list. For Tattlebird, my most critical assumption was that stuff was happening in browsers that site developers would care about. Your networking platform must have a twist, something no other professional networking platform currently does. Let’s say the twist is location–you have the professional network that shows where people are in real time (hey, not a bad idea!) That’s how I practice MVP, in any case. Eric Ries [update] is the latest product developer to promote “Minimum Viable Product” to describe a product created to elicit feedback. The purpose of the MVP is to answer your most pressing question, to validate your most pressing business assumption. For Tattlebird [my new product], my first critical assumption was that stuff was happening in browsers that site developers would care about. Conclusion