Simon Willison’s Weblog

Entries tagged entrepreneurship

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What’s the first thing you would check if the company is losing money even though there’s a big increase in its revenue?

The company’s expenses.

[... 31 words]

What are the key points accelerators such as Y-Combinator drill into their startups?

They also teach the importance of launching something and getting real feedback. The entire three month YC process is based around the need to launch and demonstrate traction in order to raise money from investors.

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Do accelerators (which do not take up equity) accept not-for-profit ventures into their programs? If yes, which are some of the best ones?

Y Combinator recently started funding non-profits: http://ycombinator.com/np.html

[... 37 words]

What are some examples of startups funded simply for the strength and uniqueness of its founders rather than for any particular idea?

A good portion of YC companies fit this definition—it’s common for YC to fund the team and then work with them to help them either fix their initial idea or find a better one.

[... 64 words]

As a non-technical single founder for a web startup, is it better to hire a design firm to build the prototype, or find a technical co-founder?

Find a co-founder. The problem with using an outside agency to build your initial prototype is that you won’t really start learning about your product until after you have launched it. You need to have the talent available in-house to then make changes and improvements based on the feedback you get from real users.

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I’ve been working alone for about a year, how do I get out of this feeling of loneliness because no one is around me?

This is why co-working spaces exist. I don’t know which country you are based in but here in the UK most cities and many larger towns now have at least one tech-focused co-working space where you can rent a desk on a month-to-month basis and have a work environment outside your home with other freelancers with whom you can socialize.

[... 129 words]

Should I pull the plug?

Is there any way if turning this in to a recurring revenue product? It’s enormously easier to get money from an existing customer (since they already know that your product works for them and is worth the cash) than to sign up a brand new customer.

[... 140 words]

In which case have you seen a non-tech sole founder rise to build a sustainable great company without a tech co-founder? How can this work? What are the steps/advice you would give to the non-tech founder?

Here’s a great write-up of his experience: From Selling Scoops Of Ice Cream To Founding ZeroCater | TechCrunch

[... 110 words]

I’m a developer, I’ve an idea, how to look for funding?

If you only need $10,000-$15,000 you should be looking at funding it yourself—professional investors very rarely get involved for that size of raise, and you probably wouldn’t want them to—giving up equity in exchange for so little money is usually a bad idea.

[... 90 words]

What should be my strategy to become a tech entrepreneur?

Go and work for an early-stage startup. Pick well and you’ll learn a ridiculous amount in a very short space of time: excellent preparation for later striking out on your own.

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Can top VCs hire almost any employee they want for their portfolio companies?

There’s little a VC can do to convince someone to go and work for one of their portfolio companies that the company couldn’t do itself. They might hear about good candidates through their networks, but that candidate will still have plenty of other opportunities to chose from.

[... 117 words]

Is it worth it to give up equity in a seed stage company for something other than money? E.g. access to multiple consultants/mentors, as well as regional angel and vc groups?

Yes, but not very much equity. It’s reasonably common to give small (less than 1%) stock grants to members of your advisory board for example.

[... 75 words]

Is it possible to run a successful company without being unethical or operating on the fringes of the law?

There is nothing inherently unethical about entrepreneurship. Find a problem people have. Figure out how much money solving it will save them (or help them make). Charge them less than that.

[... 108 words]

What are most important websites, online sources of knowledge and news for startups?

Hacker News is still the best starting point, which is pretty impressive considering how long the community has been around.

[... 41 words]

What do you do when you passionately believe in what you’re doing and have been seeing strong customer validation, but people around you constantly diss it? How do you persevere without a support system?

This is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to build a circle if trust with other entrepreneurs—or potentially even move to a “startup hub” region where more people are doing startups.

[... 110 words]

What should the CEO’s salary be in a startup seeking seed capital? Is there an average number?

If you haven’t yet raised any capital, how can you pay a CEO salary at all?

[... 133 words]

Why was the popular Silicon Valley incubator named Y Combinator?

From this interview with Paul Graham http://www.paulgraham.com/frinte...

[... 95 words]

What prevents founders from taking blown up salaries?

When the money runs out, the startup dies. If a founder takes a high salary they are reducing the runway of the company, and dramatically increasing its chance of failure. Good founders will take the lowest salary they can make work for them.

[... 168 words]

I have an offer from an angel, but just landed a 5 minute meeting with a big time VC. Do I try use the offer from the angel to my advantage, if so, how?

An offer is worth a lot more than a five minute meeting—and VCs are much more likely to take you seriously if you’ve already convinced someone else to invest.

[... 98 words]

What are some early examples of SaaS?

37 Signals’ Basecamp was one of the pioneers if modern SaaS back in 2004.

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What can startups do on big data day one?

Log everything, and then forget about it. That way you’ll have data you can analyse later on, but aside from setting up logging and log storage you won’t waste any time messing around with Big Data when you haven’t yet found product-market fit.

[... 58 words]

How can I sell an idea to investors?

At minimum: build a prototype. If you really want then to take seriously, launch a first version and demonstrate traction.

[... 34 words]

Are there any websites, forums, or blogposts that discuss startups’ technology stacks or IT infrastructure?

The website www.highscalability.com has a good collection of articles on this topic (case studies about specific startup’s technology stacks) stretching back several years.

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What is a good list of conferences, speaking gigs, hackathons, and other technology-centric events where one can reach software architects and developers?

We have a pretty comprehensive list of (mostly tech) conferences in the Midwest USA here: http://lanyrd.com/places/midwest...

[... 45 words]

Besides MTurk, what are some good resources to use when doing market research for a startup?

SurveyMonkey and Google both offer services where you can pay to get responses to a survey from a large number of recipients:

[... 51 words]

If I told you "Get me a 20 minute meeting in front of xyz person and I’ll give you $20 whether or not they buy into what i have to offer, would you set up the meeting?

Absolutely not. My ability to make introductions relies on people trusting me to make good introductions. If I make a poor introduction to someone it damages or destroys my ability to make introductions to them in the future. If I get a reputation for selling introductions I’ll lose credibility with everyone in my network.

[... 97 words]

What is the best resource for someone who is non-technical to learn about computer programming/creating software?

Learn to program. You don’t need to learn programming to the standard where you could work professionally as a software engineer, but having enough programming knowledge to write some simple programs and automate some simple tasks will make you enormously more capable when it comes to working with programmers—or in business life in general.

[... 135 words]

How should I evaluate a potential technical co-founder? What qualities matter most to the business, to investors, to future employees?

Build a small weekend project with them. If they can’t build and (more importantly) ship something simple in a couple of days, with you collaborating with them effectively on what it is, how it should work and so on, they aren’t a good fit.

[... 70 words]

What’s an idea worth?

I like Derek Siver’s model proposed here: http://sivers.org/multiply

[... 77 words]

I have an idea for a website, with an idea for eventually having cashflow out of it? However, my skills are insufficient to build it and I have no money at all to hire someone—what’s my best starting point?

You either need to learn some skills, or you need to earn some money. Sadly, having a good idea is not enough—you need to be able to execute it as well.

[... 80 words]