Simon Willison’s Weblog

Entries tagged startups

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Is there a compilation of all of Paul Graham’s essays available online?

Yes: his website. http://www.paulgraham.com/articl...

[... 23 words]

How can I invest in pre-IPO companies like Quora, Github, etc?

Get to know the founders and investors and see if you can get involved in a future funding round. If you don’t have at least a few hundred thousand dollars to invest you probably won’t get very far though, an even if you do you’d better have more than just money to bring to the table—these rounds are often over-subscribed which means the company can pick the very best out of a number of investors.

[... 139 words]

What’s my shot at getting into YC or TechStars NY if I am applying from outside the US, alone with both business experience and technical skills?

I’d say your chances are significantly higher than the average application, for both of those programs. Go apply already!

[... 51 words]

How many YC companies have tech co-founders?

Ballpark guess based on my experience in YC: over 90% of YC companies have the technical capability within the founding team to at least ship their MVP. YC is really good at taking technical teams and teaching them the business side of things.

[... 56 words]

What’s best the site to visit to START building a website?

There are two ways to approach this: you can try and learn HTML yourself, or you can use tools that will help you build websites quickly without needing to code.

[... 114 words]

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]

What is the equivalent of fuckedcompany today?

The TechCrunch deadpool, but it’s not nearly as fun. http://techcrunch.com/tag/deadpool/

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Which online platform can you recommend for organizing group trips? I’ve review startups that tried to build that, but failed a lot. Anything you can recommend that you used or use continuously?

TripIt has worked extremely well for me for trips with up to 9 people.

[... 52 words]

Why do so many London based SAAS startups only price in dollars?

UK customers are used to paying for some things in dollars. US customers are likely to be very uncomfortable paying for something in a foreign currency. So if you are only going to support one currency at first, it makes sense to pick dollars.

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Is it better to create your own framework, or would it be best to just use Django or something like that?

You should absolutely use an existing framework such as Django rather than writing your own.

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Is it common a Silicon Valley startup give employee free shares, or just option to purchase shares?

The problem with giving people shares outright is that they have to pay tax on them. If the company later goes bust (as many do) and the shares hence prove to be worthless, the employee has paid tax on something that has no actual value.

[... 147 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.

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Http://www.theacademyofbusinessstrategy.com? I’ve been contacted by this ABS to pursue some kind of degree leading to lots of money. It definitely looks like a scam, but is it? Has anyone actually done business with them? Are they legit?

When this exact same question was asked on Yahoo Answers a couple of months ago http://answers.yahoo.com/questio... someone showed up the same day with a very positive testimonial. I wonder if the same thing will happen here on Quora.

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Why doesn’t Yelp require a login? Is there evidence that suggests that acquiring users at the engagement stage versus initial landing is effective in specific markets?

Unnecessarily requiring a login to browse is (in my opinion) dumb. It discourages people from sharing links to content on the surface and can prevent search engines from indexing content, both of which are terrible for SEO. It also puts a pointless barrier in front of people who are trying to figure out if your service is any use, and encourages fake signups which pointlessly pollute your user database.

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Y Combinator: I want to apply to YC and I have 5 people on my team. we have two founders one technical and one designer but on our application I want to only include our three programmers one being a founder. Is this frowned upon at YC and does it hu...

YC are fine with three founders—no need to limit it to two.

[... 143 words]

If you’re starting a website as a product, what are the important things to consider for the domain and how important are they? Ex: effect of being .com, .net or .io etc., and is it okay to have a hyphen in the name?

Get the .com. If you don’t, you’ll find that a surprisingly large number of press mentions etc will link to the wrong place—and you may end up having to pay a fortune later to buy the .com from a domain squatter (the price goes way up once your site starts to gain traction).

[... 104 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]

Is it realistically possible to work for a startup like Medium with little to no coding and programming knowledge?

Yes, but not as a programmer. If you have other skills you might be able to land a job at a startup that makes use of those.

[... 84 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]

What is the best framework to use, Yii or Ruby on Rails?

This is a big decision, and it’s worth taking the time to pick what’s the best fit for you. I recommend going through the tutorials for each one, building the basic application they describe and seeing which made the most sense to you. As a Django developer, I suggest trying that framework too :)

[... 126 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]

If one were to bring the concept of Twitter to a VC today, would it be invested in, or turned away?

If someone brought just the concept without any form of actual implementation (of something that is pretty easy to prototype) I don’t think they would get very far.

[... 55 words]

What are some good examples of tweets used to attract visitors to a new website?

Without knowing what the site does, I’d go for the personal approach: "I just launched my new project, example.com—check it out and let me know what you think!"

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What are the best ways to get traffic to my SAAS project management app?

At your stage you won’t be able to get meaningful paying customers from regular web traffic. You need to be building up your customer base manually, one at a time, through a high touch sales process.

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What are some creative ways to pitch a new initiative to my team without slides?

Use a whiteboard.

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Which investors would consider a natural language processing startup in London?

I don’t know the answer, but I know how you can find it: track down as many London-based AI/machine learning/NLP startups as you can and look at who their investors are.

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