Simon Willison’s Weblog

Entries tagged startups in 2012

Filters: Type: entry × Year: 2012 × startups ×


How great do you need to be in programming to be a technical (Co) founder?

You don’t need to be amazing, but you do need to know how to ship. You might be the best person at writing complex machine learning algorithms in the world, but if you can’t get running code deployed in a way that lets customers use it you won’t be able to get anywhere that matters.

[... 76 words]

Is it viable to say to an investor that you will quit your job and work full-time on a startup, if you get the funding?

This will reflect badly on you. Why should an investor risk their money on your company if you aren’t even willing to take the risk of quitting your job for it?

[... 62 words]

What advice does Paul Graham commonly give Y Combinator startups?

Read the essays on http://www.paulgraham.com/—many of them are derived from advice he has already been giving YC startups.

[... 37 words]

How much Django should one know before going in for an interview for a developer position?

I’ve hired people for Django positions who didn’t know Django at all. If you’re a good web engineer you should be able to pick up Django in a few days, and be properly productive with it in a few weeks. Instead, I’m interested in testing your understanding of the key underlying concepts: HTTP, SQL, HTML and JavaScript, XSS, CSRF, scaling, cookies, web app security in general, web performance optimisation, unit testing, refactoring, model/template/view-or-controller—and evidence that you’ve solved problems relating to those in production environments.

[... 177 words]

Why do developers so dislike “ideas people”?

There’s no disdain for creativity or the business side—those things are essential! The disdain is for people who think that having the idea is enough for them to be useful for the company (“I’ve got a great idea, I just need a developer to build it for me”). If you can’t build you’d better be able to do a LOT of other useful things. Having an idea isn’t enough.

[... 148 words]

Is it worth accepting an investment from YCombinator if you have an established network in the valley?

Yes. Plenty of the companies in our batch at YC already had well established networks, and they still benefited enormously from the advice and introductions YC could offer.

[... 295 words]

How do you get started with an entrepreneurial idea?

Anything can seem like a good idea at the moment you come up with it: the ideas worth pursuing are the ones that still seem like a good idea weeks or months later.

[... 48 words]

What are the best practices for onboarding new software engineers?

I’m a huge fan of “deploy on the first day”—which forces the issue in getting all of their accounts set up, their development environment ready, showing them where source control is, how code review works and so on. Even if it’s just adding themselves to the about page or humans.txt file, it means they can come in on day two ready to get real work done.

[... 106 words]

What communities and interest groups in London should software developers get involved in?

The monthly Hacker News London Meetup Group (held near Old Street) is a great opportunity to meet up with entrepreneurial-minded hackers—the talks are usually a good combination of technical and startup/entrepreneur material, and it attracts a really interesting crowd.

[... 61 words]

How can I keep my website content exclusive?

No, there isn’t—people can always copy things if they really want to, it’s part of the cost of doing business. If you were to publish a book people could always photocopy it.

[... 108 words]

Is it even possible to think of a new idea? Anything that I think of has either been done, or someone is doing it. How do you keep yourself motivated enough to pursue it?

A lot of the time it’s not just about the idea, it’s also about timing. There are plenty of ideas which have failed in the past but could succeed if tried again today. A few things to consider:

[... 180 words]

What are the top five items to pique interest in developers to join a startup?

It’s all about shipping.

[... 251 words]

Are there any startups outside US which are/were part of incubators & seed programs like 500 Startups, Techstars, Y Combinator, AngelPad or similar?

Our startup http://lanyrd.com/ was part of YC Winter 2011 and is now based in London.

[... 45 words]

What are good ways to get meeting with VC’s without introductions?

To get an introduction, you need to impress someone who can make that introduction for you. Knowing someone who knows a VC isn’t enough. Take a look at the section titled “Asking for introductions to people is tricky” on this page to understand why: http://www.kalzumeus.com/standin...

[... 102 words]

What is the best way for a startup to attract talented back-end and front-end team members?

First, pay them properly. It’s a lot easier for a talented developer to chose a startup over an established company if they aren’t going to have to take a massive pay cut in exchange for equity (most developers are smart enough to know that most startups fail... especially developers who have been in the industry for a while). If you raise money from investors, this is what you should be raising it for.

[... 230 words]

What are some unique and creative gift ideas for a startup team of 20 (ages 25-35, 80% male, mostly developers, under $100)?

Lego. You can get some awesome Lego sets for under $100, and all of the developers I know love getting given Lego (since they’re “too old” to buy it for themselves, even though they actually really want it).

[... 66 words]

What are some good examples of travel startups that use crowdsourcing?

Trip Advisor, Yelp, any of the big review sites.

[... 27 words]

If you missed out on joining to work at Google and Facebook, what should you do?

Remind yourself that there will always be more opportunities, and obsessing over what might have been is a huge waste of your time.

[... 45 words]

Should I take the time to learn programming, or take my idea and run with it?

Stop reading, start building. You’ll progress a LOT faster if you’re solving actual problems and writing real code, rather than spending 5-8 hours a day reading but not practicing.

[... 156 words]

Tech Startups: What skills/technologies would the ideal technical co-founder possess?

The most important indicator is: can they ship? Can they prove that they know how to take a project from idea to running code deployed to a server somewhere with actual people interacting with it?

[... 109 words]

What conferences held in the Southeastern US cater to those in dot-com and startup roles?

Here are a few:

[... 104 words]

Does YCombinator fund Start-ups interested in building electronic gadgets?

YC funded InPulse, who make a watch which talks to your smartphone via bluetooth: http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/10...

[... 43 words]

Does version 1 of a startup always take much longer than expected?

Usually.

[... 112 words]

Is it common for founding engineers at startups to buy software and memory out-of-pocket?

Absolutely not, provided the laptop etc belongs to the company and isn’t considered a gift to you.

[... 37 words]