Simon Willison’s Weblog

22 items tagged “business”

Help with next steps for a startup

Have you thought about applying to Y Combinator? The reason I ask is that “I have lots of expertise in language learning and basically zero expertise in startups, market research, business, fundraising, app pricing, etc” is pretty much YC’s sweet spot: they know that it’s much easier teaching those things to engineers and makers than it is to teach engineering to business people (I’m assuming you have product and engineering skills based on your description of your progress so far).

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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.

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Why was LinkedIn Events shut down? Why isn’t there now a social network for business events?

Our site Lanyrd offers LinkedIn signin and works as a social network for business and professional events. You can read more about our LinkedIn integration here: Use Lanyrd and LinkedIn to get more out of professional events and conferences

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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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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.

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What should be my minimum requirements for a cutting edge SaaS business product?

That depends on your customers. If you’re building software for banks or hospitals you probably need to support older versions of IE. If it’s for software companies or web freelancers, requiring a modern browser version is fine.

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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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What is the real risk of pirating Microsoft software as a startup business vs an individual user?

I agree with David S. Rose—integrity matters. Look in to BizSpark.

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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.

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What’s an idea worth?

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

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How can I successfully organize a conference?

PPK’s conference organisers handbook is crammed with useful advice on running this kind of event: http://www.quirksmode.org/coh/

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What do business people look for in a good business card?

I like to encourage writing on business cards—which means that the card shouldn’t be glossy (to ensure pens work on it). Our business cards, designed by my partner Natalie Downe, actually have a labelled “notes” area on one side of them.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What criteria should a company meet in order to have a 5 million dollars valuation?

They need to convince an investor to buy 10% of the company for $500,000.

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Does Y Combinator ever fund British startups?

Yes. Our startup http://lanyrd.com/ went through Y Combinator Winter 2011 (Jan to March this year) and we’re a pair of UK co-founders. We’re back in London now.

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What are the main things a non-technical co-founder of a tech company should focus on while the site is still being developed?

Building the right product.

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How do you successfully outsource a web application project that is a copy of another website?

You may find that the quality of developers you can hire depends on the quality of the project. Copying another website doesn’t sound like a very interesting project.

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Is it a good idea for new start-up to outsource Software/App Development?

It depends on what you mean by “outsourcing”.

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How to sell your software for $20,000 (via) The best article I’ve read on software entrepreneurship in ages. # 28th June 2008, 9:21 am

Do Content Management Systems really work?

Have you considered trying a Wiki? In my experience, the more permissions / workflow / etc you have in a CMS the more likely it is that people won’t use it. Wikis may be a little unconventional but the barrier to entry is fantastically low and they can work extremely well (I like MediaWiki or TaviWiki myself).

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