Simon Willison’s Weblog

179 items tagged “startups”

2021

We never shipped a great commercial product. The reason for that is we didn’t focus. We tried to do a little bit of everything. It’s hard enough to maintain the growth of your developer community and build one great commercial product, let alone three or four, and it is impossible to do both, but that’s what we tried to do and we spent an enormous amount of money doing it.

Solomon Hykes # 7th September 2021, 2:47 pm

Django for Startup Founders: A better software architecture for SaaS startups and consumer apps (via) The opening section of this article has very little to do with Django: it’s an insightful description of the technical challenges faced by a startup that is still seeking product-market fit. Alex then extends that into his own architectural recommendations for startups building with Django to help waste as little time as possible on problems that aren’t core to the product they are building. # 24th June 2021, 8:43 pm

The SOC2 Starting Seven (via) "So, you plan to sell your startup’s product to big companies one day. Congratu-dolences! [...] Here’s how we’ll try to help: with Seven Things you can do now that will simplify SOC2 for you down the road while making your life, or at least your security posture, materially better in the immediacy. # 5th March 2021, 7:50 pm

2020

If you are pre-product market fit it’s probably too early to think about event based analytics. If you have a small number of users and are able to talk with all of them, you will get much more meaningful data getting to know them than if you were to set up product analytics. You probably don’t have enough users to get meaningful data from product analytics anyways.

Michael Malis # 11th December 2020, 6:39 am

Any time you can think of something that is possible this year and wasn’t possible last year, you should pay attention. You may have the seed of a great startup idea. This is especially true if next year will be too late.

Sam Altman # 28th May 2020, 9:36 pm

How the Digg team was acquihired. (via) Useful insight into how a talent acquisition can play out from Will Larson, who was an engineering leader at Digg when they negotiated their acquihire exit. # 3rd January 2020, 2:27 am

2018

Advice for a new executive, by Chad Dickerson (via) Lara Hogan shares the advice she was given by Chad Dickerson (CTO and then CEO of Etsy) when she first became VP Engineering at Kickstarter. There is so much good material in here. I can vouch for the “peer support group” recommendation: Natalie and I benefited from that through Y Combinator and ended up building our own founder peer support group when we moved our startup back to London. Having a confidential trusted group with which to discuss the challenges of growing a company was invaluable. # 31st August 2018, 1:45 pm

2017

Getting Your First 10 Customers (via) There is so much good advice embedded in this article by Patrick McKenzie, and it constantly comes back to the theme of doing whatever it takes to get to your first ten paying customers. # 23rd October 2017, 5:36 pm

It’s Not a Feature Problem—Avoiding Startup Tarpits (via) “When we turned on paid advertising for the first time the increase we had a sizable increase in signups. We always feared that a new user would just churn because of what we perceived as deficiencies in the product. While there were users who churned for that reason, it was never the nightmare scenario that we imagined.” # 22nd October 2017, 12:53 pm

Should I build my startup’s web-based product as if it’s going to one day be widely adopted and experience high-volume, or instead focus on quick delivery over scalability?

Absolutely the second: build for rapid learning, not for eventual scalability. The vast majority of startups fail, and the number one reason they fail is that they didn’t achieve product-market fit: they failed to build something that customers actually wanted.

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2016

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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What is the single greatest value-add from Y Combinator?

It’s very difficult to pick the best one, but from our experience here’s something that really stood out: the sense of camaraderie and trust you have in others who are also going through YC.

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2015

What are the best strategies to get a tech job at YC-backed startups in the next 5 months?

Keep an eye on jobs | Hacker News—it’s the official listing of almost all jobs advertised at YC companies.

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2014

Does Y Combinator accept purely app ideas like WhatsApp, Flipboard, etc.?

Yes they do, but you’ll need to demonstrate that your team also has the ability to execute on the idea.

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What is the best payment provider for a web app with monthly subscription fees at its early stage?

We found Stripe extremely easy to get started with for charging subscription payments.

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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

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How much equity does YCombinator get on average?

They almost always take 7%—they get diluted down in further rounds.

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Is YCombinator’s $20k seed capital enough to keep a team of 3 founders alive in Silicon Valley during the program?

Yes—especially if the three founders live together. A three bedroom apartment near Mountain View can be had for around $3-4,000/month (just check Craigslist), which will be the bulk of your expenses. The rest can cover food, car rental and some business-related expenses (we spent some money on office chairs and a desk).

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Calendars: When posting a facebook event page for an event that is repeated on two dates, should you use one page or two? (The events are games that are identical and should not have overlapping players)

I would use separate pages. The most valuable part of a Facebook event page is being able to see who is going to that event (and hence which of your friends will be there). If there are two events on two separate days you want to be able to maintain two separate lists of attendees.

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2013

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.

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What is the Y Combinator cycle?

The winter program generally runs from January until March, with application deadlines the previous October (this year the deadline was was October 21st). Interview invites were sent out on November 4th, and interviews themselves in Mountain View were November 15th-19th. Teams get a yes or no answer the day of their interview.

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Is it fair for someone who calls themselves a “seed” investor to require traction?

It’s completely fair. If you’re building a web-based startup these days, you should be able to demonstrate initial traction on an idea with very little up-front investment—a couple of months of your time and a few hundred dollars in hosting costs, perhaps. Being able to do that is an excellent indicator that you’re a good bet for a seed investor. If you are unable to do that, you’re a much higher risk for investment.

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Which Y Combinator companies focus on finance?

TrustEgg (YCW11) help people open trust funds for their kids: TrustEgg Allows Anyone To Set Up A Trust For Their Kids | TechCrunch

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How did GitHub get its initial contributors?

The founders were active participants in the open source and Ruby on Rails communities. The first users were people they knew in those communities (GitHub accounts were invite only at first).

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What are the best set of marketing/payment tools for use in startup with a subscription webapp?

Stripe has excellent support for subscription payments, including helping manage recurring payments and pro-rataing for upgrades to plans half way through a billing cycle etc. I believe BrainTree offers similar tools.

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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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How does one actually find Angel investors, when our business/startup is taking off and we need to grow fast?

The best way to approach angels is via introductions. To get introductions, you need connections to people who are known and trusted by angels.

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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.

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Has anyone been through Y Combinator more than once?

Yes, this isn’t that rare. I think the Hipmunk crew went through YC, despite having previously gone through as part of reddit. The Erics from clutch.io had previously participated in YC as part of Convore.

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