Simon Willison’s Weblog


184 items tagged “startups”


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.

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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).

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Why was the popular Silicon Valley incubator named Y Combinator?

From this interview with Paul Graham

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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.

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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.

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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,—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.

[... 233 words]

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.

[... 48 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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Are you less likely to be accepted to Y Combinator if you don’t know how to make money yet?

If you apply and say “we have no idea how we will make money” you are much less likely to be accepted than if you say “we’re not 100% sure how we will make money, but our initial thoughts are to try X”.

[... 156 words]

Y Combinator: I’m interested in how what the YC$ were spent on was impacted by whether you were from outside the Valley when you went thro the program or were local?

If you’re from outside the area you’ll spend a chunk of the money on rent (and maybe car rental). If you already live in or near Mountain View you won’t need to do that.

[... 71 words]

What systems/software are absolutely worth purchasing for a solidly funded e-commerce startup?

I’d use a small fraction of that budget for relevant SaaS subscriptions—things like or for user analytics, or for SEO reporting, or for building a custom dashboard.

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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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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.

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How should two equal startup founder formalize a cliff?

A company is a legal entity. The person who leaves the company is the person who resigns from that legal entity.

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What is the best way to choose between two equally feasible start-up ideas?

Which one is most likely to still be exciting to you in five years time?

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

The website 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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How do you recruit programmers without risk of them leaving and jacking your idea, especially without initial funding?

You could ask them to sign a non-compete (which I believe are non enforceable in some jurisdictions, including California) but you might find this deters some skilled programmers.

[... 89 words]

How do I quit the startup I founded without causing too much fallout?

Have you discussed your situation with your investors? They are likely to strongly prefer you taking a larger salary than stepping down or taking on consulting work.

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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:

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What advice would you give to a new technical co-founder at a startup?

It sounds to me like you’d be better off seeking an engineering role in an existing, relatively mature startup (one with 5-15 engineers) rather than looking to be a technical co-founder of a brand new company. Startup engineering is likely to be pretty different from what you’re used to, and there’s no better environment to learn than a fast-moving company that already has a small and highly talented group of engineers.

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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:

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How long should I budget for an experienced designer to design a responsive ecommerce store?

There’s no single answer to this—it depends on the scope of the project. A one-page store selling 3 items is quicker to design than a thousand page store with dozens of category homepages etc.

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