Simon Willison’s Weblog

181 items tagged “startups”


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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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:

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

It’s all about shipping.

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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 was part of YC Winter 2011 and is now based in London.

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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:

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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.

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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).

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

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

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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.

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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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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?

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

Here are a few:

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

YC funded InPulse, who make a watch which talks to your smartphone via bluetooth:

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


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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.

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How do startups verify the real names of their users?

The short answer is they don’t: they expect people to obey the policy, then block accounts that are clearly in violation.

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What are the coolest benefits/perks offered by startups?

I heard that Songkick give all of their employees a monthly gig budget to encourage them to go to live music (since that’s what the site is all about), which I think is a neat and appropriate perk.

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Are there any large tech conferences/events in Australia?

Web Directions South is a big Australian web event—you’ve just missed it though, it was a couple of weeks ago: ( on Lanyrd). It’s along the lines you describe, although tends to be more developer-focused than business-focused.

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Does Y Combinator ever fund British startups?

Yes. Our startup 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 best conferences about startup in 2011 (2nd semester) ?

We have a list of upcoming startup events here: ( lists just the ones in the USA)

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What are the top events for Internet startups in 2011?

We have a bunch of startup / entrepreneurship events listed on Lanyrd—try these pages:

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What are good websites to post online content about an event?

For posting slides from an event, is definitely the most popular. is a good choice too.

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Which Bay Area startups are going to SXSW 2011? will be there—both myself and Nat.

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What is it like going through the Y Combinator program?

This essay is pretty comprehensive—it’s what convinced us to apply to YC, and our experience so far has been true to what it describes:

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What are the most recent Y Combinator startup companies as of 2011?

We (Lanyrd) are a YC startup! We’ve just announced our participation:

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