Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wartime CEO vs Peacetime CEO

In 2009, Ben Horowitz co-founded the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz with Marc Andreessen. Both Ben and Marc have blogs worth following (Here is Ben’s blog and here is Marc’s blog).

In response to Eric’s Schmidt resignation as Google’s CEO, Ben wrote a great post around the different characteristics of wartime and peacetime CEOs. Ben points out that in peaceful times, the company is the clear leader in their market and therefore peacetime CEOs usually spend time defining culture, minimizing conflicts and expending market. On the other hand, in times of war, the company suffers from strong competition and economic changes, and therefore wartime CEOs are usually intolerant, paranoid and let war define the culture.

Check out Ben's full post here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

David Cowan (Partner at Bessemer) talks about startups and venture capitalism

Today, Startup Grind held an event with David Cowan. David is a partner at Bessemer and has an impressive resume. Among many other things, David founded Verisign, invested in more than 20 companies which have gone on to IPO and was named to the 2011 Forbes Midas List, which ranks the world’s top venture investors. Also, he has blog in which he posts advices for entrepreneurs (and several other topics).

In tonight’s talk, he provided a lot of insight into the startup and VC world, and here are some key lessons:

Value Proposition
Simplify the messaging and proposition of your business. To deeply understand what Verisign does, he would need to go into RSA, certificates... but they simplified the explanation down to “we provide the driver’s license to drive around the internet”

Differences between startups/VCs today and 10 years ago

  • Technology used to be particles, but now it’s a wave. Now, you buy a service and you expect to also be buying a constantly changing technology which will get better and better.
  • Internet law: every 18 months, you can create a secure and scalable e-commerce in ½ of the time and with ½ of the money. Nowadays, you can create interesting technology much faster and cheaper. Instead of hiring a consultant to figure out if your idea has a market, just build it and get people to try it out.
  • Related to the previous point: changing gears is very easy. Today, failure is an option because starting over is not expensive
  • The VCs used to be the guys that would help you save a failing idea by pouring more money. Now, they say “this is not working, let’s kill it. And let’s work together on something else”

Types of entrepreneurs
David sees mostly two types of entrepreneurs. On one side, there are the ones who by all means just want to start a company (and don’t really care about what the company do). On the other side, there are the ones who are crazy about a certain need/problem, and believe they can solve it better than anyone else. The second type is usually much more successful. You’ve gotta do what you love.

Talking to VCs
When talking to a VC, it’s important to be able to explain past failures. Also, it’s OK to say “I don’t know” for questions you still don’t have answers for.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Paul Allen’s Advice for Entrepreneurs

Yesterday, Paul Allen visited Silicon Valley to talk about what he’s learned from his many endeavors. The breadth of topics which he is interested in very impressive. He offered his thoughts on technology, medicine, music, sports and much more. 

At the end, I posed him the question: “For all the young entrepreneurs in the room, what are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your endeavors?” 

His answer touched on many topics, but here is a summary:
  • Find ways to improve the world through technology.
  • Don’t look only for what is already out there. Focus on what does not exist yet.
  • Getting the right team is key.
  • Try by all means to have a balanced life (Paul was diagnosed with cancer in 1982). 
If you are interested in learning more about Paul Allen, check out the video below (thanks to Dan Chen for the suggestion):

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Meeting with Y Combinator Alumni

Grub With Us makes it easy for you to meet new people while eating. They organize dinners in several cities and you can reserve a seat. Cool concept, but the real exciting idea is the one of ‘themed dinners’. Basically, the dinner can be ‘pre-populated’ with folks from a certain background. 

One of the themes they have is ‘Y Combinator Alumni’. This is an amazing opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs! You can learn more about it here. I signed up for dinner this Wed, maybe I’ll see you there :)

Runway (By Innovation Endeavors)

Today I met with Corey Ford, the Director of Runway, a program from Innovation Endeavors (investment firm backed up by Eric Schmidt). Once you get to the Valley, you start hearing about several different “immersion programs” for entrepreneurs, including YCombinator, 500 Startups, TechStars (which does not have a chapter in California yet), Plug And Play and the list goes on.

All of these have these different details, but in general you apply with a team and with an idea (which many times evolve throughout the program) and if you are selected you receive funding for and a network of mentorship in exchange for equity in your company. Usually, it’s a sweet deal.

In terms of Runway, here are some details with make it unique:

  • It’s pre-team and pre-idea. You apply as an individual.
  • If you are selected for the final round, you are invited for a “networking bootcamp” over a weekend, when you get to meet almost all the other finalists and rank the people you would like to have as co-founders
  • Based on your aptitudes and co-founder choices, Runway selects multi-disciplinary teams. In general, the teams have four members, with a member focused on design, another focused on technology, another focused on business. The fourth member is what they call the “superglue” -- it’s the person who makes sure the team as a whole stays focused.
  • It’s a six-month program, and about 4 months are used to conceptualize and prototype dozens of ideas. In the last two months, the team develops the idea of their choice (which needs to be in a 500mi+ market).
  • Runway provides a convertible note of up to 150K for each team

Runway in its first version, and it’s definitely worth checking it out. More information on how to apply can be found here. If you are interested in grabbing some coffee with Corey Ford, you can sign up for office hours here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

This Week's Events (April 25th, 2011)

There are always tons of things going on here. This week, I plan on attending the following:
  • Monday, 04/25/2011: Office Hours with Corey Ford. Corey runs the Runway Program, a new type of start-up accelerator (which I’ll write more about soon). You can sign up for office hours here.
  • Tuesday, 04/26/2011: Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen explains how he has solved problems, what he’s learned from his many endeavors (the triumphs and the failures) and his compelling vision for the future. You can sign up for the event here.
  • Wednesday, 04/27/2011: SF 106 Miles Meetup. You can meet a bunch of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, etc. Sign up for event here.
  • Thursday, 04/28/2011: Startup Grind Meetup hosts David Cowan. More info here.
  • Friday, 04/29/2011: Stop by Hacker Dojo’s Happy Hour

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

I've always been a fan of non-fiction books, but it wasn't until last year that I found out many interesting entrepreneurship and product design books. There is a select list I'm reading at the moment, and I will share my favorite lessons with you as I read them. Of course, there's nothing better than experiencing things yourself, but it doesn't hurt to learn from others who shared/studied similar goals.

Here is my list:
  • Founders at Work: collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies.
  • Do More Faster: collection of advice that comes from individuals who have passed through, or are part of, TechStars.
  • Four Steps To The Epiphany: the essential book for anyone bringing a product to market, writing a business plan, marketing plan or sales plan.
  • Poke The Box: understand the importance of 'starting stuff'.
  • Losing My Virginity: autobiography of Virgin Group's founder Richard Branson.
  • Rework: explains the importance of stopping talking/researching and just starting working.
  • Crush It: a new take on making money by following your passions.

The Silicon Valley Life

I’m extremely passionate about entrepreneurship and I dream of having a company which will positively impact millions of lives. As part of my quest, I decided to move to Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s been a thrilling experience, full of events, conferences, meet ups, product brainstorming, design discussions, and much more. Every day, I feel more empowered to change the world.

I’m starting this blog for several reasons:

  • Share my experience: I believe most of the lessons I learn in Silicon Valley can benefit entrepreneurs around the world (and many times non-entrepreneurs as well)
  • Start conversations about entrepreneurship: I’m always interested in learning alternate opinions and different thoughts around start ups, products, funding, etc. Please feel free to speak up here.
  • Give you a heads up about events in the area: if you are in Silicon Valley, I’ll be sharing with you the different events I’ll be attending over each week.
I’m excited to share my journey with you! Feel free to comment here or send me any feedback you may have to