Startup Bootcamp 2010

Startup Bootcamp Logo Today I attended Startup Bootcamp at my alma mater to listen to entrepreneurs talk about how they started their companies. And the student organizers have done an amazing job of organizing the event and bringing people together. Great job and thank you.
Here are the videos covering the event. I took some notes during the event and here are some of the key take-aways:

  • Prototype early. From Mick Mountz, founder of Kiva Systems: “Focus on the product early on.” The first iteration of the product should be focused on getting a proof-of-concept. Don’t over engineer it (yet). There will be cycles of learning. Your product will be made bulletproof iteratively. Along the same line, Bill Clerico of WePay mentioned that you should not be raising money until you have some sort of prototype. I agree with Bill although this advice is more relevant to web or software startups where the product lifecycle is very short.
  • Customer validation or product feedback is important. Mick Mountz advise that entrepreneurs find 1-2 customers early in the process, especially those with the highest pain, to try the product and then invite them for feedback. And when you evaluate their feedback, as David Cancel said, you don’t want to be in the “middle.” What this means is that either your customer loves or hates your product. This way you know how to deliver a product that they will truly love. Ayr Muir of Clover Food Lab (they serve delicious organic vegetarian for $5 and under BTW) engages his customers by observing their behavior. When he sees someone who doesn’t finish his sandwich, he knows that there’s something wrong.
  • According to David Cancel, every entrepreneurs must ask him/herself this: does anyone care about your product? There are problems in the world, your products need to solve a problem and to make someone’s life easier. If you can’t get anyone to care about your product, the rest doesn’t matter.
  • Creating and maintaining the right culture at a startup is important. Look for good people to form a team. “‘A’ people recruit ‘A’ people. ‘B’ people hire ‘C’ people…” – George Bell, former CEO of Excite.
  • “Be prepared to throw away things” says James Lindenbaum, founder of Heroku. Hard work leads to understanding and clarity. The implementation (or code) is just a by-product. Don’t get too hung up on your product implementation. Startup is a learning process.
  • The ego of the founder(s) can lead to the failure of a startup – Bob Metcalfe, founder of 3COM.
  • You need to do a startup with a set of motivations. It’s a lot of hard work. You have to motivated and love what you are doing.
  • Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit, says: we need more entrepreneurs even if they are from overseas. The country needs talents to keep its economy competitive. Keep international students here to start companies. I couldn’t agree more.
  • Again, from David Cancel: stop reading Techcunch. It’s a distraction. Focus on delivering and pay attention to your customers to solve their pain points.

Since I am doing a startup (more about this later), the talks were inspiring and insightful. I believe that there’s no archetypical process on how you start a company. Even some of the points that the speakers made contradict with each other. That’s why every startup story is different. This is fine. There are many paths to success. But one recurring theme from all these anecdotes I heard is that if you have an idea, you need to start it. If I have three things to say about startup, they will be: just do it, focus on the product, and find good people – cofounders, employees, mentors, and investors – who not only share but implement your vision. So to quote David Cancel on this: #JFDI – Twitter hashtag for just f*cking do it. And that’s the real take-away.

Day 2 of my new blog site

Twitter Icon (Wooden Theme) Day 2 of my new blog site. And I am excited once again about blogging and redesigning my website. I had some remorse after removing all past blog posts and starting from scratch. But I still think starting from a clean slate was a good decision. To keep track of the progress of this website, I start tracking the traffic on this website using Google Analytics. I also want to give a mention to the beautiful wooden-style icons that I downloaded and modified from Frank G. They look great with this theme. More icons are available from Flickr. I will make a few more modification to the website and then start blogging some more serious topics.

Starting over again

I was introduced to the world of blogging by fellow classmates Yoav, Matti, and Ilana at MIT in 2005. Back then, I was motivated and had plenty of materials to blog about – the new life as a student and the thought-provoking discussions we had in class. I maintained a blog about the SDM and TPP programs at MIT.

Then I went away to Asia in 2007 and haven’t actively blogged since then. Microblogging in the form of tweets became my online personal journal. Articulating and writing in 140 characters was infectious especially for busy people who still want to maintain an online presence. I haphazardly updated this blog for almost 3 years. Like weeds taking over a lawn after years of neglect, this blog too was dilapidated and was in dire need to an overhaul.

Today I have decided to give it fresh start. This means throwing away all the previous posts I had posted. I know it’s a pity to throw away of years of materials but really want a clean break this time. I want to come up with a new format and design structure supporting the new direction. The site will have a minimalist design, the posts terse, and an overall user experience that is visual-driven. I will be experiment with a couple of theme designs, layouts, and writing styles the next few days.

Credits: WordPress icon by Phan Van An