My notes were pretty much what was said at Startup School, so I want to take this opportunity to put down what I got out of it in my own words. This list is some of the re-occurring themes amongst the speakers as well as some key ideas I took from it.
1. You will probably fail, but you’ll learn something along the way.
I think having a pessimistic view will turn your startup experience into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Will you really put a lot of effort into something you know is going to fail? Why should you?
I think you should expect your startup to succeed, but know that failing is the worse that can happen. This way you will put all of your effort into it and learn more than you would if you half-ass it.
2. Focus on 1 idea.
Don’t scatter your resources among many mediocre ideas. Instead focus on one great idea and do it well. This will put you at a competitive advantage.
3. Get Venture Capitalist Funding or “Smart Money”
When a venture capitalist loans you money, they want you to succeed. Why? If you succeed, they make money as well! Part of the deal is that they’ll help you out by pointing you in the right direction, or will connect you with someone who can help you out. Think of it as buying help.
When starting out, you want to squeeze every penny for what it’s worth. The Partovi brothers took it to extremes by saving paper clips attached to documents and having people bring in their own cups. In fact, they made frugality part of their company culture. This is also something VCs will look for when you present to them.
5. Make important decisions early on
Who is CEO? Who is on the board of directors? These decisions should be made before the company is worth anything. The CEO should be someone who is well spoken and is a good salesperson. If you make this decision when your company is starting to make money, the person who may not be the best candidate may step up for financial reasons.
As far as who is on the board of directors, choose people who understand the business, such as the founder. Don’t choose people who want to be on the board as part of some sort of hidden agenda; they’re in it for themselves, not the business.
6. Don’t take the company culture for granted
This should be something else that should be established early on. Determine the overall culture for your company early on and set an example. As companies grow bigger, the culture seems to fade away and politics begin to set in. If you establish this at the beginning and enforce it, you will delay the inevitable drama/politics that come with having more employees.
This is one topic that was actually brought up with two different viewpoints. Mitch Kapor said that a company should have diverse viewpoints, while Mark Zuckerberg said that a startup company should be young and technical.
I tend to agree more with Mitch. Having a variety of people allows for a larger amount of viewpoints. If someone has an idea, another person is bound to find holes in it and patch them up before a release.
8. Hire Great People
Be picky about who you hire. At first your company will be small, which is why it is critical that you have your ideal team. If not, it’ll be more likely that you will fail. Hiring great people is one of the keys to success.
9. Get a co-founder
This is one of the biggest key factors to get VC funding. If no one wants to help you start a business, you should probably look into another idea; It’s that important.
10. Redefine Success
To some success is making lots of money. However, let’s be realistic, are you really going to make a lot of money doing your first start up business? Probably not. Will you learn a lot? This is more likely. Make it a point to learn as much as you can with your experience.