Good product development post by Rob Go

Rob Go, seed investor with NextView Ventures (I wrote about NextView last month), has yet another good post, this time on Product Development – Librarians and Poets. He talks about how product management and development needs bot vision and execution/organization, and contrasts several well known startups, internet companies and founder and talks about how they played to their strengths. Good piece, check it out!

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Developer hiring market really heating up

Dharmesh Shah recently made it abundantly clear that the developer hiring wars have reached the East Coast in his massive bounty for new developer hires at his company, Hubspot.

I just heard of an interesting NYC program called the Turning Fellowship that aims to bring new developer talent to New York City. A couple of venture firms appear to be spearheading this effort; PE Hub quoted one of them as saying, “Entrepreneurs complain about a lack of talent in New York City.” No kidding! There is a lack of great development talent everywhere!

Anyways, the program sounds like a good idea, as it will provide students with programming skills paid internships at NYC startups. This could provide very positive experiences to students looking to gain some real-life skills (and help them figure out if they want to join startups when they graduate too!)

Anyone know of other programs like this in Boston?

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Solid post on MBAs and startups

Eric Ries has a good post on MBAs and startups. My favorite paragraph is:

General management is supposed to be orderly, “strategic” and mostly calm. I have seen founders replaced because their style seemed too chaotic, even though what’s really happening is that they are operating at startup speed. Pivots are disorienting, but necessary. Except when a startup is busy “pivoting” all the time, running around in circles. That’s a waste of time. How do you tell the difference? General management doesn’t have a good answer. As a result, founders get removed prematurely or even entirely exiled.

Eric goes on to explain that he sees a disconnect between the entrepreneurship courses at most business schools and the actual, current best practice at startups. I think he is correct – but isn’t there is also a lag between most academic courses? Anyways, the real point here is that Eric is not just complaining, but is also trying to be part of the solution. He will be an EIR at HBS this year, and he goes on to talk about how he hopes to bring the idea of the lean startup to entrepreneurship teaching. Pretty cool.

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Is anyone actually checking in?

A CNN piece alerted me to a Pew Research study on the penetration of checkin apps, and claimed that only 4% of people in the US have actually used a checkin app.

I’ve been thinking about checkin apps for a while, mainly because I’m slowly using Foursquare less and less as time goes by. I’m finding it slow (although I think my ancient iPhone is part of the problem), that it doesn’t really fit into my workflow (i.e. my friends and wife think it’s annoying that I always have to pull out my phone whenever I go into any store) and to be totally honest, am not getting enough utility out of it anymore.

I was worried that this study was going to only include landline phones, but they somehow included cell phone users in the study. (see my older piece on landlines vs. cellular congestion). So there could be some interesting data in the piece.

Here is some cool information from the survey:

24% of online adults use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or to see updates about others. Ten percent of these status update site users use a location-based service, over twice the rate of the general online population.

twitter penetration

twitter penetration

The other chart I found interesting shows a funny barbell in terms of education – less educated and more educated people checking more often (note this is not statistically significant but I’ll pretend that it is.) And middle of the road income people checkin more than higher income people – but again, not stats significant and may be a function of the age – younger people also make less $ so this may be the cause.

% of people who checkin by demo

% of people who checkin by demo

Anyways, cool research by the Pew people.

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The Inflation Innovation Ratio

Startups vs Bubbles

I just saw a cool Tweet by Ariel Diaz, a Boston-area startup executive.

ariel-diaz

The link leads to a post entitled “The End of the College Textbook as We Know It?” There is a pretty eye-catching chart that implies there is a bubble in the textbook market:

If a chart like that doesn’t make you want to start a company you aren’t an entrepreneur!

Someone should chart various assets/commodities/services/etc against the CPI. Anywhere there is a chart where inflation of the item is outpacing the CPI by 2x or more is potentially fertile grounds for innovation. I’d like to dub this the:

Inflation Innovation Ratio

Startups can create value by “disrupting” a market – providing a better service/good through the power of technology. If a startup can offer a superior service at a lower price, then both the end consumer and the startup can capture some of the “rent*” extracted by the current players in the industry. Growing a business by shrinking a market.

One caveat I would add is that there are industries where inflation is happening for reasons that a startup may not be able to attack – such as government regulation. I’d hope that other reasons, such as problems in the distribution chain, could be overcome by the power of the internet to disrupt.

*despite having studied way too much economics the term for the lost consumer utility in a monopolistic market escapes me…

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Max Levchin On Ambition and Startups

I like this post by Max Levchin entitled “On ambition.” He discusses the tradeoff between thinking big with your web startup or accepting a smaller exit and return. He is for “going big.”

I guess my thoughts go a little against his position – I believe it is OK to accept a quick, smaller exit if you’ve more modestly financed your company.

I hear his arguments – they are really well articulated. However, I think it can be honorable to sell your startup for a good but not enormous price to a larger company if that company will legitimately help you achiever your vision.

Starting a company – and especially starting a technology company – is about more than making money. I believe that every founder has visions of their target customers massively adopting their technology and using it to change how they do their business or live their lives. Nobody creates a new technology and says, “Wow, I hope barely anyone uses this!” If being part of a big company can help you get there then I don’t think getting acquired when you are small is bad.

I understand the investors may be more money focused. And founders should be thinking about that too, since many of them have the opportunity to make good money doing something less risky (i.e. just having a regular job at a good company for a salary.) And Max correctly points out that a small exit for a correctly capitalized company can really generate a lot of money founder. So that’s not all bad!

My gut is that this burst of angel financing will result in a crop of startup executives who 1) start something cool, 2) sell the company to a larger company, making a little $, 3) work at the acquiror* for a while and learn a lot about scaling a business and running a clean operation and 4) will then go off and found another set of companies, some of which will be very, very “big” ideas that need big venture capital financing.

*I like to spell it this way. But I also think pumpkin should be spelled punpkin, so…

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