Monday, May 1, 2006

On Startups

Paul Graham's latest article is up, and as usual it's worth reading. It's based on a talk I saw him give at the Y Combinator Startup School this weekend, and he talks about the hardest lessons for startup founders to learn. It's good stuff, I'll have to keep it in mind if I ever get around to doing the startup thing.

Speaking of startup school, the thing that really struck me about it was how the various speakers disagreed on a lot of the points.

Joe Kraus (formerly of Excite, and now Jotspot) was pointing out the advantage of being able to claim that Jotspot is a "Wiki Company", because it lets you ride the wave of hype around wikis these days. On the other hand, Ann Winblad stressed how you need to redefine the area you're competing in so that all your competitors are being measured against your new yardstick.

Paul Graham, among others, stressed that money was not the most important thing, and that if enough people love your product the money will follow, while Om Malik came right out and said that money was the most important thing. Kraus also weighed in on that side of the money issue, pointing out that if you go beta without your business model then you're not really in beta, people will use lots of thing when they're free, but you'll never know for sure if they'll pay for it until you make them.

It wasn't all disagreements though. Everyone seemed to agree that you can start a company with far less money these days than you've ever been able to before, and everyone stressed exactly how difficult the entire startup experience is.

Anyway, it was an interesting day of talks, even if I had to hear Mark talk for half an hour about the same stuff I'd already heard a dozen times over lunch while I worked at Bloglines ;-)

Honestly, the whole thing did make me wish I was doing the startup thing, at least a little bit. I'm not going to, of course, my job is too damn cool to give up right now, but who knows, maybe some day I'll have a killer idea and give it a shot. It could happen...