Monday, December 24, 2007

Incubators: Startup@Parc (3/3)

I sort of stumbled across Startup@PARC. I was basically googling for incubators with technical knowhow and there they were. I'm sure most people have at least heard of PARC - it' the Palo Alto Research Center that played such a big part in Xerox Corporation's great inventions over the years. Laser printers, GUI, OOP, and Ethernet - which for most of those that don't know, allows you to get ultra fast internet connections to your cubes. In 2002, Parc was spun off and became a separate entity. Though they still work with Xerox, they work with others as well, including a number of startups.

The have a very well respected research team that consists of a wide array of different types of scientists - including social, biological, computer, and physical scientists. They have been lending their expertise to startups with their Startup@PARC program for the past few years and it's worked out very well for both PARC and for the startups themselves.

They have a fairly simple application process. In fact, I just filled out a few lines on line and they got in touch with me fairly quickly. The way it works is they pre-screen your business idea and business model. Once they identify your product and your needs, they approach their research department to understand if there may be a synergy between your company and one of their research teams. If there is a match, they will offer to provide the technical expertise and knowhow - whether that means building your infrastructure, helping create a product, manufacturing, writing algorithms, it doesn't matter - they can do it all. And their track record shows they can do it all pretty well. Their approach of providing technical help is in stark contract to Y Combinator - who requires you to come with all of your technology.

I've follow-up with Startup@PARC. We've spoken several times and the most recent time we came to a point where we believe there may be a synergy between us once we finish our beta. We're keeping in touch throughout the process and will be meeting once we reach that point.

Since this is a fairly new program for them, it's still a feel as you go kind of deal. We didn't discuss the financial situation in great depth - but it appears they take a small equity stake for their input. For us, it may make sense, since the expertise that they think they can provide to us is something that is far from our core competencies and something that can really help our offering.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Incubators: PnP Tech Center (2/3)

The second incubator that I looked into was Plug and Play Tech Center. They are a bit like the traditional incubator in that they provide office space as their primary benefit. The office space though comes at a price. And the price isn't peanuts. They do offer additional services as your company grows, which somewhat offsets the rent.

PnP charges a flat rate of $500/month for a cube in their fairly large warehouse type space. The cube consists of hookups for electricity/phone/internet. I believe the internet is an additional $30 or so a month - but the phones/electricity are included. They said that up to two people could sit in one cube and they have enough space that they can constantly add cubes as your company expands.

I went on a tour of their Sunnyvale office. They have one other office in Redwood city and are planning to expand even further. They have over 90 startups that they're hosting so I'm sure they are doing something right.

I really liked their space. I was greeted by one of their very friendly BD guys who took me around. The place definitely had the startup vibe. The ground floor was full of cubes that were decorated with a variety of different company logos, school flags, nerf guns, lava lamps, and whatever else you would imagine finding at a startup. There was lots of activity and it seems like its a good environment to foster creativity by interacting with the other companies that are there.

The second floor was more segmented - with areas that were partitioned so the larger companies had a space they could keep somewhat private. Each floor had a bunch of conference rooms you could reserve for meetings, snack areas where they provide coffee, and a pretty sweet cafeteria whose chef is one of the old Google chefs.

In addition to the cool environment, they also have connections to VC's when it comes time for funding. They actually have a VC firm in some space in the upstairs. And they have partnershiups with several others.

Overall, I was rather impressed with the place. I'm still not sold on the price - because I think they end of taking part in your financing rounds down the road - which means if you're successful, they get equity, in addition to your rent.

I think if I hadn't already had office space, I'd definitely consider looking into this place though. It's a good alternative to sitting in your apartment trying to work on a company. I've found that to be a black hole - one that sucks the motivation right out of me.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Start Up Incubators (1/3)

If you find yourself in the situation where you need to look for incubation space, you actually have a few choices these days. You used to be limited to the option of sharing office space with companies that had spare space. That's what we did back in 2000. But now, you can share office space with a variety of different types of companies, offering different types of services or opportunities. It's become quite a business in itself.

I'll talk about a few of the more popular incubators (in the following few posts) - since a great deal of incubators are very hard to get into, hard to approach, and hard to find.

Y Combinator is geared towards tech heavy startups. While their interests are on web based software offerings, like many other incubators, they want teams that bring the technology with them. They care less about your idea and business strategy - that's where they offer their expertise. The give advice and training in regards to growing your business and raising capital.

The invest in very early stage companies, generally taking a 2-10% stake in exchange for up to $20,000. It's not much money - for a lot of equity, but it's an option if you have no business experience. For us, it was never really an option. Engineers were the thing we needed, not more business people.

They have an application process that's much like applying to school. They have two application periods per year and bring a bunch of teams on at each time. It's probably a great environment to work in - you're around a bunch of people, and probably some pretty smart engineers. But I'm not sure it's a good option for anyone but young entrepreneurs. I'd seek out different options since most incubators give advice on growing your business - it's in their best interest since they most likely have, or will have, a stake in your company.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Agreements, Contracts, Stock

Sorry for the week off. I've been pretty sick. I guess it's flu season or at least that's what my body was saying.

I've decided it's better to be prepared than to be faced with uncertainty down the road. So I've been listening to our lawyers. They recently told us that we need to get the people who are working with us under contract. It determines that what is made for Vyoo, is owned by Vyoo.

We've sent out some of our contracts - and in doing so, we had to determine what we were going to compensate our employees with. One of the great things about being a startup with a potential upside is that people are willing to work for equity. We have 6 people working with us right now, albeit part time, but they are all taking equity in exchange for work. This is where it becomes difficult. How do we figure out what makes sense from an equity perspective - both for the company and for each of them?

There are some guidelines. For example, a CEO is expected to get between 6-8% pre Series A. Executives and directors have their own guidelines. But how do you figure out how to compensate people who are giving part time work and in a different capacity, such as development?

We've determined that a good place to start is your cap table. The cap table is your market capitalization based on your outstanding shares * share price. I won't go into the details of our cap table, but it allows you to understand what shares are worth. And it's good to plug in numbers to see what different agreements amount to.

A good benchmark is to determine the value add that someone is providing. And then to add a certain component for the risk they are taking on. The risk factor should be reasonable. And everyone has a different risk factor. Is it a full time commitment? Is it their only source of income? What is the opportunity cost, etc?

I struggled mightily with this subject when I started working for Justarrive back in 2000. I came on early, worked full time, and worked without a contract or a pay check for quite a while. What was that worth? It was a debate that raged on and it usually is, regardless of the circumstance. It's a touchy subject. We're going through it right now. I'll update how things progress - but this is our starting point.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Funded - The Search for Funding

I've recently begun thinking about funding. Not that we're ready for it, but it's good preparation. Now, we're probably nearing readiness for angel funding, but we're far from institutional money - and here's why. We don't have a usable product right now and thus, no users. This stuff matters to VC's - and we're well aware of that. Without traction for an internet software play based on users, a VC won't look twice. Angels are more forgiving. They may be interested in our ideas. The problem with that is our valuation would get ripped. What are we worth now? A small percentage of what we would be worth with traction. In fact, if we can turn a profit, running lean, as we are now, funding may not ever be necessary - which would be a dream come true. Nobody wants to be tied to someone else's money. But sometimes there's no choice.

Anyway, I've been using an invaluable resource in my hunt to learn what I can about raising money. It's called The Funded. It's a website dedicated to providing information for the entrepreneur. By the entrepreneur. About all things VC/Angel/Legal. Only entrepreneurs can join - and they have a somewhat stringent policy towards gaining access. I had to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was, in fact, an entrepreneur and who I said I was. You can definitely cruise the site now and gain some valuable perspective and information on specific funds, but the real value is gained when you join. There is in depth analysis of VC's, angel's, how to raise financing, what the process looks like and should look like, term sheets, lawyers, whatnot. It's incredible! And written very personally, calling out specific partners of firms, etc. If you're an entrepreneur - then sign yourself up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vyoo, Inc.

It's official. We incorporated, last Tuesday, under the name Vyoo, Inc. in Delaware. It was a relatively painless process. Our lawyers just filed some paperwork and we received our papers the following day.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dell - The Great Company that Was

I usually write about my own business, but today I decided to change things up a bit. I think I'll do this every once in a while. Especially when I read something that gets me thinking. I read an article this morning about how Dell is now selling their computers in Best Buy as a way to improve their eroding market share. Well, this is my open letter to Michael Dell. Summation - Bad Idea. Not gonna work. Get back to your roots!


Hey. Heard things weren't going so well at Dell these days? You're market share has apparently fallen a few points this year. That's unusual. Wonder what it is? I wanted to let you know that moving into additional distribution channels isn't going to stop this erosion. In fact, I think if you looked at what made Dell so great, for so long, you'd realize that there are other changes that need to take place. Changes that will take you back to your roots.

I've been a Dell customer. Er, I used to be a Dell customer, for about 15 years, give or take. I swore by Dell. I would only buy Dell. And I would recommend Dell to anyone who would listen. Oh how times have changed. I've spun the proverbial 180. Now I tell people not to buy Dell. Not to think about buying Dell. And I tell people who don't even ask.

This is how it happened: When I used to love Dell, it was for a variety of reasons. Their machines were entirely configurable. Awesome. Their prices were best in class as well. But more than that, it was their level and quality of service. They were available 24/7 to help with any problems, to provide any advice, to help with setups, or, if you were really lame, for someone to talk to. You could send broken machines back without hassles, get recommendations, and the machines lasted forever. They were a complete pleasure to deal with. And that made them great. I loved Dell!

This is what happens now: When I call Dell, normally for technical issues these days, they are a complete nuisance. I don't mind the fact that they are outsourcing their call centers. In fact, I'm all for outsourcing in general (it makes America more creative). But when you're outsourcing and using VoIP, it shows a lack of attention to detail. It shows cutting costs. It shows cutting corners. And it shows that you aren't paying attention to the customer's experience. I can't stand the delay in VoIP. I can't stand having to say "what?" 50 times a call. Especially when you're trying to solve a problem and there is lots of back and forth. I can't stand customer support that doesn't know their own technology. You know what else I can't stand? When a company sends you to a thousand different departments just so you can speak with the right person. Nobody knows what's going on. They also ask you to enter service tags and service codes on the keypad and then ask again when they answer the phone. WHY DO YOU DO THAT?! Now this has been going on for a while, but recently it came to a head. My 2.5 yr. old laptop was acting up. In fact, it was burning my legs when it rested in my lap. Now they call it a laptop, partially, because you can use it in your lap, usually without having to worry about 2nd degree burns. I called Dell to tell them about the problem. It took about 4 weeks, various phone calls, and an argument that I felt would have come to blows if we were in the same room. It should have been embarrassing for them. The told me supervisors weren't available, that they couldn't even speak to me since it was out of warranty, etc. If I had burned myself, I'm sure Dell would have enjoyed that lawsuit and listened to me then.

I've had many other calls to the Dell Helpdesk besides this. My mom's computer was on the fritz. My dad had keyboard/mousepad breaking on his laptop - all within the last few years. And I was the one to deal with customer service. And I hated it.

Saving money on using VoIP, for example, will NOT save you money in the long run. Hiring staff that isn't knowledgeable about your technology won't work either. It will make reliable customers like me leave. And leave I will. Next laptop will be either an IBM/Lenovo or an HP. They just feel like real computers too. This flimsy Dell in my lap feels like it could fall apart at any minute.

Anyway, best of luck. Should you go back to your roots, think of what made you guys great and what's making you guys lose right now. Your customers.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Shameless Plug: Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley

This is a shameless little plug for the business school I just graduated from - UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

Before attending business school, I was a software engineer, helping other companies, much like mine, develop their products. It was a thankless job. Long hours and little credit for your time. And so, I decided it was time to move on to bigger and better things. Before I left the Gap, I started looking for jobs that would allow me to become more involved in the direction of the business, rather than just listening to direction from the business. Unfortunately, not many people came calling, or would even listen to my pleas. After all, I was just a software engineer and that's all I was good for.

All I heard, time and time again, was that I didn't have experience. I obviously didn't have experience because nobody would give it to me. But I felt like I was smart enough to contribute. That didn't matter. Nobody was willing to give me a chance. That's when I decided I had to go back to school in order to further my career. I thought I just needed that piece of paper. That little diploma that said I graduated and studied something different. So I applied to business school. And that's what brought me to Haas.

Two years have since passed and I've recently graduated. The doors have swung open, far and wide. It was more than that little piece of paper that's helped. It was my entire Haas experience. The other students, the faculty, the administration, and all of the experiences I had along the way(clubs, trips, conferences, you name it). It's created a genuine avenue for me to pursue other endeavors. And now people listen to me. Unfortunately for them, I'm still pretty much the same guy that started out there two years ago, albeit with a little more confidence and a little more understanding about the importance of business.

As an engineer, I always thought business was fluff. After all, I created the damn product! Well, now I can readily admit it, there's a lot more to business than meets the eye.

Today I used some of the resources that Haas provides for us, as students or alumni. I met a VC in the area, not to pitch my idea, but to talk about strategy for our company. It was a breath of realistic fresh air from the same people I'll be pitching down the road. The opportunities that business school provides are invaluable. And I saw that firsthand today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

And the Winner Is:

We chose our lawyers this past weekend. We decided to go with Fenwick & West. We made that decision based on various factors. We met with them initially, several months back, and they were incredibly insightful, helpful, and genuinely excited about our business. As we continued to grow and brought them back into the mix last week, they continued their genuine interest.

We met with several other firms last week. One, although it was a well respected Silicon Valley startup law firm, wasn't very up to date on the latest technologies and internet software companies. They made it clear they weren't here to help the company and its strategy - but could certainly help make introductions to VC's down the road. They seemed a bit apprehensive to help a firm that didn't want to take VC funding right away. We weren't psyched about that.

The third firm was great! This made our decision quite difficult. In fact, there were two factors that made us choose Fenwick over this other firm. The first was that we got much better terms from Fenwick. These terms revolved around the equity that we had to give up for obtaining their services in exchange for deferred payment. That means we get legal assistance that we don't have to pay for until we raise series A financing. The second, and most important, was that Fenwick had in house patent attorneys that could help us patent our ideas, while allowing us to take advantage of the deferred payment terms. The other firm would have required us to use a boutique patent firm - which would have been a lot of money out of our pockets.

The advantage of this third firm was that they were much more responsive, which was the one hesitation we had in deciding to go with Fenwick. I wanted to make sure Fenwick would be able to get back to us on important issues, regardless of what was going on on their end, in a reasonable amount of time. We were assured that once on board, they would assign enough people to our company that it wouldn't be a problem.

So... now that the legal issue is out of the way, we need to get to our patents, which I promised I'd write about. I'll get back to that after I meet with their patent attorneys - since I'm not sure how the process will play out until then.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tough Week

This week has been a somewhat tough week. I've met with 3 different law firms to try to finalize our representation and begin incorporation. I had mixed feelings about one and really liked the other two. One of the other two had much more favorable terms to the deal (which I will explain when things are finalized). So we thought hard about moving forward. In addition, the more favorable firm had patent experts in their office, whereas the other firm had to recommend a boutique patent firm for us to use. What's that mean? Well, at a time like this when we're watching our money, a one stop shop for legal help is our best option. Most of these firms are giving you services for deferred payment terms along with taking a little piece of equity. We'd be able to get our patentable technology looked at and patents potentially filed, all for services with a deferred payment.

Anyway, we were put before the committee of the firm with better terms and were supposed to hear back yesterday. We heard that it had been delayed a day until today. Still nothing. It's frustrating because there is a lot of stuff I have on the back burner that can only be done once incorporation is done - partnership agreements, employee agreements, equity - all that stuff.

One of the lawyers we met with told us that you really want to be sure that your firm is giving you enough attention - but not too much, because that means they have no business. What's too little attention? Who knows - but if there are important issues that arise down the road, we don't want to wait 3 days for our counsel to get back to us. By then, the deal/issue could be dead.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Coyrights, Trademarks, Trade Secrets, Patents? What's the Big Deal with IP?

Intellectual Property (IP) is an incredibly important part of your company, especially if you're a software/IT company. It can play a factor in almost every conceivable aspect. I won't really go into it yet, but it's important when you are raising money (investors are very interested in IP when they give you money), defending your own technology, or selling your company. What I will go into in this post is the process for determining the different types of IP your are interested in protecting.

I didn't have much experience, personally, with IP before starting this company, so this is all new hat to me.

The first thing to understand is the difference between copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents. This will help you determine what is right for you.

Copyrights generally involve the protection of literary works such as poems, books, music, etc.

Trademarks are distinguishable words or names for your business or services that you offer (McDonald's, Coca Cola, etc).

A trade secret is information that is valuable to your business where you have made an attempt to keep that information secret. In addition, were that information to be released, you would suffer material losses. Some examples of trade secrets are Coca Cola's formula and Google's search algorithm.

Patents are basically rights to an invention granted to you by the Patent and Trademark office that generally last for a set amount of time. Though pharma patents tend to be dealt with differently, generally a drug company has the right to sell and market their drugs for a period of years before another company can begin to sell generics of the same chemical combinations.

One things to keep in mind when deciding whether your idea is a trade secret or a patent is to determine whether making your idea public will help or hurt your company. If you file a patent, everything becomes public knowledge. Google would have to file their algorithm with the patent office to receive patent protection. That would probably not be a wise move for obvious reasons. Same with Coca Cola's formula.

We actually are dealing with several different IP issues. One is a copyright issue and the other is a patent issue. I won't be discussing the copyright material because it hasn't been fully developed yet. I will discuss the patent process in the next post, because that's what I've been researching now.

Happy Post Thanksgiving Monday

Yup, it's time to get back to work. Hopefully you all stuffed yourselves on turkey and gravy and got together with your families. I did. This week will be an interesting week for us.

We're meeting with our 3 law firms to decide who will represent us and to finally incorporate. In terms of legal help - the important things to keep in mind if you can't pay for it now are this: what do you have to give up to get representation (if anything)? What will they provide for you? I spoke with Gunderson Dettmer last week and basically was told that a good part of the incorporation isn't done by the partners you are working with, but by associates (or paralegals, etc) - it's all fairly generic. So if you have interesting legal issues, make sure your firm can support them. We may be working with some international employees (outsourcing) which is something we'll need to understand.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday Morning Musings... Business Books


I was reading an article yesterday that talked about a must read business book - "The Innovator's Solution". All I could think about was, here we go again. I've heard so many people telling me that I had to read these "must read" business books. From "Good to Great", "The Tipping Point", "Blink", whatever the hot book of the month is. This is my take on most "hot" business books. They're garbage. I mean, sure, they provide some insight, but that's only in the first few pages/chapters of the book. Literally. I put down about half the business books I read because I can't stand the reiteration of points compounded with the most common sense advice you've ever heard. So here's my advice. If you're writing a business book - cut it down by at least half. Write it in Cliff's Notes form. Entrepreneurs don't have the patience. And if you're a business book fan. Don't jump on the bandwagon and tell me to read this month's NYT Bestselling business book, unless it's really worth it.

I recently read "The Starbuck's Experience" and "Search" - and I had to put both of them down. They weren't particularly bad. But midway through I'd had enough - as has happened with so many others before them. I will happily plug two essential business books though that I think are great! One of them is "Winning" by Jack Welch. Say what you want about the way Jack's management style outwardly appeared or the way his personal life turned out - the book and his lessons are great. Also - this one may be a little bit of a reach for some of you, but "The Diamond Cutter" by Geshe Michael Roach. It's a Buddhist approach to doing business. Basically, it discusses business ethics with a Buddhist twist. And yes, Buddhists can make money - and he makes a ton of it - so don't be turned off by that. Also - it's a book you can constantly refer to throughout the years. I find myself picking it up every now and again to be reminded about some of the principles in the book. You don't need to follow everything it says, but it provides some good guidance.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Acquiring a Domain Name

This post is a bit long... sorry 'bout that.

You thought that coming up with the name for the company was the hardest part? Now try finding the domain name to go with it. That's why so many software companies use unique names - or at least unique spellings for those names (Flickr, Google, Napster, Orbitz for example).

Our first shot at a company name was Yoo. It was a play on "You" because our idea is to develop a much more distinctive representation of the user, online. We are keeping the idea low key for now, but it will make more sense as we release details of our technology.

The Yoo domain was taken by a large international design firm. Really large. There was no way we were getting that domain name. So after getting all excited for figuring out a unique name, it was back to the drawing board. We came up with a new name, one that we ended up liking a lot more anyway. It was Vyoo. More like "Virtual You" or "View". By the way, it's pronounce "view" - yes, we've heard it pronounced quite a few different ways already. Vai-yoo is my favorite.

The website didn't go anywhere, but it was owned by another party (you can look this up on Whois). I decided to email the owner and try to negotiate a sale. He didn't respond to my initial email, so it was time to do some research. I wanted to find out what the website had been and to try to get a valuation for the website.

There is a great online service called The Wayback Machine. It's basically an archive of the internet. It keeps historical references to pages. Wonder what Google looked like back in '98 (here)? Not much different from today.

I used the Wayback Machine to get an idea of who owned the site and what it had been used for. Not much, I found out. It forwarded to a porn site some years ago. Which was not a good sign. I figured I was dealing with a somewhat sketchy dude.

My next move was to determine the likely value of the website since I had never heard back from the owner. To do this, you can use a domain appraisal service. The most well known is Sedo, who also does domain brokerage. I engaged with them for their domain brokerage service which included a domain appraisal. They, in turn, began to negotiate with the domain owner. Although the appraisal was fair, I was not impressed with how they got in touch with the owner. They simply looked up their contact info in the Whois database and tried to contact the owner. The same thing I had tried. I was hoping they had relationships with registrars and hosting services so they would have additional avenues for contact. When I found out that this was all they did, I called off the negotiation and decided to do it myself.

I sent another email to the owner, this time giving him a background of who I was and what my intention with the website was. I also sent it from my school email address - to add some credibility to my request. I had received a tip to personalize yourself to the owner. You never know who or why people are hanging on to websites (personal reasons, professional reasons, or anything else). He wrote back. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a mutual negotiation. He said he wouldn't accept anything under $3,000. And that was his final offer. He said he was in no rush to sell the domain either. I'm not going to lie, we were sort of desperate. We didn't have much room for negotiating and we feared that he would raise the price if we didn't lock it down now. Unfortunately, we would have preferred to spend the money elsewhere.

I remained in contact over the following weeks, wondering if we should counter. I was nervous that he may never respond, since he was so difficult to track down in the first place. I did some research on who he was to try to understand a little more about him. He was a software engineer. Hmmm. So was I. We are stubborn people. I decided not to aggressively counter. I ended up paying him the 3 large and waited (which by the way, was the exact price Sedo had appraised the site for). And waited. A week later he accepted.

Relieved. Now we had to figure out how to transfer the domain. He was in AUS as well, so transferring the cash would be interesting too.

He turned out to be a great guy and very trusting. I forwarded him $500 through PayPal - because anything over $500 incurs fees. He transferred the domain. This required me to sign up for an account (I used and initiated the transfer. A week later, all was set (it takes usually 5 days for the xfer to go through). Now I have to go and mail the balance by check.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Boston to NYC, by Bus

I have to plug the Chinatown to Chinatown bus service that runs from Boston to NYC. In fact, there are Chinatown buses that go everywhere, but this was the first route I had heard of and the first one I've used. The one-way price, just $15. Greyhound was never even close to this cheap, but they've had to reduce their prices to compete.

So the bus is clean - contrary to popular belief (I had heard the buses were dirty) and the owners were incredibly friendly.

All one way fares, with little notice
Chinatown Bus: $15 (4-5 hours)
Cheapest Amtrak price: $84 (3 1/2 hours)
Cheapest flight: $169 (1 2/3 hours)

There are tons of Chinatown bus companies, but I took Lucky Star.

Oh yea, another thing. About halfway through the ride, they pull off the highway and into this strip mall in the middle of Connecticut. I had no idea what was happening and from the looks on everyone else's face, neither did they. They ended up parking outside this enormous Chinese Buffet for us to eat/bathroom or whatever. I went to the Big Y and had a sub sandwich though since I miss real East Coast sandwiches in San Francisco. But I thought it was a riot that they did this. And a great way for them to earn some extra dough.

The Investor Pitch

Ok, so maybe this is cheating a little, since this post isn't really mine. But I can't outdo the advice I was recently given regarding the investor pitch. I called up my Entrepreneur professor from Haas and I asked him for some basic advice in terms of incorporating, raising money, etc. We ended up speaking for quite a while and he recommended I come in and pitch to some of his angel contacts. I asked him for some feedback on my pitch before I did that and he advised me to look back at an article we had read in our class last year, by Ed Harley, head of the software committee at the Keiretsu Forum. The Keiretsu Forum is one of the largest angel investor networks in the world - and so this guy has had plenty of experience and heard plenty of pitches. He said once I'd followed Ed's advice, I'd be ready...

It's a three part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Elevator Pitch

So, I have to start by saying that my company pitch right now isn't perfect. But I do know how to improve upon it. One of the reasons that it's not perfect is because I am hesitant to openly explain our technology without having proper protection. And thus, I'll have to indulge you in the process of writing, filing, and prosecuting a patent application. But that can wait.

When I began developing the pitch for the company, it sounded a lot different from what it sounds like today. And that's because part of the process is reading the reaction of the people that are listening to it. When nobody gets excited about my idea or asks me to tell them more, I know I've partially failed. The second important part is that people should absolutely and unabashedly understand the idea. Make it SIMPLE! Make it so your parents and grandparents would understand it. And that's hard when you're so immersed in what your doing.

So here's what I'd recommend as some simple rules for writing an elevator pitch. And remember, all of this should take place in 30 seconds to a few minutes.

  1. Explain the problem

  2. Explain the solution

  3. Make it simple

  4. PRACTICE - make it smooth.

  5. Be excited about what you're talking about and show it!

  6. Get the perspective of someone who knows the business you're going into (I'm using VC contacts, entrepreneur professors from school, and friends).

  7. Remember, you're ultimately looking for something. Know your audience and tweak accordingly, is it employees, investors, angels, parents, whatever?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Pitch!

This is probably the single most important part of your business when beginning to raise money. Sure, the exec summary and b-plan can get you in the door, but this makes it or breaks it once you're in the door. There are really two parts to a successful pitch and I'll handle each one in different posts. There's the elevator pitch, which is your 30 second - 3 minute pitch. It's the ability to generate excitement and get people to ask for more - without being verbose. It's called the elevator pitch, because you should be able to sell your idea and tell your story in about the time it takes for you to get in and out of an elevator in Silicon Valley. Keep in mind, because of the quakes, most buildings in Silicon Valley don't have a lot of floors - so the ride is quick! Then there's the investor pitch. This is when you're invited to come to the firm to present your company. You show up with a slide deck of about 15 slides and sell your company. Each one is equally important in their own respect.

Next post: elevator pitch

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How to Write a Business Plan, or really, How to Write Your First Business Plan?

I've already written about the merits of writing a business plan and the vague process surrounding it. So I'm going to assume that you're going to write one. This post will focus more on specific details. There are tons of business plans available for a free download and tons more that are available to view for a fee.

  1. Don't buy any of the following to help you write a business plan: software to help you write a business plan, business plan templates, business plan books, or anything else. It's not worth it. Unless you like throwing money away, then maybe it's worth it.

    Why do I say this? Because every business plan is different. There's really no right way to do it - and seeing a bunch of different types of plans will just confuse you. There are plenty of free business plans available to view online, just do some research. Search on Google, whatever. That will give you enough of an idea of how to do it.

  2. It's going to take a while. You're not going to write your business plan in 1 sitting. When I first sat down to write my first business plan - which was years ago, I was overwhelmed. I even had a business plan book with templates. I tried to follow the templates. Bad idea. My business didn't even have half the things the template tried to have me do. And some of the sections were absolutely useless. I thought I'd whip that thing out in like a week. I quit that business plan before I even started.

  3. Ok, there are some things to do before you even begin writing that plan. Research! Google will be your best friend. You're going to be looking for a few things in doing this preliminary research. If you're expecting your business to be a disruptive technology or a new technology - know your competition or whether someone else is already doing what you want to do. It's not a bad thing to have competition, in fact, it confirms your market. But you should know what people are up to. You will also be able to tell what your market will look like, where the money is at (since that's important to investors and probably you), and generally learn a lot about what field you're researching.

    The best way to research though isn't necessarily from Google. If you live near a University or business school - stop into their library and "use" them. They usually have access to Hoover's, Reuters, Edgar's Online, or a variety of other research publications that go far beyond anything you'll get through Google. They have fairly extensive research reports that are even more extensive if the company is a public company.

  4. Understand your audience. It's you, your early team, and investors. Your business plan is a great piece of material that helps you outline how you should be going about building your business. Make it sell too - that will help when trying to attract talent and, later on, attract investors. Many investors won't even read the whole plan, so make sure, first and foremost, it really is for you.

  5. Get some help from someone else. Whether it's a friend or parent, getting a different point of view and perspective can help you refine your plan. After writing my most recent business plan, I was so sick of reading the same sentences that I overlooked quite a few mistakes. Getting Rajiv in on the fun allowed it to really take shape.

  6. Ok, so what are the parts of the business plan that are must haves:

    • Executive Summary
    • Product Overview
    • Market Analysis (competitive analysis, Porter's 5 forces, etc)
    • Growth Strategy
    • Risks
    • Team
    • Financial Plan - I put this at the bottom on purpose. If you're a new company, with no sales or revenue, then this part is really just for fun. No VC is going to believe it and you probably shouldn't either. But it's fun to look at how much money you "could" make.

    • All of these components will vary in length depending on your business. There will also be additional components depending on your business. Again, there's no silver bullet. Just start writing and pretty soon things will start coming together.

I used to think writing a business plan was such a mysterious thing. After writing a few, I've realized they're not. Give it a try and shoot me questions if you have them.

Some decent links: - Details about different sections of the plan
BRS - Some great examples

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Now that's fishing!

This doesn't really have anything to do with anything (except fishing) - but it's a pretty wild video. It's definitely cuz he had the rally hat on.

Anyway, off to the East Coast tomorrow for 11 days. A week in Boston and a few days in NYC.

Today we talked to a UI/Web designer that seems interested in lending us a hand. He's a long time friend - and pretty kickass at what he does. I'll send out more details as things progress.

Wait, Not Everyone Thinks We're Geniuses?

One of the most frustrating experiences is when people don't get your idea. Normally, this happens very early on in the process, with, well, maybe the first or second person you ask. And this is how it goes...

You - "Yo, I have this sweet idea for an ice cream glove"

Anyone else - "Um, that sucks. That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard"

And then you're bummed out for a bit and you move on. But with this idea, we didn't have the "that sucks" moment until further along. And it was actually harder to take at that point. We had already committed so much to the idea that we were quite letdown when we gave the pitch and were met with less than enthusiastic responses. "Nobody is going to use it", "How would you even get users?", "Everyone is trying to solve that problem, why is your way any better?". Yea it stung a little. And at times we'd go back to the drawing board and refine the offering. But the goals of our offering always remained the same.

What we learned from all of this is that you're never going to have an idea that everyone is going to love. But all it takes is one person who likes your idea and wants to invest in it - whether it's with money, relationships, or support. Even the ice cream glove had support.

Goings on in Tech Country This Week

Here are some events going on this week in the Bay Area. Most, if not all of these events, have corresponding or sister events in other cities throughout the US and overseas.

  • VC Task Force is hosting Semantic Web: Discovering Frontiers of the Next Web, tonight, but it's not free (buy tickets here)

  • VC Task Force has an Elevator Pitch Roundtable tomorrow, November 7th. Ready to pitch your company to investors, this is a good place to start (buy tickets here)

  • Entrepreneur College @ Wilson Sonsini on November 7th - Biotech Session: Acquiring Your Core Technology (following week - Intellectual Property) register here.

  • There is a live interview with Guy Kawasaki (his blog) and Fake Steve Jobs tomorrow night, November 7th, at LinkedIn (RSVP here)

  • Lunch 2.0 - Zazzle this Friday, November 9th (RSVP here). Also, Google Chicago and Google Seattle events on Friday, November 9th (announcements here)

  • SF New Tech Meetup - Wednesday, November 7th - Mobile New Tech @ Mighty. Should be a pretty kickass event, with a great lineup of speakers and sponsors. Get your tickets here.

Other event websites that aren't necessarily happening this week:

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Evolution of an Idea and some Persistence

When we started developing the idea for this business, it was a great deal different from what it looks like today. I actually started thinking about this idea about 4 years ago. I moved to Bangkok in 2004 and was surprised how difficult it was for me to find people to meet, things to do, places to visit, and other things to keep me busy. Sure, most of the travel websites had good pieces of information here and there, but as a whole, it really wasn't suited to what I wanted.

I began developing a travel guide that was dedicated to Bangkok and that came from a perspective of someone who wanted to travel with an intimate knowledge of Bangkok. I wanted to offer restaurants that weren't tourist traps, sights that weren't lame, and bars where the locals actually hung out. I figured I'd begin with some of the major tourist destinations (Bangkok, Tokyo, Hong Kong, NYC, Paris, London, etc.) and go from there. I ended up going to business school later that year and shelved the idea.

Through business school, as I participated in entrepreneurship classes or met people thinking about starting their own businesses, I always gave my pitch for this travel idea. There were takers here and there, but nothing really panned out. I had actually started working on a niche travel website with a colleague from b school while on exchange in Hong Kong. Again, it just sort of died.

Rajiv and I began to play with this travel idea at the tail end of business school. He is as passionate about travel as I am and he was really frustrated when he began planning his trip to Europe post b school. He didn't know where to stay, where to visit, or what to do when he got there. We talked and began to develop an idea. The turning point was when we both reached a similar epiphany, the same day, with our idea. At that point - we knew there was something there.

After 5 months of working on the final idea - we're in a completely different place than we were when we started. Some of this came from market research, seeing what competitors were doing, and most importantly, watching the changing internet environment.

Social networking, open social, facebook, and others have all played a part in how we have morphed our initial idea into a strong offering. We hope you guys eventually feel the same way. It's going to add all of the great pieces of the internet, as it exists today, along with some age old technology. Unfortunately, we have to keep it quiet for now.

Bottom line: If you have an idea you like, be persistent and be open to change. I think a successful business is probably 60% persistence and 40% other stuff.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What to do...?

This is a follow-up to the job posting I wrote about last week. I had assumed the story was over. Anyway, after the last post, I wrote an email to the company in question telling them that I had respectfully decided to look elsewhere. I told them that I felt that I had been overly accommodating. Anyway, I received an email today, a good five days after I sent them an email. They want me to come in tomorrow to meet with the CEO. I was a bit surprised, but I guess they realized the coup they were attempting. I haven't figured out how to respond, but I'll definitely keep in mind how lackadaisical their responses continue to be.

Before I came back to the Bay Area to start this company, I was in China interviewing for jobs. I decided I wanted to work internationally and China was a great place to start (economy, opportunity, upside, Olympics, etc). I got an offer from an IT outsourcing firm that I really liked in Beijing and had a very difficult time turning them down. I liked the company, the people, their business model, and the upside prospect of joining. I figured though that the timing was too perfect though for me to come back and start this company, so I did. I remained in touch with them (Ethos Technologies) and recently met with them when they were in the Bay Area.

They want to open up the US market (they are currently in the European and Japanese markets). With my relationship at Net Services Venture Group (for deal flow), who is incubating our company, Ethos's previous knowledge of me, and my interest in finding a part time job - it was really a win, win, win. So, on Friday, I accepted a part time position in business development. If you have a company or product, looking for outsourced development work, give me a shout.

Now, what to say to this other company?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Top 10 (Mostly Tech) Blogs

Here are my top 10 blogs that I frequent most days. They are generally tech/startup blogs, but there are a few others thrown in too. Most of these mention similar stories but often have varied takes, which gives you a good understanding of the real story.

1) Tech Crunch - this is where you want your company written up
2) Mashable
3) Read/Write Web
4) Venture Hacks
5) Marc Andreessen's Blog
6) Venture Beat
7) Engadget
8) Ars Technica
9) With Leather (a sports blog)
10) What Would Tyler Durden Do? (yup, my daily dose of gossip - which usually makes me feel better about myself)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I never get bored by this, but...

I never really get bored by the views in SF (this was taken on Sunday - a beautiful day here), though there are plenty of other things that do bore me out here. One of those is the me first attitude that seems to permeate a lot of life out here. I'm not saying all of it is unfounded. The Bay Area is definitely a hotbed of intellect and technology, with great companies, schools, and people who have settled here.

So yesterday was Halloween. The only thing that really spooked me yesterday was the job offer I was given by an unnamed company here. I've been looking for a part time gig to help support me while I build this company. I'm not looking for a job that will pay me what I could get on the open market, but I'm looking for something that will be interesting, challenging, and enjoyable - and really provide a benefit to a company that could use it. I thought I found what I was looking for when I went on a few interviews last week with the company in question. I had some great conversations and was offered a job. I began the negotiations when they offered me a rate that was, let's say, on par with collecting cans for their redemption value. I have nothing against doing that for a job. In fact, I'm now considering it. But there's a difference between collecting cans and using my experience and education to help a startup develop their strategy, assist with marketing, and develop business. I'm not saying it's rocket science, but it's eventually contributing to their success and in turn, their bottom line.

So I countered with what I felt was an overly accommodating offer - because I thought that in addition to helping them, I would be getting some real world experience. I expected a bit of a negotiation and some flexibility. But there really wasn't any. Their first offer was also their last. Given the fact that I really need some financial support for the company - I was willing to do what it took - whether it was an equity exchange or some other way to make both of us happy. Nope. Didn't happen.

I called some friends and family to make sure I wasn't being stubborn - and falling into the "me first" attitude I was talking about. But even my big bro T.O. agreed. And damn, he's my biggest opponent of doing this startup and not having an income. I had to keep a little bit of pride. And so, I'll keep you posted on the job front.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Entrepreneur Colloge follow-up

I just got back from the Entrepreneur College at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR). It was great! I highly recommend going if you are remotely close to WSGR or a satellite office (see link in my last post about how to sign up).

The speaker today was Mark Reinstra, a partner at the Palo Alto office. He specializes in corporate law, M&A, and VC. Today's discussion was focused on incorporation and stock option pools. The session was quite interactive, with great Q&A brought on by the audience relating to incorporation issues, stock option grants, vesting scheduling, NDA's, employees, liability, etc.

Mark was also available afterwards for more specific questions. I had a word with him about creating an equity pool without incorporating, since we're focused on spending our money on our project and not on legal fees, incorporation fees, and potential tax liability. Something he mentioned, which we knew a little about, is that WSGR offers legal services for startups, for deferred fees, pre Series A. What this means is that they will offer you legal services for free before you raise money and will simply get paid back when you raise your Series A. No money technically comes out of pocket up front. I say technically, because it will eventually come out of the company. A few other companies offer deferred payment terms so you'll have to look into it with whatever legal team you want to represent you.

Bottom line: If you're a typical software startup like we are, you're going to want to incorporate as a C Corp, in California or Deleware, with 20% equity set aside for employees (these are the things I was most curious about).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Tonight we splurged. Jeever (my business partner Rajiv) bought us some Domino's. They have this new crispy cheese pizza that really sold us on Domino's. Normally we're "Hut" guys. In fact, there's a sit down Pizza Hut here in San Mateo with the classic $5.99 all you can eat buffet. We did that a lot at the beginning of starting this business, but there's only so much "Hut" one man can take. I broke my old record with 9 slices and two salads last time we went. I had to put an end to that indulgence. Anyway, back to Domino's. Considering the budget we're on, we had to use the 2 large pizza coupons. And that didn't come with the crispy cheese. It was a bit of a bummer.

Anyway, 55 minutes into waiting. The apartment started shaking. Jeever thought I was stomping on the floor - incensed that the pizza hadn't arrived. I thought the washing machine (which was on) was doing a crazy spin cycle. Instead, it was a quake. The largest I've felt for the 7+ years I've been in the Bay Area. The whole place was shaking...we actually got underneath doorways. Jeever was laughing his ass off because I was under a non structural doorway, unknown to me. Had it been worse, I would have been first to go. Glad he was laughing.

It turned out to be a 5.6 quake, centered fairly close to Foster City - near Milipitas.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Entrepreneur College

This Wednesday there is a great event at Wilson Sonsini called the Entrepreneur College. It's a 14 week series of presentations on startup issues. This week is: Forming and Organizing the Start-Up & Founders Stock. This speaker series is available on location at their offices nationwide.

Network, Network, Network

As a nice continuation of my last post on legal advice, this past weekend, I met-up with a friend I had met in Hong Kong when I was on exchange at HKUST (during my MBA at Berkeley). He was visiting from Spain with a fellow friend who was over here for the CTIA conference. His friend was a lawyer, very knowledgeable about startups and legal issues, and was great at giving me advice for all of the intricate questions I had about my business. She's offered to meet with me further to discuss any of the questions I come up with.

What I've begun to realize is how important networking is. I had always heard that sentiment echoed while going into and through my MBA, but I always took it for granted. The reason was simple, I couldn't stand doing it. It just felt too fake, both when I would approach people and when people would come and speak with me.

That's where things have recently changed for me. From a professional sense, I have found something that I'm incredibly passionate about. I can now search out people who share this interest and have found people incredibly receptive, informative, and helpful.

And so, tomorrow I'm heading to San Francisco to meet with someone I've been emailing with to discuss UI design - which is something I'm interested in getting right with this project. I think too many sites get things incredibly wrong - but I'll save that for a future post.

Bottom Line: Network, network, network. But while you do it, make your approach genuine. It will pay dividends.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When is the right time for legal help?

Legal help and legal representation are two separate issues. It's never too early to speak to some lawyers for advice, but it can definitely be too early to get representation. We learned this on the go though, because very early on we wanted to incorporate and really solidify our commitment to the company. After speaking to several friends who were lawyers, they all told us it was way too early. We thought differently. So against their advice, we went to meet with potential legal representation. We met with a few high powered firms in the Valley, and they all said the same thing. We were too early. Incorporating brings a few responsibilities to a company that generally aren't worthwhile early on. The first is that you face a tax burden as soon as you incorporate. Second, if you enlist the expertise of a top firm, which I felt necessary, you will generally pay for their services, which at startup, can be significant. If you don't pay (through deferred payment deals with certain law firms), you will pay down the road when you secure financing - and at that point, the fees can be exorbitant. Either way, these costs can be a burden. Since we were bootstrapping, the $3K or so in fees would have prevented us from completing more important tasks.

As an aside, Rajiv and I both felt that Fenwick & West was the best firm we met with. They were both professional and very knowledgeable about technology, as well as excited about new opportunities.

Bottom line: when do you need to incorporate?
When you start raising money/financing.

What about options for early employees?
This can be done through contracts written up yourself - there are plenty of examples online. I would advise speaking to someone about how to structure this, what percentages to give out, etc. I have a meeting next week with an attorney friend about this. I'll follow-up with details.

What about NDA's and other legal documents?
There are plenty generic ones available for download online.

What about everything else?
Ask your friends. Find a lawyer friend of yours, ask for help, ask for recommendations to others who can help.

Go Sawx!

So I'll probably lose a few people here, but I'm a staunch Sox fan. As most of you know, the Series is ON. Back to Colorado tonight. It's a bit strange to have our second WS in four years. I'd waited almost 20 years for the hope that we could make it back to the Series and break the curse. My most vivid memory from the Sox growing up was listening to the game in the car on the way to pick my parents up from the airport. Game 6. Sox vs. Mets '86 World Series. A painful loss for a 10 year old. Man I hated Buckner.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Getting Help, Psychological Help!

So we had an idea. What next? Our idea involved experts in a field we weren't very familiar with. Psychology. We didn't even know what type of psychologists we wanted or needed. And thus began our most difficult task to date. Finding an adviser willing to lend us a hand and people to help develop our product.

I called a psychologist friend of mine. I figured he'd be willing and able to help. And that's where I began to learn of the vast field of psychology - clinical, educational, forensic, health, human factors, industrial. The list goes on. He helped us narrow down our search to something in the behavioral/personality and industrial organizational realm. Now that we had that, I thought it would be easy from there.

I must have sent 300 emails to professors at leading institutions, to experts in the field gathered from google searches, to friends and family, to anyone who would listen. And I got maybe 2 responses. Even from Berkeley, which was my alma mater, professors wouldn't write back. I couldn't believe it.

But what I learned is that all it takes is 1 response. 1 person to help us out. It turned out that a professor at Berkeley did write me back eventually. And though she was intrigued by the idea, it wasn't what she was trained to do. So she turned me over to Haas professor. And this is where I learned of a great trick. Referrals! I found that the response rate of people when you are referred to them is exponentially better than random emails. Somewhere in the 90% success rate. So if you know you want to speak to someone, find a connection to them and approach them through a referral. It works wonders.

Dr. Cameron Anderson, a Haas organizational behavior professor, was our first advocate. He liked the idea and was shocked that it wasn't being done already. He agreed to help, in a limited capacity, because he was on tenure track this year and too busy publishing.

That's what really got us started. Finding the people to do the work was even more agonizing. But I'll leave that for the next post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lesson 1 - Socialize Your Idea

I've had a number of ideas in the past, some good and plenty more bad. One of the more recent of these ideas was a shirt box to keep shirts from wrinkling during travel. Another was a variable intensity braking light so you could tell how hard a driver was slamming on the brakes in front of you (BMW is doing it here, and they have another cool idea as well, here). A third was a pump up bicycle helmet (that, as you can see above, Reebok/Bell eventually made), and there were many more. The only way to really determine the feasibility of an idea is to socialize it. I'm not advocating telling everyone, because certainly people may steal your ideas, but I think talking to people you trust can help determine if your idea is worth pursuing. I'm sure there are ideas out there that people think are crazy, that eventually work out, but it's a whole lot better and easier if you have support.

I first realized that this idea had some merit when my parents gave me the nod. They are usually my biggest critics in terms of idea evaluation, which at first was tough to handle, but in the end I've realized that they've saved me a lot of heartache! They are much more rational with my ideas than I am. And naturally, my judgment is sometimes clouded the by excitement of a new idea.

The takeaway: Talk to people you can trust about your ideas - it'll save you lots of time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How it all came together - The Business Plan

After graduating from school, Rajiv and I were still playing around with the idea of actually starting this company. I left for Beijing to go interview for a few companies and Rajiv went to backpack in Europe before he started his full-time job.

It was in China that I had lots of downtime, between my lack of language skills and my desire to stay inside - because Beijing is quite smoggy/polluted in the middle of the hot summers. I began writing the business plan - an essential piece in starting a business.

Lots of people out there have different opinions about a business plan. Is it worthwhile or a waste of time since "VC's don't read b-plans anymore anyway". Well, regardless of what VC's do, I find writing a business plan incredibly valuable. And so does someone like Guy Kawasaki, so don't take my word for it.

In short, a business plan helps you to formulate your ideas, set a time-line, understand your competition and barriers to entry, and really organize every aspect of your business. I learned more about our business during the month of writing my plan than the 6 months that I had previously been thinking about it.

Even though some claim that if you're not looking for financing, don't do it. We're not looking for financing yet...and I still stand by my claim.

As I began to get through the business plan, Rajiv and I would IM and email when we could. We began to iterate through ideas and finally got to a point when we had a product that got us both FIRED UP.

Rajiv and I made a deal. I was giving up my ambition of working in China and he was going to give me a roof over my head. Together we'd make it happen.

I left from China in August and returned to the Bay Area. We've been at it ever since.

So what's the company anyway... and what time is it?

After a punishing Saturday night, my roommate and business partner (Rajiv) decided we can't binge drink anymore. That'll probably last a week. It's like a New Year's resolution, except even less likely to be followed. Speaking of business... anyone watch Flight of the Conchord's...and know what time it is? (Video above).

On the topic of business, I thought I'd talk about what our company is and how it came to be. This will be short - I'm sure I'll get into more details in future postings.

So, Rajiv and I are avid travelers. We felt that travel sites out there don't really cater to individual preferences and tastes as well as they should - so we decided to improve on this. Realizing that people, even friends, share wildly different preferences for what they like to do, we spent months trying to figure out a way to connect the millions of unconnected users in cyberspace who are outside your "circle of friends" (ala MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, etc.)

We came up with a science to do this. It's not the semantic web, but rather a complement to it. We're focused more on the user. We want to empower you and allow you to define who you are and how you use the information online. We hope it works. It will make finding information a more efficient and productive process.

Friday, October 19, 2007

1999. Deja vu, all over again.

I went to a launch party last night for a company called MadeIt. A company that creates invitations that "keep the party going" - and allows you to share stories, videos, pics, etc, in one place after the party. It's a step up from eVite, a site that has failed to evolve as the internet moved forward - which means there is an opportunity (and a lot of other players: Renkoo, Socializr, goovite, and doodle to name a few). I liked all of the founders I met, but what was really interesting, was the fact that there were two parties going on at Harlot in SF. One was for and one was for Videobox - a porn site, as the name aptly refers (the #1 site on the Net).

In addition to two startup parties, I ran into several friends from the old .com days - Jared Kopf (entrepreneur) and Johnny Manzari (graphic guru). It really brought back ideas of the heyday.

I'm hoping we're not in a bubble. People claim that we're not, that everything out there is actually useful, and that users are all that matter. I remember eyeballs being all that mattered back in the day. That didn't save anyone.

I guess only time will tell if things will work out, but what I am getting excited for is another round of startup party madness, 10 billion dollar startup valuations, and money being thrown around the valley (some of which is already happening)!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A little more serious. Maybe.

So, there are two real reasons why I decided to write this blog. The first, or actually, the second, was to help other entrepreneurs who are starting their own companies. Going through all of the experiences of starting a company has been trying, difficult, and at times, rewarding. One of the things that I wish there had been since the start, is an instruction booklet. But there isn't, and one thing I've realized is that there's no right way to do this. Every business is different and therefore every decision you make is going to be unique. One of the things that's always reassuring is knowing that someone else has faced the same difficult problems.

In terms of helping others out, I'll, at times, offer websites that are interesting, details about things I've gone through or accomplished, or entertaining stories that have nothing to do with my business.

The second reason I wanted to write this blog is because I wanted to see if there was value in doing so. I wanted to see if other entrepreneurs were interested in what it's like to do a startup - especially people who haven't done it before.

Feel free to help me eat a meal one day or buy a beer or something. I'm poor as hell - so go ahead, click that donate button to the right.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Welcome to my world!

Well, I was sitting around last night, wallowing in my own misery, wondering how to make ends meet while starting a company. So I went out and drank myself into oblivion. I woke up with a brilliant idea to start a blog. And let everyone else in on my successes, but more often than not, my catastrophic failures. People like reading about other people failing. I'm not sure why. I guess even I do. So this is my debt to laughing at the rest of you for the past 31 years. Enjoy.