Here are the Top 10 Basic Principles that every aspiring entrepreneur should know.
Archive for March, 2008
SUNNYVALE, Calif., Mar 24, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO), a leading global Internet company, and Computational Research Laboratories (CRL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Limited, today announced an agreement to jointly support cloud computing research. As part of the agreement, CRL will make available to researchers one of the world’s top five supercomputers that has substantially more processors than any supercomputer currently available for cloud computing research.
This effort is the first of its kind in terms of the size and scale of the machine, and the first in making available a supercomputer to academic institutions in India. The Yahoo!/CRL effort is intended to leverage CRL’s expertise in high performance computing and Yahoo!’s technical leadership in Apache Hadoop, an open source distributed computing project of the Apache Software Foundation, to enable scientists to perform data-intensive computing research on a 14,400 processor supercomputer.
Called the EKA, CRL’s supercomputer is ranked the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world – it has 14,400 processors, 28 terabytes of memory, 140 terabytes of disks, a peak performance of 180 trillion calculations per second (180 teraflops), and sustained computation capacity of 120 teraflops for the LINPACK benchmark. Of the top ten supercomputers in the world, EKA is the only supercomputer funded by the private sector and is available for use on commercial terms. EKA is expected to run the latest version of Hadoop and other state-of-the-art, Yahoo!-supported, open-source distributed computing software such as the Pig parallel programming language developed by Yahoo! Research.
“The Tata group has always contributed to scientific research in India, and the EKA will strengthen this cause further in the field of cloud computing. This partnership brings together Yahoo!’s leadership role in the development of Hadoop and CRL’s expertise in high performance computing, and will help bridge the gap between traditional supercomputing and cloud computing research in India,” said S. Ramadorai, chairman of CRL.
“We are excited to partner with Yahoo! to advance cloud computing research in India as it opens up a new arena of exciting opportunities,” said Dr. Gautam Shroff, member of the steering committee of CRL. “We are initiating dialogue with leading Indian academic institutions to collaborate on research using cloud computing.”
This Yahoo!/CRL announcement comes on the eve of the first ever Hadoop Summit. Sponsored by Yahoo! and the Computing Community Consortium (CCC), which is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Hadoop Summit brings together leaders from the Hadoop developer and user communities to discuss current projects and future directions of this cloud computing environment. Concurrently, the first Data-Intensive Computing Symposium, also sponsored by CCC and Yahoo!, gathers on Yahoo!’s campus leading industry and academic experts from all aspects of data-intensive computing. The symposium is part of a larger effort to explore opportunities for research and application of large-scale computing to benefit applications ranging from machine translation to genomic medicine.
“We have made our leadership in supporting academic, cloud computing research very concrete by sharing a 4,000-processor supercomputer with computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University for the last three months. With this supercomputing cluster, researchers were able to analyze hundreds of millions of Web documents and handle two orders of magnitude more data than they previous could,” said Ron Brachman, vice president and head of academic relations for Yahoo!. “Launching our cloud computing program internationally with CRL is another significant milestone in creating a global, collaborative research community working to advance the new sciences of the Internet.”
Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet brand and one of the most trafficked Internet destinations worldwide. Yahoo! is focused on powering its communities of users, advertisers, publishers, and developers by creating indispensable experiences built on trust. Yahoo! is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. For more information, visit pressroom.yahoo.com or the company’s blog, Yodel Anecdotal.
About Computational Research Laboratories
Computational Research Laboratories (CRL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons Limited and is engaged in cutting edge research and development in the area of high performance computing. CRL’s mission is to be among the top research, technology, and business leaders in the world, in high performance computing systems, software, applications, and services. CRL is headquartered in Pune, India. For more information, visit crlindia.com.
Yahoo! and the Yahoo! logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Yahoo! Inc.
All other names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners.
SOURCE: Yahoo! Inc.
I gave a presentation at Blitzweekend about starting a company. It was a mixture of a few things including:
- how Standout Jobs started from within the Montreal tech community
- my personal history, and use of blogging & social media to build a reputation locally and beyond
- raising capital – the difficulties, tips, etc.
- my current struggles with balancing the 20,000 foot strategic view and day-to-day issues
The presentation is a bit longer than I intended it to be, but I’m pleased with the results. A bit more practice would have helped, and more point form notes instead of what I had written up to use. But I hope people enjoyed the presentation and got something out of it. Anyone?
Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about Standout Jobs, where it came from and some of the lessons learned so far (and you want to see me “in action” – after all, who wouldn’t?!?!) please check out the presentation and let me know what you think.
I’ve been thinking about a number of new product ideas lately. In doing so, I’ve been trying to come up with a way more structured way of evaluating them. Here’s a first attempt at defining that. It’s not as clear as I’d like it to be. But perhaps you’ll find it useful.
Tractability is partially about technical difficulty and much about timing and competition—i.e., How advanced are the other solutions? Building a new blogging tool today is less-tractable, because the bar is higher. Building the very first web search engine was probably pretty easy. Conversely, building the very first airplane was difficult, even though there wasn’t any competition.
In general, if you’re tiny and have few resources, tractability is key, because it means you can build momentum quickly—and momentum is everything for a startup. However, tractability often goes hand and hand with being early in a market, which has its own drawbacks (e.g., obviousness, as we’ll discuss below).
If you’re big and/or have a lot of resources—or not very good at spotting new opportunities, but great at executing—a less-tractable idea may be for you. It may take longer to launch something worthwhile, but once you crack the nut, you have something clearly valuable.
Number two is more affected by the design of the product than the idea itself. You don’t actually want number three to be true. You want it to be a good business, but not an obviously good business, because than you get more competition. Web search was not an obviously good business before Google demonstrated it. This allowed them to leap-frog the competition that was in it for years, but not taking it very seriously. But, like Google, the business may not be clear until later.
The key question for evaluating an idea is number one: Is it obvious why people should use it? In most cases, obviousness in this regard is inversely proportional to tractability. The cost of Blogger and Twitter’s high tractability was the fact that they were defining a new type of behavior. The number one response to Twitter, still, is Why would anyone do that? Once people try it, they tend to like it. But communicating its benefits is difficult. We’re heartened by the fact that Why would anyone do that? was the default response by the mainstream to blogging for years, as well, and eventually tens of millions of people came around.
On the flip side, if you can build an ad network that makes people more money, a better search engine, or a productivity app that actually does tasks for people—all, less-tractable solutions—it will be highly obvious to people why to use your product.
Sometimes you can come up with ideas that are highly tractable and obvious. For example: Top Friends or HotOrNot. These products were not hard to launch and yet, were immediately appealing (to their target market). What was not obvious, in either case, is that they could also be great businesses. HotOrNot has proven this to be true. And I suspect Slide will, as well.
Facebook is incredibly deep because it leverages your connections, which touch practically every aspect of your life. Scrabulous, on the other hand—a Facebook app for playing Scrabble—is not very deep. How big is the Scrabble-playing part of your life, and how much can it deliver beyond that?
But most things are deeper than they seem at first glance. Practically any application, once people start using it, can be used as a lever to more activity and benefit delivery. Being smart about what you’re leveraging is key.
When Feedburner first launched, their only feature was the ability to take an RSS feed and spit out multiple versions, depending on the capabilities of the feed reader requesting it. It seemed useful, but hardly something to start a company around, especially because that particular problem would probably go away over time. Or so I thought. What I didn’t get and they did (because Dick and gang is smarter than me) is that they were setting themselves up at a great leverage point—between publishers and their readers—where they could offer an ever-deeper value stack. Soon it was feed stylesheets with one-button subscription, feed stats, feed flare, blog stats, email subscriptions, and, of course, advertising, where they made their money.
While we’re talking about Feedburner, its worth mentioning that their product was also very obvious for their core user-base. There were clear benefits and very little drawbacks. They also had no competition, even though there were tons of companies in the RSS/feed space, because most of the others were battling it out on the reader side.
Other times, you stumble into deepness. When they put up HotOrNot on a whim, Jim and James didn’t know they’d be able to leverage it into a highly profitable dating site. Okay, so HotOrNot’s still not the “deepest” of sites, but it’s deeper than you think.
Feedburner is not particularly wide. Their market was those who published RSS feeds (and cared about them). This was in the hundreds of thousands, not a hundred million. Turns out, it didn’t need to be used by a hundred million to be worth a hundred million, so going for wideness is not entirely necessary. But it’s something to look at.
Like deepness, wideness can take you by surprise. The web is getting so damn big, what seem like niche ideas can be very decent businesses. When Ted Rheingold launched Dogster, as a joke, he didn’t know there were enough people out there who would be interested in making their dogs web pages to actually build a business. When we launched Blogger, I thought maybe a few thousand people would use it.
Sometimes, you can find a spot that is both deep and wide. This is where multi-billion-dollar businesses are built: Google, Windows, Ebay. It’s easy to think these kinds of opportunities aren’t laying around anymore—at least not for the little guy. But most people would have said the same before Facebook entered the picture.
Interesting to note: Google web search is not the least bit viral. Nor is Firefox. Nor it Kayak.
It’s possible to get the word out without being “viral.” One way is organic search traffic. Another is pay-per-click ads (if you can monetize). Another is plain old-fashioned word-of-mouth/blog/press. (Twitter has probably grown more through press and blogs references than any inherent viralness.) There’s also distribution deals and partnerships.
Either way, it’s something to think about up front, as different ideas lend themselves to different discoverability strategies. And some things are more difficult than others to spread. Dating sites, for instance, have not historically been viral, because people weren’t going to invite their friends to—or even talk much about—their personal ads. The sites made up for this by buying lots of ads, which worked because they monetized signups via subscription.
Whether or not something is monetizable is not always clear up-front. It wasn’t clear how Google was going to make money early on. Ebay thought it would sell auction software.
In most cases, if you position yourself close to the spending of money, you can extract some. Or if you offer something that clearly saves or makes people money.
Blogger, I believe, makes money for Google, but it’s not the most monetizable of products. Twitter, I believe, will be more-so, but that’s yet to be seen.
Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world. Be a user of your own product. Hire people who are users of your product. Make it better based on your own desires.
In theory, you can get around this with lots of user research. (It’s pretty clear neither Slide nor Rockyou‘s founders are creating widgets based on their own needs and desires.) But you’re more likely to get it wrong that way. When I’ve gone sideways, it’s when I wasn’t listening to my gut on this issue. Specifically, Blogger and Twitter were personally compelling, while Odeo wasn’t.
However, “personally compelling” doesn’t have to mean only that you want it as a user yourself. Curing cancer or helping the world be more green may be highly personally compelling for other reasons, which I think is just as good. My favorite products are those I really want as a user, but that I also think have some “greater good.”
Charting it Out
|Google (web search)||Very Low||Very High||Very High||Very High||Low||Very High|
|High1||High||Very High||High||Very High||High2|
|HotOrNot||Very High||Very High||Med||Med||Med||High4|
|Scrabulous||High||Very High||Low||Low||Very High||Low|
|Ebay||Med||High||Very High||Very High||High|
About the Author (Tony Wright)
Having done this twice (started a company that eventually turned into a full-time startup), I settled in to reply. Before long, it was clear that my response was long enough to justify a blog post.I’ve done two part-time-to-full-time startups (one resulted in a startup the sold, the second is RescueTime– currently a YC-funded company– cross your fingers).
At the end of the day, I think Paul Graham is right when he says:
“The number one thing not to do is other things. If you find yourself saying a sentence that ends with “but we’re going to keep working on the startup,” you are in big trouble. Bob’s going to grad school, but we’re going to keep working on the startup. We’re moving back to Minnesota, but we’re going to keep working on the startup. We’re taking on some consulting projects, but we’re going to keep working on the startup. You may as well just translate these to “we’re giving up on the startup, but we’re not willing to admit that to ourselves,” because that’s what it means most of the time. A startup is so hard that working on it can’t be preceded by “but.””
In the beginning, however, it’s not always practical to dive in full-time. And sometimes, when your idea is off-the-wall and also easy to build a prototype for, it’s smart to whip something out just to see if what you’re building is as cool as you think it might be before you take the plunge.
So if you’re too poor or too unsure to do the right thing for your business and dive in full-time, here are a few things that seemed to work for us when we did it part-time:
1. You need a co-founder and some cheerleaders… If you can’t find 2-3 friends who are really excited to be beta testers for what you’re building, ponder changing your direction. The arguments for a co-founder are many and varied. For a part-time effort, they are essential to keep you on-track and working. At some point, you’ll hit a motivation wall… If you have a partner who is depending on you, you find a way past that. If you don’t, you’ll often lose interest and find something else to entertain you.
2. Pick a day or two per week where you ALWAYS work, ideally in the same room as your co-founder(s). ALWAYS, no exceptions. We did 1 weekday evening and 1 weekend day. That doesn’t mean we weren’t working other days, but having a fixed schedule helps you through the phases of the project that might not be so fun.
3. Have a boat-burning target. What will it take for everyone to dive in full-time? 5,000 active users? 10,000 uniques a week? Funding? That should be a shared understanding. You don’t want to have one founder ready to go full-time when another has reservations.
4. Pick an idea that is tractable. Every business is a theory. If your theory is, “we can build a better web-based chat client”, that’s something you could test quickly. If you’re theory is “we can build a car that runs on lemonade”, that’s just not going to work as a part-time effort.
5. Understand that your v1 ia probably going to suck. Read David of Weebly’s post on persistence. It’s a long road. My first startup was a ridiculous fluke (2 months and then sold). 99% of the overnight successes you read about were slogging in the muck for 5 years before the night in question. Be prepared for a long journey and be surprised if your startup is an immediate hit.
6. If you’re going to screw off at work (everyone does), spend it getting smarter about the stuff you don’t know. If you’re a coder, read a few design/usability blogs. Read up on what motivates angel investors. Research competitors and write down what they do well. Get brilliant at SEO (it’s not hard). Write a LOT more (blogging helps). Think about virality and research the heck out of it. This is all more valuable (and hopefully just as fun) as looking at LOLcats on Reddit.
At the end of the day, you want to prove whatever you need to prove as quickly as possible, so you can dive in full-time. Near as I can tell, there are plenty of startups that have started as “hobbies”, but you need to take it out of that phase as soon as you can.