Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category


Following is the Story about Kiko an online Calender which was sold through eBay.

Straight from Kiko Founder:

Today I listed the main asset of our startup, our web calendar Kiko, on eBay (see the auction). Since we put the eBay post up, there has been much buzz on techcrunch, reddit, etc about Kiko going under. Many people have speculated heavily on why we failed, and, to my amusement, some have even blogged about lessons we can learn from Kiko.

I think there are a lot of lessons other people can take away from Kiko. Most of these are things that someone looking in from the outside wouldn’t know. They don’t have a lot to do with our business model. They don’t have a lot to do with getting stepped on by a giant. Here are the important things that I actually learned from my first startup:

1. Stay Focused. Most entrepreneurs have lots of ideas. Often times, many of them may be really good. I don’t know about you, but my favorite part about startups is talking about new products and new business ideas. If you’re a creative person, it’s very easy to get side-tracked on side ideas when you really should be working on your main one. This is bad. Bad, bad, bad. We did this a lot with Kiko, and it caused many delays in getting the product out the door.

2. Hire Slow, Fire Fast. Picking the right people is life and death for your company. We hired two people for Kiko. One of them (Rich White, our interface designer) was awesome; everything I could have asked for and more: self motivated, entrepreneurial, competant, hard working, and very smart. However, one of our hires turned out to be a huge mistake: he basically spun his wheels, didn’t complete anything, and left for months at a time without word. Working with someone like this can easily make working on your company not very fun at all. If you have any reservations about someone at the outset, you should probably not hire them.

3. Cute hacks can cost you time. Take the time to do things right from the beginning. Seriously.

4. Make an environment where you will be productive. Working from home can be convenient, but often times will be much less productive than a separate space. Also its a good idea to have separate spaces so you’ll have some work/life balance.

5. Get your investors involved. Your investors are there to help you. Get them involved from the start, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think we made the mistake early on of trying to do (and know) everything ourselves, perhaps out of insecurity over being so new to the business world. This is a mistake.

6. Build incrementally. We tried to build the ultimate AJAX calendar all at once. It took a long time. We could have done it piece by piece. Nuff said.

An AJAX calendar is not fundamentally a bad idea (I think we, google calendar, 30boxes, calendar hub, and many others prove that). I don’t think we were doomed from the beginning; I just think we were too slow at times, and focused on the wrong thing at times. I think Kiko is still a good idea that can yield a lot of value to its users, but I won’t be the one to take it there.I’ve had a good time working on Kiko this past year. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve gotten a lot of experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Y Combinator has also been a great funding experience, and helped us out tremendously; I am thankful to be part of that community. Thanks to everyone who has reached out to wish Emmett, Rich and I luck.

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Why do some companies “break through” while so many others do not? Author and business consultant Keith McFarland has spent years researching thousands of private companies in an attempt to answer that very question. After studying the performance of more than 7,000 companies that have appeared on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, McFarland, a former Inc. 500 CEO himself, wrote the best-selling book The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers. Here are 10 secrets to long-term entrepreneurial growth:

1. The sexiest businesses don’t always win.

2. It’s not all about the entrepreneur.

3. Entrepreneurs aren’t always risk takers.

4. Founders don’t need to let go.

5. You don’t necessarily have to stick to your knitting.

6. You don’t need OPM (other people’s money).

7. It’s not all about hiring the right people.

8. It doesn’t matter where you went to school.

9. You don’t have to let the MBAs take over.

10. Strategy isn’t just the job of the CEO.

Source Yahoo Finance

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Here are the Top 10 Basic Principles that every aspiring entrepreneur should know.

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Post Author: Ben Yoskovitz his Blog
Here I refers to Author.

I was very glad to see that someone recorded the recent Blitzweekend presentations. Stephane Daury did a great job recording everything, and I’ve enjoyed watching the presentations I didn’t see.

I gave a presentation at Blitzweekend about starting a company. It was a mixture of a few things including:

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.

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Evan Williams (founder of Twitter) has a fabulous post on how to evaluate new product ideas


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.


Question: How difficult will it be to launch a worthwhile version 1.0?Blogger was highly tractable. Twitter was tractable, but sightly less-so because of the SMS component. Google web search had quite low tractability when they launched it. Vista?: About as low as you can get.

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.


Question: Is it clear why people should use it?Everything is obvious once its successful. Big wins come when you can spot something before its obvious to everyone else. There are several vectors to this: 1) Is it obvious why people should use it? 2) Is it obvious how to use? 3) Is it an obviously good business?

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.


Question: How much value can you ultimately deliver?The most successful products give benefits quickly (both in the life of a product and a user’s relationship with it), but also lend themselves to continual development of and discovery of additional layers of benefit later on.

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.


Question: How many people may ultimately use it?Wideness, like deepness, is a fairly classic market analysis measure. They are usually inversely proportional—do you try to offer the mass-market good or the niche one?

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.


Question: How will people learn about your product?I was going to call this criteria “viralness.” However, there’s a lot of focus on viralness these days, and—while sometimes amazingly effective—it’s not the only way to grow a user-base. And it doesn’t make sense in all cases.

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.


Question: How hard will it be to extract the money?Far be it for me to say that obvious monetizability is a requirement. I’m generally a believer that if you create value, you can figure out the business. However, all things being equal, an idea with clear buck-making potential is better than one without.

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.

Personally Compelling

Question: Do you really want it to exist in the world?Last on the list, but probably the first question I ask myself is: How important to me is it that this product exists in the world? If I were evaluating a startup, I’d ask this of the founders. As I wrote in “Ten Rules“:

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

To bring it home, here’s a table with my estimates on where different products land by these criteria. Obviously, these are subjective measures, and for some of them, it’s hard to judge in retrospect. (I didn’t inlclude Personally Compelling on the list, because I can’t really speak to the founder’s motivations in most cases.)
Product Tractability Obviousness Deepness Wideness Discoverability Monetizability
Blogger Very High Low High High High Low
Google (web search) Very Low Very High Very High Very High Low Very High
Facebook High1 High Very High High Very High High2
Twitter High Low High High High Med
Feedburner Med High High Med Med Med3
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

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About the Author (Tony Wright)

Me and my WifeApril 2006 – Brian Fioca and I [Tony Wright] sell Jobby, a web 2.0 resume posting/search site, to Jobster (note: The site is now a redirect to Jobster, but you can see a demo video here and here.)

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.

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There are a lot of Web 2.0 companies out there. If you don’t believe me, check out Web 2.0’s archive. For every Digg or Twitter there are dozens of sites that provide great services that flame out. Unfortunately, the fault does not lie in fickle consumers or bad luck — it falls directly on your shoulders.

Luckily, most of the worst startup mistakes are things that you can change. What better time than the beginning of the week to take a look at some of them?.

Obviously, The Product Will Sell Itself

Used Car

This is the problem faced by entrepreneurs who start off as pure developers. The idea seems pretty well founded. If you have a great product, people will flock to it. This could not be any more wrong. If Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it is that there are a ton of extremely talented developers out there and many of them have made amazing products. Yet, somehow, there is only one YouTube and Facebook.

What is the difference between a well developed product and a great product? Implementation, of course. Truly great entrepreneurs are able to separate themselves from their products and realize the one real truth of business, “no one cares.” After you have your product put together it is time to get it through your head that your only job now is to cut through the public’s inertia and make them see how important your service is to their lives. Market, market, market. Get yourself out there and scream your unique value proposition from the rooftops.

If you can’t give someone a general idea of why your product is great in one sentence or less, then it isn’t.

People Care About Features!


People could care less about your tag clouds and OpenID support. In general, people really only concern themselves with one portion of a product. Most people use YouTube to watch funny videos. Most people use Flickr to show off their great photos. Each of these products has a metric ton of additional features that power users really get behind but the public at large is completely unaware of.

Make sure that your most important features are impossible to miss. Let your users see up front why this product is a handy addition to their lives. Once they are hooked they will look around and see all the other great stuff you have put in. You must understand the difference between product adoption and user retention. Features retain users, they very rarely get them.

What Do You Mean We Don’t Need A Private Jet?


No, I am not going to let the CFOs off the hook. Too many young startups, newly flush with venture funding, forget that business finance is a lot like personal finance, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Remember when you were bootstrapping and you bought all those Dell PCs wholesale for $300 a pop? Why does it seem prudent, now that you have a little capital to burn that you should need $2,000 Mac Book Pros for every employee, even the ones who need computers for little more than Excel and email?

Unless you are turning a profit, most of your money should go towards development and marketing. I am not saying that you should work out of a closet, but wait until you have revenue before you spring for that 5th Avenue suite. Also remember, there are free or cheap solutions for almost all corporate infrastructure problems. You can pick up computers, furniture, and telecommunications services at cut rates if you know how to look. The only thing that you should feel free to splurge on are servers and maybe enough amenities to keep your employees content.

No One Told Us People Would Actually Use This Thing


Speaking of servers. The next most important thing to remember is that you should have a plan in place to double your infrastructure at very short notice. It is entirely possible that your user base could go from 5,000 people to 50,000 people in a month. If you haven’t prepared for this, it won’t be long before your user base, annoyed at network failures and slow downs jumps ship and moves on to greener pastures.

This is one of those times a little forward planning can really be a life saver. Have a plan written up to tell you what type of infrastructure you would need to handle each new flood of users. Make certain that your vendors know that your equipment needs are in flux and be certain that you are ready to scale up well before the server room bursts into flames.

Early Adopters Aren’t Real People


I know I didn’t use a clever turn of phrase for this one, but I think it’s too important for that. What you need to understand, right now if you have not already, is that early adopters are not real people. The geeks, techies, friends and family that initially use your product are not representative of the public at large. Their opinions on your product are not representative of what the mainstream will think.

If your web service is designed to scale, be certain that your marketing machine is not only targeting the digerati. Start getting the word out through newspapers, magazines and publications in your broader field of interest. If you are making an online video recommendation service, don’t only pray to the altar of TechCrunch but also get the word out amongst movie lovers. Make certain that the same people who use Netflix can easily get their head around your product. Understand that, in general, normal people are looking for something that makes their lives easier. They don’t understand Web 2.0 and social media collaboration. In this case, sell the steak not the sizzle.

Huh, What’s Gmail?


This should have been point number one. Products can be destroyed before they even begin if you don’t do the research. Take a look around the net and make certain that you don’t have another huge player operating in the space that you want to move into. If it turns out that there is, make sure that you can clearly define how your product is different than their offering.

Also, research how services similar to yours have succeeded or failed. Some of the best advice you can get will come from the horror stories of you competition. An ounce of preparation is worth a gallon of regret.

Web 2.0 Roundup

There are a thousand mistakes big and small that can sink your startup, and the ones that I described are only a tiny subset of them. However, I daresay that these are the most important. Remember, that a web business is still a business and knowledge is your best weapon.

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