Many entrepreneurs are embarrassed to demo their software. They worry it’s too early, too rough, and too amateur. They worry it will undermine their efforts and make them look weak.
If you’re starting a software company, the very first step is to develop software. As obvious as that sounds, many aspiring entrepreneurs have no ability to build their product and have made no progress toward that goal.* Thus, if you have anything built, what you’re demonstrating is a willingness to start and an ability to make progress toward the development of your product. Huge positives!
Anyone who has ever built or been involved in the development of software knows how ugly things look early on (and for a long time). You should never be ashamed to show these people your bits, it’s probably the single best thing you can do.
Just demo it.
If you want some early feedback, email me. patkinsel at gmail
*More on how to get started if you’re not an engineer in another postTweet Vote on HN
Yes. Yes it was (at PB&J Palace)Tweet
At BC to judge startup scramble - and some Flutie memories (at Boston College)Tweet
So it’s been a few months since Spindle was acquired by Twitter…
There is still much to celebrate, but I’d like to take a quick moment to reflect.
It’s often discussed that startups are comprised of people under extreme and lasting stress. As the media covers more often than I think is due, this can lead to fantastic interpersonal explosions and Shakespearean team drama. What’s not covered enough is that the startup experience can also create incredible friendships.
For over two and a half years, I had the pleasure of working day in and day out with an incredible group of people. We sat in four different offices, often in very close quarters without working HVAC or other basic modern office amenities. We stared over our monitors at the tops of each other’s heads for more hours than I’ll ever be able to calculate. And we made so many trips to coffee shops that we became locals everywhere, but only when we came in as a group.
Putting all of the work aside for a moment, we shared a lot of life together since starting the company in December of 2010:
- Jill and I relocated from Seattle to Boston. We were married in July of 2011 and everyone on the team at that time attended. We’re now expecting our first child.
- Anna and Simon gave birth to Estella, the most adorable baby girl you’ll ever meet. They also moved apartments and the team was there to help.
- Fiona and Keh-Li got engaged.
- Kara and Alex Jenkins got married in a beautiful ceremony in Vermont.
- Jenn and Jeff recently gave birth to Maeve, the new most adorable baby girl you’ll ever meet (now that Estella is a toddler, the crown was free for the taking again).
- Vincent got married.
- Cristina and Steve got married.
- Dave carried the torch for the rest of us, reminding us that the mountains were nearby for snowboarding/skiing.
- Spindle HQ moved across the street from Alex Lambert, only for Alex to move further into Cambridge. The team was there to help.
- Fernando graduated from Northeastern, joined the team, and helped more than we ever could have imagined.
- Andy returned from Chicago to work at Spindle.
- Chris fought his way into the city every day and helped immeasurably.
We’ve been there for each other through each of these wonderful experiences, but also at trying times too.
More than anything, I will always remember how fortunate I was to work with the Spindle team. And I will be forever grateful for their camaraderie and friendship.
To the guys, thank you. To everyone else, I hope you’re as lucky.Tweet Vote on HN
After closing our seed round - tired much?
Paul Graham published a tome last week about “How to Raise Money.” It’s fantastic and I support so much of what he advises. You should read it and come back when you’re done.
Paul has infinitely more data points about fundraising than I do, but I take issue with the tone of two sections in his post, “Have multiple plans” and “Underestimate how much you want.” These sections suggest a mercenary like approach that elevates fundraising above all else, when the real goal is to secure the capital you need to build a successful company.
Many investors will ask how much you’re planning to raise. This question makes founders feel they should be planning to raise a specific amount. But in fact you shouldn’t. It’s a mistake to have fixed plans in an undertaking as unpredictable as fundraising.
This advice suggests that raising money is of such importance that you should compromise your plans to secure whatever amount is being offered. In reality, the amount of money you raise is of critical importance. Raising the wrong amount of money could be the reason your company ultimately fails.
Companies have natural milestones. Along the path to building a great company there are peaks that represent validating your concept, scaling its adoption, validating a business model, and scaling the business. You absolutely do not want to fall between these milestones, especially the earlier milestones.
In my experience at Spindle, my single biggest mistake was to raise the wrong amount of money. We raised $2.3M, which was too much money to just validate our technology and concept, yet not enough money to scale the product to a national audience. Ultimately, we were left in a valley between milestones and chose to sell the company.
Today’s startup culture encourages people to raise as much money as possible. While more money will always represent greater opportunities, I strongly encourage caution. You should consider if that incrementally greater amount you can raise now is actually enough to jump to the next milestone. If not, it can be fools money as it may increase the expectations on the company without giving you the means to get further.
And so, I believe that the amount of money you raise is of crucial importance. Know your milestones and what it takes to get to each. Paul’s advice is great, you should be flexible in the amount of money you raise, but if you’re considering wildly different numbers, you should be decidedly trading off between the milestones you’re aiming for… not taking whatever you can get.Tweet Vote on HN
I’d like to introduce a new term:
Solutionist (n): a person who is more interested in their solution than any particular problem that it may or may not solve.
I’m new to the listening to and evaluating other people’s ideas game, but it’s become clear to me that there are two types of entrepreneurs.
One type of entrepreneur presents a problem, discusses the research they’ve done, and offers a solution. These people aren’t wed to their solution, they’d excitedly trade their current idea for something that better addressed the problem. Before they start the company, many of these people aren’t even wed to their problem… they’re excited about it, but are actively trying to disprove it before dedicating their lives to addressing it. It’s easy to understand and evaluate these entrepreneurs’ ideas because you can research and evaluate the problem before subsequently evaluating the solution. Said another way, do I believe in the problem you’re presenting and do I believe in your proposed solution?
The other type of person, the solutionist, is obsessed with their solution above all else. These people don’t discuss problems and market research, but share plans for their user experience. They talk about features before ever discussing why they’re even worth building. It’s difficult to evaluate these ideas. Without understanding the problem they’re addressing, how can you possibly decide if their solution is good for anything at all?
It should go without saying, but you don’t want to be a solutionist. So, are you one? And what can you do about it?
My best advice is to do the following:
- Describe the problem you’re trying to solve in 3-5 sentences. Actually write it out. Talk about people (or organizations - which are comprised of people) and how they can’t do something or need something. For example, “Homeowners often leave their homes vacant, but it’s very difficult for them to find people to pay to stay in their homes - especially on short notice. Travelers need affordable and unique accommodations, but have no ability to find an option other than a hotel.”
- Describe the opportunity in broad strokes, but don’t mention anything about a solution. This should be entirely about the benefit to your customer. Imagine your product were built and you were trying to explain the value proposition to the target customer, why would they buy it? For example, “If travelers could rent homes directly from owners, homeowners could make money while their home is empty and travelers could gain access to affordable and unique accommodations.”
- Describe your solution, but keep this about the customer as well. This should simply describe what you’re going to do, not how you’re going to do it. For example, “If there were a marketplace that allowed qualified travelers to rent directly from qualified homeowners, we could monetize the inventory of temporarily vacant home inventory.”
This seems somewhat obvious, especially when you read the problem, opportunity, and solution for a great business like Airbnb. But, you’d be surprised how many [potential] entrepreneurs’ ideas clearly fall apart when examined against this framework.
I’ve given this exercise to a number of students over the past few months. It’s helped several of them realize on their own that their solution isn’t built upon the strong foundation of a real problem. It also has the benefit of completely postponing any discussion about features. Because features are fun to think about, they often dominate an entrepreneur’s mind… but they really should be left alone until they’re conceived of in an attempt to solve a real problem.
Beware the solutionist. Be a problem solver.Tweet Vote on HN