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Founders Talk Founders Talk #74

Intensely focused on building a software company

This week on Founders Talk I’m joined by John-Daniel Trask, co-founder & CEO of Raygun. Raygun is an award-winning application monitoring company founded by John-Daniel Trask (better known as JD) and Jeremy Boyd in Wellington, New Zealand. They have revenues in the 8 digits annually, and have done it with very little funding (~1.7M USD). Today’s conversation with JD shares a ton of wisdom. Listen twice and take notes.

Tom Cleveland tjcx.me

I wasted $40k on a fantastic startup idea

I’m not gonna lie, it does sound like a fantastic startup idea. But there are so many things that can go wrong when trying to start something new and Tom Cleveland does a super job of telling that story in this brutally honest post:

Things are going great. My friends and family all tell me they love the site. Even some strangers on the internet love it. “I know right,” I tell them. “So how much would you pay for this?

“Hahahahahahah,” they say in unison. “Good one!”

Stick around to the end for lessons learned. Where did he go wrong?

Startups blog.excalidraw.com

One year of Excalidraw

I love posts like these from startups/projects that share how they’re doing over time:

Excalidraw started as a way to procrastinate on January 1st, 2020, and ended up being a fully fledged whiteboard product only one year later! In this post, we’ll go over the most important features that made Excalidraw great at being a virtual whiteboard for sketching hand-drawn like diagrams.

They detail their open source tech stack, new features the team shipped last year, cool things people are doing with the tool, and more.

(The tool itself, btw, looks totally rad and is definitely something I’ll be toying with over the coming weeks.)

Sahil Lavingia sahillavingia.com

No meetings, no deadlines, no full-time employees

Once again, Sahil Lavingia shared proof that we can think differently about the future of work. Sure, not every company should operate the way Gumroad is operating, but there are plenty of insights to be drawn from their experience.

Recently, I pitched the whole company about going full-time, because it felt wrong to grow any larger without full-time staff.

Nobody accepted.

I realized then that I was trying to copy the status quo–to try and fix something that wasn’t broken–so that I could feel better about doing things the “normal” way. But the deal we already had in place was better for what our people prioritize: freedom over growth, sustainability over speed, life over work.

I recently spoke with Sahil on Founders Talk #66 about failing to build a billion-dollar company. I highly recommend that episode.

Vercel Icon Vercel

Vercel raises $40M to "build the next web"

Congrats to Guillermo and the entire team on this big vote of confidence!

When responding to investors, we told them the stories of our customers, from independent developers to Fortune 10 companies, and the lessons we learned this year about how Next.js and Vercel help teams collaborate and move faster with greater flexibility.

It’s fascinating how front-and-center Next is in Vercel’s story.

Related: we have an excellent episode of The Changelog coming down the pipeline with Guillermo and JS Party regular Amal Hussein discussing where the web is headed in 2021 and beyond.

Something to look forward to. 😉

Medium Icon Medium

Death of an open source business model

Joe Morrison:

Until yesterday, I was still clinging to a few shreds of romantic optimism about open source software businesses. Mapbox is the protagonist of a story I’ve told myself and others countless times. It’s a seductive tale about the incredible, counterintuitive concept of the “open core” business model for software companies.

We’ve discussed the challenges with open core on many occasions (this episode of The Changelog on Nextcloud immediately comes to mind), but most of those conversations center around the tension of balancing commercial and open source interests. This Mapbox open core story, on the other hand, has a different villain:

Today, we’re gathered here on the internet to mourn the death of the open core business model. We’re here to tell stories of the before-times, to reminisce about how smart we thought we were. We went against consensus, and we were wrong. Because, open core is dead.

Cloud killed open core.

Ina Fried axios.com

Making sense of the $28 billion Salesforce-Slack deal

If you missed the news…Salesforce is buying Slack for $28 billion. To be clear, the deal is $27.7 billion in cold hard cash plus Salesforce stock. But who cares about money, amirite? Why does this deal even make sense?

Ina Fried for Axios:

[Salesforce] CEO Marc Benioff characterized the move as a bet that the pandemic-driven shift to remote work isn’t a temporary blip but rather a permanent transformation.

Slack has the lead in its still-nascent space, but was facing a challenge of its own — namely that Microsoft’s rival Teams was bundled into Office subscriptions. As a standalone company, Slack couldn’t easily manage such a move, nor could it afford to get into a price war.

I liked what Aaron Levie (Co-founder and CEO of Box) said about this deal and the future of work:

What’s amazing is that even though the current wave of enterprise software to power the future of work has been going strong for 10+ years, we’re still in the very earliest of stages in this market. The last decade has been about building the tools that power new ways to work from anywhere, collaborate with anyone, and automate workflows and business processes in the cloud. The next decade will be the era when organizations adopt these technologies en masse and transform their enterprises. While many of us in Silicon Valley and similar ecosystems have been using tools like Slack for years now (and even Microsoft Teams, more recently), 90%+ of the world’s digital workers are still not leveraging these modern platforms for the majority of their work. While it’s hard to imagine, we’re still in the early innings of this market.

Founders Talk Founders Talk #73

Balancing business and open source

Raj Dutt is the founder and CEO of Grafana Labs. Grafana has become the world’s most popular open source technology used to compose observability dashboards (we use Grafana here at Changelog). Raj and team are 100% focused on building a sustainable business around open source. They have this “big tent” open source ecosystem philosophy that’s driving every aspect of building their business around their open source, as well as other projects in the open source community. But, to understand the wisdom Raj is leading with today, we have to go back to where things got started. To do that we had to go back like Prince to 1999…

Jared Mauch YouTube

How I started a telco to get fiber to my town

Jared Mauch was tired of waiting for high speed internet access to his very rural house in the outskirts of Ann Arbor, MI so he started a telco to get fiber to his town.

Development was happening in and around Ann Arbor putting new subdivisions nearby. I expected broadband would reach my new home eventually (Cable, DSL, FTTx), but…nothing came. I know…start a telco! – source slides

Jared covers everything in this video – the research, planning, finances, pre-builds, getting customers, internet access, construction, contractors, and running all the fiber.

Tieshun Roquerre tieshunroquerre.com

What I learned going through YC as a 17 year old

In addition to everything else shared, I really appreciate what Tieshun has to say about failure and how it’s acceptable in this post.

My company ultimately didn’t succeed (we realized we needed to build a services business more than a technology business and that’s not what we set out to do), and that was entirely okay. Most YC companies fail and it’s baked into their business model — YC partners were even willing to fund my next business. This surprised me because school trained me to avoid failure at all costs — a single bad grade could tarnish my GPA permanently. The consensus goal was to get the right grades and internships to build a good resume, without any gaps that could tarnish the record.

Silicon Valley’s willingness to embrace failure is unintuitive but entirely logical. Startups aren’t like school because there’s no guaranteed playbook for starting a successful company — you need good execution but also experimentation and luck.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) github.com

Unsplash makes available 2M+ images for research and machine learning

They’ve split the dataset up into two bundles:

  1. Lite, which you can download w/ a click, but is limited to 25K image
  2. Full, which you have to request access to and is limited to non-commercial use

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a great resource for anyone training models for image classification, etc. Second, it’s a nice business model for Unsplash as a startup.

Founders Talk Founders Talk #72

Slow and steady wins

Jeff Sheldon is the founder and creator of Ugmonk. Jeff is a designer by trade, and an entrepreneur by accident. I been following Jeff’s journey for the better part of Ugmonk’s existence. I’m also a customer. Jeff and I hold several similar values near and dear to our hearts. In addition to my appreciation for Jeff’s product design abilities, and how he leads his business, I also appreciate Jeff’s awareness and focus on the long hard path.

Adam Wathan adamwathan.me

How Tailwind CSS became a multi-million dollar business

Adam Wathan shares the backstory of Tailwind CSS, from humble beginnings to a multi-million dollar business. Thankfully, if you read the story, Nathan hated Sass enough to do something about it. Sometimes changes to our tools force us to change as well, and that change JUST MIGHT lead to scratching a multi-million dollar itch.

We’re also about to cross $2 million in revenue from Tailwind UI, our first commercial Tailwind CSS product which was released about 5 months ago — a bit under two years after the very first Tailwind CSS release.

Here’s the story from the beginning, while it’s still fresh enough to remember…

Clojure building.nubank.com.br

Nubank and Cognitect are joining forces

Edward Wible, Nubank’s CTO, shares his perspective on the future of Clojure and Datomic, and how the powerful ideas that guide these technologies helped shape Nubank’s culture and business.

Funny timing. Just the other day José Valim was telling us how Nubank is big on Clojure:

Come to think about it, they are one of the biggest cases of large companies using Clojure at a really large scale… So it’s actually interesting to hear about everything they are doing with Clojure, and the interesting cases, and how they are using the Clojure stack… And they write about it, they give talks, so it’s very interesting to check that out.

So in that sense, if they brought me, maybe they would be bringing Michael Jordan to play soccer… 😆 That’s not going to be a good fit, right?

If you’re wondering if José is audacious enough to compare himself to Michael Jordan… he didn’t. I did.

Vlad Mihalcea Twitter

You can write a software book and make over $100k

Here’s what worked for Vlad Mihalcea…

  1. I started a blog first. This allows you to practice your writing and build an audience.

  2. I self-published my book because publishers only wanted to give me just 10% from the profit. I used Leanpub to write and sell the book while I was still writing it and Teachable to sell it when it was done. Leanpub gives you 80% royalties. Teachable gives you around 95%.

Check his Twitter thread for the other twelve (12) things he did to make money with his book idea.

The Changelog The Changelog #402

What's next for José Valim and Elixir?

We’re joined again by José Valim talking about the recent acquihire of Plataformatec and what that means for the Elixir language, as well as José. We also talk about Dashbit a new 3 person company he helped form from work done while at Plataformatec to help startups and enterprises adopt and run Elixir in production. Lastly we talk about a new idea José has called Bytepack that aims to help developers package and deliver software products to developers and enterprises.

Founders Talk Founders Talk #71

From acquisition to full conviction

Guy Podjarny is the Founder of Snyk, a security platform that empowers software-driven businesses to develop fast and stay secure. Prior to Snyk, Guy founded Blaze which was acquired by Akamai and became CTO. We talked through the topic of acquisition — the sale, the merge, the learnings, and why Guy might not be planning for Snyk to be acquired anytime soon. We started the conversation with Snyk’s recent raise of $150 million dollars.

Medium Icon Medium

Unicorns are out, profits are in

This seems like a natural counter-weight to the go-big-or-go-home strategy of many venture capitalists:

Over five years, Indie.vc has backed 34 companies — half of which are women-led companies and 20% are Black. And while there haven’t been any big exits yet, the companies that receive Indie.vc funding seem to be much more robust than their peers, especially in a challenging economic climate. On average, they’re growing 100% in the first year, and 300% the second year, says Roberts. Plus, the fund’s mortality rate is 10% — compared to about 44% with traditional VC-backed companies.

Indie.vc’s next application window is “Fall 2020.”

Founders Talk Founders Talk #70

Leading GitLab to $100M ARR

Sid Sijbrandij is the Co-founder and CEO of GitLab — an all-remote company and complete DevOps platform. As a company, they have their eyes set on taking the company public to IPO and they’re very outspoken about their culture, open handbook, and how they work as an all-remote company. We talk through where Sid came from, the early days of GitLab, why IPO vs a private sale (like GitHub), what it means to put “family and friends first, work second,” how we should view work, and his biggest fear — the company failing.

Startups dannorris.me

Your business idea will probably fail (here's why)

Dan Norris shared nine reasons why business ideas fail. This coupled with this recent advice from Tim Ferriss on being a specialist or a generalist is golden 💰

The startup community likes to glorify failure but I don’t. Failing sucks. Failing slow sucks infinitely more. That’s why it’s OK sometimes to give up, to free you up to move onto an idea that could bring you something that the startup community doesn’t talk about near as much: actual fulfillment and success.

Here is a list of things to look out for when things might be set for failure. These are based on my failures and the failures I’ve seen around my circles (mostly self-funded online business folk).

Security keybase.io

Keybase bites the dust, joins Zoom

Welp. At least they aren’t sugar coating it.

Initially, our single top priority is helping to make Zoom even more secure. There are no specific plans for the Keybase app yet. Ultimately Keybase’s future is in Zoom’s hands, and we’ll see where that takes us. Of course, if anything changes about Keybase’s availability, our users will get plenty of notice.

Good move by Zoom. We sure know they could use the security help. For Keybase users seeking alternatives, here’s a nice thread of them on Hacker News.

Startups feedback.vc

But how does it make money??

I hate to let the cat out of the bag, but it’s not a huge surprise to me that the underlying economics of the business would be the strongest predictor of interest for VCs. Still though, you should at least skim this…

We analyzed the results of our first 500 reviews and calculated the correlations between high marks in categories like team, problem area and business economics with the number of requested intros from our reviewing VCs. Overall, high scores on the review were a strong predictor of VC interest, but the results of the scores of the individual categories might surprise you.

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