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Stories from the trenches about tech startups and businesses.
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Startupsblog.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 Lavingiasahillavingia.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 IconVercel

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 IconMedium

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 Friedaxios.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.

Jared MauchYouTube

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 Roquerretieshunroquerre.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.

Adam Wathanadamwathan.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…

Clojurebuilding.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 MihalceaTwitter

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.

Medium IconMedium

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.”

Startupsdannorris.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).

Securitykeybase.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.

Startupsfeedback.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.

Startupsblog.taskade.com

Google Wave’s failure is a great lesson for modern real-time collab tools

Google Wave was all the rage in 2009, but interest soon fizzled. This post takes us through that history, answering this question along the way:

With the full weight of Google 💰 behind it, why aren’t we all using Wave today? What caused a revolutionary, real-time collaboration tool to fizzle out in just a few short years?

What can we learn from Wave’s failure? The author has one key takeaway that will serve all of us well to keep in mind.

O'Reilly Media IconO'Reilly Media

O’Reilly Media shuts down in-person events division

From Laura Baldwin (President, O’Reilly Media):

Today, we’re sharing the news that we’ve made the very difficult decision to cancel all future O’Reilly in-person conferences and close down this portion of our business. Without understanding when this global health emergency may come to an end, we can’t plan for or execute on a business that will be forever changed as a result of this crisis.

…and they are making the move to online-only.

…we believe the stage is set for a new normal moving forward when it comes to in-person events. We also know we are poised to accept that challenge, having already delivered a version of our Strata event on-line to over 4600 participants last week. With over 5000 companies and 2.5 million users on our learning platform, we look forward to innovating and bringing together the technology communities and businesses we serve in new and creative ways.

Jennifer Yiplunchbag.ca

The biggest mistakes I've made with Lunch Money (so far)

Love this humble transparency from Jennifer Yip on her journey so far with Lunch Money.

This whole journey is a learning process and I’m grateful to be able to share mine transparently. It’s important to not only celebrate the highs and stay humble, but also face the lows and forgive yourself.

I’m sure there are many more mistakes to be made on the horizon and I look forward to writing and laughing about them in another 6 months!

Startupsgkogan.co

Simple systems have less downtime

As a former naval architect and a current marketing consultant to startups, I found that the same principle that lets a 13-person crew navigate the world’s largest container ship to a port halfway around the world without breaking down also applies to startups working towards aggressive growth goals

Tagging this one Startups because that’s what Greg is talking about, but the principle applies to any and all systems, including software systems.

Sam Altmanblog.samaltman.com

Hard startups

Sam Altman shared an interesting post last week about hard startups. I think some of the wisdom shared could be expanded to starting a side project or a successful open source project. Let me give a terse example…

I remember when Instagram started to get really popular—it felt like you couldn’t go a day without hearing about another photo sharing startup. That year, probably over 1,000 photo sharing startups were funded, while there were fewer than ten nuclear fusion startups in existence.

Compare sinatra/sinatra to rails/rails and you’ll be reminded of all the Ruby frameworks that started up while Rails went “nuclear fusion.”

Here’s my favorite wisdom shared by Sam — because it’s easy to start, but hard to remain committed and finish.

Be willing to make a very long-term commitment to what you’re doing. Most people aren’t, which is part of the reason they pick “easy” startups. In a world of compounding advantages where most people are operating on a 3 year timeframe and you’re operating on a 10 year timeframe, you’ll have a very large edge.

Startupsjoisig.com

23 rules to run a software startup with minimum hassle

Rules is a catchy/harsh way to position these, but there’s a lot of lessons to be learned by putting some thought into what he’s saying.

Over the last 5 years of bootstrapping, I’ve tried a lot of things, and discovered there are many ways to create hassle for yourself that wastes time and energy and distracts you from building value in your business… If you want to absolutely minimize hassle as you run your software business, you can stick to each one of these rules, which I present in no particular order.

Here’s a sampler:

  • Rule #1: Recurring revenue is the way to go
  • Rule #7: Choose simple, boring technology
  • Rule #14: Don’t take in any investors

Michael Lynchmtlynch.io

My second year as a solo developer

Michael Lynch:

Two years ago, I quit my developer job at Google to build my own software business. A year later, I posted an update about my finances, happiness, and lessons learned. Today marks the end of my second year, so it’s time for another update.

This is a deep dive into all that Michael is doing to make more money then he spends (not quite there yet, but looking like soon). I’m impressed by how he frugally he lives and how hard he works in an effort to live the kind of life he wants to live.

My second year as a solo developer
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