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Stories from the trenches about tech startups and businesses.
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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.”

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.

Startups blog.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 Icon O'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 Yip lunchbag.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!

Startups gkogan.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 Altman blog.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.

Startups joisig.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 Lynch mtlynch.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

TechCrunch Icon TechCrunch

Hugging Face raises $15 million to build their open source NLP library 🤗

Congrats to Clément and the Hugging Face team on this milestone!

The company first built a mobile app that let you chat with an artificial BFF, a sort of chatbot for bored teenagers. More recently, the startup released an open-source library for natural language processing applications. And that library has been massively successful.

The library mentioned is called Transformers, which is dubbed as ‘state-of-the-art Natural Language Processing for TensorFlow 2.0 and PyTorch.’

If any of these things ring a bell to you, it may be because Practical AI co-host Daniel Whitenack has been a huge supporter of Hugging Face for a long time and mentions them often on the show. We even had Clément on the show back in March of this year.

Startups grafana.com

What $24 million means for Grafana's open source community

Grafana Labs has raised a Series A and wrote up on their blog what it all means for the open source world.

With this fund raise, we are committed to investing even more in the open source community. That goes hand-in-hand with pushing forward with our vision of building an open, composable observability platform that brings together the three pillars of observability – logs, metrics, and traces – in a single experience, with Grafana at the center. This will allow users to choose their favorite combinations of observability tooling and bring them all together in one UX – an industry first.

What $24 million means for Grafana's open source community

Startups cdixon.org

The next big thing will start out looking like a toy

This is an #oldread (2010), but it came up again in two contexts (Ron Evans’ Gopherbot and Chris Anderson’s Robocars) that made me give it another look.

The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.” This is one of the main insights of Clay Christensen’s “disruptive technology” theory. This theory starts with the observation that technologies tend to get better at a faster rate than users’ needs increase. From this simple insight follows all kinds of interesting conclusions about how markets and products change over time.

Startups broadcast.listennotes.com

The boring technology behind a one-person internet company

Awesome piece by Wenbin Fang, creator of Listen Notes:

Most of time, the biggest obstacle of building & shipping things is over thinking. What if this, what if that. Boy, you are not important at all. Everyone is busy in their own life. No one cares about you and the things you build, until you prove that you are worth other people’s attention. Even you screw up the initial product launch, few people will notice. Think big, start small, act fast. It’s absolutely okay to use the boring technology and start something simple (even ugly), as long as you actually solve problems.

Kyle Mathews gatsbyjs.org

Gatsby raised $15M in a Series A funding round

Congrats @KyleMathews and team, wow.

Why the excitement and growth? The answer is simple. Gatsby was founded around a big idea, and that idea is starting to go mainstream. We believe that the basic architecture of websites is being reinvented. The dominant web architecture, the LAMP stack, was founded at the dawn of the web before paradigm-shifting technologies were invented, like virtual machines, AWS, smartphones, Git, Node/NPM, React, and Serverless—elements of modern engineering we now take for granted.

For those interested in the deeper backstory on the formation of Gatsby, check out Founders Talk #59 with Kyle Mathews (the creator of Gatsby).

Gokul Rajaram Medium

The overlooked but essential paradigm underlying great software companies

Truly great software companies are self-serve first. Let’s dig into this assertion and why it makes sense.

“Self-serve” is a term I hadn’t heard before being recommended this excellent piece by Gokul Rajaram, but once I heard it, it immediately resonated with me.

A self-serve product is one where a customer can go through the full product experience — from signing up to first use to activating new features to managing their account to upgrading and/or cancellation — all without ever needing to interact with another person… Self-serve first is when the entire company is built around self-serve, when self-serve is the core foundation of the company.

Gokul explains four reasons why he thinks self-serve first is the way to go.

TechCrunch Icon TechCrunch

Automattic raises $300 million at $3 billion valuation

This raise comes from Salesforce Ventures — and it’s another clear win for commercial open source and the future of the open web.

Funding rounds are something special for Automattic. While the company has been around for nearly 15 years, it hasn’t raised a ton of money. It closed a $160 million Series C round back in 2014 and raised little money before that.

Automattic and the WordPress open-source project have a shared history. Many people are familiar with WordPress, the most popular content management system on the planet. The company contributes to the open-source project and also runs some of the most popular services on top of that project, such as WordPress.com and the Jetpack plugin, WordPress.com VIP (which TechCrunch uses) and WooCommerce.

Here’s an interesting quote from Matt Mullenweg (Founder and CEO of Automattic)…

What we want to do is to become the operating system for the open web. We want every website, whether it’s e-commerce or anything to be powered by WordPress. And by doing so, we’ll make sure that the web can go back to being more open, more integrated and more user-centric than it would be if proprietary platforms become dominant…

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