Startups Icon

Startups

Stories from the trenches about tech startups and businesses.
125 Stories
All Topics

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…

Cloudflare Icon Cloudflare

CloudFlare files its S-1 to the SEC as it prepares to IPO

Today, our network spans 193 cities in over 90 countries and interconnects with over 8,000 networks globally, including major ISPs, public cloud providers, SaaS services, and enterprises. We estimate that we operate within 100 milliseconds of 98% of the Internet-connected population in the developed world, and 93% of the Internet-connected population globally (for context, the blink of an eye is 300-400 milliseconds). We intend to continue expanding our network to better serve our customers globally and enable new types of applications, while relentlessly driving down our unit costs.

There’s a lot of interesting tidbits in this filing. I love this lead-in to the industry analysis section:

The Internet was not built for what it has become.

Matt Mullenweg ma.tt

Matt Mullenweg on acquiring Tumblr

Kudos to Verizon (words I never expected to type) for how they handled the process. I couldn’t think of better hands to receive the once-vibrant social network and shepherd it into the next era:

Automattic is still a startup — I’m sure there are deep-pocketed private equity firms that could have outbid us, but the most likely outcome then would have been an “asset” getting chopped up and sold for parts. (This is a caricature and there are PE firms I like, but it’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination.) Instead, Tumblr has a new chance to redefine itself in 2019 and beyond. Its community is joining with WordPress’ 16-year commitment to open source and the open web.

Jonas Van Schoote madewithlove.be

The different skills needed to be a successful CTO

What does it take to be successful as a CTO? The stories of founder/CEO transitions is plentiful, but what about the evolution of a company and the need for a CTO who has a vision of how to do things and the team and skills needed to make it happen?

A CTO at this point still needs to mainly look inward and know how to code, know the structure of the application and infrastructure, but the focus is shifting towards managing a team, establishing a culture and processes to be able to grow quickly. Growing also means hiring but also making sure that every hire is an effective team member as soon as possible.

OpenAI Icon OpenAI

Microsoft is investing $1 billion in OpenAI

Straight from the horse’s mouth:

We’re partnering to develop a hardware and software platform within Microsoft Azure which will scale to AGI. We’ll jointly develop new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, and Microsoft will become our exclusive cloud provider—so we’ll be working hard together to further extend Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the value traded in large scale investments like these. What do both sides get? With this particular investment, however, it’s pretty obvious what Microsoft is getting (Azure++) and what OpenAI is getting (an expanded R&D budget). It’s also worth noting that this is specifically focused on Artificial General Intelligence, not merely advancing the current state of the art in Machine Learning.

Michael del Castillo forbes.com

Shell invests in Ethereum

This is a really interesting usage of blockchain technology to ensure you are really getting what you think you bought. Michael del Castillo writes on Forbes.com:

The fifth-largest oil and gas company in the world, valued at $262 billion, is investing an undisclosed amount in LO3, a New York startup using a modified version of the ethereum blockchain to make it easier for individuals to buy and sell locally produced energy using the existing network of power cables.

While the bitcoin blockchain lets users track the flow of value without the need of banks to audit the system, LO3’s platform, called Exergy, is designed to track the flow of energy as it is added to a shared, local energy network, giving the neighbors who purchase the energy absolute certainty it really came from a windmill, a solar panel or a gerbil running on a treadmill.

Thomas Claburn theregister.co.uk

npm, Inc settled its labor rights union-busting battle

With the settlement behind it, NPM Inc can now turn its attention toward repairing relationships with the JavaScript community and generating enough revenue to sustain itself.

I’d like to know what the current sentiment is towards npm after this settlement. Can they mend these community fences? Or, are you more hopeful of the “development of alternative technologies” as mentioned in this post?

Startups defmacro.org

Startup idea checklist

I’ve been tinkering with different startup ideas and needed a good checklist to think through them. There are great templates for this already: The YC application, Amazon’s internal press release, and Sequoia’s Writing a Business Plan. I found myself mixing and tweaking these templates because they don’t exactly match my model of the world, so I wrote up my own list.

These are great questions to ask yourself when you’re dreaming up an open source project as well.

Cryptocurrency libra.org

Welcome to Libra?

Facebook, VISA, Uber, and A16Z (amongst others) have officially announced their cryptocurrency:

Reinvent money. Transform the global economy. So people everywhere can live better lives.

Color me skeptical. Not of the value of cryptocurrencies writ large, but in the actors and entities behind this particular coin. One thing I believe to be true, though: ten years from now our idea of (and interaction with) money will be dramatically different than it is today.

Security troyhunt.com

The future of Have I Been Pwned

Troy Hunt:

It’s time for HIBP to grow up. It’s time to go from that one guy doing what he can in his available time to a better-resourced and better-funded structure that’s able to do way more than what I ever could on my own.

HIBP is an international treasure, IMHO. It’s pretty cool to see how it has transformed Troy’s life along the way:

HIBP may only be less than 6 years old, but it’s the culmination of a life’s work. I still have these vivid memories stretching back to the mid-90’s when I first started building software for the web and had a dream of creating something big; “Isn’t it amazing that I can sit here at home and write code that could have a real impact on the world one day”

GitHub dependabot.com

Dependabot has been acquired by GitHub

More news out of today’s GitHub Satellite event, this time from a security angle. The implications of this acquisition from the horse’s mouth:

  1. We’re integrating Dependabot directly into GitHub, starting with security fix PRs 👮‍♂️
  2. You can still install Dependabot from the GitHub Marketplace whilst we integrate it into GitHub, but it’s now free of charge 🎁
  3. We’ve doubled the size of Dependabot’s team; expect lots of great improvements over the coming months 👩‍💻👨‍💻👩‍💻👨‍💻👩‍💻👨‍💻

Congrats to Grey, Harry and Philip!

Andy Sparks holloway.com

Fundamentals of product-market fit

For the entrepreneurial type: this is a great dive into the fundamentals of product-market fit by @sparkszilla. The whole read is worth it if you’re interested in raising funds in the future. The heart of the article stems from three axiomatic theories:

  • Rachleff’s Law of Startup Success: Rachleff says, “The #1 company-killer is lack of market. When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins. When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins. When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.”
  • Rachleff’s Corollary of Startup Success: “The only thing that matters is getting to product-market fit.”
  • BPMF and APMF: The lives of startups are divided into two categories, before product-market fit (BPMF) and after product-market fit (APMF).

And the Vohra questionnaire to see if you have PMF is one I’ll keep on hand for the future. 👌

Fundamentals of product-market fit

Austen Allred lambdaschool.com

Lambda School is giving an $18,000 stipend to select students

Austen Allred, Co-founder and CEO of Lambda School, writing on why they’re doing this:

Our goal at Lambda School is to help our student really succeed to the best of their ability and to remove the barriers that are currently preventing more people from being able to access a high tech education - and the career, financial, impact and other benefits that come with it.

We know that one of the hardest parts of deciding to go back to school is figuring out how to make it work without a full time salary.

By launching this Living Stipend Pilot Program, we are looking at how we can create more products and innovative ways to help support our current students - and to expand who can become a Lambda School student.

They’re not looking at financials or credit scores, instead applications will be screened by asking just two questions as criteria for selection:

  1. Why do you need this living stipend to be successful as a Lambda School student?
  2. Tell us a bit about the unique part of your story that will make you a valuable addition to both the Lambda and tech community?

NGINX nginx.com

NGINX has been acquired by F5

The path for a startup can have three outcomes: never fail and keep existing, get acquired, or IPO.

For a commercial open source startup like NGINX, the matter gets a bit more complicated because attached to the company is the tech, the open source project, and the community. The transition is more than just an exit to a new stage, it requires a far more calculated choice to ensure things don’t change, too much. Change always happens.

Gus Robertson, CEO of NGINX, writes:

With today’s news, our vision and mission don’t change. We’re still helping customers build distributed application architectures. We’re still building a platform that optimizes ingress‑egress traffic and APIs. And we’re still helping companies on their journey to microservices. What does change is our trajectory. F5 shares our mission, vision, and values. But they bring to bear a tremendous amount of additional resources and complementary technologies.

And make no mistake about it: F5 is committed to keeping the NGINX brand and open source technology alive. Without this commitment, the deal wouldn’t have happened for either side.

Also, from the official announcement

…F5 will acquire all issued and outstanding shares of privately held NGINX for a total enterprise value of approximately $670 million, subject to certain adjustments.

Simon Schultz changelog.com/posts

Why everyone should read support emails

What would happen if everyone in your company was reading and responding to incoming support emails? In this post, Simon Schultz shares why he spends more time on incoming support emails than internal reports, plus six good reasons you should do so as well.

I love my numbers, and I love my spreadsheets, but the heart and soul of all the great people using and being in contact with your service, product and company are too often buried somewhere in a soulless column in your beloved spreadsheets.

Valuable insights, information, and data are too often ignored and forgotten.

Adam Stacoviak changelog.com/posts

The founders of Octobox are "walking a tightrope" as they move towards sustainability

Building an open source business is hard. Octobox co-founders Andrew Nesbitt and Benjamin Nickolls know this all too well. They’re walking a preverbal “tightrope” with the introduction of new pricing in order to move towards sustainability.

By all accounts, Octobox is a success. It’s a thriving open source project that’s being adopted by the software community using GitHub. It has a growing community of maintainers and contributors. Organizations like Shopify run company-wide instances for their own use. Octobox is also run as a SaaS that hosts more than 11k users.

But there’s one tiny little problem…Octobox is not sustainable (yet).

Y Combinator Icon Y Combinator

What’s the second job of a startup CEO?

Most startup founders get stuck in their first job as a CEO. The key to getting past developing a good product and achieving product-market-fit is to develop a good company. As noted in this recent episode of Founders Talk with Isaac Schlueter, and this post from Ali Rowghani the CEO of Y Combinator Continuity, getting the company part is hard.

Your first creation is a product, your second creation is a company.

A Phase 1 startup CEO is the Doer-in-Chief. You must be deeply involved in both building the product and acquiring users/customers. A CEO’s first job is to build a great product and find a small group of people who love it and use it enthusiastically.

As a Phase 2 CEO, you need to transition from “Doer-in-Chief” to “Company-Builder-in-Chief.” This is how you scale as a CEO, and CEO scaling is the first step in company-building. For most founders, this is very difficult. When you’ve been a successful Doer-in-Chief, it’s hard to stop.

Travis CI Blog Icon Travis CI Blog

Travis CI has been acquired

Congrats to our friends over at Travis CI. A dollar amount wasn’t mentioned for this acquisition and I don’t know enough of the backstory to be able to tell if this, is in fact a good thing or a bad thing for Travis CI. It sounds like there aren’t any planned changes coming out of the gate with the acquisition, so that’s a good start.

Regarding the state of Travis CI open source, Konstantin had this to say…

Open source is at the heart of Travis CI. We will continue to maintain a free, hosted service for open source projects, and will keep building features for the open source community. Additionally, our code will stay open source and under an MIT license. This is who we are, this is what made us successful.

Y Combinator Icon Y Combinator

Now you can listen to Startup Playbook by Sam Altman (for free)

The book is free in Kindle format on Amazon AND you can listen for free on the web!

We spend a lot of time advising startups. Though one-on-one advice will always be crucial, we thought it might help us scale Y Combinator if we could distill the most generalizable parts of this advice into a sort of playbook we could give YC and YC Fellowship companies.

Then we thought we should just give it to everyone.

This is meant for people new to the world of startups. Most of this will not be new to people who have read a lot of what YC partners have written—the goal is to get it into one place.

Max Stoiber mxstbr.com

Regrets and lessons learned building Spectrum

Max Stoiber shares his regrets and lessons learned from tech choices made when building Spectrum. Yes, this is the same Spectrum recently acquired by GitHub.

With the benefit of hindsight, here are the technology choices I regret and the lessons I have learned.

Changing these decisions would not have made Spectrum a better product by itself. Yet, it would have saved us time and allowed us to spend more time experimenting.

0:00 / 0:00