Category Archives: startup

(Human) Investment

Silicon Valley is full of myth, and one of them is around persistence.

These scrappy entrepreneurs who were facing low initial traction or success, and who, with their smarts and persistence, succeeded against all odds. AirBnB, the website for short term rental, now valued in billions of dollars, is the symbol of persistence among 2011 entrepreneurs. “Be a cockroach” as they say.

I have thought numerous times about this concept of “being a cockroach” and it seemed obvious to me in many ways. With the hindsight of my most recent experience, I realize that it is not that common, and it is pretty remarkable to find that tenacity for a pre-investment Company.

Why isn’t that common? Because it would be very easy for at least one of the founders to question the idea a few months in when they see no traction in sight. How can they be so sure after all… After a while (nine months, a year, etc…), even scrappy entrepreneurs can reasonably decide to move on or to “pivot”, especially when they are not accountable in front of other shareholders….

Today, I believe that beyond the faith of the founders in their concept, the main reason why they kept at it and did all kinds of crazy stuff to sustain themselves, is their relationship as friends which changed the whole dynamic. They were having fun working among friends on a concept they cared about. What can replace that ?

As I continue meeting potential cofounders who “like me” but “want me to come back when I have an idea they like more”, I think about the AirBnB founders, and wonder: how long would they have lasted if they perceived relationships between founders like that?

My guess is that AirBnB would not be a billion dollar Company today…

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(Cofounder) Dating

On January 1, 2011, I had just left a Company I co-founded, VirtuOz, and went on a quest to find a co-founder to start another Company. Boy was I not expecting the ride it has been…I think I could write a book about it.

The dating sites and dating events, the dates themselves where everybody is bragging but keeping their game close to their chest. The one night stands (a.k.a startup weekend or hackathons), the short term stints (a.k.a “side project”), and then, big leap of faith, you find somebody and you settle – you are not dating anymore, you have a boyfriend/girlfriend (a.k.a “partner”). You move together (in a coworking space of course). You brainstorm. You build a few things that can be ambitious or not, you can put yourself through challenges (a.k.a incumbator application)… and then something comes out: a baby (a.k.a “a product or Company” depending on how traditional you are).

In my case, I did all that and much more, “dated” several potential partners at the same time, did multiple side projects, and … big hope…found my partner. We applied to an incumbator, build a few things that sounded interesting but never got there… and then, bad communication, different life goals, and our path diverged.

We split before celebrating our 6 months together.

That’s where you  understand why Founder dating…is really like dating, after all.

(And I am lucky enough to have forgotten what it was like!)

Lego

When I was in college, I remember reading an article where Bill Gates was talking about the time that would come where software developers could use other programs developed by complete strangers so that something that would have taken them forever to build would be built like a Lego with bricks created by others. That idea fascinated me – the non CS guy who loved the Internet and its power.

Today, as Erik and I were testing out  our new start up idea, we were able to put together a product that is quasi similar (at least in terms of main features) to what we envision the minimum viable product would be, yet without writing one line of code ourselves. We just used existing web services, javascripts of widgets, etc…. and without paying (thank you freemium model!).

So Bill Gates was right.

But he was not ambitious enough (for once). Now, Lego bricks are not only for developers. Non programmers (like me), can now put together a professional looking web application without writing a single line of code,  just using drag and drop tools,  embeddable widgets….and even advertise it to thousands of targeted people, start building a CRM database, etc…

The web is a Lego after all.

I just cannot wait to see what my daughter will be able to build, 20 years from now, with the Lego bricks of her time.

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