Tag Archives: Adeo Ressi

Silicon Valley is Stupid

David Weekly is in terrific form with his post today on GigaOm Silicon Valley is Stupid Which is Why it Works.  It is a delight to read his writing–David’s energy, intelligence, wit, and wattage come shining through.  The article itself is spot on, and is really a must read, particularly for groups trying to build more of the Silicon Valley ethos into their region, town or country.

One additional element to Silicon Valley that I think is important, at least based on my own experience, is the openness and general inclusiveness of the community.

In most places, the existing social hierarchy–where one went to school, whose kid you are, whether you have friends in high places–exerts a huge influence and can be a huge help (or barrier) depending on where you fit.  Of course, Silicon Valley has an element of this–certainly being on a first name basis with A-listers like a Ron Conway, Mark Zuckerberg or John Doerr would likely confer a some benefit to you: who you know matters.

It’s not as much who you know, it’s what you’re doing.  In my experience, two elements really balance this out.  First, here in Silicon Valley, the core arbiter is really around what you’re doing and what you’re building.  This focus on what you’re doing (and the quality of the people you’re doing this with) overshadows, in my view, whomever you might know.  For example, I’ve talked to people who claim they were the right hands to Larry (Ellison) and then went built businesses for Steve (Jobs) whom I thought were complete yo-yos.  At the same time, we’ve funded successful companies where the founders were basically unknown and unreferenceable, as they had so few LI connections or prior real work experience. Put another way–if you had the choice of being an awesome team working on awesome projects with no network versus being super networked but working on a meh project with a meh team, you’d take door #1 in a second.

Silicon Valley is more open.  The second element is that the Silicon Valley network is as open as I think you’ll find anywhere in the world.  Not only are the most seasoned and experienced investors or executives generally findable and reachable, but the vast majority of them operate with an ethos that they’ve always got to be growing their networks.  This is not to say that barraging them with a spray and pray email form letter is going to get a response, of course.  That style blows and you won’t get far.

But broadly speaking, if you want to connect with anyone, and you work at it thoughtfully, you can get it done.  Concretely, visualize Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) in the movie Wall Street, who’d chased his prey, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).  You may have to work at it to connect with someone, but with persistence, creativity, and quality, you should to connect to them.

My own experience in Silicon Valley over these last 5 years is evidence of this.  I moved to Palo Alto from Tokyo, Japan, where I’d spent nearly 4 years working for Microsoft in its Japan subsidiary.  Although I’d really enjoyed my time at Microsoft, I really felt that in the tech industry, so much growth and innovative thinking was occurring in SV that I had to get there.  I knew that I wanted to stay in tech, and I knew I wanted to get involved in smaller companies (an easy threshold to meet, given that when I left MSFT had more than 90,000 employees).

In any case, when I showed up in Palo Alto, other than some former Microsoft colleagues who’d moved here, I effectively knew no one.  I had a network of zero, basically.  From day 0, however, I found that I got great opportunities to meet great new people, that vast majority of them were interested in helping me find my way.  This ethos was quite broad, and time and time again, I was struck at how helpful and thoughtful people were in helping me out when there really wasn’t much upside for them.

Nowhere is this more clear than how I actually met David Weekly.  When I lived in Tokyo, working for Microsoft, I was getting really serious about leaving MSFT to head into the great unknown of Silicon Valley.  I was reading about Silicon Valley, and surfing around LinkedIn to learn about people.  I stumbled onto an article about the SuperHappyDev House events that David was hosting at the times.  (They’ve since mushroomed into something much bigger and more broad.)  These were apparently all night hackathons at some house he was retngin up in Hillsborough.  And what struck me was that his LinkedIn profile had an Endorsement from a police officer who had come to, I guess, break up one of these parties.  I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve *got* to meet this David Weekly guy!”  (I also became a user of PBWiki, a great product, btw.)

Anyway, fast forward 3 or 4 years, and I’ve got myself here, helping out at the FounderInstitute, Adeo Ressi‘s global startup incubator.  Adeo and I were basically neighbors when I moved to Silicon Valley, and he couldnt have been more helpful and fun to get to know.  He was getting the FI rolling, and he was kind enough to give me opportunities to speak, facilitate, and at times just help out.

Anyway, I was moderating an evening’s events at the San Francisco FounderInstitute, and there as one of the guest speakers, was David Weekly.  I introduced myself like a total fanboy, though I’m not sure that I asked for an autograph.  :)  I introduced him to the FI founders with my Tokyo story.

A culture where people are most honed in on what you’re building and what you’re doing.  An environment that’s really open, where people tend to want to just be helpful to others in getting out there and building cool stuff.  Those are two more of our additional stupidities out here that make this place so very great.  Thanks David for the great article!

 

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Don’t Go All In, Unless You’re All In

With last week’s monster acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, much discussion ensued.  Is it the dawn of a new bubble?  What happened to RIP Good Times?  Is now the time to start a new company?  Or is Instagram/FBK just too much of an anomaly for us to draw anything from?

FounderInstitute’s Adeo Ressi penned on TechCrunch Instagram Aftermath: It’s Time For Entrepreneurs To Go All-In, which argued that the good times were now in full roll.  Now was the time to start a company, take the leap, etc.

One of the first comments however came from 500startups’ Dave McClure, who basically said, hey don’t go crazy, dawg.

I consider both of these guys terrific for startups at a global scale.  You won’t find two more dedicated to helping founders build and scale their businesses.  So that’s great.

In my own view, I’m more McClurian in my views.  Before I get into the substance of my current views, I do want to provide some historical perspective.  I was in tech during the first bubble, working for Microsoft.  What I saw during the run up of Bubble 1.0 was a lot of people who had no real interest or business in getting started in startups, they just read a bunch of magazine articles and watched CNBC showing the huge pops of an overinflated IPO market and the riches that founders were attaining.  This drew a glut of folks who weren’t really involved in startups for the right reasons, they were interested in getting rich really really fast.  Nothing wrong with that desire per se, but frankly SV appears to be a magnet to this type of thing, and I want to be a caution against it.

So learning from the  97-00 run up, I’d say here what should have been said then: don’t come out here just because it seems like the market is great.  A small group may get lucky, but more likely, you’ll not be one of them, and you’ll be wasting precious time chasing a dream that’s not really yours.  Instead, come out here if you really believe in startups and if you can’t be stopped–by anyting, least of all the state of the market.

OK, history lesson over, now on to my substantive views on the Instagram / Facebook deal as it pertains to whether you should go “All In.”  This is basically just a bit more detail on what I’ve already said, but here goes.

On the one hand, Instagram / Facebook signifies that for truly extraordinary, breakout products, the big guys are going to have to pay up at real prices.  Its also all the more notable given that Instagram didn’t have any revenue.  With the thawing of the IPO markets that we’ve seen in watching Groupon, LinkedIn, and Zynga go out, we’re seeing more paths to liquidity.  All this is good and supports that the market is improving.

At the same time, I’d not go so far as to say that now is the time to go “All In.”  Starting a company is really, really hard for the vast majority of companies.  Finding and building the right founding team: difficult.  Building something that people want : difficult.  Figuring out how to recruit and keep the team on board before you have money to pay them: difficult.  Growing your measly user base: difficult.  Etc.  Etc.  Even in a *GREAT* market, its difficult.

So while FBK-Instagram is exciting and signals an increasing momentum in the marketplace, it doesn’t really change the reality of startups, which is that they are really difficult.

Given that startups are really difficult irrespetive of market, then my view is that you want to think much more about whether you are really well-suited to be involved in startups before you get into starting a company.  If you are wired for the hard work, for the uncertainty, etc., then I’d say anytime is a great time to start a company.  I’d say that you’d probably want to start with Paul Graham‘s blog, which I think is the most useful and concrete place to find useful advice.  And then I’d figure out how you go about getting involved in startups.  Again, irrespective of market.

 

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Welcome!

Thanks for visiting my blog.  I’ve had this here for a while, but as there was a recent surge of visitors, over 90% of whom have never visited before, I thought I’d try to roll out a bit more of a welcome and introduction in this post. :)

First off, its nice to meet you.  To learn more  about me, go to the About Me page.  Definitely feel free to drop me a line at jjamison <at> brv <dot> com.  I do my best to respond quickly, but I may be brief.

Second, here are some quick links to stuff I write about here and elsewhere.

  • StartupProTips.  This is a collection of quick tips and tricks that I try to pass on to founders, generally in the context of either building a company or fund-raising.  These have been relatively popular.
  • Naming & branding your startup. (Slide deck.)  I’ve given this talk at Adeo Ressi’s FounderInstitute several times, and I think it generally provides a useful, concrete approach to thinking about coming up with a name and brand.
  • SlideShare decks galore!  Some of the greatest hits talk about building your revenue model, hiring, and a general overview of lessons learned in Silicon Valley.  Worth what you pay for them, but quick and hopefully painless to read.

So again, welcome.  Happy to have you here.  Please let me know if there’s content you’d like to see more or less of.

 

 

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StartupProTip: re-read Venture Hacks!

Venture Hacks is a great resource for early stage founders.  If you’ve never read Venture Hacks or if its been a while, I’d recommend rereading.

Today, I was trading mail with a founder looking to get in for a pitch.   I generally try to keep my door as open as I possibly can, to meet as many founders as possible, as you just never know.  At the same time, this founder’s approach really hurt his or her credibility with investor.

I’m pasting the thread below, not to humiliate the person in question, but rather to illustrate the points that are so important from the Venture Hacks recommendations on how to approach an investor.

StartupProTip of the day: read or re-read Venture Hacks!

Mail #1

———————–

Subject: Important Email

Hello Jay,

Hope your day is going great, I found your contacts through linkedin and

wanted to drop you quick email

Our team is working on some of the biggest, baddest, innovation & game

changing technologies which are going to have global impact and we are

looking for advisors/mentors & board members for this project

Do you have few minutes to jump on quick call to go over beta version of our

platform ? rest assured, this will be well worth your time

best,

[Founder name ommitted]

 ——-
Mail #2

To: Jay Jamison

Subject: Important Email,

 

 

Hi Jay,  wondering if you received my previous email, I look forward to

hearing from you at the earliest

 

best,

– [founder name omitted]

—-

Mail #3 — my response #1

Can you give me any context on what this is about?  It is very difficult to

parse.

 

Thanks!

 

Best regards,

 

Jay

 

Jay Jamison

BlueRun Ventures

 

 —-
Mail #4 — founder response

good to hear from you Jay,.technology is related to

mobile, social media, bigdata advertising platform

for business owners. let me know if you have few

minutes to jump on quick call. I’ll connect you with

our super star founders for a demo early next week.

 

mail #5 — my final mail

Hi  {name omitted},

 

Thanks for the mail.  I am going to pass on this opportunity.

 

In the spirit of trying to help you and your team, I would strongly recommend that you and the founding team read these posts in particular: http://venturehacks.com/articles/elevator-pitch and http://venturehacks.com/pitching.  If you are serious about building a company, then I’d also strongly recommend seeking admission to Adeo Ressi‘s FounderInstitute.

 

Your current approach raises a range of red flags, and you would benefit greatly from following the advice described in these articles and / or the opportunities offered through the FounderInstitute.

 

 

 

Thanks!

 

Best regards,

 

Jay

 

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