Startup Chronicles #1

Running a startup is an interesting experience -- alternatively terrifying and thrilling. Today I read an article that made me burst out laughing. Paul Graham, the startup guru and founder of Y Combinator wrote:

A company tends to feel rather theoretical when you first start it. It's legally a company, but you feel like you're lying when you call it one.

My educational philosophy

A book I read recently helped me finger out why school can be so irritating at times.

The book is entitled Weird Ideas that Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation. One of its "weird ideas" is that companies should hire slow learners. Not stupid people but slow learners of the organization's code. A code is, the author explains, "a company's 'knowledge and faiths,' its history, memories, procedures, precedents, rules, and all those taken-for-granted, and often unspoken, assumptions about why things are supposed to be done in certain ways."

He goes on to say that most companies hire "fast learners" who quickly learn to do things the "right way" and see things much as others do in the company. But companies that do innovative work need a different kind of worker, one who won't get "brainwashed into thinking just like everyone else. They need people who avoid, ignore, or reject 'the heat of the herd. . .'"

10 Ways to Grow your Network

From Jack Ricchiuto:

  1. Get to know the strengths and passions of people in your first and second circles.
  2. Make your strengths and passions more known to your 1st two circles.
  3. Discover who in your 1st two circles would benefit from introductions.
  4. Make high quality introductions at the best levels possible.
  5. Engage your 2nd circle to introduce you to people in your 3rd circle.
  6. Look for new opportunities to learn with and from your first two circles.
  7. Create new opportunities to collaborate with your 1st two circles.
  8. Increase your asset, positional, and generative value in your networks.
  9. Help other people increase their value in their networks.
  10. Built trust and help others build trust through promise making and keeping.

I really liked these insights

From the Economist:

At some point in the decade after he moved from the farm in Nebraska where he grew up to the innovation hub that is the San Francisco Bay Area, Evan Williams accidentally stumbled upon three insights:

  1. that genuinely new ideas are, well, accidentally stumbled upon rather than sought out
  2. second, that new ideas are by definition hard to explain to others, because words can express only what is already known
  3. and third, that good ideas seem obvious in retrospect.

Take Risks to Open Options

I was reading a blog post earlier by Ross Mayfield. He was asked what were his best decision and worst mistake as an entrepreneur.

All his answers were good but I was especially struck by what he calls his biggest mistake:

Biggest Mistake -- Not taking bigger risks earlier

Maybe because in hindsight all risks are clear, but I always find myself regretting not taking bigger risks earlier. For example, open sourcing the Socialtext code was something we waited on until the company had strong footing. Partially because we thought there would be cannibalization, partially because we were understaffed to really engage with the community. But I believe if we bought this bullet earlier in the history of the company we would be reaping better rewards. As a planning exercise, now I always try to ask two questions: "How could we take more risk?" and "What risk can we take that creates the greatest amount of options?" I find there is always a way to do a little more, in particular by getting past instinct to control prevalent in so many entrepreneurs.

I was so struck because I'm in the middle of taking a big risk.

I am passionate about web development. I want to build web applications that enable people to connect, collaborate, and get more done in their lives. But at my current and soon to be past job, I'm not learning how to build these beautiful web applications.

So I decided to quit and employee myself. I decided that as no one is going to pay me to learn how to do web development, I'll just have to pay myself.

And now my mom, older sister, and I are going into business together. In a few months, we'll unveil, the newest and greatest baby card announcement e-retailer. And in the months leading up the our launch, I will be learning web development.

Ross Mayfield learned it was a mistake to not take risks but that taking (calculated) risks opens up options where caution and control can never go. I'm trying to learn this same lesson. By taking this risk, the options I want to have will open to me.