Posts from Start Up

Video Of The Week: My Talk With Startup Milan

Last October, I skyped into an entrepreneur meetup in Milan and talked for 30 minutes. This was arranged by AVC community member David Semeria.

The main topics were building a tech community outside of the main startup hubs, raising angel and venture capital in a market where there isn't much of that, and the differences between US and european investors.

When I watched this video this morning, the audio and video were out of sync which made it hard for me to watch. I ended up listening more than watching. I hope you all don't have that same problem.

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Your Worst Enemy Is Yourself

One mistake I see startups make a lot is getting too focused on what is going on around them. They spend too much time trying to figure out what their competitors are going to do. They watch the next hot startup with jealousy and it reminds them of when they were that "shiny new thing" and they want that back.

The reality of startups is that there is so much opportunity out there that if you just focus on what is in front of you, your company will do fine. But focusing on what is in front of you means not focusing on what is going on around you. You need to put blinders on and execute. Do not let what is going on around you whipsaw your strategy and your team.

I am not suggesting that you should put your head in the sand. It is critical to know what is going on in your market. But it is equally critical to have a strategy that makes sense in the context of what is going on and execute it with purpose and pace. If you spend too much time looking over your shoulder, you will not execute well. I've seen it again and again.

So don't let all the news of the day slow you down. Don't let your competitors press releases and launch parties get inside your head. Plan, build, ship, and scale. Assess. Repeat again and again. Win.


Demo Camp Toronto

Next Wednesday, October 6th, I am spending the day in Toronto. I've been meaning to get up to Toronto to check out the startup scene for a while. Toronto is an hour's flight from NYC and has a lot of interesting startup activity.

I am going to spend the morning meeting with a bunch of startups and entrepreneurs and then from noon to 3pm, I will attend an event called Demo Camp at the Scotiabank Theatre.

I will give a talk, take questions, and then a few companies will demo and then I'll provide feedback on them.

I'm looking forward to meeting all of you AVC readers in Toronto on Wednesday.

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Startup Showcase

I want to let everyone know about an opportunity to showcase your startup at Web 2.0 Expo in NYC in late September. On Sept 29th in the late afternoon/early evening, the Web 2.0 conference will have 30 startups demo their products/services to the attendees and a number of investors.

The way this will work is each startup will be given a demo table. And the Web 2.0 attendees and investors will move from table to table. Each demo will last about five minutes long. So if you are participating, you'll give about ten demos in less than an hour.

At the end of the hour, Tim O'Reilly and I will each pick our favorite startup. And the audience will pick one. And then those three startups will each be invited up to the stage for a conversation with Tim and me.

It sounds like a fun format and I am looking forward to it. Tim has one of my favorite minds in the web/tech space so I am particularly excited to be doing this with him. If you want to participate, you need to apply by August 2nd. The details are here.

This is aimed at young startups that are in need of attention, not startups that are well known and heavily funded already.

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That Person Won't Scale

One of the best things to happen to startup land this spring is the arrival of Ben Horowitz as a serious blogger. Like his partner Marc Andreessen, Ben has a ton of great experiences to share and he is doing just that right now.

I particularly like his post on evaluating whether an executive "will scale." Ben writes:

evaluating people against the future needs of the company based on a theoretical view of how they will perform is counter-productive

I see this all the time in VC and startup land. An entrepreneur will come into our office and we will be discussing him or her after they leave. Someone will ask "will they scale into a big company CEO?" The answer as Ben points out so well is "who knows?"

Ben also points out that managing a lot of people well is a learned skill:

Managing at scale is a learned skill rather than a natural ability. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing how to manage a thousand people. Everybody learns at some point.

This is why I am a huge fan of getting mentors on the board and CEO coaches into the picture. Good VCs will try to help an entrepreneur "scale" but there is always going to be a tension between the investor and the entrepreneur and it is a good idea to get some other people involved if the entrepreneur wants to "scale" into a leader of hundreds or thousands.

The next time I hear someone says "that person won't scale" I am going to send them to read Ben's post.

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