My daily readings 04/16/2010

  • tags: mac, sharing, file

  • tags: LBS, foursquare

  • tags: design, segway

  • tags: design, segway

  • tags: creativity

  • tags: startup, ideas

    • The problem with these kinds of organic ideas: startup geeks and developers are all similar. There are so many developer tools, social tools, project management systems, freelance and small business accounting systems, and all the other things that geeks need.

      The really great business opportunities are in the areas the Silicon Valley Kool-Aid drinkers don’t even look twice. Many of them are not even fundable by VCs because they aren’t sexy. YC funds some cool ideas, but most of them are immediately useful to the 20 year olds who come up with them, which means they are immediately taking on markets being built out by the rest of the startup community.

      Ask a 60 year old manager of a sales force in a backward industry how his business works and you’ll find real “organic” startup ideas. You might even find an idea that adds value to the universe, and might therefor yield revenue and profit.

    • I think I’ll have to disagree.

      Organic Startups have one huge advantage: They’re significantly easier to build.

      Organic Startups have one huge disadvantage: They’re significantly easier to build.

      The space for people-like-me startups is severely crowded due to an over-abundance of people scratching their own itch. On the other hand, markets that are the diametric opposite of silicon-valley-tech are ripe for the picking by any halfway competent team. Look at Club Penguin, acquired for $700M, all because they focused an “unsexy” niche.

      The second type of startup is harder to build but it’s not that much harder to build. More importantly, it’s variably harder to build.

      Some people are going to be naturals at it and not see what the big fuss is all about. Others will never have the necessary social intelligence. But the vast, vast majority of people will suck at it to begin with but then get better the more they try.

      I’ve always been a big proponent of taking the road less taken. While every other uber-hacker is learning erlang & haskell, why not learn how to become better at designing for people who are not yourself?

    • The space for people-like-me startups is severely crowded due to an over-abundance of people scratching their own itch.

      Empirically that doesn’t seem to be true. E.g. there were not a lot of other startups doing Facebook at the same time as Mark. A couple, but not a lot.

      Probably the reason is the point I mentioned in the essay: most people ignore their itches because they don’t seem good enough sources of ideas.

      Ironically, if people start doing what I suggest, it could cause what you’re claiming to become true. But we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

  • tags: startup, ideas

    • The best way to come up with startup ideas is to ask yourself the
      question: what do you wish someone would make for you?

      There are two types of startup ideas: those that grow organically
      out of your own life, and those that you decide, from afar, are
      going to be necessary to some class of users other than you. Apple
      was the first type. Apple happened because Steve Wozniak wanted a
      computer. Unlike most people who wanted computers, he could design
      one, so he did. And since lots of other people wanted the same
      thing, Apple was able to sell enough of them to get the company
      rolling. They still rely on this principle today, incidentally.
      The iPhone is the phone Steve Jobs wants.
      [1]

      Our own startup, Viaweb, was of the second type. We made software
      for building online stores. We didn’t need this software ourselves.
      We weren’t direct marketers. We didn’t even know when we started
      that our users were called “direct marketers.” But we were
      comparatively old when we started the company (I was 30 and Robert
      Morris was 29), so we’d seen enough to know users would need this
      type of software.

    • When he was writing that first Basic interpreter
      for the Altair, Bill Gates was writing something he would use, as
      were Larry and Sergey when they wrote the first versions of Google.
    • Organic ideas are generally preferable to the made up kind, but
      particularly so when the founders are young. It takes experience
      to predict what other people will want. The worst ideas we see at
      Y Combinator are from young founders making things they think other
      people will want.
    • What’s missing or broken in your daily life? Sometimes if you just
      ask that question you’ll get immediate answers. It must have seemed
      obviously broken to Bill Gates that you could only program the
      Altair in machine language.
    • You may need to stand outside yourself a bit to see brokenness,
      because you tend to get used to it and take it for granted. You
      can be sure it’s there, though. There are always great ideas sitting
      right under our noses. In 2004 it was ridiculous that Harvard
      undergrads were still using a Facebook printed on paper. Surely
      that sort of thing should have been online.
    • We know now that Facebook was
      very successful, but put yourself back in 2004. Putting undergraduates’
      profiles online wouldn’t have seemed like much of a startup idea.
      And in fact, it wasn’t initially a startup idea. When Mark spoke
      at a YC dinner this winter he said he wasn’t trying to start a
      company when he wrote the first version of Facebook. It was just
      a project. So was the Apple I when Woz first started working on
      it. He didn’t think he was starting a company. If these guys had
      thought they were starting companies, they might have been tempted
      to do something more “serious,” and that would have been a mistake.
    • Just fix things that seem broken, regardless of whether it seems
      like the problem is important enough to build a company on. If you
      keep pursuing such threads it would be hard not to end up making
      something of value to a lot of people, and when you do, surprise,
      you’ve got a company
    • Don’t be discouraged if what you produce initially is something
      other people dismiss as a toy. In fact, that’s a good sign.
      That’s probably why everyone else has been overlooking the idea. The first
      microcomputers were dismissed as toys. And the first planes, and
      the first cars. At this point, when someone comes to us with
      something that users like but that we could envision forum trolls
      dismissing as a toy, it makes us especially likely to invest.
    • [1]
      This suggests a way to predict areas where Apple will be weak:
      things Steve Jobs doesn’t use. E.g. I doubt he is much into gaming.

      [2]
      In retrospect, we should have become direct marketers. If
      I were doing Viaweb again, I’d open our own online store. If we
      had, we’d have understood users a lot better. I’d encourage anyone
      starting a startup to become one its users, however unnatural it
      seems.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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