Thursday, August 27, 2009

Work culture at your startup

In her book “Once Your’re Lucky Twice You’re Good”, Sarah Lacy says that cultures at startups mirror the personality of their founders. Having worked at a startup before I think this is quiet true. It not just true for startups though. I have worked in different offices of the same big organization and found that they could have totally different cultures. Some organizations just accept this fact, while others spend millions of dollars to try and maintain a homogenous culture. Whatever the culture is, you can’t easily change it once formed. But you can surely try and build it from the very begning.

Recently, on Techcrunch, I came across a 128-page presentation from Netflix that was circulated within the organization. It gives you a glimpse of their culture. And coming from a fairly large publicly traded company it will surprise you. They don’t follow the usual rules of the corporate world. In fact many small companies that pride themselves for having a flexible culture can learn some things from them.

I’m embedding the slides below. Remember it is 128-pages. It will take some time to digest the material but it will inspire you.

Netflix: Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture

So why do businesses fail?

According to this article "New businesses fail in large numbers because of cash flow. Many new businesses are started with viable ideas and good products. To the outsider it may seem that the business is thriving. The founder is onto something good. But a few months down the line the business has shut its doors."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Foundation for a Startup Idea

We need to lay down some foundation for the startup idea. These points are intended to channel our thoughts and come up with that one idea which we will pursue and build our product around. Between the four of us we have hundreds of ideas and it is time to pick the best. The problem is, how do we know which one is best? There is no sure way to know, but satisfying the following points is a good start.

Solve one problem
There are many problems around us that need a solution. But we will strive to solve one and only one problem. There will be distractions along the way, but we will do justice to the single problem that we choose to solve.

Simple product
We are a small team working part time on this side project. Hence keeping the product simple becomes a core requisite. Simple product means less overhead, less maintenance and will require less resources overall.

Though we start out simple the idea needs to be scalable. We need room to grow. Internet users can have very short attention span and we need to constantly keep them interested in our product.

This is where all the action is. For any web app mobile is no long a nice-to-have feature. It is a must-have component. Many businesses today are centered completely around mobile.

Though we will start out in one country the idea itself should be region agnostic. Some countries are adding internet users at a dizzying rate. Think India, think China. We should be able to expand internationally with little additional effort.

Since we are starting out a shoestring budget we need to know how we are going to generate revenue fast. We don’t have the luxury of venture capital. Hence the idea that we pick needs to define how it is going to make money.

This list is giving us a good direction to narrow in on the problem we we want to solve. Hopefully you find good use of it as well to filter out the hunderds of billion dollar ideas floating in your head, and pick the best ones.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is the advertising model dead?

Since one of the revenue model we are exploring is advertising, it is very important for us to research the answer to this.

According to the panelists in the video who met at Revenue Bootcamp on July 10 at Microsoft campus in Mountain View, there are plenty of opportunities if you do it right.


The Team

We are a group of four friends who met at grad school few years back. Since then we graduated and parted ways. We are successful in our respective careers but always dreamed of creating a product that provides value to our users. Recently we regrouped and decide that it is about time we gave it a shot. Here is the team:

Code Monkey: The website won’t build itself. Hence we have the smartest engineer around doing it. He can build any app in a day. Maybe two.

Web Ninja: Spends all his time surfing the web pretending to be busy doing industry research. He is sure there is a lesson to be learnt from lolcats.

Chief Operating Babe: Keeps everything running. Makes sure no one is slacking and rations beer to keep everyone sober and working.

The MBA: Walks around throwing heavy words that he learnt in grad school. No one understands what he speaks but think it might be important because they don’t understand.

You will know more about the team as you follow us.