One thing I’ve noticed going through Y Combinator was how consistent were the messages repeated by the partners, the staffs, and the alumni network. As a startup founder, you should do two things: “write code and talk to users.” The more recent version is: “build product, talk to customers, and exercise” – which I think is a natural evolution, since YC funds a lot of non-software-only companies these days and the partners are getting a bit older. 😉
The entire message is around “Growth” and the way to get there is by writing code and talking to users. And stop doing anything else. Sounds simple, right?
‘The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.‘ — Henry David Thoreau
Like water, our attention flows in a frictionless world. Real-time updates on social media, constant push-notifications on our mobile phones, and so many entertaining contents devours our attention little by little.
Attention, like time, is really a limited resource, varying perhaps among individuals, but finite as a person. One app might fight for your attention from the other. If you place the Kindle icon next to your Facebook icon, I can bet the Facebook icon wins your touch nine out of ten.
When I was eleven, my family moved to the United States, due to my father’s job working for the Korean government. I still remember my first ride from JFK to some urban parts of the New York city. Still a bit jet lagged, I was struck in awe looking at the graffitis on the streets of NYC. I’ve only seen graffitis from the movies and the sheer unfamiliarity of the view somehow got me scared and excited ambivalently.
Taking a bite of freshly baked extra cheese pizza was a pleasant surprise to my taste and grabbing the oval-shaped ‘football’ for the first time got me all confused.
Edward T. Hall presented in his 1976 book Beyond Culture, the terms high-context culture and low-context culture. The key difference between the two is the tendency to use high-context or high-conceptual messages with fewer words, among in-groups who shares similar experiences and backgrounds compared to the low-context societies.
A simple example would be China/Japan/Korea compared to United States. Things are much more implicit, conceptual, intuitive, and are relationships-focused than the idea, discussions, and explicit expressions in the listed Asian countries.
This affects not only how emails are written, how negotiations take place, but to the extent of how companies and brands evolve into greater scale.
I believe civilization is a collection of things people take for granted. Water, gas fire, electricity, internet, and nowadays, smartphones. It’s a great privilege to be able to contribute back to civilization and build something that people take for granted.
Historically, a lot of these innovations were driven by technological advancement. But technology alone doesn’t fulfil innovations. Technology must be used to solve human problems. Hands-in-hands with humane design, we devise solutions to these problems and better ourselves. With proper marketing to provide these solutions to those in need, we begin to change the world for the better.
This is why we do what we do. This is why it’s meaningful to work with our team.
Sequoia Capital has a good post on a simple, but comprehensive list of things they look for in a business plan. Meanwhile, as a handy toolkit, I regularly revisit a simple four-dimension checklist of a startup.
2PM – People, Product, Market, Money.
The priority among the dimensions shifts depending the stage of your business. Think of it as a juggling, instead of a one-way flow. You don’t want to dwell on a single dimension for too long, and other balls might fall out of your hands.
I’ve always wondered why typical first-time employees go through something similar two to three years into their careers. You start to have doubts, feel like you are not growing fast anymore, find the temptation to jump to another company, or start studying again in a graduate school. I’ve felt it and many of my colleagues and friends have went through something similar. Some people call this (roughly translated) worker puberty, where one feels like she needs a big change in her career.
After working on my first startup for a bit more than four years, many of the entrepreneurs I’ve met seemed to have gone through something I’d like to call entrepreneur’s puberty. Assuming the pressure coming from doing a startup is bit more than that of a typical employee at a big firm, it seems like entrepreneur’s puberty hits a bit earlier in life — usually around 1.5 to 2 years into a startup.
It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes, your user base is part of your product. It takes certain amount of users to actually reach MVP.
How many users does it take to get the ecosystem going?
How many avg. # of friends/followers do you need to get the product run on its own?
How many avg. comments per post do you need to get the engagement up
… and so forth
There’s no one magic number for these kinds of questions, but obviously there will be a key threshold for almost all products that need some sort of networking effect to kick-in based on their product’s DNA.