These are older posts. Some on TV (up until 2010 or so). Before that they are mostly about starting up Foneshow.

Entries in startup (24)


Timing the Second Raise

Foneshow raised a venture capital round last summer. We're starting to think about our next round.

It feels kind of like this:

You want to be going as fast as you can, but you need to make sure you don't run out of runway.

You're trying to avoid this:


Just for Startups

Sleep is for wimps

"In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness"

the article from Wired.


No Time to Blog

Re-Blogged from Found/Read

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
— Niccolo Machiavelli

I found my 3 year old daughter reading The Prince the other day (we're a precocious bunch). Her older sister should beware.


Tips for Getting Hired

The key to the success of a start-up is the people who work there. We are very picky about who we hire. Here are some tips to help stand out.

1. Write a cover letter. Don't write a fluff cover letter. The cover letter is where you point out how your resume fits the job requirements. If you don't write a cover letter, we have to figure out why you might be a good candidate. You know why you'll make a good candidate, tell us why. This is your first chance to demonstrate to us your powers of persuasion. If you're a biz dev professional, and can't explain to us why you are a good fit, why should we think you can explain our products to partners?

2. Spell check. Spelling errors pretty much immediately kill a candidacy. It might seem petty, but if you lack the care and attention to detail to spell check your resume and cover letter, it is also likely you lack the care and attention to detail to work here.

3. Do some research. Read our blog. Try the product. Ask questions.

4. Have a passion. Any passion.


Coffee Achievers

Foneshow's new offices are right over an awesome coffee bar called JavaNet. We opened an account with them. Coffee is an important part of any start up.

I suppose the fact that I remember this video kind of dates me...

Edit: Moronic typo fixed


Happy Birthday to Us

Foneshow is one year old today. One year ago Nic and I came up with the invention that none of our competitors had thought of.

There are lots of people doing audio on the cell phone (just look at out competitor module), no one else is doing it the way we are.



The New York Times had a great article today about the ongoing ConnectU/Facebook kerfuffle (pdf). There are many lessons here for those starting up a technology company.

They quote R. Scott Feldmann, an intellectual property lawyer and a partner at Crowell & Moring.

Ideas, Mr. Feldmann explained, are protected either by trade-secret contracts or by patents and copyrights. “Trade secrets may be maintained indefinitely,” he said, but “it does not appear that ConnectU had Zuckerberg sign a nondisclosure agreement, and disclosing a trade secret to someone without doing so would ordinarily result in loss of any trade secret status.”

At the same time, Mr. Feldmann said, “copyright will not protect ideas themselves, only their expression” — in a Web site’s underlying source code, for instance. But if Mr. Zuckerberg was an unpaid, casual worker at ConnectU, and not an employee, then “he owns the code,” Mr. Feldmann said. Thus, even if the ConnectU plaintiffs can prove that the codes of two social networking sites were similar (an argument that Facebook seems confident it can refute), the Winklevosses might have no claims on Mr. Zuckerberg.

“On the surface, it appears ConnectU will have some challenges,” Mr. Feldmann said.

Given all the sturm und drang this case has kicked up on the blogosphere (now also in the offline press), the thing that keeps running through my head is the old Peggy Lee song...


A Request for JetBlue

Please make your San Jose to Boston redeye (flight 470) leave a little later.

You guys know I love you. I've even forgiven you for leaving me at JFK for a few days last February (a few flights on United reminded me what really bad airline service was like). Like any "outside the valley" tech entrepreneur, the SiliValley redeye is a staple of my work life.

But a redeye that leaves at 9PM and arrives at 4:50AM defeats the purpose of a redeye. It leaves too early to fall asleep easily and it arrives too early to get anything done with your extra time in Boston.

If you could change the departure time to 11PM, many technology entrepreneurs in New England would be grateful.



I've Been Tagged

I've never really been into the whole meme thing but Ann at WhyGoSolo tagged me, so here goes...

1) I have sailed across the Pacific Ocean 4 times, 3 of those times were solo. The 2002 Singlehanded Transpacific race, 2004 Singlehanded Transpacific race. The return voyage back to California in 2004 I also did solo.

2) I like to be alone (see above). I drive cross country by myself too. Until you spend time really alone, you don't know yourself.

3) Entrepreneurship brings out the manic/depressive in me. The highs are really high, the lows are crushing. My stubbornness gets me through the lows.

4) In a performance review at Yahoo! I was told I had an "east coast management style". I am guilty as charged. I am sarcastic, I tend not to sugar coat criticism (but don't take it personally), and I really don't suffer fools well. (Frankly Y! would be well served these days by more "east coast management style").

5) You can network to anyone. Now it's easier than ever. Blogs have totally changed the way business development works for online companies. Blogs are rapidly changing the way the VC world works too. It never hurts to ask, the worst they can say is "no".

6) I believe in love at first sight.

7) The summer before I turn 50 (I'm 42 now) I'm going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

8) Someday I'm going to do the Vendee Globe race. That's solo, around the world, no stops, no outside assistance. I have some technological ideas about how to handle the ice in the southern ocean that should allow me to get scary far south (the high 50s to the low 60s).

Technically I supposed to tag others at this point... That will take more thought.


No Time to Blog

Be back soon.

Here's some linky to Scott Converse and his great BigCo vs. Start Up post.


Rabble Rousers

There's a Japanese Proverb: "Deru kugi wa utareru." It translates to "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." Nowhere is this proverb more true than in big companies (speaking as one who has been a nail standing proud in a big company). Working at a start-up is a whole different world. In a start-up everyone needs to be the nail that sticks up. While doing your job is necessary, it is not nearly sufficient.

Foneshow will soon be hiring our first non-founders. Those first few hires are key to defining the culture of the organization. We want people who get pissed off at things in the world that don't work well. But they can't just rant about them, they need to at least try to do something about them. We want people with strong opinions who will make cogent arguments supporting those opinions. We want people who will passionately argue their position. I'd be surprised if we hire people who don't have their own blogs or podcast. There's no room for standing on past achievements, it's all about what comes next. It's not about following instructions, it's about getting stuff done. Getting rich can't be the goal (although it might be a nice side effect). The goal is to change the world.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." If you're good at suffering evil, then you're likely not a good fit in a start up. We want rabble rousers.


Another Crazy Week

Today (Monday) is pretty quiet. A few meetings and getting our new (sublet) office space in Portland set up.

Tuesday: A few meetings during the day, then a seminar with the Maine Software Developers Association (MESDA) Telecommunications SIG.

Wednesday: Speaking at a lunch in Portland, hop on a plane to Chicago, rent a car and drive to Madison Wisconsin.

Thursday: ONA Regional Conference. Drive back to ORD at the end of the day.

Friday Morning (0400), drop off car and catch 0600 flight to JFK.
Personal Democracy Forum Conference in NY

Saturday: PDF unconference.

Sunday: Fly home

All this time I've also got to be preparing for the following week when we've got some meetings and presentations setting up operational stuff. I'm really glad I got to take the girls to the Seadogs game yesterday (despite the pain of watching them blow a 6-1 lead to lose 12-6).

At 2 PM yesterday I got an email from a VC we're working with. I thought I had a meeting with the VC and a potential partner at 4PM in Portland, I was wrong, the meeting was at 4PM in Waltham. I drove like mad and just made it. Add an extra 4 hours in the car to the madness.


Some Monday Links

David Beisel on the "Concurrent Startup Idea Generation and the Pervasive Copycat Fallacy". Someone else is working on your idea and you're far better served by talking and networking than being quiet.

Scott Converse from ClickCaster on starting a company: You're over 40 and you want to start your first company. Now what?. Starts off as a riff on Fred's post about founders over 40, but Scott expands and most of his best points are not about age.

Brad Feld sums up why iPods are a bad platform for podcasting.

Carnival of the Mobilists 72 is up.

Yahoo paid $52 million for Bix? I'm not getting something here, I don't think Bix had an audience yet and the technology is merely OK. I had put this one at ~$10-20 million.

NYT on cell phone video.

Speaking of the New York Times... How cool is this picture?

Finally, I've been a San Jose Sharks fan since the came into existence. I was a season ticket holder from 1991 until I left the bay area in 2004.

Ron Wilson needs to be fired. He actually needed to be fired after the Edmonton series last year, but better late than never.


New Rules on Patents

The US Supreme Court raised the bar for obtaining patents on new products that combine elements of pre-existing inventions. I'm glad they're doing something. The patent system in the US is a mess.

If the combination results from nothing more than “ordinary innovation” and “does no more than yield predictable results,” the court said in a unanimous opinion, it is not entitled to the exclusive rights that patent protection conveys. “Were it otherwise,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the opinion, “patents might stifle, rather than promote, the progress of useful arts.”

Because most inventions combine previously known elements, the court’s approach to deciding what sort of combination is so “obvious” as to be ineligible for patent protection will have widespread application. The result will be to make patents harder to obtain and defend.

“Granting patent protection to advances that would occur in the ordinary course without real innovation retards progress,” Justice Kennedy said. He added that such patents were also undesirable because they might deprive earlier innovations of “their value or utility.”

The opinion was unanimous.


Just Found a Cool Blog

It's about doing a start up outside of SiliValley.

It's called Outside the Valley, check it out.


Use Your Own Product

Duh, but a surprising number of entrepreneurs don't.

Also use (but don't obsess about) your competitors services.


Hire Fast, Fire Fast

I blog about start up teams quite frequently --- and poking through our logs, the posts about building start up teams are among the most searched for. The reason we talk about it is that there is nothing more important to success of a start up than having the right team. Michael Cerda at Jangl had an interesting post the other day on the topic. Dick Costolo at Feedburner hits it on the head.

Dick talks about a "hire fast, fire fast" approach and this great quote:

"The hire fast, fire fast approach basically can be boiled down to 'it's really almost impossible to understand whether a person is going to be a killer A+ match before they start working with you day to day, so best to find somebody that seems close enough, and then remove them quickly if they don't work out.'"

This is so true. Until you're in the start up trenches with someone, you don't know if they're for real or are just puffing. While you certainly want to avoid bad hires, it is absolutely essential that you also give yourself an out in case someone isn't working out.

What makes it harder is that the traditional metrics one uses in hiring for a big company don't apply when you're building a team for a start up. In fact, success in big companies (where office politics have set in) may be a contra-indicator for start up suitability.

Joe Kraus also has some great thoughts on hiring.


Office Space

I used to have an investment strategy centered on using the construction of an office campus as a contra-indicator for near term success. When tech companies start to build buildings everyone gets distracted. Employees moving offices is distracting. Divvying up the new shiny space churns up office politics. Senior level management spends time reviewing renderings and looking at swatches. Focus is lost. Apple nearly died after building Infinite Loop. I think the excite@home temple is still empty. SGI went splat after building their campus (although Google is doing well in the old SGI space). Yahoo!'s glory days were when they were on Central Expressway, not in their new digs in Sunnyvale (not to mention the Santa Monica debacle).

Foneshow is currently virtual and we intend to stay as virtual as we can for as long as we can (although it does look like we'll be subletting some space in the Old Port neighborhood of Portland in the near future). VC Confidential has a great post of the perils of start ups dabbling in real estate. There are a lot of great lessons in there.


The Value of Startup Ideas

Startup ideas are incredibly overvalued by some people.

The idea is worth nothing. The execution is worth everything.

David Cohen at Colorado Startups had a great blog post on the subject yesterday.

Here's the great quote:

One of the students approached me after the class in order to tell me that he had a killer idea for a web startup, but he didn’t feel he had the ability to create it since he was not a programmer. He asked me if he felt this would limit his chance of success in general, or for getting into TechStars. Of course I told him it would not limit, but rather eliminate him from consideration for TechStars. I advised him to find co-founders who are builders and who compliment his own strengths, and then apply. It never ceases to amaze me how people overvalue ideas.

Also on point is Paul Graham

Actually, startup ideas are not million dollar ideas, and here's an experiment you can try to prove it: just try to sell one. Nothing evolves faster than markets. The fact that there's no market for startup ideas suggests there's no demand. Which means, in the narrow sense of the word, that startup ideas are worthless.

The idea for Foneshow is not unique and has little or no value. Lots of people are working on podcasting over the phone. Where Foneshow has created its value in the execution.


Crazy Busy

Sorry we've been slow blogging recently. Things have been crazy busy. Some posts we're working on include...

-The Forthcoming Foneshow Reseller Program

-The Cell Phone as a Narrowcast Radio

-Founding Teams - Equity Divisions, Some Scary Stories I've Heard

-Politics and Podcasting - 2008 is going to be interesting

-A post on the (diminished) role of bizdev professionals in the age of blogs and social media

-Some Mobile Video Thoughts

-Lawyer Shopping for Start Ups

-The Importance of Content Snacking