Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurs’

Quiz: What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’m a start-up founder just like many of you, and there are days when I wonder if I’m the only one who feels, acts and thinks the way I do. But there are others that have gone before, and you might be surprised to see which tech founder you are most like. Take our quiz and find out your answer to the question: What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Click here to take the quiz

(UPDATE: I’m going to ask you for an email address at the end of the process. I wanted to warn you up front so that I don’t catch you off guard!)

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Quiz Sauce logoOne erectile dysfunction viagra of the things that we’re working on at Pure Incubation is launching a variety of software tools for publishers aimed at helping them solve their most crucial business issues. (If you want to know more about those publishing problem areas, read this post.) We’re doing this through our Sauce Technology business unit, and today I want to introduce you to a specific application – Quiz Sauce.

The quiz above was built using the application – give it a whirl and let me know what you think. Here’s the link to take the quiz in case you missed it above – What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Starting a company and being an entrepreneur

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Founders at Work book coverThe past couple of weeks I have been doing a series on starting companies and being an entrepreneur. These posts are all based on the book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days, by Jessica Livingston. If you haven’t read the book and you either have a startup or are planning on starting a company, I highly recommend it.

Here’s a summary of the posts:

Getting started

- How to get over the fear and start your own business
Four hurdles to jump after starting a business

Money issues

- 5 ways to save money on your start-up
5 places to spend money on your start-up

7 ways to raise money for your start-up

The successful entrepreneur

- The #1 most important personality trait of an entrepreneur
10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs

10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Number 10While the most important trait of an entrepreneur must be his or her flexibility and adaptability, it’s also true that people who found start-ups often have some less-than-stellar qualities that help them be successful in their ventures.

Here’s a look at 10 qualities that some entrepreneurs share that may help them be great at starting a company, but not so great at existing in normal society. The quotes below are all taken from Jessica Livingston’s book, Founders at Work.

Entrepreneurs are…

1. Paranoid – “Distrust of others, sometimes reaching delusional proportions.” Sometimes founders have a good reason to be paranoid; other times, they are worried for nothing. But most founders are a little jumpy.

“[We were afraid] they would copy us, or what if they just shared this idea with Netscape? Or shared it with anyone else. You have to realize that in those days we had nothing – just the idea…There was not much to protect in terms of IP. Whoever built it first would win the market. So we were afraid and that’s why we kept that as the secret.” – Sabeer Bhatia, cofounder, Hotmail

“We worried about competitors, but it was an unreasonable fear. As a friend once pointed out, most gunshot wounds are self-inflicted.” – Philip Greenspun, cofounder, ArsDigita

2. Self-promoting – Since many founders are working alone or with small teams, they have to be their own biggest fans.

“After I sent out that first email, I went rollerblading around a big office park where Tellme was based. I went up to a random guy and said, “Hey man, have you checked out hotornot.com yet?” He said, “No, what’s that?” I said, “Dude, just go check it out!” Then I went home and watched our logs for Tellme and saw a hit come in 10 minutes later, and then more hits kept coming from different people within Tellme.” – James Hong, cofounder, HOT or NOT

3. Delusional – “Having an unshakable belief in something untrue.”

“I just remember the general feeling that there was very little to risk…Of course, all that is false; there’s a lot of risk and you are never fully equipped.” – Ann Winblad, cofounder, Open Systems

4. Insomniacs – Most founders will admit to a general lack of sleep and an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion at various stages of their company’s inception.

“We were just working around the clock, literally. What I would typically do is not sleep for 2 nights, then I would get 4 hours of sleep and go back to work for another 2 days in a row, and then get 4 hours, and so on. It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. Sometimes I’d take 10-minute cat naps by just laying my head down on my shoulders – just so I’d get some REMs. As soon as the dreams would come, it resets your brain a little bit and you’re able to work again. We were sleeping at our desks.” – Steve Perlman, cofounder, WebTV

“As I was getting interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, or some big pub guy, all I remember was that he went off to the bathroom for a second, and they brought out my omelet. The next thing I remember, I woke up, and I was on the side of my own omelet, and there was no one at Buck’s. Everyone was gone. They just let me sleep.” – Max Levchin, cofounder, PayPal

5. Filled with visions of grandeur – Nearly all start-up founders think that they are going to have a huge impact, that they are going to change the world. Otherwise, why would they go through this hell?

“What held people together was the belief that you’re really going to change the world. I think that’s the nature of many startups. You believe that what you are doing is going to have a dramatic impact. You might not exactly know how, but you really have a belief. That keeps you going and going through many changes and a lot of uncertainty.” – Ray Ozzie, founder, Groove Networks

6. Stubborn – “The quality of being inflexible.” When you found a company, not everyone is going to agree with you along the way. Not only do you have to be too stubborn to go along with them, but you also have to be too stubborn to quit.

“I think one of the things that kills great things so often is compromise – letting people talk you out of what your gut is telling you. Not that I don’t value people’s input, but you have to have the strength to ignore it sometimes, too. If you feel really strongly, there might be something to that, and if you see something that other people don’t see, it could be because it’s that powerful and different. If everyone agrees, it’s probably because you’re not doing anything original.” – Evan Williams, cofounder, Blogger.com

7. Tall-tale tellers – Most founders wouldn’t call themselves liars, but most have, well, stretched the truth from time to time to make their companies seem more established.

“If anybody ever did want to come and visit us, we pulled all kinds of tricks to make ourselves seem more legit. When that first giant company wanted to buy us and sent people over to check us out, all we had in our so-called office was one computer…So we borrowed a few more computers and stuck them on desks, so it would look like there was more going on.” – Paul Graham, cofounder, Viaweb

“I met with 43 VCs…I remember saying to them, “Look, in 4 years, we’ll be doing $18 million in revenue with $4.5 million of profit. After that, the sky’s the limit I’m an ex-venture guy; I’m telling you the truth. We can get to $18 million in year 4, and 30 times $4 million is a $120 million valuation for the company at that time.” They all told me $18 million wasn’t interesting. And I’d say, “But most people will tell you $50 million, and you know they’re lying. I’m already discounting it because I’m a venture guy just like you are.” And they’d say, “Yeah, but $18 million just isn’t interesting.” So I changed my spreadsheet to say $50 million. And they said, “OK, that’s pretty interesting.” – James Currier, founder, Tickle

8. Obsessive – “Excessive in degree or nature; fixated.” This is the personality trait that leads entrepreneurs to spend hours and hours and hours and hours on the contemplation of one tiny problem. This is also the quality that can lead to incredible products.

“You have to be very diligent. You have to check every little detail. You have to be so careful that you haven’t left something out. You have to think harder and deeper than you normally would…It has all these kinds of things and not one bug ever found. Not one bug in the hardware, not one bug in the software. And you just can’t find a product like that nowadays. But, you see, I had it so intense in my head, and the reason for that was largely because it was part of me. Everything in there had to be so important to me. This computer was me.” – Steve Wozniak, cofounder, Apple Computer

9. Dirty – “Filthy.” This is often a result of sleeplessness, obsessiveness and stubbornness.

“My admin…tells stories about coming in in the morning and trying to clean up. She’d pick up a folded pizza box and get scared because she’d find a guy sleeping underneath it – it was covering his face. It was really bad. My dog, when my wife would bring him over, he would find burritos, because the place was just a pigsty.” – Steve Perlman, cofounder, WebTV

10. Moody – “Given to frequent changes in mood, sulky, temperamental.” I define this as the day-to-day changing of emotions and state of mind, often based on absolutely nothing.

“You wake up one morning and you feel great about the day, and you think, “We’re kicking ass.” And then you wake up the next morning, and you think “We’re dead.” And literally nothing’s changed…It’s completely irrational, but it’s exactly what you go through.” – Joe Kraus, cofounder, Excite

Photo by psd

Webinno Boston #16: My recap

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Last night I attended the Web Innovators Group (Webinno) meeting in Boston. It was the 16th meeting put on by the group (the first that I attended) and it was packed out! Web Innovators Group logo
Honestly, I thought it would be a smaller meeting with fewer people, but there were probably somewhere around 500+ people in attendance. It was definitely standing room only when the presentations were happening. (This picture is just one corner of the room, it looked like this everywhere.)

At Webinno Boston

The way that the meeting worked was that there were three featured companies (called “Main Dish Presentations”) who presented for about 5-10 minutes each and answered two questions after they finished. This was then followed by six highlighted companies (called “Side Dish Presentations”) who each pitched their products for 30 seconds.

The Main Dish presenters were:

Urban Interactive
Urban Interactive Logo“Provides a platform that creates mixed-reality mobile adventures, transforming a cell phone into a modern-day Dick Tracy watch. Users download missions to complete throughout a city, bringing them closer to their surroundings, heritage, local events and neighbors.”

My take: I think that Urban Interactive is a really cool idea, and after a quick look at the program, I was most excited to see this presentation. It is obvious that a lot of time has been spent on the interface to make it look very “spy ready” and the technology seemed to function well, at least the part that was demonstrated.

The primary issue that I see with this product is that it seems like it would be hard to set up new adventures. For example, a mission at the Boston Museum of Science was used as the demo adventure. The very first step in the mission was to find the museum, and then go to the front desk and ask for a code. This, in itself, means that every employee at the Museum of Science would need to be trained about this program and how it works, because they’ll get a ton of questions. Or, (and I think that this is how they do it), the adventures would only be able to be “taken” on a schedule, in which case, Urban Interactive employees (or Boston Improv actors) could participate and help the adventurers along. This will severely limit the usage of the product.

To the company’s credit, its next plan is to work on the ability for users to create their own missions, but until they get over this hurdle, I don’t expect that the product will be able to get any kind of critical mass.

Like I said, I really like this idea, so I’m pulling for this one to work. I think for it to succed, they need to scale back a bit on trying to do everything, and focus on one core business (tour operators, museums, schools or corporations, pick one), just until they get things off the ground.

SpotScout
SpotScout logo“We believe that, if given the right tools, individuals and communities can solve their own parking problems by creating virtual markets for parking information. Whether a parking garage, a private space, or a space on the street, our software enables space seekers to acquire timely information on space availability before arriving at their destinations.”

My take: The presenter described this company as “kind of an eBay for parking spaces,” and I think that SpotScout is a great concept and will be useful in cities where it can be tough to find parking (New York, San Francisco, Boston). It appears that the service hasn’t yet launched, so it’s tough to see how many people will use it and how it will work when it goes live. But I’m betting that this product will be a success. I have had to look for parking in Boston and driven around and around and around…looking at many empty parking lots that businesses don’t use at night but have “No Parking, Tow Zone” signs posted on them. Just think of the utility for drivers -and the extra cash for businesses – that could result from this product. Also, I would definitely use SpotScout if I could make a reservation in a parking garage for a Red Sox game, for example. I would be able to lock in my price and my spot, and I wouldn’t have to get to the game three hours early to park.

As long as SpotScout is able to figure out how to get the local garages involved so that they know what SpotScout is and how to use it, and as long as they are able to sign up enough users so that there are people both providing spots and telling each other when they’re coming and going, I think that this will be a huge hit. If it is a success, I can imagine someone driving around the city all day, parking at meters when they find an open one, and then posting to SpotScout their departure information, to make some extra cash. This was the best of the Main Dish presentations.

MakeMeSustainable
MakeMeSustainable logo“The Facebook application provides creative ways to fight global warming. It engages users with tools to reduce their carbon footprint and ties in competition and community components that enable them to visualize their larger impact.”

My take: I should start up by saying that I’m not a huge Facebook user. I have an account, I check it occassionally, and I use it to talk to my friends, but I am by no means a super-user. Perhaps because of that, MakeMeSustainable just doesn’t thrill me. I appreciate the concept behind it – getting users to reduce their carbon footprint -and the execution of the product is actually great (very well-designed, charts, graphs, etc.), but I just don’t see this being a tool that would get someone to take long-term action. It might be cool for awhile, but will it really make a difference?

I think that the company’s smartest move is the partnership that they’re making with various musicians – and if they can tap into that type of super-star fan base, as well as associate their brand with people like Dave Matthews, they might have a shot.

Next came the Side Dish Presenters, and I was much more impressed with many of these products and concepts. Remember, they only presented for 30 seconds, so I only got limited information.

Survol
Survol logo“Mobile platform for fast effortless use of Web sites, feeds, search results and widgets”

My take: The presenter said that this was “a better way to access the Web on any mobile phone,” but I have to be honest, after listening for 30 seconds I have no idea what Survol is and what it does. Their Web site was not much help.

Glassbooth
Glassbooth logo“Do you know where the candidates stand on the issues? Glassbooth is an innovative website that pairs a massive database of information on the presidential candidates with an inviting design for exploration. Users tell the site which issues they think are important, respond to a series of statements based on that input, and find out which presidential candidate most closely aligns with their views and why.”

My take: I love this concept, and from the user’s perspective, I really like that Glassbooth is a non-profit and therefore not aligned with any commercial biases or candidates. I just went through the site and I found the user experience to be excellent. It was helpful to have the issues lined up (with links to articles about the topics so I could read up on things that I am not totally sure about), and at the end of the survey, along with a suggestion of what candidate mostly aligns with my beliefs, I could find out details about what each of the candidates’ positions are on each of the issues, based on what they have said in the past and their voting history. This was a cool site and I highly recommend it for anyone who is still trying to figure out what candidate is going to get their vote.

Buildium
Buildium logo“Whether you’re a professional property manager, condo owner or a member of an HOA, Buildium has a property management solution to meet your needs.”

My take: I really liked this product, as well. The presenter told a compelling story about a guy who was in charge of his condo association and how he needed tools to help him manage the budgets, bills, planning and other stuff for that role. Since I have heard many stories about condo associations and the difficulty of being involved in them, it seems like Buildium would help. Note, however, that I haven’t seen these tools in action. I just like the concept.

MyHappyPlanet
MyHappyPlanet logo“The leader in social networking for language learning and cultural exchange. We provide a platform for language learners to improve their foreign language skills through peer-to-peer learning and user-generated learning materials.”

My take: MyHappyPlanet is one of those ideas that makes you say “why didn’t I think of that?” The basic premise is that there are people all over the world who are trying to learn languages, so the site lets them partner up and practice with each other. So, for example, I’m in the U.S. and I am a native English speaker, and I want to learn Spanish. The site lets me partner with someone in Spain who is trying to learn English to practice. This is such a great idea, and I could see it spinning out lots of other products, educational and commercial (globalization. localization and translation services, especially). It also helps that this site already has 80K-100K users.

Socrato
Socrato logo“A Web-based test preparation and assessment platform. Helps users quickly identify their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to focus on the right areas faster, saving study time.”

My take: Basically, Socrato is a test preparation and learning tool that is trying to help students study better for standardized tests. This product didn’t pique my interest particularly, but I like the concept. 

Mofuse
Mofuse logo“A hosted mobile site creation application geared toward content publishers such as bloggers. Using the MoFuse application, anyone can create a mobile-friendly version of their website or blog in just a few minutes.”

My take: I didn’t get a good sense of Mofuse from the presentation, and it left me feeling a bit like it was irrelevant. My site looks great on the iPhone, afterall, and my bet is that all mobile Web browsing is all heading in that direction.

The next Web Innovators Group meeting is in Boston on April 2nd.