Building a Future Through Entrepreneurship

Today I watched a group of 9th grade students at Oakland Tech present their preliminary business plans to a panel of judges and was impressed by how much I can learn from those who are so much younger than I am. The showcase was part of the entrepreneur program created by BUILD whose mission statement reads:

Our mission is to provide real-world entrepreneurial experience that empowers youth from under-resourced communities to excel in education, lead in their communities, and succeed professionally.

It’s a great program that boasts a 70% graduation rate through the 4 year after school program and 100% of BUILD graduates go on to college. That’s even more impressive considering that the program deliberately picks the kids that most schools write off as being hopeless. Over the course of the program, the students prove beyond a doubt that they can succeed in life beyond what any statistical model would predict for them. That’s a skill I want to learn. The skill to exceed expectations. Continue reading

Why I’m Not Raising Money (Yet)

If you count Mom and Pop shops, the average entrepreneurial venture requires about $25k in startup cash. Talking to Web 2.0 guys, it seems like everyone is out to raise a couple million to put their plans into action and pay their salaries during early stage growth. I was particularly struck by this article and Nivi’s responses which state you should raise “As much as possible“. I’ve also been advised more than once that I should look to add people to our advisory board who can introduce us to sources of possible funding (in other words: VCs and Angels). For better or worse, we’re bootstrapping for now.

A couple of things have led us to this decision and an understanding of when we’re going to have to change our minds.

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Caffeine Killer (Productive Chaos: How to Hurry Without Rushing p. 2)

People really like their caffeine. I guess I should’ve realized that before, but I got a bit of  flack when I suggested that caffeine was not the most efficient way to get things done in my previous post. Ok…I get it…coffee tastes great. Fair ’nuff. But I’m sticking to my guns and I’ll say it again:

If you have a cup of coffee every day, you’re not actually more awake and aware than if you didn’t have any caffeine at all.

But aside from the basic biological facts of your body normalizing to the amount of caffeine after a while, there’s a philosophical issue. Caffeine is a crutch. A lovely lovely yummy crutch that I love in sugar coated form, but a crutch none the less. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolution for Entrepreneurs and Startup Mavericks

A resolution for all you entrepreneurs out there:

I will start my own business in 2010!

I will work hard and be successful because I will not be discouraged and I will never give up.
I will talk to a customer every day and find out how I can provide them with value.
I will treat my customers and co-founders with the respect I expect from them. Continue reading

Team/Market Fit is more important than Product/Market Fit

This New Year’s Eve, I’m resolving to work on the most important part of my own startup, the team. Specifically, I’m going to try as hard as possible to deserve to work with my co-founders, who are both more experienced and have a better understanding of technology than I can aspire to. But although I’ve heard a lot of common sense arguments about the importance of a good team, I find that a good deal of literature on the subject is easily misunderstood. I’m sure many people have read and agree with the most famous example of this. Marc Andreessen’s blog post is a fantastic discussion on the importance of a good market to the success of a startup. Marc correctly posits that a good team with a good product in a bad market will fail. He goes on to say explicitly that:

  • When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
  • When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
  • When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.

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Merry Xmas!…now shut up and start coding.

Just about every entrepreneur I’ve met in Silicon Valley knows how to write more than a few lines of code. The ones that don’t are constantly looking for a partner to build their dream product. You know, the one that will make them a billion dollars. I’d guess you’d have to count me among them. But waiting around for a dream co-founder doesn’t cut it around here. That’s why this Christmas I’m writing code.

I haven’t written a line since high school when the two languages I knew were Pascal and MACOS. In case your wondering, MACOS wasn’t even a proper language, only worked on my Apple II series, and stood for More of A Crappy Operating System. I don’t even know what it was, but it sure wasn’t Mac OS X. I used it for my bulletin board system (BBS for those that remember pre-www). I never saw an instruction book, not sure there was one, but I was able to understand the basic syntax easily enough and hack code from different available sources into something vaguely resembling what I wanted. But that was over 16 years ago. I have no business writing code professionally, but sometimes business requires you to do something unprofessional. Continue reading

Introduction

This is the first blog post for startupSQUARE!

Over the next days, weeks, and months we’ll be building up the site, testing our assumptions and launching. While we’re doing that, I’ve started this blog where I’ll be posting our lessons learned and updates about how the site is going. If you’re interested in seeing what we’re up to, please subscribe, follow us on Twitter, or otherwise get involved by visiting startupSQUARE.com and checking it out.

Thank you,

Tristan