Vin Turk wrote a comment on my last post on creating a more Founder-Centric Narrative:
After reading the post, and all the comments, it sounds like no one wants FW and CD to stop doing what they are doing. Everyone just wants more entrepreneurs to step up and start contributing to the conversation. FW and CDs blogs are great, as they provide a perspective that I find valuable (from a startups view).
But even more valuable, to me at least, are the views from guys like Eric Reis http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/ , Andrew Chen http://andrewchenblog.com/ , Steve Blank http://steveblank.com/ and Mark Suster (Ent turned VC) http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/
Reading about "in the trenches" experiences I find more valuable that a VCs perspective on similar subject matter (but i'll still read the VCs entries).
So Matt, are you just asking more entrepreneurs to step up and start blogging from their sidelines?
Ok, so that's not exactly what I wrote, but it's what I should have wrote and what I'd LOVE to see. You nailed it, Vin.
As founders, we need to share our experiences with others and "pay it forward" as much as possible. At a base level, this means talking about stuff like finding talent, negotiating with investors, figuring out valuation, acquiring customers, and dealing with co-founders. Putting that stuff out in the open is SOOO HELPFUL.
And truly, if you do it right and offer some fresh insight and harrowing detail, stories about about this kind of thing make you look really smart to everyone, employees and investors alike. The ROI is most definitely there. Or so I have found it.
Blogging and creating a narrative of my entrepreneurial journey has helped me connect with so many talented folks. Investors, press and employees alike. I recommend you do the same.
Heres one: http://www.kalzumeus.com/
A blog written today should have something about today in it, not some carefully massaged version of something that happened two years ago.
Startup blogging is looking a lot like startup products lately. The low-hanging fruit has been snagged and there are just way too many people building (or saying) the same thing over and over. It’s not interesting, and it’s not useful when that happens.
The blogs end up full of candy-coated truisms. Not actionable. matt was calling for real startup people to blog about what really happens in startups. Show me a blog that does that… that’s NOT by someone who’s already had enough good things happen that they are relatively well on their way…. I’m talking about the 99% here, not the 1%. Matt’s in the 1%, as is anyone who’s funded. Show me honest, useful, current blogs by “two guys with a laptop” that has something NEW and ACTIONABLE for all other “two guys with a laptop”, because I don’t think such a thing exists.
Why does the ‘real time’ or ‘after the fact’ aspect make any difference? My original comment (and I think what Matt wanted to hit on) is about getting more entrepreneurs to blog and keep the discussions flowing for everyones benefit.
And no, blogs are not “supposed to be real time”. I’m not sure where you are getting that from.
Vin, I don’t agree with you at all, especially about “more information is better”. Last spring I sat through a day of talks at MIT given by YCombo success stories. Biggest auditorium we have, and it was filled at the start.. .they were talking “wait list” and “remote viewing room”…
By the end of the day it was half-filled and I heard the same thing over and over.. and agreed… there is not much that a rocket pack startup can tell me that I don’t already know, that’s in any way applicable to my startup.
And frankly, the set of issues startups deal with is FINITE. There just aren’t that many of them, and the solutions aren’t rooted in some never-been-in-business-before person’s explorations. I’ve been that person. Business operations problems are largely solved problems. Thought the solutions are not put into practice in many going concerns, operations issues are quite well explored, and addressed. Lean operations and other guiding philosophies have been simplified and codified.
So no, reading the Nth version of the same story is not useful.
When I find a startup blog that carries an admission of an actual bad day, that’s the blog I’ll believe that I might learn something from.
When was the last time you read about a real disaster, a real tough day, a founder caught between 3 possible courses of action who can’t decide which one to choose? I hear these troubles all the time from people in startups. Blog that stuff in real time (blogs are supposed to be realtime), and prepare for the end of your startup dreams…
Writing after the fact – after the company survived anyway – doesn’t count. Neither do such admissions from people who have absolution to make mistakes, which is anyone who’s already recognized as “a startup success” or who is funded.
I’ve seen Phil speak. Evernote is in the 1% of the 1% that launch, get funded, and actually go somewhere. He’s a brillant CEO and planner and I’ve also learned a lot from that talk.
HOWEVER the talk and his experiences (he’s not a founder of Evernote) is not about what I thought we were discussing here… He is the opposite, an experienced CEO, talking in the past tense about a (relatively, in Internet years) mature company on secure footing. I also saw some slides that had more detail than what you may have seen – but with the units removed…
It’s a great talk and he’s definitely someone to learn much from. But it’s not about founding a startup.
I love your blog Matt & am pleased to hear you encouraging startup founders to speak about their experiences. I started another blog a while back just for that purpose but also coz I’m a woman entrepreneur & want to have ‘a voice in the noise’. Would also love to offer other women entrepreneur’s ‘a voice in the noise’ so anyone who would like to guest post is very welcome http://www.ezebis.com
Keep up the good work Matt!
Here’s a prime example: I was lucky enough to attend the Fremmium Summit out in SF a few weeks back. The CEO of Evernote, Phil Libin, gave a talk on the metrics they keep a close eye on, and how they conduct their cohort analysis based on product iteration. Those intimate details changed the way I thought about how we implement our metrics tracking. Not because i was jealous of their success, but because they enlightened me into new ways of tracking our users to measure growth/profitability. Had he not shared those insights (whether at an event or on a blog) I would not have gleaned that info. He is in the trenches and his discussion was very much real time.
I think this is leading in two different directions:
1) As you are stating (which i fully agree with), reading about a couple of people that got into an incubator and had rocket jets put on their backs to speed them off the runway would not apply to the startups in the garage working off their own dime (with very limited resources and personal networks). But, at the same time, what’s to say that those same startups (the incubator funded ones) didn’t also deal with issues that any startup has to deal with? Hearing about how they (or any other startup regardless of funding) made it through, I think, is worthwhile.
2) More information is always better. The more we can read about other peoples/startups experiences can only help us further analyze our own startups (obviously distilling the information using your best judgement).
It’s like participating in a triathlon. You are going to train as much as possible, but don’t you think it’s worthwhile to hear about the experiences from previous participants?
Vin, the incentives aren’t aligned.
The “2 guys” have a need for information from someone with no need to share it.
Anyway, i was addressing the very real business risk of speaking honestly about the (big part of) starting up that is not all rainbows and flowers. There is a reason we only hear about this after the fact, and that’s why IMO most startup writing is pretty boring and repetitive, covering well-trod ground. Honestly, if two college dropouts are pulled into the Paul Graham vortex and because of that, get to launch rather than spend 50% of their time trying to survive, what can they teach anyone else? And if you’re in the 99% spending 50% of your time trying to survive, what do you dare admit to anyone else? The little inspirational tidbits look good in embroidery, and generally help take away the feeling that you’re the only one who’s ever gotten into a jam, but there’s a limit.
Frankly, there are no “bad days” in business, not publicly. Things had better be going great, or anything you say can and will be used against you. Can’t we be honest about that?
Tawheed, loved your post about launching Tout over the weekend. Find me on braintrust.
“You do know that for every 1 company that’s talked about, that receives even a smidgen of “look into it” money, there are probably (by my estimate but I’ve also heard this from others recently) 99 others that never see a penny, that are two guys and a laptop, trying really hard to make something.”
And those two guys with a laptop could probably learn a lot from some other guys that have gone through what they are facing…Hence, the need/value to share insights.
I’m a solo founder bootstrapping a company (yes I know, that puts me in the least sexiest of categories of founders) — but screw that, I truly believe I can make my product fly.
While trying all sorts of things to make my product fly, I’m regularly blogging about my journey, experiences and most importantly, I’m distilling my business decisions into a set of principles for other startups to follow.
You can read more at my blog: http://tawheedkader.com
Matt, your experiences have been good ones. You’re blogging about success, meetings with people most of us don’t meet with, even (give credit) good fortune.
Do you really think it’s realistic – be serious here – for someone to write that the 10th attempt at relaunching the big idea just fell over, or that 3 competitors with $$ just appeared, or that a co-founder (all unpaid) just bailed.
I have to say “no”. The contemporary tech bubble is powered by the magic of thinking happy thoughts… the same stuff that made Peter Pan fly (well, i think there was something in the tea they gave those kids, but nevermind that).
SERIOUSLY? You want the truth? The world can’t handle the truth and doesn’t want to hear it, except to use it as a tool against those sorry saps who might admit it…
Yes, i’ll sign my name to this and have a sinking feeling that even saying this much, is saying too much.
You do know that for every 1 company that’s talked about, that receives even a smidgen of “look into it” money, there are probably (by my estimate but I’ve also heard this from others recently) 99 others that never see a penny, that are two guys and a laptop, trying really hard to make something.
After reading my reply, I wanted to add this:
Entrepreneurs make those hypothesis’ (in a blog post or whatever).
Then, after the fact, review what they proposed and see what happened (didnt work out the right way, didnt account for some variables, exceeded expectations, etc).
But I do think that stating your intentions before you go through it, and then getting the feedback and involvement of other startup founders (and even VCs) will help guide you through the mini-undertaking (whatever it is you hypothesized) as well as provide invaluable information to others that may embark on a similar path.
Sachin, you raise a good point, but I couldnt help put those links there as I found their posts invaluable. And often times, an entrepreneur thats currently working on a startup will do the same, after they have gone through that trench. I can understand the trepidation of someone that doesnt want to share “real time” experiences for a couple of reasons:
1) prevent competitors from learning their secrets (lame and paranoid)
2) fear of being wrong after the fact (also somewhat lame but understandable)
It’s also helpful to back up a hypothesis with the actual results, which means we’ll be reading after-the-fact information.
Regardless, i think we are on the same page that we want more content from entrepreneurs.
VERY good point.
Looking at Vin Turk’s examples (Mark Suster, Eric Reis, Andrew Chen, Steve Blank), I think it is necessary to identify a key differentiation. All of these guys talk about their experiences in the past-tense. It’s a lot easier to write compelling, transparent posts after the fact, because you don’t have to worry about the reputation of the company. Also, you have way more time to reflect.
Hell no. Everyone should blog. The more information in the marketplace the better.
Do you have a preference for the rookie entrepreneurs or veteran entrepreneurs?
I’m thinking maybe i should do more at http://philmichaelson.com