When you start a company, you are usually in one of two camps: a veteran who has worked at multiple startups and knows the monster challenge you're up against OR a first timer who has limited startup experience but an abundance of passion for the idea you want to solve. In both cases, there's always a lot to learn, but for the strength and vitality of an ecosystem, it's particularly important how we handle educating the first timers.
Boston has a habit of being a cynical town. We love our hard data and empirical proof. We sometimes dwell more on what's not working than what does. This can often help improve your product, your environment or yourself, but as Rob May so accutely noted, it can be even more beneficial to push harder on what is working.
Looking around the Boston startup community, there's much to be positive about. It's just hiding under the surface and not being highlighted nearly as much as our deficiencies lately.
Here at Greenhorn Connect, we're all about empowering the community, so since no single person could hope to know all the good things happening in town, I'm asking for your help in building a list of things to celebrate and be proud of in our ecosystem.
In the Sunday Globe this week, Scott Kirsner posed the question, "Does Boston Have Too Many Startups?" The article seemed to try to make the argument that all our little startups should just be employees at bigger startups (disregarding how bigger startups, start out...).
The article is really best summed up in the quote in the article by Craig Driscoll, "companies that hope to grow need to do more than complain about how tight the talent market is." I find it fitting that coincidentally, Ryan Durkin, COO of CampusLive (and mentee of Mr. Driscoll as a Highland Capital portfolio company) writes about attracting talent today.
Watching the startup world evolve over the past couple of years, I've noticed an interesting trend. Despite all our improvements and changes over this time, New York has drawn most of the attention after the omnipresent Silicon Valley. Like the entertaining comedian of the '80s and '90s, it seems we've become akin to Rodney Dangerfield (best known for his standup and role in Caddyshack): we get no respect.
One of the challenges every startup faces is not enough time to get everything done. There's always more you wish you could do. Especially in the early stages, you're particularly resource constrained, which means that getting more done, faster, is essential. In talking with a friend earlier this week, I shared some tips that I've found help me get things done.
In the frenzy that is the current state of startups and entrepreneurship in Boston and beyond, it's easy to get caught up in the noise and forget what matters most. While the thought of building a company is romantic to many, the reality is that it's filled with many late nights (and early mornings) more ups and downs than you can count and a lot of hard work. The dreams of big paydays and magazine covers is only a temporary fuel that will not last. Getting through all the challenges is fueled by one key source: Passion.
In our interconnected world, you can start a company anywhere. (If you're reading this post, there's a great chance you're a local Boston entrepreneur, so cheers!) Wherever you locate your company, you shouldn't have concrete feet. You can do a lot of good for your company by not only getting outside the building of your startup, but occassionally getting outside your ecosystem you're in. That means being Tri-Coastal.
In startups, it's all about the team. Ideas change, business models change and even roles can change, but the hope is that you can build a core team that is lasting. From the first step of finding a good co-founder to adding key members to your early team, it's a good idea to have a framework for what you're looking for. What I look for are the 3 C's: Chemistry, Competence and Customer Focus.
Running a startup puts a ton of responsibilities on your plate. From marketing to sales, ghetto-HR to accounting, development to project management, you're wearing a million hats. We all know that Lean Startups methodology and customer development are important, but *actually practicing* it can be hard (if you're not familiar run to CustDev.com *right now* and get Brant and Patrick's book The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development ASAP!).
As you commit yourself to "getting outside the building" to talk to your customers and truly quest for Product-Market Fit, it's essential you make the most of those discussions. One of the hardest things for newcomers to customer development is structuring their questions for customer development, so I'd like share how I structure interviews to maximize their effectiveness.