Sunday, April 30, 2006

Startup School: Fun but Disappointing

A lot of interesting people showed up for Startup School and it was a fun experience. In fact, I even got to shake Tim O'Reilly's hand, which was kind of cool. However, I didn't learn anything and considering I sat through 7 afternoon speakers over 4 hours I was pretty disappointed. Furthermore, while several decent points were made including:
  1. stealth mode is overrated
  2. get your software out there early
  3. your website should clearly communicate what you do
  4. develop new improvements by listening to customer feedback
...but these are relatively basic points and each speaker seemed to say essentially the same thing. I will give Paul Graham points, his talk was clearly the best, but while the other afternoon speakers were interesting they were not educational. Furthermore, in a somewhat shocking and dangerously misleading series of statements Caterina Fake admitted that the Flickr founders didn't do any market research or have any idea who the dominant photo sharing competitors were when they launched... I really hope nobody in the audience took Ms. Fake's example as one to be emulated. Some startups will get lucky but as Dharmesh Shah has written most startups need to build real businesses and examples like Flickr can be very misleading as to how successful startups are built.

A little bit more organization and preparation would have gone a long way. The startup school organizers simply should have asked the speakers to prepare specific unique topics in their areas of expertise such as:
  • Tim O'Reilly & Om Malik on evangelism
  • Paul Graham on what investors look for in a startup
  • Chris Sacca on what Google looks for in an acquisition
  • Josh Schachter on determining when a hacking project can become a business
  • Caterina Fake on viral growth strategies
This kind or organization would have allowed the speakers to go into a bit more detail on their topics and provide the audience with a better educational experience rather than having 7 high level presentations that were largely redundant.

Lastly, the event title really needs to be changed to the "Consumer Web Startup School" because I didn't see a reference to B2B products all afternoon. Building consumer and B2B businesses are different and that point may have been lost on less experienced entrepreneurs.
Overall I'm glad that I attended the event but I was disappointed that it definitely did not live up to its full potential.


At May 01, 2006 7:25 AM, Anonymous Dharmesh Shah said...

Thanks for your notes on the Startup School. I was registered to attend, but couldn't make it.

Paul Graham posted an article summarizing his presentation (the article is great).

Quick note: My first name is "Dharmesh" (extra "h" after the D). You have a typo in the article.

At May 01, 2006 9:27 AM, Blogger Andrew Fife said...

Dharmesh: sorry about the typo, its fixed now.

Also, I decided that I was too harsh regarding the speakers so I changed the "not worth listening to" to "interesting but not educational."


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