Startup DNA
The formula behind successful startups in Silicon Valley
Startup DNA
The formula behind successful startups in Silicon Valley
About me
Yevgeniy Brikman
ybrikman.com | @brikis98 | brikis98.blogspot.com
Worked at a couple successful startups:
LinkedIn, TripAd...
Who I'm not
● I'm not Paul Graham, Reid Hoffman, Dave
McClure, Marc Andreessen (sorry)
● I don't own a company
● I'm a "ra...
What I offer is a different perspective:
"from the trenches"
Wrote a book about what I learned
www.hello-startup.net
These are my personal observations on a
few traits that make startups successful.
Outline
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distributio...
Outline
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distributio...
"Make excellent mistakes"
Dan Pink [1]
The road to startup success is paved with failure
Failed projects
● Answers
● Events
● Tweets
● Github
● Countless other experiments that never
made it past a "dark launch"
● Beacon
● Places
● Deals
● Credits
● Questions
● Lite
● Email
● Wave
● Buzz
● Labs
● Health
● Knol
● Catalog
● Video
● Answers
The Pivot
● Started as a way to share images in Game
Neverending, a massively multiplayer online
game.
● Rewritten to focus on photo...
● Started out as burbn, an HTML5 mobile app
for location-based social networking with
photo sharing as one of many feature...
Twitter
● Started out as odeo, a site to create and
share podcasts
● Struggling to stay alive, they held a
hackathon. Jack...
"Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying
will eventually make you look like an overnight
success."
Biz Stone [2]
The Failure
Richard Branson
● Virgin Clothes failed
● Virgin Cola failed
● Virgin Vision failed
● Virgin Vodka failed
● Virgin Wine fa...
"I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways
that won’t work."
Thomas Edison
Reid Hoffman
● His first startup was Socialnet.com: a social
network for dating.
● Never heard of it? Exactly.
● Went on t...
"If you're not failing every now and again, it's a
sign you're not doing anything very innovative."
Woody Allen
Note: these are not failures, but experiments.
The goal of an experiment is learning.
Outline
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distributio...
Boyd's Law of Iteration:
"Speed of iteration beats quality of iteration."
Roger Session [3]
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (assumption)
Idea
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (reality)
Idea
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (reality)
Idea
A very large portion of development
time ...
In a trial and error world, getting to errors
faster is the key to success.
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (technology comparison)
Dynamic/interpreted
languages
St...
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (technology comparison)
Idea
Dynamic/interpreted
languag...
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (technology comparison)
Idea
Boyd’s Law
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (technology comparison)
Idea
Dynamic/interpreted
languag...
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (framework comparison)
Idea
RoR, Play Spring MVC, Servle...
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (methodology comparison)
Idea
Agile, Lean Waterfall
Inno...
"If you're not embarrassed by your first release,
you've launched too late."
Reid Hoffman
Outline
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distributio...
"Speed wins"
Stephen Kaufer
Fundamental idea behind Agile and Lean:
some of your assumptions wrong.
The problem is, you don’t know which ones.
Winners recognize their startup “vision” as a
series of untested hypotheses in need of
“customer proof.”
Steve Blank [4]
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (reality)
Idea
“customer proof”
“The only way to win is to learn faster than
anyone else.”
Eric Ries [5]
Time
Maturity
Mature, stable
Proof of concept
Product development (technology comparison)
Idea
Faster learning
Speed wins strategy: design experiments that
offer maximal learning at a minimal cost
Minimum Viable Product
Henrik Kinberg [6]
Change the code See the result
Should be as close to 0 as possible
Rapid Prototyping
Demo
● jsfiddle
● Firebug
● Developer tools
● apigee
● JavaScript API Console
● CodeKit
"A programming language is for thinking of
programs, not for expressing programs you've
already thought of."
Paul Graham [...
Leverage
● Always, always, always google first
● "There's an open source library for that"
● Many minds are better than on...
Demo
● Startup Resources
● node.js modules
● ruby toolbox
● github
● google fonts
● lorem ipsum
● placekitten
“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat
small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”
Rupert Murdoch
Outline
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distributio...
"If you can't measure it, you can't fix it."
DJ Patil
Fundamental idea behind Agile and Lean:
some of your assumptions wrong.
You need data to separate the right
from the wrong.
inGraphs
Server metrics
inGraphs
Database metrics
inGraphs
Client-side metrics
Profile metrics
Activity metrics
Bug metrics
Build metrics
Test metrics
Measure everything.
LiX
LinkedIn Experimentation Platform
LiX
● Group members into buckets
● Control feature visibility by bucket
● A/B testing
● Feature ramps: dark launch, 1%, 10...
Subscriptions
Bucket A
Subscriptions
Bucket B
Subscriptions
Bucket C
Subscriptions
Bucket D
Picking the right image for a given
user significantly increased CTR
"Web 3.0 will be about data."
Reid Hoffman
Outline
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distributio...
Products do NOT sell themselves.
"Poor distribution - not product - is the number
one cause of failure."
Peter Thiel [8]
All credit goes to Peter Thiel [8] and Adam Nash [9]
Common distribution channels
Sales
● Dedicated sales team: LinkedIn
● Employees as sales team: Square
● CEO as sales team: Palantir [8]
● Competitions,...
Email
● No one likes spam, but email can work:
personalized, universal, measurable.
● Direct marketing emails: very low CT...
Year in Review Email
CTRs so high, it was "clicks-per-email"!
Facebook photo tagging email
My personal CTR on these is 100%.
SEO
● Free, measurable, effective
● LinkedIn: public profiles, public groups,
LinkedIn Today, LinkedIn influencers
● TripA...
TripAdvisor SEO
One of the top search results for almost any hotel
LinkedIn SEO
"Professional profile of record"
Social
● Put it in the stream
● Social gestures: comments, likes, votes
● Just like email spam, the feed is becoming
flood...
Media
● Blogs, news sites: techcrunch, mashable,
huffpost, wired, and many others
● Newspapers, magazines, TV
● Huge reach...
Build relationships with the media
Marketing
● Traditional ads: TV, print ads, billboards.
Expensive, hard to measure, and rarely used
by startups.
● Online ...
Viral Marketing
● Your users attract more users
● Game theory, psychology, sociology
● Free, often measurable (tracking co...
Viral loops must be built into the product.
All credit goes to Adam Nash [10] and Rahul Vohra [11]
Key Viral Marketing Concepts
● Viral loops: in my product, where do users
interact with non-users?
● Viral factor: how man...
People You May Know (PYMK)
Invite notification shows up via email, web UI, and mobile. When
the other member accepts the i...
Twitter @mentions
Notification shows up via email, web UI, and mobile
Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools
Essential tools for measuring the performance of your
distribution channels (measure ev...
The best product doesn't always win.
The best distribution wins
● Betamax vs. VHS [12]
● Apple vs. Microsoft (early 90's) [13]
● TiVo vs. DVR [14]
● Netscape v...
Outline
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distributio...
Silicon Valley companies share (almost)
everything.
Share Everything
● Papers: MapReduce [16], Dynamo [17]
● Open Source: Hadoop [18], Voldemort [19]
● Hardware: OpenCompute ...
Open
Source
SpeakingWriting
Why?
Mastery: the best way to learn, is to teach.
Better code & products: the house is cleanest just before guests arrive
Free labor: free QA, free documentation, free bug fixes, ...
Publicity: recognition for the company and its employees
Happier employees: something they keep forever
"If I have seen further it is by standing on
the shoulders of giants."
Isaac Newton
This is why I'm here today.
Please share your feedback and experiences
with me!
Recap
1. Make excellent mistakes
2. Boyd’s law
3. Speed wins
4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it
5. Distribution
...
For more info, check out my book
www.hello-startup.net
Questions?
References
1. The Adventures of Johnny Bunko
2. http://www.bizstone.com/2010/09/timing-lessons.html
3. https://msdn.micros...
Startup DNA
Startup DNA
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Startup DNA: the formula behind successful startups in Silicon Valley. These are my personal observations on a few traits that make startups successful. For more info, check out my book "Hello, Startup: A Programmer's Guide to Building Products, Technologies, and Teams" at http://www.hello-startup.net.

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Startup DNA

  1. 1. Startup DNA The formula behind successful startups in Silicon Valley
  2. 2. Startup DNA The formula behind successful startups in Silicon Valley
  3. 3. About me
  4. 4. Yevgeniy Brikman ybrikman.com | @brikis98 | brikis98.blogspot.com Worked at a couple successful startups: LinkedIn, TripAdvisor Built a lot of stuff: Enterprise products, hiring tools, scalable infrastructure, company culture, engineering branding, travel apps, VoIP software, innovation programs. Who I am
  5. 5. Who I'm not ● I'm not Paul Graham, Reid Hoffman, Dave McClure, Marc Andreessen (sorry) ● I don't own a company ● I'm a "rank amateur"
  6. 6. What I offer is a different perspective: "from the trenches"
  7. 7. Wrote a book about what I learned www.hello-startup.net
  8. 8. These are my personal observations on a few traits that make startups successful.
  9. 9. Outline 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  10. 10. Outline 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  11. 11. "Make excellent mistakes" Dan Pink [1]
  12. 12. The road to startup success is paved with failure
  13. 13. Failed projects
  14. 14. ● Answers ● Events ● Tweets ● Github ● Countless other experiments that never made it past a "dark launch"
  15. 15. ● Beacon ● Places ● Deals ● Credits ● Questions ● Lite ● Email
  16. 16. ● Wave ● Buzz ● Labs ● Health ● Knol ● Catalog ● Video ● Answers
  17. 17. The Pivot
  18. 18. ● Started as a way to share images in Game Neverending, a massively multiplayer online game. ● Rewritten to focus on photo sharing ● Acquired by Yahoo for $35m in 2005
  19. 19. ● Started out as burbn, an HTML5 mobile app for location-based social networking with photo sharing as one of many features ● Completely rewritten as a photo sharing focused native app ● Sold to facebook for $1bn in 2012
  20. 20. Twitter ● Started out as odeo, a site to create and share podcasts ● Struggling to stay alive, they held a hackathon. Jack Dorsey proposed the microblogging concept (originally, text message only). ● 500m users and $10b valuation in 2012
  21. 21. "Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success." Biz Stone [2]
  22. 22. The Failure
  23. 23. Richard Branson ● Virgin Clothes failed ● Virgin Cola failed ● Virgin Vision failed ● Virgin Vodka failed ● Virgin Wine failed ● Virgin Jeans failed ● Virgin Cars failed ● ... and many others failed ● ... but several hundred others succeeded
  24. 24. "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work." Thomas Edison
  25. 25. Reid Hoffman ● His first startup was Socialnet.com: a social network for dating. ● Never heard of it? Exactly. ● Went on to become COO of Paypal, co- founder of LinkedIn, and one of the most successful angel investors of the last decade.
  26. 26. "If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative." Woody Allen
  27. 27. Note: these are not failures, but experiments. The goal of an experiment is learning.
  28. 28. Outline 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  29. 29. Boyd's Law of Iteration: "Speed of iteration beats quality of iteration." Roger Session [3]
  30. 30. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (assumption) Idea
  31. 31. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (reality) Idea
  32. 32. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (reality) Idea A very large portion of development time is trial and error
  33. 33. In a trial and error world, getting to errors faster is the key to success.
  34. 34. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (technology comparison) Dynamic/interpreted languages Static languages Idea
  35. 35. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (technology comparison) Idea Dynamic/interpreted languages Static languages Find error Find error
  36. 36. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (technology comparison) Idea Boyd’s Law
  37. 37. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (technology comparison) Idea Dynamic/interpreted languages Static languages Innovation Advantage
  38. 38. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (framework comparison) Idea RoR, Play Spring MVC, Servlets Innovation Advantage
  39. 39. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (methodology comparison) Idea Agile, Lean Waterfall Innovation Advantage
  40. 40. "If you're not embarrassed by your first release, you've launched too late." Reid Hoffman
  41. 41. Outline 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  42. 42. "Speed wins" Stephen Kaufer
  43. 43. Fundamental idea behind Agile and Lean: some of your assumptions wrong.
  44. 44. The problem is, you don’t know which ones.
  45. 45. Winners recognize their startup “vision” as a series of untested hypotheses in need of “customer proof.” Steve Blank [4]
  46. 46. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (reality) Idea “customer proof”
  47. 47. “The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” Eric Ries [5]
  48. 48. Time Maturity Mature, stable Proof of concept Product development (technology comparison) Idea Faster learning
  49. 49. Speed wins strategy: design experiments that offer maximal learning at a minimal cost
  50. 50. Minimum Viable Product Henrik Kinberg [6]
  51. 51. Change the code See the result Should be as close to 0 as possible Rapid Prototyping
  52. 52. Demo ● jsfiddle ● Firebug ● Developer tools ● apigee ● JavaScript API Console ● CodeKit
  53. 53. "A programming language is for thinking of programs, not for expressing programs you've already thought of." Paul Graham [7]
  54. 54. Leverage ● Always, always, always google first ● "There's an open source library for that" ● Many minds are better than one ● Bonus: learn from the code
  55. 55. Demo ● Startup Resources ● node.js modules ● ruby toolbox ● github ● google fonts ● lorem ipsum ● placekitten
  56. 56. “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” Rupert Murdoch
  57. 57. Outline 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  58. 58. "If you can't measure it, you can't fix it." DJ Patil
  59. 59. Fundamental idea behind Agile and Lean: some of your assumptions wrong. You need data to separate the right from the wrong.
  60. 60. inGraphs Server metrics
  61. 61. inGraphs Database metrics
  62. 62. inGraphs Client-side metrics
  63. 63. Profile metrics
  64. 64. Activity metrics
  65. 65. Bug metrics
  66. 66. Build metrics
  67. 67. Test metrics
  68. 68. Measure everything.
  69. 69. LiX LinkedIn Experimentation Platform
  70. 70. LiX ● Group members into buckets ● Control feature visibility by bucket ● A/B testing ● Feature ramps: dark launch, 1%, 10%, 100%
  71. 71. Subscriptions Bucket A
  72. 72. Subscriptions Bucket B
  73. 73. Subscriptions Bucket C
  74. 74. Subscriptions Bucket D
  75. 75. Picking the right image for a given user significantly increased CTR
  76. 76. "Web 3.0 will be about data." Reid Hoffman
  77. 77. Outline 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  78. 78. Products do NOT sell themselves.
  79. 79. "Poor distribution - not product - is the number one cause of failure." Peter Thiel [8]
  80. 80. All credit goes to Peter Thiel [8] and Adam Nash [9] Common distribution channels
  81. 81. Sales ● Dedicated sales team: LinkedIn ● Employees as sales team: Square ● CEO as sales team: Palantir [8] ● Competitions, grants: SpaceX [8]
  82. 82. Email ● No one likes spam, but email can work: personalized, universal, measurable. ● Direct marketing emails: very low CTR ● Product emails: built into to product interactions. Far better CTRs.
  83. 83. Year in Review Email CTRs so high, it was "clicks-per-email"!
  84. 84. Facebook photo tagging email My personal CTR on these is 100%.
  85. 85. SEO ● Free, measurable, effective ● LinkedIn: public profiles, public groups, LinkedIn Today, LinkedIn influencers ● TripAdvisor: the vast majority of TripAdvisor traffic comes from Google
  86. 86. TripAdvisor SEO One of the top search results for almost any hotel
  87. 87. LinkedIn SEO "Professional profile of record"
  88. 88. Social ● Put it in the stream ● Social gestures: comments, likes, votes ● Just like email spam, the feed is becoming flooded
  89. 89. Media ● Blogs, news sites: techcrunch, mashable, huffpost, wired, and many others ● Newspapers, magazines, TV ● Huge reach and a great way to bring in many users in a short time
  90. 90. Build relationships with the media
  91. 91. Marketing ● Traditional ads: TV, print ads, billboards. Expensive, hard to measure, and rarely used by startups. ● Online ads: CTR, CPM, SEM. Measure everything!
  92. 92. Viral Marketing ● Your users attract more users ● Game theory, psychology, sociology ● Free, often measurable (tracking codes)
  93. 93. Viral loops must be built into the product. All credit goes to Adam Nash [10] and Rahul Vohra [11]
  94. 94. Key Viral Marketing Concepts ● Viral loops: in my product, where do users interact with non-users? ● Viral factor: how many non-users do they reach per viral interaction? ● Cycle time: how often do these viral interactions occur?
  95. 95. People You May Know (PYMK) Invite notification shows up via email, web UI, and mobile. When the other member accepts the invite, we show them PYMK too!
  96. 96. Twitter @mentions Notification shows up via email, web UI, and mobile
  97. 97. Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools Essential tools for measuring the performance of your distribution channels (measure everything!)
  98. 98. The best product doesn't always win.
  99. 99. The best distribution wins ● Betamax vs. VHS [12] ● Apple vs. Microsoft (early 90's) [13] ● TiVo vs. DVR [14] ● Netscape vs. IE [15]
  100. 100. Outline 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  101. 101. Silicon Valley companies share (almost) everything.
  102. 102. Share Everything ● Papers: MapReduce [16], Dynamo [17] ● Open Source: Hadoop [18], Voldemort [19] ● Hardware: OpenCompute [20] ● Companies: Red Hat [21], Mozilla [22]
  103. 103. Open Source SpeakingWriting
  104. 104. Why?
  105. 105. Mastery: the best way to learn, is to teach.
  106. 106. Better code & products: the house is cleanest just before guests arrive
  107. 107. Free labor: free QA, free documentation, free bug fixes, ...
  108. 108. Publicity: recognition for the company and its employees
  109. 109. Happier employees: something they keep forever
  110. 110. "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton
  111. 111. This is why I'm here today. Please share your feedback and experiences with me!
  112. 112. Recap 1. Make excellent mistakes 2. Boyd’s law 3. Speed wins 4. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it 5. Distribution 6. Sharing
  113. 113. For more info, check out my book www.hello-startup.net
  114. 114. Questions?
  115. 115. References 1. The Adventures of Johnny Bunko 2. http://www.bizstone.com/2010/09/timing-lessons.html 3. https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa479371.aspx 4. The Startup Owner’s Manual 5. The Lean Startup 6. http://blog.crisp.se/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/unproject.pdf 7. http://www.paulgraham.com/hp.html 8. http://blakemasters.com/post/22405055017/peter-thiels-cs183-startup-class-9-notes-essay 9. http://blog.adamnash.com/2012/03/28/user-acquisition-five-sources-of-traffic/ 10. http://blog.adamnash.com/2012/04/04/user-acquisition-viral-factor-basics/ 11. http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121002124206-18876785-how-to-model-viral-growth-the-hybrid-model 12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videotape_format_war 13. http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/9FD12E37-8DC7-4AD1-872F-2021BEDE6D96.html 14. http://www.quora.com/TiVo/Why-did-TiVo-fail 15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Browser_wars 16. http://research.google.com/archive/mapreduce.html 17. http://www.read.seas.harvard.edu/~kohler/class/cs239-w08/decandia07dynamo.pdf 18. http://hadoop.apache.org/ 19. http://www.project-voldemort.com/voldemort/ 20. http://www.opencompute.org/ 21. http://www.redhat.com/ 22. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/
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