Going to focus talking to the founder side. If you want to talk to the educator side talk to xxxxxxxx, I lectured them for awhile. But what everyone hopefully will take away from this is the thought process and a brief snapshot of what the entrepreneurship lifestyle is
I don’t speak Spanish. For everyone this is being translated to this might come out a little weird and it doesn’t help that I tend to talk really fast. But I’ll try to talk slow and hope it comes out good for everyone. All of my experiences and this talk is about high-growth startups. High-growth startups are ones that hope to make a huge impact on the entire world. Contrast that to small businesses or consulting firms which want to provide a livable income. There are many other types of businesses like licensing, family, franchises, etc. Neither one is better than another, actually I take that back, it kind of depends what viewpoint you are looking at it from. The Kauffman Foundation, a huge foundation for entrepreneurship in the US who also gave us some money did a big study and found out that high-growth startups made up .01% of the companies started in the US but accounted for nearly all job growth in the US. Last two words of caution and these will be quicker: I’m not University educated in most of the topics I cover and I’ll come back to this later. And lastly some of these concepts might be challenging to the current education system. All I ask is you keep an open mind and at least think about the implications before you dismiss them.
Now some background on me a 24 your old is on stage lecturing you who might be around my age or professors who should be telling me what to do. I graduated college in June 2009. Story of SD
Today StartupDigest has grown to be much bigger than what it originally started out as. Now we cover the best events to meet others like you, articles that help you learn about new markets, and resources to help you get better at specific skills. Overlaid behind our logo is our member growth chart over the last 2 years. Keep in mind this was squished to fit the slide + I used a smoothed line to represent growth over time.
Always better to give real examples and see it visually as opposed to just hearing about it. Here are three curators for us and what they curator
In total we have over 100 curators all over the world who curate the StartupDigest. This is how we get the best information about the startup world from all over the world. Displayed here are the US curators on the top and the international curators on the bottom. I left out all the market and skill based curators since those aren’t broken up by geography.
And here are all the 81 digests we do ordered by most subscribed to lowest subscribed. If you know the mathematical concept of “Power Law” it fits this quite nicely. You might have heard of the phrase 20% of the effort generates 80% of the results. The concept of Power Law is why you usually see major inequity in all societies and natural systems. If you’re interested more into about that research the concept “Power Law” it’s really facinating.
Now lets do a short segment on some fun stuff
Here Is some of our team members, me my co-founder and our engineer, just having fun on a random work day. We wanted a team picture so here is what we came up with.
We also like to throw a bunch of parties at our house. This is actually our house/office in Palo Alto. We have a big pool in the back, this was from our flip cup tournament a drinking game in the US.
We live and work out of a sweet place in Palo alto which ironically enough is on the same street Mark Zuckerberg lives.
Now it’s time to teach you some things I learned and I wish I knew before starting college then we can get into some more fun things.
My first example is I want to give you contrast between a normal life and an entrepreneurial life. In normal life you come to Cal Poly after you’ve gotten good grades, you pick a major, do well in your classes, interview for a job, work at your job which is usually in a cubicle, be content with your job, and have some clarity on where you want to go in life. Things can change and some people could win but you have an idea of where you are going. It’s very similar to having a map and knowing the destination of where you want to go.
Contrast this to the entrepreneurial life where it is like having a blank canvas and you need to come up with not only where you want to go, but how you will get there, what it will look like, if there is even a map in the first place. It’s terribly freighting and can have huge ups and downs because in this path its up to you. People can help you but no one will tell you where you need to go. This path is absolutely terrifying for most people to justify to themselves internally. Just think about a blank paper in front of you and needing to create a compelling story in a short timeframe.
The absolute beginning of a startup is a minimal viable product. A minimal viable product is the way you quickly test if you should continue an initial idea or not. You idea is really your hypothesis in why you think something should be different, you test it against the market, and it is either going to output traction or it isn’t. As long as your idea doesn’t lead to traction you keep changing your idea (aka pivot) because it would be very hard to change the market. If the market does swing in your favor that’s how you can get rapidly fast traction, but very very hard to predict market swings. Side note – Your initial idea follows chaos theory, which means the initial value of it matters significantly for the outcome, but the only value of it is the initial variable.
I always get this question afterwards so I am going to answer it now. The MVP is only step 0, an MVP is not a startup. There are many many things you need to do and get right afterwards but I can’t talk about them here nor do I know all of them. Remember its your blank canvas and you need to figure out what you want on it.
Thus entrepreneurship is about learning every aspect of how you can construct a canvas, the types of art techniques you can use, and the process in which to do that. Hopefully what comes out is a beautiful painting afterwards but art is about the learning process, not just the piece afterwards.
Entrepreneurship is also just not about learning, it’s about multidisciplinary learning. It’s best to prove this using an example.
To step back for a minute and talk about learning, real learning is about multidisciplinary learning. The problem with singular learning is if you learned just one of these disciplines very well, everything will look like it can be solved by that discipline alone. Life isn’t that easy, you need to be able to look at things from multiple disciplines which you have internalized enough to make useful. Here is just a sample subset of the things you should be aware of and at least know the basics and have a firm grasp of. If you don’t know any one of these you will be not equipped for battle: It’s like having a gun without armor on.
I am going to especially point out engineering as a vital skill going forward in life. It is much easier for an engineer to pick up business skills than a business guy to pick up engineering skills. This is especially important if you are doing an internet company, you absolutely must know the basics. I’m not just talking for talking sake either, I personally learned how to code first in python than made a Django app. I’ve pushed code to our github and sever which is on an ec2 instance. I’ve broke things and had our engineers yell at me, but I’m not afraid to get dirty.
Side note – Best way to learn new skills outside of the classroom.
I wish I knew this before going into college, but there are some things college does really well for entrepreneurship and some it doesn’t add much too. This might be upsetting to current administrators but this is just what I’ve observed personally and through my friends.University doesn’t help with developing skills. Sure it gives you a general baseline education which is awesome but it’s not going to give you all the specialized skills you need to start a company. University isn’t going to give you funding, users, customers, or anything business tangible. And University won’t even give you a path to reach these things. The reason is the market is constantly changing and it’s really really hard to teach these subjects. But what University does really really well are some things you might not expect. Team – University forces you to be surrounded by people who are like you and are in similar positions to you. One of the most important things you can do is find others who are interested in starting companies and become friends with them. Secondly the situation of being in college is extremely important for starting companies. Typically when you attend college you don’t have huge debts like a house you own, you’re not married and you have few responsibilities, and your appetite for risk is quite high. You can completely fail and still get a job, there is very little marginal risk. And the last thing college gives you is time. College gives you lots of time (4-5 years) to be completely curious and learn things which might not be applicable to you right now and it gives time for serendipity. Maybe by luck and chance you can meet other co-founders like you, be interested in similar problems, and start something together. No other place than University is better for these 3 things.
I like funny cat images
Here are some things I would suggest doing afterwards.
Extra slides just in case.
We could talk about fun stuff all night long but now its time to actually learn something. It’s time to eat your vegetables in order to get your desert. First I am going to talk about some of the history of Silicon Valley just to give you some context on what life is like there.
Even before I talk about this slide California went through a “Gold Rush” period where 100,000 of people left everything they had and moved to California for the dream of striking it rich (sound familiar?). Leland Stanford helped build the US railroad system which made him billions of dollars and was known as a “Robber Barron” of his time. This was the guy who started Stanford University after his son Leland Junior Stanford who died prematurely because of typhoid fever.
Fast forward a bit even early on the faculty and administration used to invest in promising students which led to the start of Bell Labs, HP, and one of the most important companies Shockley semiconductor. Aside from the fact that Shockley invented the first semi-conductor which led to the birth of “silicon valley” the team of this company went on to fund and start fairchild semiconductor which went on to start and fund intel, and so on and so on. You see this repeat over and over again, you see it with Paypal and Google and Facebook where the founders and early employees of these companies go on to start many others and fund all of there friends who are starting companies from it
I could talk about history forever but that would bore you so moving fast forward to present day Silicon Valley here are some of the cultures and ideals people in SV believe in that help make it a special place
“Life is too short to work at a boring company” Colombia | October 6, 2011
What Startup Life is like Game MVP’s Multidisciplinary learning What University gives you Not what you expect Questions Short explanation of Silicon Valley Past / History Present / Culture
Words of Caution Yo no habloEspañol This is about high growth tech startups I am not university trained in all the topics I bring up Some of this might be challenging to the current education model
Minimal Viable Product Absolute simplest & efficient way to test a hypothesis. while Traction is not True: Idea = Hypothesis Experiment = Market Traction = True or False Idea + Experiment = Traction
Action Items Take 1 class not related to your major or watch Khan Academy Try one Minimal Viable Product Work at something you are excited about this summer, think about what that is now.
“Life is too short to work at a boring company” www.startupdigest.com
What is traction? How does SD make money? Do I need to raise money? What’s next after the MVP? Do I need to move to Silicon Valley? How else can I get started now? Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org How do I learn about new subjects? Who taught you the multidisciplinary learning? How do I learn programming? What if my advisors won’t let me take other classes?