StartupDigest at Cal Poly


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A talk I gave at Cal Poly.

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  • I was to talk about what startups are all about but first I want to step back and go over the basics. Partially because no one explained this to me in the beginning and partially because its good to define this for myself.
  • First I’ll give you a little background on myself and why I am here today. Here’s what I do. I started a company called StartupDigest after I graduated from Cal Poly. Basically we provided curated information to people in the tech startup world via email newsletters. This includes 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. Overlayed 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.
  • We get all of our information from curators who are either founders, hackers, or investors themselves living in the city or market they cover. They are the ones who pick the best information out, this is how we can publish over 80 curated targeted newsletters. 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.
  • Our team also likes to have fun
  • And throw parties
  • We live and work out of a sweet place in palo alto which ironically enough is on the same street Mark Zuckerberg lives.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I like funny cat images
  • Now lets move from learning to application. Here is a glimpse of how you apply these concepts to begin to start a company.
  • 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 will take an idea live right now and make the first “MVP” in front of you.
  • 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.
  • Here are some things I would suggest doing afterwards.
  • Extra slides just in case.
  • StartupDigest at Cal Poly

    1. 1. “Life is too short to work at a boring company”<br />Cal Poly | September 28, 2011<br />
    2. 2. Background<br />Learning<br />What is entrepreneurship<br />Multiple subjects<br />Why learning computer science is important<br />Application<br />Minimal viable product<br />Real world example<br />
    3. 3. StartupDigest<br />
    4. 4.
    5. 5.
    6. 6.
    7. 7.
    8. 8. Learn<br />
    9. 9. Normal Path<br />
    10. 10. Entrepreneurship<br />
    11. 11. Entrepreneurship is a game about learning<br />
    12. 12. Multidisciplinary <br />Engineering<br />Computer science, Thermodynamics, <br />Design<br />Contrast, alignment, <br />Psychology<br />Social proof, reciprocity<br />Mathematics<br />Statistics, power law, <br />Business<br />Accounting, economics<br />
    13. 13. Engineering*<br />Easier: Engineering > Business<br />Harder: Business > Engineering<br />Absolute must of you are doing an internet company<br />
    14. 14.
    15. 15. Application<br />
    16. 16. Minimal Viable Product<br />Absolute simplest & efficient way to test a hypothesis.<br />while Traction is not True:<br /> Idea = Hypothesis Experiment = Market<br />Traction = True or False<br /> Idea + Experiment = Traction<br />
    17. 17. Real Experiment<br />
    18. 18. Caution<br />MVP is not a startup, it’s step 0<br />
    19. 19. Action Items<br />Take 1 class not related to your major or watch Khan Academy<br />Try one Minimal Viable Product<br />Work at something you are excited about this summer, think about what that is now.<br />
    20. 20. “Life is too short to work at a boring company”<br /><br />
    21. 21. What is traction?<br />How does SD make money?<br />Do I need to raise money?<br />What’s next after the MVP?<br />Do I need to move to Silicon Valley?<br />How else can I get started now?<br />Questions?<br /><br />How do I learn about new subjects?<br />Who taught you the multidisciplinary learning?<br />How do I learn programming?<br />What if my advisors won’t let me take other classes?<br />