Liz Gannes recaps a talk on a high-flying startup whose CEO was remarkably candid in a recent speech. What’s particularly interesting is this same CEO wrote a much reach piece entitled Ten Rules for Web Startups (see excerpts below). Here’s the list of screw-ups…
Williams went through a tidy list of the top five Odeo screw-ups:
- “Trying to build too much” – Odeo set out to be a podcasting company with no focus beyond that.
- “Not building for people like ourselves” – For example, Williams doesn’t podcast himself, and he says as a result the company’s web-based recording tools were too simplistic.
- “Not adjusting fast enough” – The company thought its comprehensive web-based strategy would win out over the competition, primarily Apple, in the long term. “It turns out long term is not soon enough for a startup if you’re trying to get a foothold.”
- “Raising too much money too early” – Williams seeded the money with $70,000 of his own money, and after the TED excitement added another $100,000. After he tied up over a million in angel funding, a term sheet came through from Charles River Ventures at three times the angel round valuation. They took the money.
- “Not listening to my gut” – “When you’ve got a bunch of money and you’ve hired a lot of people and you’re talking to your board and you’re talking to reporters, your gut can get drowned out.”
The following are the ten rules with a couple of samples of his rules. Click here for the details behind each.
#1: Be Narrow
Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful. Most companies start out trying to do too many things, which makes life difficult and turns you into a me-too. Focusing on a small niche has so many advantages: With much less work, you can be the best at what you do. Small things, like a microscopic world, almost always turn out to be bigger than you think when you zoom in. You can much more easily position and market yourself when more focused. And when it comes to partnering, or being acquired, there's less chance for conflict. This is all so logical and, yet, there's a resistance to focusing. I think it comes from a fear of being trivial. Just remember: If you get to be #1 in your category, but your category is too small, then you can broaden your scope—and you can do so with leverage.
#2: Be Different
#3: Be Casual
#4: Be Picky
#5: Be User-Centric
#6: Be Self-Centered
#7: Be Greedy
#8: Be Tiny
#9: Be Agile
You know that old saw about a plane flying from
#10: Be Balanced
#11 (bonus!): Be Wary