Friday, March 22, 2013

Startups by the window

A project manager at Microsoft recounts this story:
I once was at a meeting with Bill Gates himself.  Right before it started, I noticed that Gates was staring directly at me.  I flushed, not knowing what to do.  After the meeting, I got up and realized I had been sitting right in front of the window.  Gates' stare had nothing to do with me, he was just enjoying the view.
Everywhere I turn, it seems that there's a different startup demanding my attention and impressions.  Each one claims that it's the new $PRODUCT for $MARKET, and I absolutely need whatever they're selling.  90% will ultimately fail.

Paul Graham says that the one way a startup dies is by running out of money.  There are many ways to run out of money, and one is to put yourself in the wrong position.  Many startups take a position "by the window" and claim that the're doing great.  After all, everyone's looking at them!

99% of startups in the social media space are crowding the window.  It's very easy to be successful: make something that fixes a problem people have.  Does anyone really have a problem communicating [0]?  Posthaven bucks this trend, finding a critical need (data storage from Posterous shutdown) and filling it.

Startups should be against a wall.  Walls are boring.  People only pay attention to a wall-based startup when the startup has something important to say.  They're also much less crowded, and the people you find there are (generally) more committed to their work, avoiding the spotlight.  Two excellent (and sparse) walls are cell service providers and academics/education.

Fortunately, the world of startups is a strange-looking conference room, with vast, unoccupied walls and a few overcrowded windows.  If you feel that no one's paying attention to your startup, you just might be in the right place.  Keep at it.
No startup dies mid-keystroke

[0] Other than, of course, managing all of your social media efforts, and there are plenty of startups there.  Some of them are pretty successful.

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