Startup school: My learnings and favorite quotes

0. Ignore advice for the most part.

Advice = limited life experiences + overgeneralization (Paul Buchheit, gmail, friendfeed)

1. Useful is better than innovative. Useful is better than cool. Innovative things fade away. Useful never does. Think of the postit note. You will be using it 20 years from now, not because it is innovative, but because it is useful(Jason Fried, 37 signals)

2. Never raise money when starting something. If you raise money your temptation is to spend. Instead, if you do not have money, you will try to make money instead (Jason F)

3. Realize that the word ‘Planning’ is equivalent to ‘guessing’. Financial planning is really financial guessing. Strategy planning is really strategy guessing. Realize this when you plan (Jason F)

4. Technology Company cultures vary widely. Look at google. They have a strong ‘academic’ culture. Facebook has a hacker culter. We encourage hacking. (Mark Zuckerberg)

5. Everyone in our company is a technologist. Our product managers have a strong technical background. Our management team has a strong technical background. Any company that does not have top management that understand technology is not a technology company. (Mark Z)

6. A museum does not become a great museum because it has every piece of art ever produced. A great museum is defined as much by what it does not allow in as much as what it does. Make your software have hard edges. Define what do you not do, and stick to it. Learn to say no to users. (Jason F)

7. When you are sorry, say sorry. Stop saying shit like ‘We apologize for the inconvenience’. It is not an inconvenience to your users when your software falls over. It is a fucking nightmare. Understand that. Say you’re sorry.Say it with feeling, and put yourself in their shoes (Jason F)

[Siddharth’s edit: a good apology

And a bad apology

8. Failure is not a rite of passage. Your goal should be firstly to NOT FAIL. You want to be successful, not a quick failure. Avoid saying things like ‘fail fast’. What you learn from success is way more important than what you learn from failure. (Jason F)

9. Solve for net happiness, customers + employees. (Tony Hseih, zappos)

10. Have values. Implement them. Be willing to fire based on those values. Many organizations will hesitate .. ‘But he is sooo smart, we will tolerate his idiosyncracies’. Zappos will fire such employees without thinking twice.

[Note2: If you are ever in Vegas, call zappos. They will pick you up , give you a tour and drop you back at your hotel]

[Note 3: download ‘tribal leadership’ free at zappos.com]

11. Be inspired, not motivated [Tony]

12. Values are useless if they are not controversial [Mark Zuckerberg]

Facebook, Zynga and Twitter made it clear that they believe they are changing the world in fundamental ways. A theme that echoed across them was they are reconnecting people that had been distanced by technology (think about the internet connecting people, think about social gaming vs playing on your PS3 alone). They do not object to the money, but the social change is what keeps them hyper engaged.