What Programming Language Should I Use to Build a Startup?

Often entrepreneurs ask me 'What technology should I build my startup on?' There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It's a decision every company makes for itself, depending on what it's trying to build and the skills of its cofounders. Nonetheless, there are a few rules that one should adhere to. We discuss them in this blog post.

Incident Response Policy

What happens in your company when a production incident occurs? Usually in a typical startup, you will see engineers running around frantically trying to resolve the problem. However, as soon as the incident is resolved, they forget about it and go back to their usual business. A good incident response policy can help bring order into chaos. We provide a sample template in this blog post.

Why Software Deadlines Never Make Sense

We discuss why software deadlines usually don't make sense.

Analyzing Front-End Performance With Just a Browser

We discuss a number of freely available online tools which can be used to analyze bottlenecks in your website.

Why Smaller Businesses Can't Ignore Security and How They Can Achieve It On a Budget

In this article, we show that security is both important and achievable for smaller companies without breaking a bank.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A good team exercise for building trust

Trust is at the foundation of highly efficient teams in companies. If team members have no trust towards one another, they will not be able to openly debate problems. And if they are not able to debate problems, then good decisions will not be made (since everyone will follower the leader without any critical thinking).

There is a very good exercise that helps build trust and understanding among team members. During a team meeting, ask each person to answer four questions:

1. In 30 seconds, describe what you are working on.
2. Where did you grow up?
3. How many kids were in your family?
4. What was the most difficult challenge that you had to overcome in childhood?

At the end of this exercise, you will be surprised about things you didn't know about people you may have been working with for a long time. And it will help you to trust them and work with them better.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

True Sense of Urgency

A good definition of true urgency from a book by John Kotter. Too many companies get it all wrong, by creating a false urgency with fake deadlines, and frantic meetings.

Power of Nudges

A great excerpt from a recent book by Laszlo Bock "Insights from inside Google: Work Rules!"
It reminds us that creating a healthy competition between teams or individuals can be a very effective way to motivate people to excel:

[In Google], one leadership team had developed a reputation for discord, with some members refusing to partner with one another and even undermining one another by withholding resources or information. "Performance management" didn't work [...]. "Coaching" didn't work [...].

What did work was creating a quarterly survey of just two questions: 
1) In the last quarter, this person helped me when I reached out to him/her.
2) In the last quarter, this person involved me when I could have been helpful to, or was impacted by his/her team's work.
Every member of the team rated each other member, and the anonymous ranking and results were shared with everyone. People knew where they fell in the ranking, but didn't know where anyone else fell. The two most obstreperous people, of course ranked near the bottom, and were dismayed by it. [...] Though not strictly a nudge, this was in line with work showing the power of social comparisons.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Business Strategy Powerpoint Templates

Came across a great website with lots of free templates on business strategy:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Seed vs Series A financing milestones

I thought that this was a very good way to visualize milestone requirements to get Seed round vs Series A round financings :

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My pet peeve interview question "How stable is your company?"

During my tenure at several startups 'Gilt Groupe', 'Cinchcast', and my own startup 'SecurityScorecard' - I often come across candidates from larger companies.    One of my pet peeve questions is when they ask me 'How stable is your company? How do I know you won't lose my job in 2 months?'

While it's reasonable for a job applicant to expect a stable well-paying job,   the question usually indicates to me that the person is clueless about startups, and shouldn't be working there.

There is no such thing as job stability anymore - look at big investment banks on Wall Street, most of them lay off 15% of their underperformers every year;  or even more than that when they fail to meet investor expectations.     We've seen huge companies like Enron or Tyco lay off thousands of hard-working employees, because of mismanagement and fraud.

At the same time, we all know stories of 3 people working in a garage, becoming millionaires because they were passionate about what they did, and worked to succeed against all odds.

How do you know the small company is stable? You don't.   If you underperform, you'll be fired. If the company loses money, then you'll lose your job.
But if you are really good - you will easily find another job, and will gain invaluable experience about what went wrong in a business that you worked at.

Just my 2 cents.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We just cared more

Nice quote from Mark Zuckerberg that's very pertinent to every entrepreneur:

....When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

387 Million Ways For a Startup to Fail

There is an excellent presentation by Steve Blank entitled "387 Million Ways For a Startup to Fail ... and How to Avoid Them"

 The key point he raises is "Startups fail because they confuse search with execution". The main thing a company at early stages should be doing is looking for a product/market fit, establishing a customer feedback loop, while minimizing the cash burn.

I highly recommend all entrepreneurs to go and read this:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Coworking spaces and incubators in New York City

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

I have just finished reading "The Five dysfunctions of a team" by Patrick Lencioni and thought this was a great book about teamwork. Go get it!

DecisionTech has the most experienced executive team, a seemingly indestructible business plan, and top-tier investors. Yet it's losing market share and is behind it's competitors.

The reason is -- their team isn't working effectively together.

"If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time."

"If everything is important, then nothing is".

"All of you, every one of you are responsible for sales. Not just JR. All of you are responsible for marketing. Not just Mikey. All of you are responsible for product development, customer service, and finance. Does that make sense?"

Explanation from the book:
1. The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among the team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.

2. This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

3. A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.

4. Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.

5. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team.