It was a real treat going to the epicenter of startups/technology/vc this past week. I had been to San Francisco in 2006 but I had a different outlook on life back then. Now 6 years later, I have the entrepreneur bug for creating businesses of lasting value (and of course they’ve got to be cloud based and automated 😉 ).
I arrived on a Tuesday night and got picked up by my good Bay Area friend, David. The following day (5/2/12) was the Startup Conference in Mountain View, headed up by Alain Raynaud. With a conference jam-packed with success/failure stories, pitches and tips, I had much to absorb.
Of the many points I took home, some of the most memorable tips dealt with co-founder issues (talk given by Alain Raynaud), the role of CEO and founders (talks given by Steven Aldrich and Jerry Kaplan), and the game of pitching (live pitching critiques performed by Dave McClure and Thomas Korte). It was also great to hear VC Tim Draper as he shared his stories of funding Hotmail before they even had a montization stragety or when Tim sang his infamous “Riskmaster” song.
The 5 biggest mistakes co-founder make in the beginning, according to Alain Raynaud are:
- Not sharing your idea because you think someone will steal it
- Splitting equity evenly amongst all founders
- Not choosing the CEO yet
- Having full-time co-founders with part-time co-founders
- Having a great team yet no developer
In regards to the role of CEO, Steven Aldrich shared an important point of whether you wish to be rich or be king, referring to the CEO as the king.
In regards to the role of the founder, Jerry Kaplan mentioned these top 5 mistakes made
- Unclear goal and mission: write it down, read it often
- Trying to prove you’re smart: not sharing credit
- Greed: not raising enough capital, not distributing equity, only think about growing value
- Hiring people you like, not people you need. Biz/mktg people don’t like engineers; engineers don’t like biz/mtkg people
- Not knowing when to let go. Companies are like children, with different stages. Maybe you’re only good up to 150 employees and someone is better with 150+
And finally, as far as pitching goes, you better be prepared. We witnessed 7 startups pitch and be critiqued on the spot. Some of the notable pitching advice from Dave McClure and Thomas Korte were to keep it simple, state why you are different, then talk about traction, partnerships, etc. It’s also a major help if you can share parallels with similar companies or strategies that are working.
One last point I want to make is how failure is truly embraced in the valley. This notion is very evident when you consider how startup incubators plan on 80% of their startups to fail, with the top 20% to fare well while the top 10% to have successful exits. (Watch Dave McClure’s Keynote here.)
All in all, attending the conference was a great firsthand look at what’s going in the Startup Capital. The caliber and expertise there is fascinating and really something to aspire to. I was able to gather plenty of insights to apply to my ventures.