Archive for the 'Business' Category

Bankrupt Your Startup in Five Easy Steps

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

This was a fun opening session for SxSW Interactive, thanks to Joshua Strebel (President, obu web technologies inc), Andrew Hyde (Startup Weekend), Sean Tierney (COO, JumpBox Inc), and the amazing unicorn.

Session description:

The odds are your startup will fail. Why fight it. Learn to implode your company with style. This session will review some of the many challenges facing new startups and look at the reasons why the vast majority of big ideas never make it out of the garage. The panelists will address the five things that sink most startups and show you how to do it bigger and better than your competition, which is also going to implode.

Since, as a founder, you probably don’t have time to dig through the video transcripts (after all, you’re busy failing), here’s their list of neatly compressed key insights.


  • Hand over the reins
  • Over-engineer everything
  • Seek growth before profitability
  • Establish culture of subservience
  • Disregard cashflow


  • Show nothing to anyone
  • Have an exit plan
  • NDA
  • Funding = exit plan
  • Theme weeks for the office


  • Forget your purpose
  • launch Under funded
  • miCro manage your team
  • be the King
  • believe the Dreamkillers

So there you have it. You should feel much better prepared now and ready to run your startup into the ground.

At CommunityNext today

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

I’m at CommunityNext in Stanford today. And when I come back, I will monetize the living #$*! out of you, my dear reader community.

Any important issues I should look out for? Anything you’d like to ask the panelists? Let me know.

The benefits of bankruptcy

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Robert Young at GigaOm: Bankruptcy: The Opportunity to Fail

A former mentor, and a very smart man, once told me that the greatest invention in this democracy and capitalist system we live in and know as the United States is, of all things, bankruptcy. Yep, bankruptcy… the opportunity to fail.

Simply put, we live in a country that encourages dreamers to take risks, and the laws protect those “entrepreneurs” from the potentially excessive consequences of failure. Bankruptcy laws enable risk-takers to protect themselves and start over. There is no other nation on this planet that by its very by-laws fosters such an economic environment. This spirit, the acceptance of failure, while counter-intuitive, is crucial to this country’s enormous success within the world economy.

Sure enough, a couple of folks from Germany weigh in (both are non-German):

Anne Koark says:

I am British and have been living in Germany for 21 years. In 2003 I went bankrupt with my company. Here failure is completely stigmatized. So much so that many entrepreneurs affected by failure are suicidal. …

Anon says:

… I’m also an ex-pat American living in Berlin, Germany. What this country largely lacks is the spark of originality and creativity coming from America’s entrepreneurs. As an American, you take all that for granted until you move away. Americans really have a knack for coming up with new ideas, and should be proud of this.

My fellow Germans: Unless we make it easy to fail, we won’t get anywhere.

Blogging and journalism

Monday, January 1st, 2007

Following the recent Microsoft/Edelman PR campaign, I revisited a few sites I had bookmarked over the last year. From what I read in the various ethics codes, it seems pretty clear that accepting gifts of significant value (e.g. items provided for review purposes) is not considered ethical behavior for journalists.

For example, below is a section from the NPR News Code of Ethics and Practices:

VI. Personal Gain, Gifts, Freebies, Loaned Equipment or Merchandise, etc.

1. NPR journalists may not accept compensation, including property or benefits of any kind, from people or institutions they cover. NPR journalists may accept gifts of token value (hats, mugs, t-shirts, etc.). Unsolicited items of significant value will be returned with a letter thanking the sender but stating our policy on gifts. NPR journalists pick up the check when they can (i.e., they are not wined and dined by sources); NPR journalists pay for our own travel in accordance with NPR’s travel policy. There are certain instances – such as conferences and conventions – where food is provided as a convenience for the press as a whole, and in such instances it is acceptable to take advantage of this. In addition, NPR journalists may accept paid travel and meals for speaking engagements and awards ceremonies that are approved under the standards in Section V of this document.


4. NPR journalists pay their own way in newsgathering, except in unusual circumstances (like going into battle with the military). The Managing Editor or Vice President for News must approve any exceptions. NPR journalists may accept free passes to movie screenings, performances or similar activities that are attended for the purpose of doing reviews or stories for the air.

6. NPR journalists cannot keep any equipment or items of value provided by a company for test-use for story purposes. Such items must be disclosed to the journalist’s supervisor and are to be disposed of in accordance with the ethical practices stated in this document, which usually means returning such items to the provider.

Very unambiguous language. Note that disclosure is not always enough.

Now, not every blogger is a journalist, nor should they be. However, for bloggers who do consider themselves journalists or who work in what can most accurately be described as a journalistic setting, I believe these time-tested journalism ethics best practices apply and it is important that they be adhered to.

Unless, of course, you think as a blogger you’re above the rules, or the right rules haven’t been written yet, or journalists don’t always stick to the rules either. That’s fine, too. It’s blogging, after all, so anything goes. Just don’t come complaining about how bloggers aren’t taken seriously. You can’t have it both ways.

Europe — sort of a black hole for social application development (and that includes Germany, I take it)

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Stowe gives feedback on his More Europe project: The More Europe Project: Two Weeks In Europe

I think it has to do more with the small number of social application start-ups in Europe than anything else. Yes, I know all about and Plazes — in fact I saw Felix Petersen of Plazes in Lisbon a few weeks back — but aside from those two (and of course openBC!) there doesnt seem to be much going on, really. (Oh, I am using Fred Oliviera’s Goplan, a Basecamp competitor. and he is based in Portugal, now. Shouldn’t forget that.) On the other hand, I was in San Francisco the other day for Office 2.0, and I saw no less that 25 companies demoing their applications. I had invitations from companies in Mexico, Canada and Israel for meetings, but nothing in Europe.

I think that Europe is sort of a black hole for social application development. For some reason, there is just not much happening. Are there other stealth startups that I just don’t know about? Is it Graham’s hypothesis? Have all the inventive Europeans already departed for San Francisco? Is it lack of VCs? Surely not education; is it a cultural issue? People in Europe being less likely to quit their day jobs?

Sadly, I think Stowe is right on with his assessment.

I’ve been thinking about this, too, for the past 18 months or so (ever since I moved to sizzling Silicon Valley in May 2005). I think it’s a combination of cultural issues (Germans being a little too risk-averse all the time combined with a common disdain for failure) as well as lack of infrastructure (mainly, the aforementionend technology hubs and an ecosystem for funding).

I see small pockets of resistance, though.

Web Monday, the event I started almost a year ago, is aimed at addressing the cultural issues in that it gives people who not only have ideas but also want to do something about them a chance to present to their peers in an overall nourishing environment (that’s what Wiki Wednesday is to me). The recent Barcamp Berlin also helped bring people together (a mini-hub, if you will, though only for a weekend) who share the same passion about people and technology. And judging by what these people had to say afterwards, it will not have been the last barcamp in or around Germany.

A handful of successful internet entrepreneurs have begun to serve as angel investors: Lukasz Gadowski of Spreadshirt (who may join us for the upcoming Web Monday Silicon Valley, November 6) and Axel Schmiegelow of Denkwerk (who has invested in Qype, who will join us over the web and do a presentation from their Hamburg, Germany headquarters) come to mind. That’s only two, you may ask, but it’s a start.

The recent decision by the German government to pursue more of a hub approach with regard to their funding of universities is also a move in the right direction, in my view.

All this will take a while to really take root. In the meantime, if you’re the young and aspiring entrepreneur out there in the German hinterland, please do us all a big favor: Don’t think you need anyone’s permission. Don’t let the risk of failure overwhelm you. There are enough people who will gladly help you (even in Germany). Don’t wait until you have a perfect plan.

Just do it!

Welcome, VentureBeat!

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Matt Marshall just launched VentureBeat an hour or so ago:

Welcome to VentureBeat — the successor to SiliconBeat!

VentureBeat’s mission is to provide news and information about private companies and the venture capital that fuels them. People are at the heart of this project. VentureBeat will be a resource for entrepreneurs and other interested professionals facing some the biggest decisions of their careers.

VentureBeat will focus initially on Silicon Valley, and gradually, when possible, expand to cover innovation hubs around the globe.

What’s interesting here is the fact that a project which “began as an experiment” two years ago — a blog covering the startup and venture world of “this fascinating place we call Silicon Valley” — has now turned into a startup of its own.

Good luck, Matt!

By the way, having lived here for over a year now I think I’m slowly starting to feel the itch, too…

Add that to the list of German web 2.0 startups

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

To answer last week’s question, here’s another example of a German web 2.0 startup that just hatched: Fleavent is now officially a company.

my company is building a kick ass events community. there’s nothing out there that satisfys my needs, and so much potential in what could be done. that’s it.

i’ve raised the initial funding, and am looking for a rails developer to come on board asap. contact me at if you’re interested in finding out more. you’ll be working with interesting technologies, and creating cool stuff with a focus on usability and good design.

Congratulations to Rany for making the bold move of going entrepreneur. Some of you may have heard of his project on this blog or were able to attend the first Web Monday Frankfurt, where he presented some of his ideas.

The list has already been updated to reflect the change.

Good luck!

OpenBC to go public?

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

As GoingPublic Online reports, Hamburg, Germany-based OpenBC has plans to go public, according to sources in the financial sector. The IPO is said to be scheduled for early 2007.

Via blog81: openBC IPO

Thursday is the new Friday

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Ryan Carson takes The Four-Day Week Challenge (via Jan).


Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Alameda toddler playing with gun shoots, kills man

Associated Press

ALAMEDA, Calif. - Police were searching Tuesday for the owner of a .38-caliber handgun a toddler used to fatally shoot a 20-year-old man.

The 3-year-old boy apparently found the revolver in a bedroom closet while his mother fed his 1-year-old sister, and two aunts and a grandmother played cards, police Lt. David Boersma said Tuesday.

When the boy walked into the living room playing with the gun, the adults tried to get him to put it down. But the pistol fired and struck the man, a visitor from Guatemala, in the chest. He was pronounced dead later at Highland Hospital in Oakland.

Early evidence indicates it was a “big, tragic accident,” but questions remain, Boersma said.

“I’ve got to tell you, I thought it was completely implausible that a 3-year-old could manipulate a revolver,” he said. “Was he using both hands? Just fooling around with it?”

Boersma said the gun may have been stored with the hammer cocked. It was unregistered and unlocked, he said.

The boy had recently played with a water pistol and may have been familiar with how to operate a gun, Boersma said.

The gun’s owner, who is the victim’s cousin, is now missing, Boersma said.

California law allows prosecutors to file criminal charges against adults when children find guns and shoot and harm somebody.

An interview with the boy wasn’t very helpful, Boersma said. Both English and Spanish are spoken in the home and the boy speaks neither well.

The boy was allowed to stay with his parents. Police believe they weren’t even aware the gun was in the apartment.

Guns don’t kill people…