entrepreneurship

Do More Faster Chapter 2: People

This is my summary of the second chapter (theme) of Do More Faster. Feel free to check the summary for the first chapter here.

Chapter 2: People

Don’t Go At It Alone

  • Have at least one co-founder. Building a start-up is hard enough alone. Having someone to share the work, feedback, and downsides is a huge asset to your success.

Avoid Co-Founder Conflict

  • Make sure everyone agrees on equity, company direction, and how the company will be run (salaries, shares, hiring/firing procedures). You want to get these things out of the way so you can focus on what really matters, your product/service.

Hire People Better Then You

  • Don’t be insecure about hiring better people then you. Hiring better/smarter people will make your startup exponentially better.

Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly

  • It takes time to find/hire great people. Don’t be afraid to fire an employee who doesn’t fit. Have something along the lines of a 90 day performance and 360 degree review (after someone works for 90 days you have the option of firing them if it’s not working out).

If You Can Quit, You Should

  • You should be so obsessed and passionate about your startup that quitting is not an option, it should be impossible to quit.

Build a Balanced Team

  • Find co-founders with complimentary skills. At the early stages of a startup it makes no sense to have more then one non-technical co-founder.

Startups Seek Friends

  • Focus on establishing friendships in the early stages of your startup. Create two way relationships were both parties benefit. Do not create a sales-customer relationship early in your startup since you probably won’t have much to sale.

Engage Great Mentors

  • Mentors are in invaluable part of a startup. It allows you to learn form other people’s experiences. Seek out a mentor if you don’t have one.

Define Your Culture

  • Start up success is determined by the team, product, market, and culture. You must create a great culture in order for your startup to make a successful product/service.

Two Stikes and You Are Out

  • You are only allowed to screw over Brad Feld once via lying/deceiving him, doing something illegal/immoral, or hurting him. If you screw him over a second time he’s finished with you forever.

Karma Matters

  • Help others without expecting anything in return. At the very least you’ll have the satisfaction that you helped someone.

Be Open to Randomness 

  • Be open to meeting random people, you’ll never know who you’ll meet and what impact they might have on your future.
I have to say, my favorite section from this chapter is “If you can quite, you should”. There are so many road blocks that you hit when running a startup, the ones who make it to the end are the ones who said “no” to quitting every time they hit one.

Do More Faster Chapter 1: Idea and Vision

I recently started reading the book Do More Faster By David Cohan and Brad Feld. It contains a bunch of small stories of various entrepreneurs who have worked with Cohan and Feld at TechStars. What I really love about the book is how each small story is design to deliver one important message about running a startup.

For my own personal (and anyone else reading this) reference, I will be outlining the sections of each chapter (which they call themes) and writing out what I think is the take home message for each section.

Chapter 1: Idea and Vision

Trust Me, Your Idea Is Worthless

  • Ideas are worthless, execution is everything. Most startup’s ideas change during the process of running the startup. Dont’ be gung-ho about executing your idea exactly as you pictured it, it will probably change.

Start With Your Passion

  • The startup path is a very difficulty path, make sure you are doing something you are passionate about.

Look For The Pain

  • Find something that people are having a painful time with and then fix it by making it easier and less painful.

Get Feedback Early

  • Share your idea with as many people as possible and as early as possible to see if people like it. Don’t be afraid of people “stealing” your idea.

Usage Is Like Oxygen For Ideas

  • Iterate in the in the wild. Push frequent updates in order to test features on actual customers. Do A/B testing.

Forget The kitchen Sink

  • Avoid “everythingitis”. Focus on one thing and do it better then anyone else. Focus on quality not features.

Find That One Thing They Love

  • Observer how your users use or misuse your product. This will tell you what your users really want to use your product for. You could use this as a sign to change the direction of your product or make a spin off.

Don’t Plan. Prototype!

  • Focus on prototyping and iterating, don’t spend so much of your time planning (plans change).

You Never Need Another Original Idea

  • Listen to your customers, they will tell you what your products needs.

Get It Out There

  • Get your product out ASAP so you can get feedback early. Don’t build a “Dream Product”, you need customers in order to know what they want.

Avoid Tunnel Vision

  • Don’t be set on a plan, most plans change in a startup.

Focus

  • Focus on one thing, don’t waste time branching out.

Iterate Again

  • Iterate on all your products. Take the mistakes from your past products to learn about how you could make your current and future products better.

Fail Fast

  • You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Fail fast, learn quickly, and try again.

Pull The Plug When You Know It’s Time

  • Learn when to pull the plug on a dead idea, don’t just wait and run it into the ground.

That’s all for chapter one, lots of great messages! I definitely recommend getting the book if you want to read the stories behind each message.

 

1st Place at Start Up Camp!

This past weekend I headed over to San Francisco with my brother (@cesar_miranda_) for Start Up Camp (Game Developers Conference edition). My brother and I were able to snag some free last minute tickets to the event by tweeting @ansca, who were one of the sponsors of the event.

We showed up Friday evening not really knowing what to expect, this was the first time that I or my brother have ever attended a Start Up Camp. All we knew was that we had three days to work on something, and that there would be prizes! We also knew that Ansca would be there, and that we would be able to use the Corona SDK, which we would find out later to be a tremendous help in speeding the development on our game.

The first night consisted of people pitching ideas. We didn’t really come in with an idea, so I just made an announcement that we were looking for an “idea person”, someone to come on to our team and flesh out a really nice game idea. Unfortunately everyone seemed to be more focused on application instead of games. At the end of the first night we came to the conclusion that we were going to have to do this ourselves.

The next morning, Saturday, I find out that my brother stayed up for a large portion of the night (he only got 3 hours of sleep) thinking of game ideas. We went to breakfast and narrowed down the ideas to a couple game mechanics. The main game mechanic would allow the user to draw real-time platforms with physics properties. The second game mechanic would be the ability to flip the phone 180 degrees and change the gravitational pull of the game. Both of these mechanics would be used to help our rolling ball find it’s way home.

Once we got back to San Francisco, later that day, we fleshed three levels on the white board, and I began coding while my brother started on the artwork. I was able to get the walls and physics mechanics by the end of the day thanks to Corona’s built in physics engine based of the popular Box2D Physics Engine (which I’ve used in the past). By the end of the day we had a decent base of code and some nice artwork, we also came up with the code name “Sticky Spider” (which we would later change).

On the final day we decided to come in at 9am, since we needed as much time as possible to finish up the game. I spent the first half of the day implementing our real-time platform creating mechanic. My brother spent time finalizing the background and working on a replacement for the ball in our original idea, a roly poly (which we ended up using as the final name for the game). After finishing off the first game mechanic, I finalized our first level and we were ready to move on to creating level two. Level two consisted of the user flipping the phone around and changing the gravity of the game. This took nothing but a couple lines of code thanks to the physics engine and the easy accelerometer support provided by the Corona SDK. We soon realized that we wouldn’t have enough time to put in all three levels, so we decided to concentrate on putting in two very good levels. After a couple of hours of polishing up the game, we were ready to present!

Level 1 of Roly Poly

Level 1 of Roly Poly (Photo provided by Ansca)

While getting ready to present we found out that only 2 out of the 5 teams made it through the Start Up Camp, so at the very lease we would get 2nd place, but we were aiming for first! We presented first and everyone was impress with the artwork and how quickly we were able to put the game together. They were especially impress with how very little lines of code it took to create the game: 340 lines (including blank lines). After our presentation we got a nice round of applause, and watched the second teams presentation.

After the second team’s presentation the judges were ready to cast their votes. We were extremely gratified when we were declared the winners! Winning an iPad, $500, and a years subscription to the Corona SDK. The judges explained that it was the fact that we had a working game with two levels that caught their eyes. In a market where games come and go, you have to be quick on your feat and have to be able to put out a game very fast.

My brother (Cesar Miranda), the Co Founder and Chief Evangelist of Ansca (Carlos Icaza), and me (Photo provided by Ansca)

I had a great weekend with everyone at Start Up Camp, made lots of great connection, and had lots of fun. I can’t wait to finish up Roly Poly with my brother and have it out on the Apple and Android market!

Be sure to check out Ansca’s summary of the event at their blog: The Miranda Bros. conquer Start Up Camp with Corona SDK

Great talks on entrepreneurship and following your passion

About a year ago, a friend of mine recommended I watch a video consisting of Joe Liemandt (Bio) giving a talk at Stanford about how he started his company during his undergrad at Stanford. I found the video very inspirational and motivating. He had just one more semester left in order to graduate, and he tossed all in the back burner to go with something he wanted to do then and now, and it was NOT an easy path starting up Trilogy (his company).

In the clip below he’s talking about how everyone should experience some level entrepreneurship. Through out his talk he really pushes the idea of dropping out of college to start your own company.

I highly recommend anyone who has any sort of passion for what they do to check out his full talk, it’s inspirational, funny, and one of the most motivating talks I ever listened to.

Joe Liemandt’s full talk on entrepreneurship (contains video and mp3): http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=1446

Another great talk that is also a must watch, and has the same take away message as Joe Liemandt’s talk,  is Steve Job’s 2005 Stanford commencement address.