Rules and learnings for startups

creating a startup is not an easy task, that’s why it is important to learn from people that have already experiences.
A good blog post is from Evan Williams, creator of Blogger (acquired by Google) and Twitter.
His Ten Rules for Web Startups is a must read.

The ten rules are (with short excerpts):

  1. Be Narrow. Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful.  If you get to be #1 in your category, but your category is too small, then you can broaden your scope—and you can do so with leverage.
  2. Be Different. There are lots of people thinking about—and probably working on—the same thing you are. And one of them is Google.  Second, see #1—the specialist will almost always kick the generalist’s ass.
  3. Be Casual. If you want to hit the really big home runs, create services that fit in with—and, indeed, help—people’s everyday lives without requiring lots of commitment or identity change.
  4. Be Picky. Another perennial business rule, and it applies to everything you do: features, employees, investors, partners, press opportunities.
  5. Be User-Centric.  User experience is everything.
  6. Be Self-Centered.  Create something you want to exist in the world.
  7. Be Greedy It’s always good to have options. One of the best ways to do that is to have income.
  8. Be Tiny.
  9. Be Agile. Many dot-com bubble companies that died could have eventually been successful had they been able to adjust and change their plans instead of running as fast as they could until they burned out, based on their initial assumptions. Initial assumptions are almost always wrong. That’s why the waterfall approach to building software is obsolete in favor agile techniques. The same philosophy should be applied to building a company.
  10. Be Balanced. Nature requires balance for health—as do the bodies and minds who work for you and, without which, your company will be worthless.
  11. (bonus!): Be Wary. Overgeneralized lists of business “rules” are not to be taken too literally. There are exceptions to everything.

Other good learnings come from Guilhem Bertholet, a serial entrepreneur, who founded and ran the startup incubator at HEC Paris, a top-ranked European business school for three years. You can read more from the Business Insider article What I Learned After 3 Years Mentoring Over 80 Startups or from his post in French.

The advises with short excerpts are below:

  1. Develop a vision. it’s important to be able to look to a bigger horizon, to have a “mojo” which gives personality to the company.
  2. Know (and love) your key metrics. You can’t win if you don’t measure. From day one, even if your numbers are flat, it’s incredibly important to understand what are the important metrics for your business.
  3. Run fast (for a long time). If you think you can be “successful” in 6, 12 or even 18 months, you’re wrong. In reality, it’s likely that the first 12 to 18 months will only be laying the foundations.
  4. Always be positive. Always.
  5. Stay focused and avoid distractions. Show some willpower and cut out anything unnecessary.
  6. F—ing do something! Instead of spending your time thinking, test a bunch of things out, always be doing something.
  7. It’s all about people. It’s hard to really be by yourself to start a company. Whether it’s co-founders, employees, freelancers, partners, peers…
  8. Learn to fail. Failing is good.
  9. Celebrate (even small) victories.
  10. Sell your project to your relatives. It’s fundamentally important that your close friends, family and loved ones be behind you 100%.
  11. (Do not) listen. This is what’s most paradoxal. You’re going to have to learn to listen, to open your ears, and to draw deep from the experience of others. But you also need to learn to not let others influence you too much.
  12. Know when to pull the plug. Life is long! ..sometimes, you need to just end it, figure out what went wrong, and get back in the saddle and do better.

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