It’s been a while since the last post. We’ve been busy with packing and moving to… San Francisco! What a move! It’s time to see what the west coast feels like, after spending time in Florida, Texas and New York. We’ve been here for two weeks and it’s been nothing less than amazing! Except for the apartment hunting that is. Makes you think you’re still in New York. There’s very high demand and only a small-ish number of places on the market. If you see something you’ve got to go for it!
We moved to San Francisco to set up our first office. We were fortunate to find an amazing place in the center of San Francisco, close to AirBnB, Twitter, Zynga and others. We couldn’t dream of a better place to build parcelio.com. Back to work. Till next time!
View of the Marina from Pacific Heights
Very refreshing. Reminds me of the North Sea.
Predictability on the move!
A short article was posted on The Verge’s website yesterday describing how Facebook now enables you to classify friends as acquaintances so you won’t necessarily see your ‘friend’s’ every update in your newsfeed.
That’s nothing new though. Facebook implemented that feature a number of months ago, along with other filters. In my case Facebook has provided me for some time now with the following filters: Miami area, Texas, Manchester, acquaintances, Cisco and family. The neat thing here is that I can restrict posts I make to any of these groups. I might choose to upload a personal picture I only wish to share with my family.
Which brings me to my next point. Can Facebook take over from LinkedIn as the de facto business networking platform?
I don’t find LinkedIn particularly useful. When I check it in the morning all I see is “x is now connected to y.” Great. Truth is that I’d be much more interested about what x has been up to rather than knowing who x is now connected to. LinkedIn does allow for status updates but for some reason people – at least those I am connected to – don’t seem to ever post a status update.
Now, take Facebook. There’s a constant flux of status updates. Sure, they’re mostly not business-related but I’m guessing that’s because you don’t typically friend your co-worker on Facebook. Now that Facebook provides the option of determining the audience for posts I think it stands a chance at being used a more for work as well.
I don’t think this will result in LinkedIn’s demise. There are still plenty of useful features that aren’t available on Facebook though I think it’s a step that could bring in more business-related traffic.
Great feature added to Lightroom: you’re now able to filter and organize by location. Most old DSLRs still don’t have a GPS incorporated but since we take our day-to-day pictures with an iPhone or Android anyway this new feature could become really useful!
Note: Lightroom 4 is still in “Bata”.
I’m a huge fan of structured notes which really help me to stay on top of things. In my previous position as a strategy consultant I performed hundreds of discovery interviews with my clients. I started off using pen and paper because I felt it was somewhat rude to use my computer while discussing a client’s most intimate issues. I quickly realized this method wouldn’t scale: there was no way for me to search through notes, easily identify different clients and set up a list of tasks.
That’s when OneNote came in. A true lifesaver. Create notebooks, sections, pages, to-do lists (linked to Outlook)… plus you can search all of it using an easy to use global search function. I was able to very easily switch between notes and to-dos for different clients. I couldn’t ask for more.
Then came the startup and along with it my new Mac. Two things I’m still unhappy with: a) my e-mail client (Apple Mail) and b) my note taker.
I just haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement for OneNote. The closest thing I have found is Evernote. It syncs nicely with the cloud, which means you get access to your notes on all your devices, but that’s it. Nothing else that’s truly noteworthy. My three issues: I can’t zoom in on a note (so I need to bring my laptop pretty close up to read my notes), I can’t structure my notes well enough (can’t create different sections, workbooks etc.) and there are plenty of bugs when working with bullet points.
I looked into other note taking apps as well, such as Yojimbo and Together (which I’m still trying out), but unfortunately to date I haven’t found an app that has the same flexibility and ease-of-use as OneNote.
Hopefully one of these apps will take clues from Microsoft and come out with a more flexible, friendly and better-integrated app. In the meantime, Evernote it is.
Paul Graham, a well-respected founder of Y-Combinator, wrote in a 2006 article that establishing a startup in a bad location can be one of 18 mistakes that can kill a startup. In his post he mentions the top six cities for establishing a startup: Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle, Austin, Denver and New York City (in that order).
How things have changed since then! In a little over five years New York has surpassed both Seattle and Denver (and possibly also Boston) in terms of the number of startups established in the city.
There are a few characteristics that I look when choosing where to establish my startup:
- Proximity to users: If you plan on selling a physical product you’ll want to make sure you’re as close as possible to your end-users. For more recent startups (XaaS-flavored) that’s going to be slightly less important. You could be based in Fiji while selling your products or services in the US (or anywhere else in the world). Just make sure you have a U.S. support-line number and you’re good to go.
- Proximity to funding: Unless you’re bootstrapping you’ll want to make sure you’re not too far away from Angels and VCs. From what I hear VCs like to be relatively close to their portfolio companies (or at least within a few hours flight).
- Close to potential employees: Make sure you base yourself close to future employees, which in most cases means close to well-respected (technical) universities to increase your chances of grabbing your awesome first few employees. While there’s no reason you can’t base yourself in Fairbanks and hire from New York, you’ll have to first fly out your candidates for interviews and then ensure they’re open to relocating.
- Offer a good quality of life: Working for a startup is stressful. Whatever time off your employees have, they’ll want to enjoy it in a laid-back environment that offers plenty of activities.
- Established entrepreneurial community: Think of the benefits of having fellow entrepreneurs to chat with, partner with and exchange ideas.
So, if Boulder succeeded, why can’t other cities too? I’m thinking about San Diego, Honolulu, Miami, or even Santa Fe.
If you decided to establish your startup outside one of the top 5 entrepreneurial cities I’d be interested to hear why. As I get closer to choosing the location for our first office I’ll be updating the blog.
Established companies within deep-rooted industries know the constraints with which they work: they know who their clients are, they know in what geographies they are located, they know how much they’re willing to pay. These are extremely useful data points that can be used in a business model.
Yet, when you look at startups developing innovative products or services in sometimes not so well defined industries, it’s an entirely different story. Early-stage startups haven’t always figured out who their users are, it’s not always clear in what geography their product is going to take off and, most importantly, how many people will be interested in what they have to offer.
As we’re building our company I’ve been trying to model our expected growth over the first few months: how many users can we expect to have at different intervals, where these users will be located and some other metrics which we’d like to track. To tell you the truth I think it’s almost been a total waste of time. There are so many unknowns that it feels like modeling in a dark hole.
You can model all you want but there’s nothing like piloting a product. That’s exactly what our next step is. As we’re finishing to develop the first release of our product we’ll be piloting it with a small group of users. Our goal? Test our hypothesis using real-life business modeling: go out in the real world and get people to use our product. Once that’s done we can revert to Excel modeling. At that point we’ll have some data points to work with and we’ll have a somewhat more accurate view of what awaits us.
Not just to this site but also to Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and the other usual culprits. What makes you go back to a site? How do you remember to visit a site?
There are a couple of blogs I visit several times a day: BGR (for your fair share of daily gossip), Both sides of the table, Flyertalk’s Mileage Run Deals, Get Venture, Steve Blank, Tech Crunch, HackerNews and a few more. But these are just blogs and I get notified in my toolbar when there’s a new post. Before heading to the website I get to see the headline for the article and the first sentence or two. Nothing fancy but it works.
When it comes to Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram & Co. I just visit the sites a few times a day – at random intervals. Hoping to see something new. What if there’s nothing new, or nothing of interest? Key to the success of these websites: a) having a sizable social network to create activity and b) getting users to return to the site to view that activity and act upon it (like, comment, post something new) which brings us back to (a). I, for one, don’t subscribe to the activity emails, they just clog up my mailbox.
The real challenge seems to be getting users to return to your site. Several times a day or several times a week. This task becomes more difficult when there’s not much going on (limited social graph) or when you’re competing for a user’s time. Facebook has made the latter extremely difficult.
So here’s my question to you: how do you ensure your users return for more? For the sake of the argument let’s assume all sites appeal equally to users. I see a tremendous opportunity for a smart social aggregator that knows what to show to its users and enables users to interact (at least minimally) with the social site – without leaving the aggregator. Win-win situation for everyone: social sites get their users’ attention and users get access to the information they care about.
There are some open issues though: what’s of interest to the user, what happens to the ads and will social sites be open to feeding their data back to a third-party. I think it’s an interesting challenge, especially since we’re going to see an increasing number of startups in the social arena. What’s the upper limit of social sites a user can realistically engage with? In other words, when will a user begin dropping sites which he doesn’t visit too often?