The Second Week
Woah it feels weird blogging about the second week already, it’s gone by at such an incredible rate I feel like we’re in some kind of hyper drive time warp. That’s the intended effect of the Y Combinator so it seems as though we’re on the right track – we still have a few higher gears to hit in terms of work capacity so things are only going to get more intense, which is actually pretty damn exciting.
I don’t really have a planned structure for these blogs so I’ll just run with whatever pops into my mind and hope it makes some form of interesting reading (thanks for those of you who let me know you liked the first post). So picking up on the Silicon Valley/UK contrast theme in the last post – one thing that has really struck out this week has been the amount of experience there is floating around here. It seems as though whoever you mention your project to, they have at some point worked on something that is in some way related to it. Perhaps we’re in a slightly fortuitous position as we had a ready made network via Y Combinator and working in the Obvious networks, where there was always bound to be a load of experienced people in close proximity, but when you consider how many startups have come from the Valley it stands to reason that there was always going to be a wealth of experience here. It’s also a driving factor behind the so-called magic of the Valley – this experience is fed back into the new startups to ultimately increase their chances of success (there is a big difference between “that sounds like an interesting idea and “I worked on something kind of similar to that a couple of years ago, we learnt not to do X, Y and Z).
Another thing that really struck out this past week is the way that startups and entrepreneurship are cultures that are embedded directly into the fabric of this place. So we went for dinner with the Reddit and Kiko guys last week at their place in North Beach. It ended up being more like a house party (if you replace red cups and booze with fantastic food cooked by Michael from the Justin.tv team and a bunch of people working on their web startups) and it was a real eye opening experience. These are all guys my age and every single one of them fell into one of three categories 1) Their first startup had been acquired 2) They were going for a second (big) round of financing 3) They’d moved on from their first startup and were now working on their second/third one (in my view these are the people you can learn the most from). And there I was thinking I’d done well to have turned down a safe career in law to work on my company with one round of funding. Compared to these guys I was pretty much at the bottom rung of the ladder, whereas back home Kul and I were being showcased by the government as “successful” young entrepreneurs as part of enterprise week. That’s not intended to be a dig – we all have to start somewhere and Silicon Valley is a unique place that has gone through generations of booms and busts so it’s not fair to compare it to back home – but it does show just how different the two places are. Things are changing though and the growth of organisations like Zenopy is proof of that.
We also went out to Stanford to meet someone we were referred to as a potential hire (it didn’t work out because of timings and his course but he was a great guy so hopefully something will happen in the future). When it came down to that nitty gritty of discussing salaries/equity I got a response I was totally unprepared for: “Harj: So we’re thinking in the ballpark of $XX,000 a year”, “Stanford guy: Ermm I’m not really too interested in the salary, I need enough to live on but it’s kind of irrelevant. I’m really interested in the equity – if I wanted to earn a good salary I’d accept the offers I’ve got to work at Google or Microsoft”. Kul and I have lost count of the number of times we’ve ended up haggling with potential hires about what salary they should have – our experience has been of people seeing equity as some kind of add on that doesn’t really mean much. We’ve now got our pitch for why a lower salary + equity is a better deal down to a tee so we were fully expecting to unleash this upon the Stanford guy. It’s good to know that we’re not the only ones out there who value the potential upside from equity above a salary.
So what else? Well in terms of the business we spent a good percentage of last week just researching the opportunity for the new direction we’re headed in. It’s pretty refreshing doing things the second time around with the experience of the first time under your belt – amazing how much faster you can get it done. I’ve personally started spending the bulk of my time learning how to code, after much discussion we’ve decided that right the most important thing is to get the product out there so it can be tested and until we find our technical co-founder, we’re going to do it ourselves. You don’t really have the luxury of just doing the things you’re the best at/have most experience of when you’re working in a startup so sometimes you just need to suck it in and get on with it. It feels a bit like doing finals all over again with the intensive learning/cramming but it’s a pretty good feeling to write a load of code and then see a working application.
Right I’m going to sign off for this week, can’t think of anything else major but drop me an email if you have any questions about what we’ve been up to.