Insights and Hot Takes

  • Eight Important Principles of Startup Software Engineering

    The software engineering that makes a startup successful is not the kind you learned in school. Too many first-time early stage technical leaders make the mistake of building for the approval of their computer science professors instead of the venture they’re entrusted with making successful. And less-technical founders take their advice, not necessarily knowing any…

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  • Micro Arcologies?

    We have a housing problem, often because homeowners oppose the construction of new housing in established communities. We also have a lifestyle #sustainability problem: our cities sprawl inefficiently, with an impact on climate. We’re also seeing a surge in interest in tiny homes, remote working, and walkable urban centers. What if we combined all this,…

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  • Startup Common Sense, Part 1

    Startups fail at a rate of 90%, mostly because they fail to find product-market fit before running out of resources. Building a product soaks up resources and *isn’t necessary* to test PMF. So the logical conclusion…

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  • The Next 4 Things Every Startup Team Should Do

    So you’re past the first ten seconds of your new venture. Now it’s time to clarify what you’re actually doing. Here’s what to do next.

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  • The First Ten Seconds: 7 Steps Every New Venture Should Take Immediately

    You just spent the day at a hackathon (or in your basement) and you came up with an idea that gets you and your team totally excited. Now what?

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  • Why Agile Estimates Suck – And What To Do About It

    Engineering is always in the crosshairs. No matter how much pressure you bring to bear, only so much is going to make it through. And the whole process sucks. Here’s what to do about it.

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  • Most of What I Know About Entrepreneurship I Learned from Phineas and Ferb

    Phineas and Ferb are builders. Makers, really. They dream up and create wonderful, imaginative, fantastic stuff – not to compete or profit, but because it’s worth doing.

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  • My Top 5 Startup Movies

    As a lifetime “movie guy” and long time startup activist, I love a good startup movie. Here are my top picks – and the ones I’m NOT fond of.

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  • Motivational Content for Entrepreneurs in the Dip

    “The Dip” is Seth Godin’s term for the period following the initial excitement of starting something. It’s the hardest part of being a founder.

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  • Not Enough Unicorn 

    Many would-be founders imagine themselves at the helm of a juggernaut startup that rockets them to immortality. This is both extremely unlikely and harmful.

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  • Is AI your Copilot or your Concierge?

    As the hype around generative AI begins to subside somewhat, more reasonable questions are starting to emerge. For me the question isn’t “will AI take my job?” but how SHOULD AI work?

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  • Why Evaluating Engineers for Startups Isn’t (Mostly) About Code

    Coding for startups is not about writing great code: by necessity it’s sloppy, often gets thrown away, and must be written in light of non-technical constraints. If you want to write great code, don’t join a startup.

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  • Teams vs Ideas: We’re Doing It Wrong

    Given the shockingly bad investor returns on early stage startups, there’s an acute need for solutions that help create successful concept-stage teams BEFORE imagining the venture.

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  • The Startup Iceberg

    Only a tiny fraction of startups are or should be on a rapid growth track. But we need to use different language to think about the huge and critical number who aren’t.

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  • Sell Build Plan

    When I went to business school in the late nineties, the operational roadmap for starting a new venture looked like this: All the venture books I read and all the courses I took at Babson’s Ranked-Number-One-In-Entrepreneurship business school said the same thing: PLAN, BUILD, SELL. Now that I’ve been actually doing startups for the past…

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  • The “IT Guy” Rift

    It’s an unspoken cultural rift dividing corporate America: “tech guys” vs “business guys”. People on both sides view the other with thinly-guarded disdain, as if they are simply a necessary evil. This is not a small problem that has to be addressed.

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  • Six Operational Metrics All Startups Should Care About

    1. Customer Acquisition Cost / CAC Also known as “Cost to Acquire” (CTA), this is your total sales and marketing expenses for a specific time period, divided by the number of new customers in that time period. Formula: Program and advertising spend + Salaries + Commissions and Bonuses + Overhead per period (month/quarter/year), divided by…

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  • Is a Survey An MVP?

    I get this question from time to time from first-time entrepreneurs, and I got it A LOT during my business school days. Does a customer survey count as an MVP? The assumption behind the question is that by asking potential customers (and presumably receiving positive feedback) about their interest in a product, you can determine…

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