30 April 2006

Om Malik's advice to startups


Om Malik
Originally uploaded by ptufts.
Here are my notes from Om Malik's presentation at this year's Startup School. I also have notes for the presentations by: Joshua Schachter (del.icio.us, memepool), Paul Graham (YCombinator), and Caterina Fake (Flickr).

Om started off by saying he was going old school by using index cards instead of a notebook for his talk, and later wove this back into a point -- index cards are a $6bn business, a great enduring technology that dwarfs Powerpoint. They'll be around forever; in 20 years, Powerpoint will be forgotten.

Earlier, a speaker had said that doing a startup wasn't about money. Om's response, made humorously and insistently: "it is all about money." To make sure he drove the point home, he said it three times in a row :)

"If we forget about money, we get companies like Enron, WorldCom, and Pets.com!"

"But money should be the end product, not the reason to start the company. But you should get rich, this is America!"

[I don't think this was "greed is good" so much as "pay attention to the money -- how you're going to make it and how you're going to spend it -- don't waste it." --Pat]

If you can change a lot of people's behavior, you can make a lot of money. For example, Flickr did this. There were plenty of photo sites, but Flickr got people looking at photos in an entirely new way.

Memeorandom and Netvibes similarly change the rules.

"The problem with many Web 2.0 products is that they are aimed at the alpha geek, tend to focus on Firefox users, and ignore the 85% on IE."

"Silicon Valley is insular. We look at what our friends are doing and say 'that's cool!' What's cool is never profitable!"

"Keep it simple. Listen to the world -- your mailman, the guy pumping gas next to you -- take their experience and incorporate it into your product. That's how you can reach the ultimate audience that can tell you how to make things simple."

"If it takes me 15 minutes to figure out what a company is going to do, that company is going to fail. Flickr, iPod each took 5 seconds."

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