I wonder if it’s possible to have a Google Ventures like infrastructure but at a university. By infrastructure, I mean the incredible support (and enabling) people they have around their portfolio companies, such as web designers, UX/UI and data viz designers, engineers, statisticians, accountants, lawyers (or soon to be), marketers, product managers, project managers, etc. Obviously, they wouldn’t be on the GV level, but we have those elements in place at universities, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This would be an opportunity for everyone to get tons of experience, and maybe incubate something magical. The one thing I think new entrepreneurs don’t appreciate enough in their first venture is the long leap, and the number of diverse help you need, to go from product to company. Who knows if we can get enough hits, then maybe we can start hiring a full-time staff to support these entrepreneurs.
November 3, 2013
November 1, 2013
If I could pick only one core value for HiTCH it would be our singular focus on the “pursuit of customer amazement.” The one value that both Jobs and Bezos shared was this relentless and singular focus for their companies. For us, the amazing experience has two dimensions:
Every time I hear someone touting how “big data” will cure all of society’s ills, I always ask them this question, “We’ve always had data, we’ve always faced challenges ingesting, storing, and analyzing and making sense of that data. So what’s the big deal now?” The response usually is, “But we have so much more of it now. ” Just because we have more s*&t doesn’t mean it smells any better.
I’ll go into some more detail of why I do think there’s some interesting things this time around, but I do want to emphasize there is NO shortcut to thinking hard about a problem, figuring out the process, ie mechanism, so you can really understand the problem and ultimately figure out the solution. As a friend at MSR always says, “There’s no free lunch.” And it’s especially true in this “big data” world we live in.
October 31, 2013
From early Yahoo (manual directories) to Google (citation rank algorithms) to…? William Wu, one of the co-founders of HiTCH, shared some random thoughts about search, which I found illuminating.
Since the inception of search, there have been two competing schools of thought about the way data should be stored and retrieved: navigational vs. direct. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:
=== begin quote ===
The web search world, since its very beginning, has offered two paradigms:
(1) Navigational search uses a hierarchy structure (taxonomy) to enable users to browse the information space by iteratively narrowing the scope of their quest in a predetermined order, as exemplified by Yahoo! Directory, DMOZ, etc.
(2) Direct search allows users to simply write their queries as a bag of words in a text box. This approach has been made enormously popular by Web search engines.
For those old enough to remember the early days of Yahoo was literally a directory of the internet where Filo and Yang manually organized the web for us. While that was useful for a while, the number of websites just outstripped the number of editors. Navigational search just couldn’t work with the deluge of website.
Then came a bunch of algo oriented solutions, Hotbot, AltaVista, etc. and then finally Google where the PageRank, ie citation rank, algo could expose the most relevant (or popular) website for the keyword(s) that you used.
Now there’s an explosion of textual data and the PageRank algo seems to be inappropriate for that kind of data. We almost want to go back to the old Yahoo days for someone to manually organize that information for us. We know that’s not humanly feasible. Here comes cheap computing, machine learning and natural language processing (potentially) to the rescue.
As Willam notes,
Perhaps the future lies somewhere in between navigational search and
direct search. Here’s the rest of the Wikipedia quote:
=== begin quote ===
Over the last few years, the direct search paradigm has gained
dominance and the navigational approach became less and less popular.
Recently, a new approach has emerged, combining both paradigms, namely
the faceted search approach. Faceted search enables users to navigate
a multi-dimensional information space by combining text search with a
progressive narrowing of choices in each dimension. It has become the
prevailing user interaction mechanism in e-commerce sites and is being
extended to deal with semi-structured data, continuous dimensions, and
Perhaps…let’s see what the future holds.
October 9, 2013
When you first take in money and starting paying salary, bills, etc. the clock starts ticking. When you don’t have any revenues all you see is outflows every month. Not a fun feeling. So you feel the need to run. Isn’t that what startups are suppose to do, just keep moving, iterating, and pushing ahead? I agree with all that, but it’s just as important to take your time, plan and think. I’m even advocating…yes…have a meeting or two. Think through the next sprint, even spend a day to reflect on it before pulling the trigger. I know it sounds obvious, but just add some planning and thinking into all the running, sprinting, and iterating process.
September 29, 2013
I’ll be embarking on my 4th venture and I thought I’ve now accumulated enough bumps and bruises along to say something (potentially) useful. This is a post I wanted to write during my 2nd venture but never got around to it, so here goes. For me, the startup trinity is based on Blank-Reis-Ellis philosophy to startups.
Blank, in The Four Steps to Epiphany, drives home the notion of customer development. Before a line of code is written, money raised and spent, do some customer development. In other words, go talk to potential customers and see if they share the same pain point that you envision and believe your solution solves that pain point. It’s not enough to talk to a handful of potential customers, but more like a hundred or more.
Now that you’ve validated the pain point and solution, now it’s time to start writing some code. This is where you want to embrace Reis’ Lean Startup. Get the product out there, rapidly get customer feedback and continuously iterate. I want to highlight one misconception of the Lean Startup philosophy which is, rapid iteration equals buggy code. Reis repeatedly says this, but somehow it get lost in translation, which is rapid iteration does NOT equal buggy code. The team needs to write solid code, and ensure it’s not buggy, and get feedback from customers.
So we now believe we built a product that solves a customer’s pain point, now when do we start charging? Ellis provides a nice framework. Keep asking potential clients using the product, how disappointed they would be if they could no longer use the product. I believe if the number is 40% then you should feel confident you’ve built something that customers would pay for.
Obviously, this is idea for consumer facing startup as opposed to B2B, but I think there’s nuggets in all three approaches that can be used for B2B startups as well.