Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup

I got this to read on my trip to Oregon.  Initially I was a bit dubious, after reading the chapter headings on Amazon.  Indeed, if you read a lot of articles about tech startups, a lot of the material is not particularly novel, and are things that you've already read elsewhere.  If, on the other hand, you're looking for a quick introduction to some of the common ideas behind web/tech startups, it's a pretty good list, written by a variety of people, with a lot of practical advice.  The list of concepts includes "execution, not ideas", "fail fast", get feedback early", "get a co-founder", and a lot of similar advice that permeates discussions of early stage internet companies.

Other people have different tastes, but for me, this passage was a strikingly effective advertisement for living in Boulder, Colorado:

With this as the backdrop, it was natural to make cycling a central part of my work with Everlater's founders, Nate Abbott and Natty Zola. Nate, Natty, and I scheduled regular weekly rides (sometimes several times a week) and while we didn't keep a formal agenda, each ride had a number of topics planned out for us to cover. In this way, we worked through many of the early challenges the business faced as it moved from idea to reality in the course of the summer of 2009. Our typical rides lasted from 60 to 90 minutes during which time we were able to focus on the business without interruption. And while getting some fresh air helps bring perspective, it's hard to avoid thinking about problems in a new way when you're out of the office, surrounded by the beauty of the Boulder foothills while your mind is completely clear.

Startups, cycling, mountains… sign me up!

Another tidbit I found interesting:

We often talk about the Number One startup killer at TechStars—making a product for which there is no interesting market. TechStars accepts just 10 of more than 600 startups that apply and presumably they are among the best. But still, we find that at least one-third of those startups are attempting to build a product that they want, or that no one wants, instead of what the market wants

But wait, I thought "execution is everything", and "ideas are worthless".  It seems like avoiding bad ideas is potentially worth a whole lot of money in wasted time and energy though, no?

The bit about ideas being worthless is a load of crap.  The reason there is no market for ideas is that they are not "excludable".  There was never a market for lighthouses either, the classic example in economics of a public good.  So the government built them, and they were valuable to people operating ships.   Ideas for startups may not have a lot of value compared to people executing them well, but to say they are worthless is hyperbole.

In any case, though, if you're interested in startups, or especially if you happen to be interested in the TechStars program, it's book full of good advice, even if none of it will come as a revalation to anyone who follows that sort of thing regularly.

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