Mark spoke last night as part of a week-long entrepreneurship conference at Stanford sponsored by ASES. Two things that really stood out from his speech were:

1. Pay attention to surprising successes, even if they’re small

When Mark was running Small World Software, there was a die-hard group of about two million fantasy sports players who—get this—would play on paper, calculating all the statistics and scores by hand (obviously this was before Mark brought fantasy sports to the Internet). What tedium! Point is, if there were that many people who would play on paper, there would surely be many, many more who would play on the web.

2. If you can make it so that the customer doesn’t see the money leaving their wallet (i.e. they don’t have to take out their credit card), they will pay for your service

Loopt does this with their “social mapping” software by charging subscribers $3.99/month, but it just appears on their cellular phone bill like any other feature, such as voicemail or text messaging. Genius. Pure genius.

I somehow happened across one by Guy Kawasaki at Pali (weird coincidence…), I particularly liked one of his points:

#10: Live off your parents as long as possible

When I spoke at this ceremony two years ago, this was the most popular hindsight-except from the point of view of the parents. Thus, I knew I was on the right track.

I was a diligent Oriental in high school and college. I took college-level classes and earned college-level credits. I rushed through college in 3 1/2 years. I never traveled or took time off because I thought it wouldn’t prepare me for work and it would delay my graduation.

Frankly, I blew it.

You are going to work the rest of your lives, so don’t be in a rush to start. Stretch out your college education. Now is the time to suck life into your lungs-before you have a mortgage, kids, and car payments. Take whole semesters off to travel overseas. Take jobs and internships that pay less money or no money. Investigate your passions on your parent’s nickel. Or dime. Or quarter. Or dollar. Your goal should be to extend college to at least six years. Delay, as long as possible, the inevitable entry into the workplace and a lifetime of servitude to bozos who know less than you do, but who make more money. Also, you shouldn’t deprive your parents of the pleasure of supporting you.

Exactly what I’m trying to do…🙂

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

On the surface it seems counterintuitive, but this post by Michi Kono makes a very compelling argument for YouTube’s $1.65B acquisition price in terms of the opportunity cost to Google of not owning the legal, most popular online video site.

Rather than trying to rehash the (very interesting) argument, I highly recommend reading the full post.

Founders at Work

March 20, 2007

I’ve just started reading Founders at Work and I’ve got to say I love it for the most part. I’ve read four of the interviews so far. The one with Max Levchin (founder at PayPal) was incredibly interesting, as was the one with Sabeer Bhatia (founder at Hotmail). It was somewhat shocking (but at the same time not entirely surprising) to hear about the funding problems with DFJ. I’m tempted to ask Tim Draper about it at our upcoming lunch.

The interview with Steve Wozniak was the only one that I ended up skimming so far. The guy obvioulsy loves to talk and the interview was slightly too technical for me, although it this particular section about Jobs was inspiring for me since I’m not an engineer and I just want to build a company:

Livingston: Way back then, how did you guys divide the work between you?

Wozniak: We actually never talked about it even once. If there was any engineering to do…I did it. Never did [Steve] look at a circuit and suggest anything. I don’t want to mess around running a company—my whole life’s engineering—so he’s on the phone talking to reporters…talking to dealers, ordering the parts, negotiating process, getting brochures made up for ads…

Livingston: So you two fit together nicely in terms of your skills.

Wozniak: Well, we added up to the total everything that was needed. If there was anything that neither one of us knew how to do, Steve would do it. He’d just find a way to do it. He was just gung ho and pressing for this company to be successful.

And finally I read the Joe Kraus interview. The long and short of it is that he is one of my favorite role models. He graduated from Stanford in PoliSci without honors. I’m going to—or at least am planning to—graduate in Economics without honors either; there are better uses of my time than writing an Honors thesis, such as working for a startup. As a senior he decided that he just wanted to start a company. He didn’t really care what it was in the beginning. Sounds familiar. Now he’s wildly succseful. Hopefully fortune will guide me down a similar path, whatever that path may be.

I’m excited to finish the book. Reading it makes for a great study break from Econometrics.

Just Do It.

March 19, 2007

From The Myth of The Great Idea:

Success almost never comes from a mind-blowing idea, so sitting around trying to find one is a waste of time. Success comes from a basic idea executed amazingly well. Ideas are rarely found by thinking. They’re found by doing.

So true, but it is fun to think about ideas every so often…

This was a very clear and concise post by Josh Kopelman of Redeye VC that just made me think “Wow, what a great post” after I read it so I figured I’d share. He’s talking about creating asymmetrical competition and “shrinking” a market (and justifying FRC’s investment in Jingle Networks by doing so).

Some excerpts:

On the First Round Capital website we write that: “We love investing in technologies and business models that are able to shrink existing markets. If your company can take $5 of revenue from a competitor for every $1 you earn – let’s talk!” I’ve often been asked what we mean by that – so I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post.

This is the reason why I’m so excited about our recent investment in Jingle Networks. Jingle is the owner of 1-800-FREE411 – the country’s first nationwide provider of free directory assistance. Launched late last year, the 1-800-FREE411 service offers consumers a free alternative to the high cost of 411 service provided by traditional carriers. By including a ten-second advertisement before giving out a phone number, 1-800-FREE411 saves consumers on average $1.25 each time they look for a phone number from their telephone. Since American consumers use traditional 411 services 6 billion times a year, 1-800-FREE411 has the potential to shrink an $8 billion market. I believe (and hope) that as consumers shift to ad-supported directory assistance, we will take a significant share away from the entrenched carriers.

The greeting card industry could use some shrinkage as well. They pull in over $7B each year on nearly as many cards sold. And that’s just in the United States. Unfortunately, eCards tainted the whole concept of a legitimate online greeting card, but I have faith that a new breed of online greetings will eventually prove popular and shrink that market as developers embrace the power of Flash and broadband connections. Smilebox is pioneering this movement (and evidently quite succesfully) by targetting middle-aged women with young children. However, their solution is a desktop-based platform which I don’t think will reach ubiquity as fast as a web-based system could, but we’ll see.