Tag Archives: startup

Defining the Future

How to build 12 startups in 12 months: the startup MVP.

The following is an excerpt from my latest book, Entrepreneur Blackjack: 21 Startup Buzzwords Defined. The book is a guide to surviving startup cocktails, and building incredible new ventures. It defines a series of common startup buzzwords through storytelling and concrete examples so that everybody can learn from them, rather than using them to confuse.


The minimum viable product is an art, and not a science.

It’s when you finally decide your product is good enough to test out your original experiment. It is the bare minimum needed to get data about the market you’re in, and how customers will actually react to your idea.

A good MVP is a vehicle for your hopes and dreams.

As with any first car, there are a few rough patches to deal with.

When Twitter first started, they were not the Twitter you know and love. Twitter revolved around users texting messages with their phones,posting those messages on a publicly accessible web platform.

Netflix’s first rough version wasn’t even delivering movies online: it was about delivering movies through mail.

It’s important to realize that way back when they were getting started, those companies didn’t command the billions of dollars they do now. Their resources had to be focused on one narrow test, and that test had to be delivered under the simplest conditions possible.

Twitter was testing whether or not people wanted to be part of an organized universal message board, somewhere where you could post your thoughts simply, and see them displayed for all to see. The largest unorganized cocktail party on Earth ensued. It was only afterwards that Twitter worked on refining the experience.  The Twitter you know now that allows people to post directly on the platform through mobile applications, and allows them to easily find out what is happening around them through hashtags, and curated accounts—that was a Twitter that took years to evolve.

Netflix was trying to test a simple theory: would people be willing to pay for convenient access to movies? Instead of going to Blockbuster or anywhere else, would they prefer getting it shipped to their homes? If they did prefer that, it naturally followed that they would like to have video streamed to them on-demand with the web. After all, instead of dealing with the messiness of physical tapes, imagine instead a service that could deliver to you the media you wanted whenever you wanted it.

Netflix certainly imagined it. They executed on it masterfully.

Startup MVP Timeline

Startup Timeline

The test for instant on-demand online access to media was validated. Consumers accepted it en masse. Along the way, Netflix learned a great deal about the pain they were solving, and how they could go about delivering video to their consumers in the best way.

Netflix decided to move to external servers after an internal data center failure almost wiped out their ability to deliver videos on the web—which at the time was an experimental feature. By moving over to a more secure solution, Netflix ensured that the experimental feature that would become the centerpiece of its business would always be reliable.

The minimum viable product allowed for these large giants to test ideas cheaply, and make sure that when the time was right to spread their product like wildfire, everything was on a solid foundation.

It is through the minimum viable product that you first collect the data you need to establish if you have an idea worth pursuing. It is here where you determine whether or not you might need to pivot. It is here that your idea becomes something tangible that can be shared throughout the web, rather than a figment of your imagination. It is here that you see whether or not you are solving a real problem—and whether or not you have real customers who need your idea to exist.

Pieter (aka Levels.io) is an entrepreneur who has committed to doing 12 startups in 12 months. He’s constructed a series of minimum viable products that have been featured on Wired, the Next Web, and a whole host of publications, and been used by hundreds of thousands of people.

His latest venture, NomadList, focuses on sorting the cities of the world so that you can distinguish how friendly they would be to remote workers, from climate conditions all the way to how LGBT-friendly the cities were.

The idea has gone on the top of Product Hunt and Hacker News, two popular directories for startup ideas that will drive incredible traffic to new ideas. NomadList has received over 100,000 visits in less than a month.

NomadList MVP with code(love)

NomadList MVP with code(love)

Pieter is the perfect example of somebody who gets what a MVP should be about. When he talks about his ideas, he talks about building them as simply as possible, and just getting them done.

He started NomadList, a venture that was profitable from day 1, through creating a shared Google Spreadsheet, nothing more. He didn’t need to create a website or anything fancy to test the theory that people needed a guide to help them figure out cities where they might want to work remotely.

It can take you or me, or anybody less than five minutes to set up a Google Spreadsheet.

Soon after Pieter shared it, the list was getting populated with new information and new categories. Somebody filled in how LGBT-friendly each city was, rounding out the NomadList to its’ final form.

Demand for Pieter’s idea was established in the simplest fashion possible.

Perfect is the enemy of done. Done is when you can begin testing your theory that your idea is something people will use.

It is here where an idea becomes a startup.

Get the book here.

Open Stories

Ten traits to define your perfect customer.

This was originally posted on Businessforbeginners, a resource for entrepreneurs to understand the business side of their ventures. 


Now that you’ve figured out what it is you’re offering and why it’s valuable, the next thing to think about is identifying the group of people who will care. In a previous post, we began thinking about the answer to “Who is your product/service for?” This group of people (i.e., your target demographic or target audience) have at least one thing in common – they like what you have to offer. So, a preliminary question to ask yourself is, if your product or service solves a problem, who has that problem?

By now, you should have an idea about who your target demographic, or group of customers, are or will be. If your answer to the question above is EVERYONE… try again. Everyone is not your customer, and this is great news. Why? By focusing on the group of people who ARE interested in what you offer, you will save yourself time, money, and energy. The goal here is to identify the exact group of people who are interested in what you’re offering, and to do everything you can to make and keep them happy.


Joe’s Steak Shop 

Joe closes his eyes and pictures a room with 100 potential customers. Joe announces, “Hey everyone! Come and buy my steaks!” Immediately, 5 people leave the room. Why? They are vegans and vegetarians. It doesn’t matter how great Joe’s steaks are, those 5 people won’t want to buy them. So, why would Joe waste his time and money trying to sell steaks to vegetarians?


Still not sure where to begin for your idea? No problem. First, if you know of a similar business, go there and see what kind of people spend time there. If it’s a web-based business, look at the websites of companies that are doing something similar to what you have in mind for your business. Also, use the tips and tricks you learned in the Dollar Shave Club practice problem to examine a website for clues on who their customer is. This is an iterative, ongoing process, and the information you gather now will have to be validated through more research and the data you collect over time. If you want to open a Thai restaurant, for example, visit other Thai restaurants! Another option is to just close your eyes and picture a room filled with your future customers. For either method, think about the following ten things, with the first six being especially important in the beginning stages.

  1. Age: Pick an age range that represents the group, e.g., 12 to 19 years old or 25 to 40 years old. It’s not always obvious, but you can estimate and try to confirm later.
  2. Household Income: You can start with something as simple as ‘high income’ or ‘middle income’, but this part will require additional research. If you’re in Canada, this kind of statistical information can often be found here. If you’re in the USA, try here or here. Live in Europe? No problem, try here and here.
  3. Gender: Male, female, etc.
  4. Geographic Location: This can be something broad such as all countries, or incredibly specific, like people living within a certain postal or zip code.
  5. Interests/Hobbies: Again, it may not be immediately obvious, but it can be incredibly important. A year from now, if we put all of your customers together in a room, what would this group of individuals have in common? This is where interests and hobbies come into play. It may not be obvious at first but when you start to chat, you realize they’re all obsessed with yoga, or they all love cooking. The point is that this group shares that interest or hobby, and you can use that information to build connections between your product and what your consumer loves.
  6. Attitudes/Values/Lifestyle: What is important to this group? What do they believe in? Again, invaluable information for
  7. Marital Status: Single, married, divorced, widowed, or dating. Again, not always obvious, but you can guess to begin with and confirm later.
  8. Occupation: This information is typically gathered over time by talking to customers, through newsletter sign-ups on your website, or in surveys and questionnaires. It’s not a big deal if you can’t answer this part right away.
  9. Ethnicity: Depending on what you’re selling, the ethnicity of your customers can play a role. If, for example, you’re importing a candy into Canada that up until now was only available in South America, the Latino community in your region would might be interested in a little taste of home.
  10. Education Level: Similar to martial status, or age, in that you may have to guess at first. Something to keep in mind is that education level is often correlated with household income.
Finding your perfect startup customer with code(love)

Finding your perfect startup customer with code(love)


Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to determine exactly who their customer is and continuously refine their answers to the above categories of customer information. By looking at existing competitors, you may be able to learn about their target demographic. Often, this information is not readily available to people outside the company. The important thing here is to use the ten categories above to guide you as you try to figure out who your ideal customer is or will be, even if you don’t have all of the exact information you need.


Now that we have a list of ten things to consider, let’s take a look at an example.

Example #1: Lululemon. Product – Women’s Apparel

Let’s pretend I want to start a retail business that sells high-quality yoga clothes to women. To learn more about who buys yoga clothing, I will look at another clothing brand that sells yoga clothes. For this example, I’ve chosen Lululemon, an athletic apparel company inVancouver, Canada that specializes in yoga clothes. As I mentioned before, it is difficult to find specific information on the customers who buy from a particular company. So, with my list of ten things to think about, I visited a few Lululemon stores to see who was shopping there, and reviewed their website. While I was unable to fill in every category, I found information on the most important first six items.

Lululemon Customer Overview:

  1. Age: 16 to 45 year-olds
  2. Household Income: Middle to high income
  3. Gender: Women
  4. Geographic location: North America, but expanding internationally
  5. Interests/Hobbies: Yoga, running, dancing
  6. Attitude/Values/Lifestyle: Physically fit, health and appearance-conscious, environmentally aware
  7. Marital Status: ?
  8. Occupation: ?
  9. Ethnicity: ?
  10. Education Level: University educated

If my business will offer women’s yoga apparel that is very similar to Lululemon’s, the information above would help me better understand who my future customer will be so that I can focus my efforts.

If my business will offer women’s yoga clothes is going to be different than Lululemon’s, this example will be a reference point, but my answers will be different. For example, if my yoga clothes are going to be much cheaper, then it doesn’t make much sense to target individuals with a high household income.


Now, just like the above example, you should be ready to apply what you’ve learned and tackle this practice problem! The company is Bentley Motors, and the product is a Bentley, a car whose starting price is approximately $200,000. So, who buys a Bentley? Who is Bentley’s ideal customer? Visit the Bentley website and try to complete the first six categories of information below.

Practice #1: Bentley. Product – Car 

  1. Age:
  2. Household Income:
  3. Gender:
  4. Geographic location:
  5. Interests/Hobbies:
  6. Attitude/Values/Lifestyle:

I will post my answer next week!

Practice #2: Your Company

Now that you’ve seen an example and have done some practice, you’re equipped to do the work for your company. Good luck!

Still not quite sure? Contact Us.

Final Thoughts:

If you know your potential and actual customer, what’s important to them, what they like and don’t like, the better you will be able to find them, make them happy, and keep them coming back for more. Remember, this is just a first step, as you will have to do some additional research to confirm these assumptions. Not everyone will want what you have to offer, no matter how good it is, and that is okay. Focus on the people who will love you, and you will succeed.

Open Stories

Why the early adopter user is essential to your startup success.

This is the open story of Rapheal Costa from Hashtag Consulting. If you want your story to be highlighted, and given the views you need, contact us at [email protected] 🙂


I think that a solid “early adoption” base is as important to a startup as a solid team of developers.

Often, and that keeps on happening to me, we overlook everything else and we focus on three conceptual things: our idea on how to solve the problem, how to develop our innovation and how to go to market.

However, what I kept on forgetting was that in order to cross the chasm and hit our target market we have to meet the consumer where they are and then walk them through our so-called “new thing” so that they can mature to be the users we built our app for.

I have learned that there’s no prototyping routine/process that can substitute for the feedback of a group of engaged early adopter users.

With a poor early adopter user base you can end up investing your time and money on something that is irrelevant to the industry and to the future of your startup. I have done that several times!

I have failed several startups. Not 1, not 2 and not even 3 – several. When I sit back to reflect, I realise that the only thing they all had in common was our focus and processes.

Here’s how we approached the ideation process through to deployment.

1 – Market Research

2 – Prototyping

3 – Feedback

4 – Development

5 – Go to Market

6 – Funding

A huge gap was left between point 4 and 5. I assumed that the feedback over a prototype would shape my product and bullet proof it for the market. Silly me.

I’m no startup expert – you can see by the number of failures. I’m a developer by trade, I like to build things and I like to solve problems.

After building building several failed “apps” and some successful apps I realised that as far as startups go, it doesn’t really matter how well built your app/innovation is. If that doesn’t fit the “consumer’s way of doing things” within that specific niche you will be out. Humans are creatures of habit and often startups bring innovation by streamlining processes, yielding better and faster processes. I’m not saying that startups should not bring on drastic innovations. I advocate that often, you have to allow your consumer base to mature in order to engage with your innovation. A strong early adopter user base will guide the startup on what is important to cross the chasm and how to present an innovation. That’s key.

Do you like learning from genuine stories about entrepreneurship and coding from those living thorough building new ventures? We have more!

Technology and Society

Canadian incorporation: what, why, and how.

Sooner or later the question will come up: what should a startup, or any new venture do in Canada with regard to its legal status?

While entrepreneurs should focus on building, there needs to be some strategic thought placed into how the company interacts with stakeholders around it, from investors, to customers. A consideration of legal options is always something that is worth examining.

Incorporation with code(love)

Incorporation with code(love)

There are three distinct legal forms in Canada that are the most likely to pop up: the sole proprietorship, the partnership or Corporation. Incorporation is the process of taking an organization to a corporate legal form, with all of its pros and cons.

A corporation does have three distinct advantages over the other two legal forms.

First, incorporating your business limits the liability of individual shareholders in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy, except in the case of fraud. This means that shareholders can lose only the amount that they had invested in the Corporation. For risky startups, this can be a key consideration for those who are not willing to risk all of their individual assets—however, be aware of the fact that banks will often ask you for personal guarantees even if you are incorporated. Still, incorporation does act as a shield between your personal life and the idea you are creating.

Secondly, a Corporation may allow a business to more easily raise and attract investment capital, in particular through the sale of shares, which also allows for greater ease during a change of ownership. For startups looking for venture capital, being incorporated is often a must—and it conveys a certain sense of legitimacy, and ease with which you can add on more investors.

Finally, the Corporation may offer fiscal advantages, as the business may implement effective tax strategies with their financial advisors to lower tax rates, an option not available to their unincorporated counterparts. They can claim losses for example, and perhaps even pay a lower corporate income tax.

Now that we’re done with incorporation in general, there are two specific incorporation types startups have to decide between in Canada.

Federal or Provincial?

In Canada, a Corporation can exist under either a Federal or Provincial Charter. Both offer the same advantages mentioned above, in addition to the possibility of doing business anywhere in the world. Your decision whether to opt for a Provincial or Federal Corporation will, in part, be motivated by the following factors:

1) Industry: Industries, such as telecommunications, are subject to Federal jurisdiction, which would favour a Federal Corporation;

2) Cost: Federal Corporations must register with and pay for registration at both the Federal and Quebec registrars, unlike Quebec Corporations;

3) Director’s Nationality: At least one-third of the board of directors of Federal Corporations must consist of Canadian residents, whereas certain provincial corporations do not have this requirement.

Sometimes when you build, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and forget that your startup, no matter how exciting it is, has to operate within the law, and hew to certain principles.

You can choose to incorporate yourself, but that could be messy. Many law firms now offer free incorporations or very good packages in order to entice startups to stay with them through financing rounds. One such example is Quebec-based Legal Logik, which offers incorporation for free—you just have to pay for the fees themselves, but they’ll handle all of the legal paperwork free of charge.

It’s this sort of program that will enable builders to create faster, without having to worry so much about the gritty and sometimes messy details creation leaves behind. Digital entrepreneurship, and building out ventures are great ambitions to have—but you’ll need experienced advisors to thrive. Seek them out if you want to go through incorporation, and be sure that you use your skills to create something meaningful—and sustainable.


This is a sponsored article from Legal Logik, and it is purely informational in nature and does not constitute legal advice. This article neither constitutes nor creates an attorney-client relationship. 

Photo credit: qwrrty via photopin cc

Open News

Indiegogo Canada and MakeWorks are partnering to mold digital and physical together.

We previously wrote about MakeWorks and their co-working space revolving around the Internet of Things. It’s something of vast potential to see software principles embedded into physical goods—a revolution that will reshape how we view and control the objects around us.

It is the startups that will be on the frontier of hardware and startup that will direct this new revolution, and it’s good to see both funders, and spaces become part of the fun. Indiegogo Canada will actually move their offices into the space, allowing for there to be a union between creators, funders, and the spaces they need to truly change.

They’re raising money for this endeavour on Indiegogo—and so far traction has been good, with about 40% committed with plenty of days to go.

Here are some of the perks you can expect for supporting the future:

Here’s the link to the campaign.

Open Stories

My failed startup ThoughtBasin—and the lessons you can take from it.

This is an edit of my original post on Techvibes about my first failed startup. Thought it was worth reflecting on again, as we near six months after that article posting.


Getting involved with startups requires a healthy amount of delusion. It’s usually why you’re the last person to know that your startup is dying.

That didn’t happen for me. I knew that it was dying, and I (mostly) knew what I did wrong, so when I finally made the phone calls to thank everybody for their involvement, it was with cold sobriety, rather than emotional explosiveness.

It hurt to do it, but it was more of a chronic pain than an acute one. A lot of people will have stories about them slamming a door on an opportunity they had chased for miles and miles, but my story is more about tapping the door closed dutifully, and keeping that thin margin between the door and the wall open—if only for a tiny bit of light.

Every good story has a context to it, and this is mine. I started my first startup, ThoughtBasin, while I was still in university at McGill. I juggled economics courses, a part-time job at a pharmaceutical firm, and trying to jump-start ThoughtBasin at the same time. At the beginning, I had nothing more than a cofounder, a set of ideals, and something that vaguely resembled a good idea.

We wanted to take the work that students put into learning, and see if it had a use outside of the confined context of a class. We wanted to create an online platform where students could contribute easily to various problems, and be rewarded and recognized for doing so. The purest interpretation of our ideals would be that we thought the ideas of students could power societal innovation. In many ways, I still do, but as it turns out to be the case with every dying startup, we simply approached it the wrong way.

How do I begin to define and learn from the “wrong way” so that you can glean some insight while we move along my story? Well, as it turns out, while there were too many individual mistakes to count, let alone learn from, I have grabbed a collection of key lessons with my experience chasing dreams. Let’s begin.

make the leap with code(love)

make the leap with code(love)


At the beginning of any startup there is only you, a dream that masquerades as an idea, and if you are fortunate, one or two people with whom to share it with. I shared it with some of my closest friends, and stuck with them to develop it together.

That was my first mistake.

They always tell you to never mix business with pleasure, but it’s astoundingly easy advice to ignore once you’re involved with both business and pleasure.

Who do you choose to found with, if you choose anyone at all? I laughed at how easy it was for me: I founded with a set of close friends that I happened to share the idea with. End of story. That we were all of similar business backgrounds, had little to no technical knowledge, and sometimes had drastically different viewpoints as well as bad tempers to boot would be problems

Make sure you know who you are founding with. My cofounders were and are great people, hard workers, and talented. I like them very much. Unfortunately, that’s not a very good criteria for success.


When we went through the process of building the website, I had to start getting a sense of the code. If there’s one thing I would say, it would be that knowing code is essential. It’s why I started code(love) in the first place.

ThoughtBasin ended up with a new technical cofounder who brought us to the next level. He was the one who largely assembled the online platform with the help of two talented junior coders. We had an office at last where people dedicated days towards building ThoughtBasin. It had taken us a while, but we finally had a clear path to a product.

I started ThoughtBasin with zero technical knowledge, and now I’m not half-bad as a front-end developer, so I believe it’s very achievable to develop those skills if you don’t have them. We wasted so much time trying to start a website without knowing how to go about doing it at ThoughtBasin. It took us two years to get a proper landing page up. Now, I can build one in four hours.

I also believe that it is crucial to make sure everybody is a good fit, not only at the bar, but also in the office. Ideally, you would test a team before you even embark on a startup idea.

Like in any dedicated relationship, you don’t really know who you’re dealing with until you’ve had your first good fight.


I believe my first real fight with my cofounders, and every subsequent fight after, had a common theme. I was trying to be a teacher rather than being a student each and every time.

The reality with startups is that everybody is on a learning curve. You can have all of the experience in the world, but a startup is all about examining a new path for everyone involved. I waded into every argument with a gung-ho attitude that I had nothing left to learn. That sparked some fights, and continued many. It was an incredibly bad attitude to have. When you’re a student, you can afford to make mistakes, and strive to improve on them. When you’re a teacher, it makes it that much harder to do so without looking like a fool to others. That fundamental difference made all the difference in the world at ThoughtBasin.

I remember an argument over whether or not we should incorporate, and one on whether or not to bring more people onto the team without clear pre-defined roles. In the end, we incorporated, and had a team of fifteen people. They were both bad mistakes on my part, and if I were willing to listen more, and to compromise more like a student should, perhaps we would have ended in the happy middle where we would have had a smaller, more well-defined team, and a company that had sales before we went through incorporation.

Ultimately, after a series of arguments that went nowhere, one of my original cofounders chose to leave for law school, and the other one gradually started working in banking.

ThoughtBasin was a constantly painful learning experience, and I would never consider it over. I look at this article as something I had to write to get some lessons I’ve learned on paper, and I don’t look to teach from these errors. I look to learn.


The reason why we broke too far was because one of our competitors in the student space was much further along than we thought they were. We had not been watching our competitors carefully, and this was another instance of working hard in our zone, while not working smart outside of it.

Their online platform was much more developed then ours, and so were their partnerships. We realized we would never be realistically able to catch up with them, and so we would be relegated as late-comers to a niche that wasn’t worth fighting over.

While this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, there were plenty of other bumps along the way. All of them struck me hard, because I had not been taking care of myself too well. Every failure of the company became a personal failure of mine. We missed tons of sales opportunities as I struggled to elaborate on why people should work with ThoughtBasin, and I learned how hard it was to maintain a thriving company while suffering personally.

If there was one note I’d strike on this: love yourself. Take a break once in a while. Playing a martyr will get you and your company nowhere.

As a corollary to this, love your community. I cannot help but think of the Montreal startup community as a godsend. The number of people willing to help you, and to take coffees with you as you navigate your path is truly staggering. The startup community, no matter where it is, is in it together to watch everybody succeed, so get help, and pay it forward. If you ever want to meet with me because you think I can help, shoot me an email at [email protected].

You do need a certain level of delusion to think that you and maybe a few other people can band together in a garage and change the world. Even now, I still have that spark, and I am constantly searching for how to exercise it. For now, I’ve settled on working on another good startup idea: Shout, a utility that takes your social media messages directed at a company, and shoots it off to every social media outlet the company owns if they don’t get back to you.

I look at ThoughtBasin as a means to an end, and though the means did not work perfectly, that did not mean it was not a worthy exercise, and that does not mean I can’t find another means to that coveted end.

So be deluded. Be silly. Think that you can build great things, because you can, even if it takes a few setbacks to get there.

Longform Reflections

Three essential questions entrepreneurs have to ask themselves

Do you want to learn how to build great startups? Of course you do. Join our mailing list.


Do you want to do good, or do well?

I went to a Startup Weekend where one of the judges asked this question point-blank to a team. They were doing what they claimed to be an e-commerce platform for social good. While that was all well and good—the problem was that it is hard to do both.

As human beings, I think we are all inclined to create as much social impact as possible, and to do as much as good as we can. To me, that’s the basis of human decency.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves though. It’s hard to do either good or well, nevermind both. So many ideas that I have seen fail seem confused on what they are there for.

That creates a host of issues. A team that is trying to get money and creates social impact will always face the conflict between how much they charge, and how much they want society to benefit. The team will split between people motivated by creating good, and those motivated by creating wealth.

A startup wins on a simple idea that it can communicate well. Complicating it by trying to do things that conflict will help nobody. The idea will die and be unable to do good or well.

If you want to do good, consider building a non-for-profit idea that supported by a foundation like Khan Academy is. Be explicit that you are not looking for wealth. If you want to do well, build the idea you want, and make it clear everybody is in it for wealth.

There are ideas that can straddle both, but it takes a skilled executioner to work on those. It’s important here to be honest with oneself before muddying the waters. There are some that can prove me wrong and build ideas that do good, and well—but those will be the exception, and not the rule.


Doing good or doing well with code(love)

Is your idea a community or a commodity?

This is an important question. Is what you’re producing something that will get people coming back, and feeling at home? Or is it something people can use over and over again because they need it, with no emotions attached?

The former has loads of potential. Many of the most successful ideas of our time have come because they assemble communities of like-minded individuals to create beautiful things. Yet it is incredibly hard to make money off of a community because it takes time to build it. This is time that is not well-reflected with return on investment until your constituents fully assemble.

A commodity, meanwhile, can make money for you immediately—but it’ll never have the magic of a fully formed community.

Make sure you know what you’re building. Different paths will have different implications on your business strategy, your need for financing, and your ultimate goal. If you’re building a community, get ready for the long haul. If you’re building a commodity, make sure you sell as much as you can.

View More: http://deathtothestockphoto.pass.us/brick-and-mortar

Community or commodity with code(love)

Build or buy?

This is a decision that you will face at every turn. There are so many ready-made solutions that you can buy rather than build yourself for startups. Each one will accelerate your progress exponentially.

Google Analytics can do your data analytics for you. Zendesk can help do your customer service for you. Stripe can help you deal with payments.

Building takes time. No matter what, nothing is free. You have to determine what your startup is built to do, and what you should build and what you should buy.

A startup that buys everything is not disruptive in the slightest. A startup that builds everything will die under the weight of the time it wastes.

This will be a constant question, something that will follow you all the way to the time where you have to decide whether or not to acquire your first startup.



Entrepreneurship with code(love)

Entrepreneurship is a set of questions. Every minute brings new ones that you have to ask yourself. Part of the thrill of it all is not knowing where the hell you’re going at any given time: in many ways, building a startup is about answering one question at a time in an endless stream.

I’ve been through it enough times to know that these are the important questions for me. What are the important ones for you?


Open Stories

The story behind the world’s fastest growing car classifieds.

This is the open story of Fritz Simons, a co-founder of Carmudi, a startup that bills itself as the world’s fastest growing car classifieds. If this story inspires you to build, join our mailing list.


Carmudi with code(love)

Carmudi with code(love)

1. What is the ultimate vision of Carmudi?

Carmudi will revolutionise the way vehicle are traded. We are combining technological expertise with a passion for cars in order to offer our customers the best possible experience. For us this means making buying and selling vehicles easy, safe and fast. We are only at the start of our journey but we are working extremely hard every single day to get there.

2. How did you achieve your current success?

We are simply faster than anyone else. This results from a combination of being very customer focused and extremely execution driven. We spend a lot of time understanding the market we operate in and leverage everything we learn immediately by making it influence our priorities and goals. At such an early phase of a company, one must be able to react very quickly.

3. How did you get into founding a tech enterprise? What’s your advice in regards to understanding technology and code?

The Internet changes the way people think and go about their lives. As an entrepreneur I can be part of this change and impact people’s life for the better. This is why I ended up in tech and founding Carmudi. Of course, my understanding of technology helps me every day. Get yourself excited about it and spend time to learn from everyone around you.

4. What do you find fascinating about cars personally?

For some, cars are merely a means of transportation. For others they are a hobby and status symbol. Cars fascinate me because they have their own different meanings for different people. I myself am a car enthusiast having dedicated my entire working career to the automotive industry.

5. What are your tips for building a great team and establishing an excellent company culture?

Only hire people you are fully convinced of. This is time consuming but will pay off from day one. Then get every single one in the team enthusiastic about the company vision and product. This serves as the basis for a fruitful company culture.

6. What is special about Carmudi’s company culture?

We all love cars and we all believe in our vision. Everyone wants to make the next step to making car trading better for our clients. Thus, the environment is productive and this is fun for everyone.

7. Where does your drive of being an entrepreneur come from?

It comes from the ambition to make a meaningful impact. To achieve this you have to take responsibility and ownership of what you are doing as well as be prepared to take risks. This is the true basis for entrepreneurship.

Technology and Society

Creating a Startup – The Importance of Now!

Mark Zuckerberg almost instantly started working on his idea for ‘TheFacebook’. The road to building a startup is paved with constant learning. This is true even for Mark.The important thing was that he started on it right away without waiting to acquire all the ‘necessary’ skills before someone else would have stolen his thunder.

Anyone familiar with Economics has heard of economies of scale and how they experience increasing returns to scale – here in the field of technology we are experiencing something similar but turbocharged.

Ray Kurzweil predicts that the dominance of this trend is so overarching that we are fast approaching what he calls the ‘Singularity’ when artificial intelligence transcends organic intelligence. Looking that far, his guess may be as good as anybody’s, but he does make a compelling argument about the importance of the pace of technological change and its extension to all walks of life. From physicists jumping into doing social media analytics (ex: Nexalogy) to people out in developing nations pumping out solutions to meaningful problems (ex: Keepod competing with One Laptop Per Child), anyone with an idea now has the resources at his disposal to give birth to the idea.

What is more interesting though is what is called ‘time to market’ – which is dramatically going down as things become easier from using APIs to send texts to hardware powered by your Raspberry Pi to setting up the process of accepting credit cards online using Stripe in a few minutes. All of these things took weeks and weeks of planning and consideration before. If you are taking too long to get your startup off the ground, the market may just have changed enough so that your idea isn’t relevant anymore.

What does that mean for that billion dollar idea that you wrote down on a restaurant napkin that you’ve tucked away? Well it is time to bring it out and start building it out. Why? Because if you don’t, then someone else will most likely come up with a similar idea, put together a few engineers and have a prototype that beats you to the market.

Build now with code(love)

When they give away t-shirts at hackathons (24 hour coding and prototyping marathons) saying “Fuck it, ship it” they don’t do that just to help you absorb the spirit. They also do it to emphasize the fact that if you don’t follow up on that great idea, someone else will.

The whole entrepreneurial atmosphere is lit up with bright ideas – each with as much potential as the next – the only difference between the ones that succeed and the ones that don’t is the conviction of the entrepreneur to start building not today – but NOW! Given the plethora of online tutorials to create your own websites, apps – there is very little reason to embark on a journey to first acquire the skills and then start building – these processes have now condensed into a single stream that flows together.

Thought getting marketing materials and a social presence up and running is hard ? Even that is now at your fingertips – hire one of the many teams that strive to provide you with an entire package consisting of services that can help you publish blog posts, setup your social media presence, create logos, choose color schemes and all the other 100 things that come with creating a new startup.

With Indiegogo and KickStarter being extremely popular, you can start raising capital today if that is something you feel stopping you from taking the plunge. Haven’t we then covered almost all elements that you could think of in getting at least a basic version of your idea up and running ? Almost ! We are just missing one crucial element – your entrepreneurial drive ! The inner desire to keep pushing, to stay committed when everyone says no, to work that one more hour, to make that one more sales call, to do one more rehash of the design board – all of that makes for the right ingredients to a successful startup. So go out there and get started – Carpe diem!

Longform Reflections

How Startups Can Truly Change The World

In the Amazonian forests, wildlife presenter Charlie Hamilton Jones was looking to make a statement. He went and bought a patch of Amazonian wildlife, looking to protect it for generations. Instead, he wound up buying a cocaine plantation. The most dangerous one in the area, owned by the “most dangerous family”.

When he went to confront the drug dealers, he was in for a surprise. Far from being gun-toting murderers, they were desperately powerless. Charlie had always demonized those who had spoiled his precious forests: now he saw that they were merely doing what they had to do to survive.

They implored him to “pay them so they wouldn’t do it”.

The story of the 20th century has been the elevation of private incentives to a quasi-religion. Capitalism won the battle of isms, and reigns supreme to this day. Credited with lifting billions out of poverty, the march of private capital seemed to be a matter of destiny.

Now that the story has flipped to the next chapter, we can clearly see that there are numerous issues with rising private incentives above social needs. From climate change to political and economic chaos, the world seems to lurch from crisis to crisis, with no end in sight.

There is a sense that many systems are broken, and that there needs to be change. But where does it begin?

What can be done starts with the digital communities building the future. These startups have achieved such an impact that even in the material economy of the past, they are worth billions of dollars. They can, and should be a force for change.

Change with code(love)

Change with code(love)


What does it take for startups to change rather than adapt to society? 

Tweet: What it takes for startups to change rather than adapt to society by @Rogerh1991 http://ctt.ec/ITWA0+ #startup #tech

1-Define new metrics.

GDP rewards everything from traffic jams to oil spills. It is the crudest way to account for innovation: it only captures the benefits that can be captured privately from social good.

This leads to entire companies shutting off access to social goods in order to reap private benefit: LinkedIn has built an entire empire on restricting valuable information away from those that need it, for example.

Sales or users are the easiest way to measure growth, but for forward-thinking startups, a measure of social impact should be implemented as a key performance indicator: from the number of people who are able to learn something new on an edtech platform, to the number of trees saved on a communications platform.

Socially-oriented investors like the Omidyar Network and the non-profit arm of Y Combinator will notice. Ultimately, social value will spread as a key metric not only for intrinsic reasons, but for extrinsic ones as well.

Society grows great with code(love) from Reddit

Society grows great with code(love) from Reddit

Technology that helps empower and enable others is immensely powerful, for all of the right reasons. Communities that grow from that technology can generate advances so powerful that huge amounts of money will flow regardless: we saw this with Linux spawning the $10 billion+ Red Hat corporation.

2-Think long-term.

Startups can’t just think of short-term growth curves. In order to create a sustainable society, startups must think of the long-term future.

Instead of just focusing on short-term profit, Salman Khan of Khan Academy has put himself on record as to saying that the profit motive actually harms his mission of creating sustainable long-term value.

Salman Khan of Khan Academy with code(love)

This is why Khan Academy has been created with a non-for-profit model: in order to create the social value it needs to, unhindered by shareholders constantly demanding the company sacrifice itself to get some numbers now.

The great startups of the future will be able to pursue their social goals without much thought to private goals.

They will build for centuries rather than building for fiscal years.

3-Strive to change behavior—not adapt to it

Respected venture capitalist Chris Dixon has argued persuasively that the best startup ideas are not the freshest ones: they are the old ideas left around that were pursued with ambition by new startups that looked to control all facets of the value chain.

From Uber, to Tesla, to Warby Parker, these startups embedded their digital culture into every facet of the value chain. They challenged entrenched traditional incumbents head-on by fundamentally changing user behavior patterns.

People who use Uber or AirBnB would find it difficult to come back to the traditional way of hailing a cab, or taking a hotel out.  That is because these full-stack startups chose to change their user’s behavior rather than adapt to it.

Uber with code(love)

Uber with code(love)


Rather than creating an application to make it easier to book a hotel, AirBnB redefined the hospitality industry by making it a part of the sharing economy. It allowed you and I to rent out each other’s unoccupied guest rooms, and to be hosted by those with extra space from city-to-city, creating game-changing disruption of user behavior.

AirBnB is now worth $10 billion.

Digital startups that strive to control all facets of the value chain achieve material success. They are at the forefront of changing the way humans interact with one another, and changing the world around them.

4-Embrace open data and open source

I gave a talk once on the importance of adopting software principles to a capital-intensive biotechnology industry. Because of the rules of the new knowledge economy, the largest cost for companies expanding are the minds of skilled builders.

One of the cardinal rules of software engineering is “DRY”—don’t repeat yourself. Taken on an aggregate level, this means that if somebody has built it already, you shouldn’t build it again.

Embrace open source with code(love)

Embrace open source with code(love)

The lean philosophy that forms the basis of the modern startup demands it. Lean means not to waste—and developing something in a proprietary silo when others are doing the same thing is waste.

When your most expensive cost is that of bright minds, you cannot afford to waste them working on solutions that have already been built.

The data-driven side of startups demands the best data available. Embracing open data sources ensures that everybody can get the data they need to inform the choices they must make.

Startups looking to change the world should embrace open source and open data as powerful leverage points in their David v. Goliath sagas, following Elon Musk’s example. In doing so, they build the health of the open movement, and reinforce sharing as the default of the digital economy.

5-Nurture a culture of building

Brian Chesky, AirBnB’s founder, made a really good observation on the importance of culture: it cuts out the need for corporate process if everybody on the team has a sense of what exactly they need to do. Instead of being high-touch, and micro-managed, a team with a good culture would automatically organize themselves to deliver the expected results.

Process is a proxy for making sure your people are aligned. If, however, you build a culture of building, you won’t need as much process, and your brightest minds will be free to solve every problem they see. If all of them are aligned with long-term thinking, social impact, ambition to change behavior, and open principles, there is no need for you to manage a team to create positive private and social impact: all you have to do is provide the end vision.

I heard of some of the guys behind Google Ventures talk about what propelled Google’s success: allowing bright young minds the latitude to fuck up without worrying about it too much. The culture was set to help these young kids experiment and grow, infusing Google with a set of new ideas day-by-day, and the room to see where those ideas went.

Nurturing a culture where tinkering with good ideas to watch them become great projects is the norm—this can only help a startup grow stronger. It will change the way it perceives itself—and more importantly how the startup shapes others.

How AirBnB was built by Anna Vital with code(love)

How AirBnB was built by Anna Vital with code(love)


The challenges that surround society seem numerous, sometimes too many to surmount. We shouldn’t despair. Locked within each startup is the potential to truly change the world.for the better.

By defining new metrics, thinking long-term, striving to change user behavior, embracing openess, and building a culture around these values, startups will be the change they want to see in the world.