Things Founders Should Know

  • Your idea is not valuable, at all. All value is in the execution. You think you are an exception; you are not. You should not insist on an NDA to talk about it; nobody serious will engage in contract review over an idea, and this will mark you as clueless.

  • Technologists tend to severely underestimate the difficulty and expense of creating software, especially at companies which do not have fully staffed industry-leading engineering teams

  • Charge more. Charge more still. Go on.

  • The press is a lossy and biased compression of events in the actual world and is singularly consumed with its own rituals, status games, and incentives. The news necessarily fails to capture almost everything which happened yesterday. What it says is important usually isn't.

  • Companies find it incredibly hard to reliably staff positions with hard-working generalists who operate autonomously and have high-risk tolerances. This is not the model employee, including at places that are justifiably proud of the skill/diligence/etc of their employees.

  • The hardest problem in B2C is distribution. The hardest problem in B2B is sales. The big companies succeed primarily because they have mortal locks on distribution.

  • Everyone in Silicon Valley uses equity, and not debt, to fuel their growth because debt is not available in sufficient quantities to poorly capitalized companies without a strong history of adequate cash flows to service debt.

  • Investors in venture-back companies are purchasing a product. It is critically important to understand that that product is growth. The reason tech is favored as an asset class that it appears to be one of few sources of growth available on the market at the moment at any price.

  • Software companies in B2B which aspire to growing quickly will eventually spend more on sales and marketing than they do on engineering. You can read S-1s of successful IPOs and calculate the ratio; it is sometimes 2X++.

  • The chief products of the tech industry are (in B2C) developing new habits among consumers and (in B2B) taking a business process which exists in many places and markedly decreasing the total cost of people required to implement it.

  • There is no hidden reserve of smart people who know what they're doing, anywhere. Not in government, not in science, not in tech, not at top companies, nowhere. The world exists in the same glorious imperfection that it presents with.

  • Significant advances shipped by the tech industry in the last 20 years include putting the majority of human knowledge in the hands of 40%++ of the world's population, available on-demand, for "coffee money" not "university money."

  • Startups are (by necessity) filled with generalists; big companies are filled with specialists. People underestimate how effective a generalist can be at things which are done by specialists. People underestimate how deep specialties can run. These are simultaneously true.

  • Most open source software is written by programmers who are full-time employed by companies which directly consume the software, at the explicit or implicit blessing of their employers. It is not charity work, any more than they charitably file taxes.