blags of matt
in glenn beck's america startup works you
MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, June 17 -- On a shady block of Pioneer Way a revolution is brewing. One hundred pre-screened applicants answered the call of a white-on-orange sigil, which has become synonymous with budding enterprise and nouveau riche social influence in Silicon Valley. The applicants traveled from as far away as Boston simply to hear Y Combinator-sponsored startups give a 90 second pitch about their wants, needs, desires, and generous meal plans.

One after another in sternly administered choreography, the startups gave brief pitches to the attendees. Pitches consisted of projected slides, one or more of the startup founders presenting an employee-focused view of their company, and endless fidgeting with a shared lavalier. Every few pitches, a person comfortable with public speaking became slightly more engaging by including a developer-friendly joke.

Notable presentations
Drew Houston of Dropbox received a vocal "Woo!" when he introduced himself. Everybody loves The DropBox.

The pas de deux between a seemingly nervous Sam Altman talking quietly to his slides and Paul Graham in the back holding up his trademark "LOUDER!" sign entertained the crowd for a full 60 seconds. It turns out you can't see Paul Graham holding up a sign, no matter how bright his shirt, if you are looking at a wall. (Don't worry Sam, I still love you.)

The presenter for airbnb ("The Abees") was unquestionably the most direct, forceful, and well rehearsed speaker of the event. He knows what airbnb wants, how they are going to get there, how awesome they are, how much the world suffers, and why they are worth more than you can possibly imagine.

Paul S joined ex-Twitter employee Chad to talk about notifo (pronounced note-ee-foe, but which reminds one of Jeff's notify.io). Paul, being with notifo for about two days, talks as if he worked on the project for months. You can't out plan, out hipster, or out self-promote Paul S.

Reception
After the second "this is the last presentation" presentation, the attendees were invited out to the parking-lot-turned-pizza-buffet for a few hours of mingling, scheming, catching up, and getting to know one another. Startup founders darted through the crowd as little entrepreneurial sharks swimming through the chum of potential employees. Pairs of platonic speed dates broke off. Some pairs chatted for half an hour while others lasted barely thirty seconds. Some people greeted with a firm handshake while others only yielded a sideways glance of yes-i-see-you-but-don't-talk-to-me.

More interesting than talking with the intended audience of startup representatives was talking with fellow attendees. You can see in their eyes when they are good at what they do. You can see in their eyes when they are uncertain what tomorrow brings. You can see the crazy ones, the dreamers, and the failures. At least one attendee did not know what Y Combinator actually did. Other attendees ranged from Lockheed Martin employees, to in-between-semester undergrads, to i'm-taking-this-loop-off people taking a break from being employees, to people just scouting for a slightly more interesting life.

Notable reception happenings
One person was carrying a copy of On Lisp. I assume he obtained a useful signature.

The venerable Sam Altman, the chosen one, the golden child of Paul Graham, said he likes my HN comments. He then proceeded to tell me the story of how he almost killed someone then escaped death at the hands of mother nature. I've stories for you too, Sam. Give me a call.

[[This brings me to another point: name badges are for names. We all have multiple names. I was the only one I saw with my Human, HN and Twitter names on my badge. Come on people, use a blank canvas more creatively. We want to know you.]]

I thought Trevor said the telepresence bots would be active, but they never emerged. A row of bots lined up obediently at the Anybots entrance waiting for their chance to be of service. Their chance never came.

Paul Graham attracted his large conversational following as usual. I didn't notice Trevor emerge outside. Kate gave me a nod but didn't want to talk. Jessica was doing what she's known for and kept everything running smoothly.

When trying to convince me of the merits of San Francisco instead of San Jose, Dan from Weebly attempted to interject a point about dating being more prolific in San Francisco. His approach was a bit off. Dan tried to ask, "Do you have a girlfriend?" To which I replied, "No, I don't have a boyfriend." One additional round got the point across: "No, a girlfriend," he clarified to himself. A final recitation of "No, I don't have a boyfriend," cleared up any confusion. If you are a good Analytics person who likes SF and wants to work at Weebly, give Dan a call. He may even be able to hook you up with a girlfriend.

I monopolized Emmett's time for probably 30 minutes while having Sam Altman, Build Enginner Dude, Weebly Dan, and one or two others try to break into the conversation. Some break-ins were more successful than others.

I missed talking to Gnip Dude. He kept vanishing.
I missed talking to Paul S. I've a bone to pick with him.
I forgot to talk to the DailyBooth guys.
I'm not interested in moving to San Francisco, which writes off probably 90% of the startups in attendance.

Conclusions
Was it useful for the startups giving presentations? It's difficult to say. We'll have to wait a month or two until startups can report back how much usable talent appeared due to the event.

Was it useful for the attendees? Yes. An emphatic Yes. It's empowering to sit through stories of early-stage (and some not-so-early-stage), on-track startups. Thoughts of running a startup flow through so many of us, but not nearly enough people act on it. How about an Express-YC for more experimental ideas not needing a 30 question application?

Was it the right format? As I told someone before the event, and as Paul Graham reiterated during his opening talk: What matters are the people with whom you work. Go with amazing people and you'll be fine. A format of presenting the company's projects may be misguided. We should be looking for people to join. Have every employee in attendance speak for 30 seconds at the front of the room. Yes, some people are horrible with public speaking, but that's a data point in and of itself. Let's get the people to present themselves followed by one 20 second overview of their products.

Final conclusion? I need to get off my ass and get my own startup in gear. Time to redefine some paradigms.


-Matt
650-450-8826
work at a startup, ycombinator, paul graham, sam altman, lolgay, paradigms, that's no parking lot
(1702 days ago)Hazards of Work
pleasure is pain. war is peace. office work is not a tedious hellhole slowly destroying your immortal soul.
Day job. The eternal safety net. The side projects can wait -- nay, must wait -- when day job comes calling.

Day job. The infernal contraption taking inputs of time and effort resulting in output of electronic signals which trigger my bank account balance to rise ever so slightly twice monthly.

Day job. Disruptor of sleep. Left to my own devices, I fall into 26 hour days. 17 wakeful, alert, upbeat hours followed by the inevitable sleep of what dreams may come. Day job forces a wake-up time. Day job doesn't care if you can't sleep until 3am. You'll still wake up at 7am to start the next "day." They don't call it day job for nothing. Cyclical sleep deprivation is a constant when day job is around.

Day job. Killer of nutrition. We turn into scavengers seemingly never knowing where our next meal comes from. "Better eat a big meal, I might be working late," the inner voice prods. Left to my own devices, I eat every few hours. Day job alters that to eating 1.5 times between sleep (let's say 0000) and dinner (let's say 1800). 19 hours. 1.5 eatings. No wonder the bodies don't know how to regulate their input.

Day job. Breaking retention time. Side projects. Soon-to-be-Startups. The complex brain state can't be maintained part-time. It's relegated to spans of free time. Weekends. Holidays. Weeks off. After days back at day job it's as if the side projects and soon-to-be-Startups don't exist. They've fallen out of your internal fifo queues. Projects with a life of weeks take months. Projects with a life of months take years.

Day job. Getting home. Tired. Angry. Annoyed. Hungry. Oh, look. There's fresh tv shows to download. That'll get my mind off the absurdities. The shows comfort. Visual drugs let us forget our dreams. The dopamine loop kicks in. Another show is played. Looping. Another show. Loop. And yet another. Are we tired yet? Just one more. One more. Almost tired now.

Day job. Starts over again. 5/7ths of the week. It starts over again. The pain is forgotten. Numbness is natural, dreams are undesirable, and failing is fantastic.

Day job. Comfort. Warmth. Security. Income. Average. Boring. Simple.

Day job must fall. Startup must rise.

leaking insanity, temporal paradoxes, just in time i'm so glad you have a one track mind like me, someday you will be loved, last night of my 16 day vacation
(2094 days ago)Finish Them
if you build it and don't release it, they sure as hell won't come.
Recently looking at my hg repo, I noticed I have no less than five unlaunched websites developed over the past year and a half. It would probably take take three to five weeks of polishing to push any given one of them live.

What's there?
We've got a quick posting job site, two lifestyle sites for people to connect with each other, two subscription based sites targeted at businesses, an online store, the venerable startupmatcher (launched then mothballed and never recovered), and this blag site which works but could always be better.

On the non-web side there is a complete 4k line Objective-C/Cocoa app for managing Basecamp on your desktop (and exporting time to quickbooks records) which was released to nil acclaim. After a few months it was withdrawn because I lost my free Basecamp account with API access (I couldn't diagnose problems potential customers were having anymore). I haven't made any kick-ass-yet-perpetually-unreleased iPhone apps yet.

On the non-software side, I formulated a great Erlang training curriculum using EC2 for over a dozen hands on labs (people learn by doing, damn it). Abandoned due to lack of availability to perform in-person training. It could be automated though. Perchance I'll revisit it in an automated fashion.

What happened? Why aren't they live?
For me, it comes down to lack of expectations. Nobody is expecting them, so nobody is missing them. It's easy to put off something for a day or two if nobody is expecting a result. Then, out of nowhere, you look back and two months have gone by with nary a 'hg commit' in your shell history.

Overall metal energy comes into play too. After a ten hour day at work, zoning out in front of Heroes, Scrubs reruns, Evangelion, or going to the gym for an hour sure feels good. Doing the math: ten hours at work means getting home around 6pm on a good day. Add food time and zoning-out for an hour or two brings us to about 9pm.

Three to four hours of private time per day seems about normal (assuming no family responsibilities). Knowing you have three hours of free time, what can you do? It isn't nearly long enough to load your code into your head to start working. If you haven't looked at your code for a while, it could take an hour or two just to re-create your mindset of what should be happening.

What are possible solutions?
One, find a better people. Find friends who are doing great things. Then proceed to show them up. My iMac isn't a worthy adversary. He's too subservient. [ insert professor hand-waving about how to actually meet and attach to great people in a reciprocal relationship ].

Two, find more free time. This is difficult if you have a "real job." Good luck.

Three, change a mindset. Stop going for the shiny. Sit down and work through completion of past projects one at a time. Make sure everything is broken up into manageable sub-components so you can get them brain-loaded in less than 20 minutes. Work a FIFO queue. Don't you dare start a new project until you've pushed the site you're working on live. No priority preemption allowed.

Four, it's the code, stupid. Have old code you meant to open source? Throw it up at bitbucket.org or github (sorry, Doug, code.google.com is dying). If it's useful, someone will find it and you'll get a little motivation boost.

Five, get involved, damn it. Inject your opinions in mailing lists and online forum doohickeys. Stop letting the only thing google turns up for your name be awkward postings from 1995 when you were in 7th grade and didn't realize the Internet never forgets.


cliches
just do it? get real?

"Entrepreneurs are not supposed to be Clark Kent. in other words... WAKE. the FUCK. UP." -Dave

"the true Silicon Valley entrepreneur will find a way around these obstacles. the true Silicon Valley entrepreneur is not frightened by a 'down market'. they are not daunted by VCs who now have massive leverage. and they are not going to back down." -Dave, same article

Stop worrying. Don't stop caring, but stop caring so much. Dare to look foolish. If you need more help, go buy any fluffy and meaningless self help book or listen to that song.
lack of doneness, not getting real, holy crap if only i did something i'd be rich
(2094 days ago)about
where's your co-founder? right here! I have multiple personalities and never sleep.
How serious am I?

I am Paul FUCKING Atreides, and the SPICE must FLOW, motherfucker. (thanks, Dave)

Some of the postings in /startup will be me talking to myself. I hope you enjoy reading my private thoughts. You should see someone about your propensity to stalk me.

If the pages look strange, resize your window. The center column(s) are fluid and will expand or contract to your reading style.

I'm matt (of matt.io fame) in san jose. I make a habit of the SF JS meetup and the local mapping meetup. I'm not getting any younger.

email (email is not dead)
twitter (not updated very much)
yc news (not very popular, but a nicely aged account)
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