Thursday, May 03, 2012

Business Success Pieces - Evan Williams / Chris Sacca / Paul Saffo / Asana / Jordan Cooper

There's been a few interesting business pieces I've seen lately that all seem connected enough to be pulled into one (hopefully coherently written) blog post...

Starting off with the oldest (by far) was "Ten Rules for Web Startups" from Twitter founder Evan Williams on his blog in Sept 2005. Williams track record is remarkable in that he co-founded both Pyra Labs (parent company that created Blogger) and Twitter. Additionally, he's referenced by venture capitalist Chris Sacca as someone to back in a venture regardless of the idea. The rules as laid out in the blog post from Williams were all interesting, but what really stood out to me was number one... "Be Narrow", with the first few sentences why noted below:

"Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful. Most companies start out trying to do too many things, which makes life difficult and turns you into a me-too. Focusing on a small niche has so many advantages: With much less work, you can be the best at what you do."

With this (and since I so enjoy melding together different iterations of the same theme), it seems high time to bring in something from the excellent Ken Jennings book Maphead. I reviewed the book here and note how in it a collector was quoted saying "if you're going to specialize, specialize as much as possible." It's a tremendously interesting (and logical) concept that applies to map collecting, business creating and I'm sure many other ventures.


Continuing with this approach of blending and connecting together in this blog post, I saw from the same Chris Sacca Twitter feed that directed me to the Williams piece a link to the recent Wired Magazine story "8 Visionaries on How They Spot the Future" by Joanna Pearlstein. It's written as a wisdom compilation story and below are the people and their insights that struck me the most (or at least insights as I took them):

Paul Saffo (Technology Forecaster) - looks for things that seem out of place as an indicator of events to come. Yea, that's a bit nebulous of a statement, but he describes the idea well is his short missive.

Chris Sacca (aforementioned Venture Capital guy) - you don't need to be a seer (prophet - soothsayer - diviner - augur - clairvoyant) to spot (and potentially invest in) the companies that could be poised for success. Barriers to entry are low enough in many technology realms that evaluation decisions can be made based on the actual product or service experience (or at least an early stage iteration of it). Tied to this idea is how many ways there (Twitter as probably the largest) to discern customer experience (as I wrote about featured in an Oct 2009 Businessweek) with a company and it's offering.


With yet another "hopefully not a stretch" connection for the purpose of this blog post... rule number ten from Williams of "Be Balanced" reminded me of something else from Sacca in the same interview that he spoke of backing Williams regardless of the business idea. Point as I recall it was the import of working with people that he wants to spend time around as well as invest with.

This idea seems very much in evidence with two other pieces I've seen recently. Peter Delevett wrote "Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz brings new startup Asana into the marketplace" on the company started with a former colleague from Facebook, Justin Rosenstein and I also saw "In Pursuit of 'Brain Doppelgangers'" from the blog of an entrepreneur, Jordan Cooper.

I'm not familiar with Cooper at all, but his description of the power in being with like-minded people made sense and I was pretty amazed to see the title right after reading the excellent GQ piece "The Cooler Me" (haven't yet seen it posted online) by Eric Puchner about... yep, doppelgangers.