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Take homes from Best Tech Entrepreneurs 2009

Posted on 25 April 2009 by Demian Turner


From the recent BusinessWeek article, I found the ‘lessons learned’ snippets at the end of each finalist very insightful:

  • BumpTop: “The key thing is, stay as lean as possible,” says Chief Executive Agarawala. “We don’t have fancy espresso machines or offer massage in the office. But we do have a team that’s motivated. Every full-time employee should have a meaningful stake in the company.”
  • Aster Data: “A lot of our customers buy Aster because we can add more business value to the bottom line,” says Argyros. “That’s a message that works inside and outside a recession.”
  • Foodzie: “If you always listen to the news, it’s easy to get disheartened,” says Chief Technology Officer Bauman. “What you need to do sometimes is disconnect and focus on what you can control.”
  • Cloudera: “In a down economy, less-than-stellar ideas get filtered out,” founder Bisciglia says. “We were really lucky—we cleared our funding right before the economy really turned down. So we’re much more focused on building things people need than on guessing.”
  • SEOmoz.com: “The buck stops here,” says Fishkin, adding that he took a substantial salary cut at the onset of the economic downturn.
  • XChange: “You find ways to keep costs down,” Foley says. “Instead of buying things for cash, you give equity. Instead of buying all new computer systems, you might buy used systems. You find ways to stretch your dollars.”
  • WeatherBill: “You should always have multiple deals going on,” Friedberg says. “You should always have multiple partnerships available. You’re never there until you’re 100% there.”
  • AirBnB: “People are willing to try new things to save money, and they’re willing to be resourceful,” Chesky says.
  • Bleacher Report: “If the opportunity is to get 80% of the value out of something by doing 20% of the work, do it,” says Finocchio. “It’s not a time to screw around and be a perfectionist. When you have a strong vision for something and you’re passionate about it, it’s hard to cut yourself short of where your product needs to be. But you have to find that balance [between] quality and getting your stuff to market.”
  • Tumblr: “Most of the good decisions I’ve ever made I can credit to the smart people around me,” Karp says. “My role models and my mentors have made a lot smarter decisions than I have.”
  • Ooyala: “Hire the right people. Ultimately, it’s about the people. Any time that we’ve been unsure about a candidate—sure enough, six months down the line it didn’t work out.”
  • Drop.io: “Do what you’re passionate about,” says Lessin, who has seen a lot of friends at hedge funds lose their jobs. “I’m working hard at something I truly love.”
  • Brightkite: “It’s a lot harder to raise money in the downturn. You need to make sure that you have a way to differentiate yourself. For anybody thinking about a new startup, I’d recommend getting to a prototype stage earlier and show you can make revenue and show you have traction.”
  • Sentilla: “You have to adjust your business model as quickly as possible,” says Polastre. “A lot of companies aren’t able to articulate [return on investment], but that’s what people are buying, particularly in the IT space.”
  • SkyGrid: “Do one thing, and do it well. If you focus on doing one thing over five years, I think you will end up with more results people are looking for.”
  • GitHub: “People and companies like saving money,” Wanstrath says. “If you help them do that, they will give you their money.”
  • Appature: “Work with your customers to meet their evolving business needs,” Shahani says. “Every one of our customers is taking a different approach to managing limited budgets. We need to be able to support that with our technology.”
  • Cooliris: “It’s really important to focus on solving a fundamental problem,” Shoemaker says. “If you create something that’s really valuable, that’s probably the best way to survive. We exist to change the world.”
  • Sim Ops Studios: “Investors are looking for capital-effective companies,” Tellerman says. “You’ve got to be fast, hungry, and really lean, with fast time to revenue.”
  • Aardvark: “Reduce risk as much as you can,” Ventilla says. “That becomes doubly important in an economic downturn. Don’t have long whiteboard sessions with your other smart co-founders. Instead, get users’ feedback and pick the right thing to work on.”

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