Silicon valley is generally considered by most as the best place to build a technology company, due to the large concentration of talent and capital, unmatched anywhere else in the world at that scale. But it's the valley's dirty little secret that it's really the network of people that make it all happen.
Every successful person in the SV tech scene is highly connected to talent and capital through their network. It is that network that makes seemingly random M&A deals, capital investments or recruiting top talent happen on a daily basis. And it's that network, more than anything else, that makes Silicon Valley so special for building high-growth companies.
Why a network is important
I've recently found myself quite often advising founders who are new to the valley or are thinking of moving there. The most common questions generally revolve around how to raise money. I've already collected my thoughts and experience on the topic of raising a seed round, so I have a few prepared answers, but in person I'm definitely putting much more emphasis on network building compared to everything else.
Continue reading Network
I just finished watching "The Art of the Game" (embedded below), a documentary about the evolution of digital games as the dominant media format.
Me and computer games go back a long way. I got my first PC at the age of 7, a Commodore 64, with a briefcase of game cassettes. You would wait sometimes up to 20 minutes to load one game, which puts some things in perspective. It also came with a version of BASIC, which was my first exposure to programming.
3 years later I got my first IBM-Compatible computer, a venerable XT with a monochrome display. Again, my main use for it was gaming and occasionally fiddling with BASIC (mostly to run Snake, which was sample program included). My memory from that period includes games such as the original Civilization, X-Com: UFO defense and lesser known classics such as Another World and Alley Cat.
Continue reading How videogames shaped my path in life
Israel has a population of 8.1 million and yet has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any country outside the U.S.A, except China. A book released a couple of years ago called Startup Nation, has raised awareness to it being a hotbed for high-growth companies.
Being from Israel and in the tech scene in Silicon Valley now, I get asked often about why does Israel produce so many startups. Here's my take on it:
Israelis are masters of survival. Successful startups are those that survived
Let's start with the 2nd statement. Common industry position on VC funded startups is that 3 out of 4 will fail. Since most startups fail to raise venture capital, estimating that around 90% of startups (at least) fail, sounds reasonable. Note that I'm talking about startups as in growth companies, not new small businesses. In that definition, most will need to raise VC money to sustain significant growth.
Most startups fail. Out of those that succeed, very few experience meteoric growth from day one until a liquidation event or becoming a huge market leader. Most do just enough to survive for a long time, before they become an "overnight success". Those are the survivors.
Back to the case of Israel, here's a short recap of its brief history:
Continue reading Why Israel Is A Startup Nation
Why do people go to work at startups? is it the excitement of being a part of something new or is it the chance of being compensated unproportionally if the company blows up? Sam Altman of Ycombinator did a nice a write-up about employee equity compensation - and while I don't necessarily agree with everything (context is important), he makes some good points about how to think about employee equity.
This sparked a debate on HackerNews on whether getting minor equity is worth working at a startup for. The consensus seems to be that working at startups is risky and unprofitable, on both points I completely agree. Some choice quotes:
Even well-funded startups give me pause. I'm not interested in putting in founder-like work for entry-level employee-like compensation plus a lottery ticket.
Getting sweet $170k salary with some bonus, massage, free food and shuttle is good enough for me.
"Startup-bucks are even worse than a lottery ticket...." -
Also because if they are worth something, it's a motivation for the company to fire you before you can cash out.
All of those sentiments make perfect sense. However, if you're looking to work in startups to get paid, you're doing it wrong.
Continue reading Should you be working at a startup?
Buffer, the social sharing platform, released a blog post today detailing their employees' pay scale and specific salaries. The approach of open salaries is very interesting to me, but I'm wondering about the public aspects of releasing it online.
Transparent vs. Public
In the article, Joel (Buffer's CEO) refers to transparency as one of their core company values (which they'd previously released online as well). Transparency as a company value sounds noble, however reading their definition in the above link, I am feeling the real meaning is honesty instead.
I am of the opinion that not everything that goes on in the company needs to be shared as a default. I'm not talking about hiding or misleading information, rather not proactively sharing it. Mark Suster wrote a fantastic post on the topic of "How open should a startup CEO be with employees", and it covers some instances where complete transparency might be a detriment.
Please remember that we’re all wired different to accept uncertainty, risk & stress. And remember the reason that most people aren’t startup CEOs is that deep down while they might want your job theoretically most of them don’t actually want the kind of life and pressures that come with your job.
Continue reading Open salaries considered useful?