Category Archives: entrepreneurship

Journalism Online and Internet Entrepreneurship

In profiling a number of ‘online journalism entrepreneurs’, The New York Times does a good job of providing a relatively cliché-free, high-level overview of the current state of online news publishing.

The article looks at the “new breed” of blog-based journalists, a few business models, and the problems associated with advertising online.

There’s nothing new here for those who already have a passing interest in publishing (or blogging, for that matter), but I did find this observation on web-based entrepreneurship rather nice:

You can’t call it a dot-com boom — there is not much capital, there are no parties with catered sushi and no one is expecting to get rich. But this generation of start-ups does share at least one trait with its 1990s predecessors: a conviction that they’re the vanguard of an unfolding revolution.

via More Intelligent Life

MacLeod on Entrepreneurship

Hugh MacLeod shares a list of random thoughts on being an entrepreneur–a simple list of twenty-six inspirational titbits on business, positioning and success.

My favourite five:

  • In a world of over-supply and commodification, you are no longer paid to supply. You’re being paid to deliver something else. What that is exactly, is not always obvious.
  • People buy your product because it helps fill in the narrative gaps in their lives.
  • You can either be cheapest or the best. I know which one I prefer.
  • People will always, always be in the market for a story that resonates with them. Your product will either have this quality or it won’t.
  • People remember the quality long after they’ve forgotten the price. Unless you try to rip them off.

Summarising Joel on Software

Now that Joel Spolsky has ‘retired’ from blogging at Joel on Software (in the format the site has been known for, at least), Jan Willem Boer is reading the entire back-catalogue of entries and condensing the knowledge within each essay into a single sentence (or two).

The result is a stunning list of tips on running a small business, programming best practices, productivity tips, technical hiring practices and entrepreneurship.

The series:

The Benefits of Side Projects

The creation of 3M’s Scotch Tape, the Declaration of Independence and Metallica: just three of the stories Ben Casnocha retells to show the importance of innovation through side projects.

Is giving away a day a week of your employees’ time worth it? Google executives seem to think so. They cite first the enormous goodwill generated internally: “20-percent time sends a strong message of trust to the engineers,” says Marissa Mayer, Google vice president of search products and user experience. Then there is the actual product output which of late includes Google Suggest (auto-filled queries) and Orkut (a social network). In a speech a couple of years ago, Mayer said about 50 percent of new Google products got their start in 20 percent time.

Jack Hipple, a consultant who works with companies on innovation, says corporate support for employees’ natural curiosity can lead to better new product ideas than traditional focus groups: “You have to have some vehicle for side-project time because senior managers or customers don’t know enough about the future to know what’s coming.”

Casnocha notes that not all companies can offer side-project time, especially startups:

There are too many essential tasks that need to get done simply to survive.

Tom Kinnear, a professor of entrepreneurial studies at the University of Michigan, says Google and 3M both could support experimenting after their core products became profitable: “At the outset there are such tight margins it’s hard to allow for side projects. The pressure from your investors to focus, focus, focus is just overwhelming.”

When (and When Not) to Consider Venture Capital

On discussing why he and his co-founders are seeking venture capital funding for their programming question and answer site (StackOverflow), Joel Spolsky provides a number of scenarios for when a company should give consideration to VC funding:

  1. There’s a land grab going on.
  2. There is a provable concept that’s repeatable.
  3. The business could benefit from the publicity of getting an investment from someone who is thought of as being a savvy investor.
  4. The investor will add substantial value to the business in advice, connections, and introductions.
  5. The business can potentially have a big exit or become a large, publically traded company.
  6. The founders are happy to give up some control to make the business more successful.

And when a company should not consider it:

  1. The founders are risk-averse and are willing to trade a much smaller payout for lower risk.
  2. The founders are technical without substantial business experience and wish to maintain absolute control forever.
  3. If the investor is mostly “dumb money.”
  4. If you’re going into an established field with a lot of competition.
  5. If the product is immature and unproven.
  6. If the founders don’t have enough of the right kinds of industry connections, or the idea is not compelling enough, so that raising VC would take months or years
  7. If there is any other way to raise the kind of money you need.

A number of pieces have been written disagreeing with Spolsky’s article, suggesting that either StackOverflow does not fit these criteria or that the reasoning is just plain wrong. 37signals’ post covers both.