Monday, December 14, 2009

Y-Combinator vs Seedcamp - Paul Graham nailed it?

Update September 2011: This blog post was one of the most popular on my blog because it was a rant. I will rant no more. I wrote about it because a few years ago I felt I didn't like what the Seedcamp was up to but it has changed since then. Both Seedcamp and Y-Combinator (along with TechStars and others) are great ways of stimulating entrepreneurship and I support them all. I didn't want to hurt anyone with this post and if I did, I'm sorry. This blog post is no longer relevant. The comment thread below it is still interesting and I recommend you go to comments directly. Thank you.
- Michael Sliwinski
--- Original post back in the day:
Last week while watching the talks from Startup Bootcamp by the founders of some really cool web apps like DropboxRedditJustin.tv - I couldn't help noticing that these are some really good web-businesses founded initially by Paul Graham powered Y-Combinator. If you add Posterous (which I'm using for this blog), RescueTime or Xobni to the mix, it's quite a lineup... whereas Seedcamp in Europe still waits for their startups to mean anything in the web 2.0 world...
Ycombinator
Last week's LeWeb conference tried to prove a point that we have cool startups in Europe too, and I think we really do (I'm European and I'm proudly based in Europe) but just as I mentioned earlier in my last blog post, there is still a substantial gap between Europe and the Silicon Valley in terms of entrepreneurship.
This year Codility - a company led by a friend of mine won Seedcamp and they moved to London so I'm hoping they'll be one of those Seedcamp winners who will prove to be really successful. Fingers crossed guys!
The curious thing is that Seedcamp actually failed in one regard - they evolved from an idea of a place where startup founders really start (the founders have roughly an idea and want to move to London to make it big) to "yet another startup competition" where all the startups have already launched, have customers and have even received a round of funding... In this case I'd probably could try to submit Nozbe (founded in 2007) to them and would have a chance to win :-)
I'm not saying it's really bad... but I really dig the fact that Y-Combinator has maintained its profile of being a seed funding for fresh-out-of-college founders who want to make it big in the web world. They have the energy and ideas, so they receive a few bucks from Paul and work together to make it happen... and as you can see from the list of startups I've mentioned earlier... some of them are pretty darn successful.
What do you think? Any opinions or experiences in submitting your startup to Seedcamp or Y-Combinator? Which model's better for you? 
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Open ID is for geeks... Facebook and Twitter are not... and win!

Yesterday on LeWeb conference Michael Arrington interviewed guys from Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin (among others) about the quick adoption of Facebook connect as  a way to log in to different web sites without having to use new passwords... and he commented on some of the alternatives... and why they failed:

2482531_blog

Facebook Connect has taken the Internet by storm - because it's not for geeks

Almost everyone has an account on Facebook. Chances are that many people started using the Internet because they wanted to connect to their friends via Facebook. Not everyone has an account on MySpace (I don't!)

This means your regular mum and dad are using Facebook... and they know how to log in there.

If you know how to log in to Facebook, you know how to log in elsewhere

This destroys the barrier of entry for people - no need to sign up again, just log in with Facebook. It makes the barrier of entry even lower and helps crossing the chasm of getting not only geeks but also regular people to use your startup.

Twitter's log in is 2nd in the race... Google Account is in the middle and MySpace login and OpenID have failed

Facebok and Twitter rule the social media now and everyone has an account on either one or the other or... both. Google Account is also a cool way to log in, but frankly, it's kind of spooky to use Google for everything we do online. It's enough they have my Gmail, Google Reader and Docs...

MySpace lost their momentum last year and this is why they lost to Facebook and Twitter.

OpenID is for geeks. A no-geek will not understand it and this is why the adoption of this "standard" failed in the long run. Mum and Dad will understand Facebook login, they do it every day. OpenID is not for them.

Facebook Connect or Twitter login coming to Nozbe?

Probably, I'll have to test it and see how it works for us but I'm considering it now. If it makes the barrier of entry lower for non-geeky users, I'll be happy to give it a shot. We don't have the timeline for this yet, but watch out as we make it happen over the course of next months.

I'll include Facebook connect and Twitter login to the new startup we're working on... probably on day one already.

Do you use your Facebook Connect or Twitter data to sign in to web apps? Do you use OpenID? What's your preference?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

LeWeb discussions - where are multimillionaire startup owners in Europe?

I couldn't attend this year's LeWeb conference but I'm definitely going next year. As I can see from the live stream (thanks Loic for doing this - it's a great idea to have the live stream free for the rest of us!) the discussions are really cool and the list of speakers is amazing. What caught my attention is the Best of Europe panel where they talked about the fact that we don't have Sergeys and Larrys worth 16 Billion U$ each on the continent...
3726792_blog
I personally don't care about being a millionaire. I care about running a successful Internet startup and having tens of thousands of happy and productive users, but I'm not doing it to make millions or to sell out or whatever, I just like this lifestyle and it makes me really happy and gives me enough money to feed and maintain my family.
Where are the ultra-successful startup owners in Europe?
The fact is - the richest man in Spain is worth roughly the same as Sergey or Larry of Google, but they are young and run Internet company that is changing the world and he's old and he's running a clothing franchise called Zara.
So why don't we have Internet millionaires in Europe?
While I don't have all the answers, I think it's because of the following reasons:
1. We're Europeans, we prefer jobs, not risky startups
Not me, I've set up my company right after college (and it took me a while until I nailed it with Nozbe), but most of my friends wanted a nice steady job and started climbing their career path in a big company after studies.
Already during my studies I found out that most of my friends where dreaming of great jobs with great salaries, company car, mobile phone, laptop and all the benefits that come from working for a giant corporation.
2. No risk, no fun? Not in Europe.
Just as in #1, people in Europe are afraid of risk. Families find it really hard to borrow you money. Everyone's afraid of trying and failing... It took me a few years and a lot of hard work to finally create a startup that was successful. I had to do lots of client work to maintain my family and work on my startups in the evenings. It paid off, but most of Europeans don't want to risk it. On top of that my both parents are entrepreneurs, so I had their blessing and understanding.
3. Even VCs want a proven Google-killer
The funny thing is that VCs in Europe also want to invest in "proven" models (aka: copies of web apps from the US that worked there). They want us to make clones that have worked across the pond. They are VCs, they should be taking risks, it's their job, isn't it?
4. Entrepreneur in Europe is a 2nd grade citizen.
Sorry to admit that but I found it true on several occasions. It's better in Europe to say: I work for IBM, Microsoft, Sun, Procter and Gamble.... (put any big corporation name here) then to say - I work at home on a startup.
My mum once called me on the phone asking what should she say to her friends when they would ask her what I'd do for a living, because she knew I work from home and my entire team works remotely too... I'd reply to her: "I'm a CEO of a multinational company that is bringing productivity solutions to people from more than 100 countries in the world." - she responded - yes, this sounds really good, a lot better than: "I'm sitting at home doing something on my computer".
5. Europeans are thinking... small.
It's because of the fact that we have small Europe with really small countries with lots of language and cultural differences. So most startups start at home and provide solutions only locally.
It amazes me each time I'm talking about Nozbe with fellow startup owners as they would always ask me, why I didn't first start locally in our country and later went for the US market. They find it really amazing that for me it was an obvious choice - I read "Getting Things Done" by David Allen in English, I was reading US-based (mostly) GTD blogs, I knew GTD is most popular in the States, so why would I start a GTD app in my country where hardly anyone knew GTD? For me it was a no-brainer... See Apple's tagline: Think Different.
I'm already seeing a significant change and surge of entrepreneurship in Europe, specially thanks to all the "Barcamp meetings" being held throughout Europe. Things are looking up.
What do you think? Can we have another Google-like startup in Europe? Can Europeans make it happen?