Your Startup Sucks

Don’t take it personally, but most do. Why? Recent developments in Software that have really changed the game. Here are the driving factors:

  • Rise of cloud infrastructure. Amazon AWS, Google AppEngine, and Heroku(and clones) have removed the necessary technical understanding of setting up a Linux cluster and operating it. Anyone can do it. It’s more pricey than doing your own box, but you save on managing it all yourself. To start it’s typically free; this means you don’t need an upfront capital investment to start working on something. In the words of my friend Hemang, this is a framework that just got better and I agree.
  • More abstract software frameworks. The popular ones here are Ruby’s Rails, and Python’s Django. There are thousands of Ruby tutorials, which make it possible for anyone and everyone to whip up a project very quickly.
  • Flow of capital to technology. It is easier to raise money. Venture capitalists want to fund the next X, and there is a strong focus technology. Some hopefuls like Marc Andreessen hope this is just the beginning. The strategy here has become throw money at a promising space(such as deals, checkins, etc), and one of them will win and you will have a return on your investment.
  • Glamorization. Culturally startups are trendy, which means design over function. Users over revenue. Raising capital over product market fit.

These are all good things (besides the last one), but there are significant problems that arise. First off, there are too many choices. There are literal clones of every product out there. How many todo lists do you know? Everyone thinks they can make a better one. Choosing Software now is harder than buying home appliances, you have to do a ton of research before figuring out what is good. Also it saturates the market and makes it harder for higher quality applications to flourish.

Another problem is that quality is lower. When you are spending your own capital or raising it, you will try and figure out some proof points for your idea/experiment/startup. It’s not cheap to just hack it together and throw it out there, so you put more thought into the actual quality of what you are producing. This is pushed even further by the glamorization of technology. Technology wise higher abstractions from frameworks like Rails have boundaries, and so most of the products out there work within those boundaries and are limited by them. Companies like Quora, turntable.fm, sneakpeeq(I’m affiliated) are more immersive because of the real time aspect, which at this point is not possible out of the box with Django or Rails without some real technical knowledge.

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3 Responses to Your Startup Sucks

  1. Nitpicker says:

    “Ruby’s Django”….

    Not quite.

  2. artur says:

    Oops, typo :). Fixed!

  3. Allen says:

    You’re right, most startups are just “me too” copies of ideas, using the same technology stacks as everybody else. That’s not why they suck, though; most great ideas do get copied, and fought over until there are only a few winners in natural software evolution. Nor is it the technology necessarily – users don’t care what backend your site is built with or which awesome programming paradigm you’ve been introducing.

    It’s about the product, and the reality is that building and evolving a good product is hard, no matter how much technology enables. Even if someone standardizes real-time web updates or a complex canvas-based rendering engine, it takes a product visionary to build something that compelling.

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