Startup News


Noteworthy articles I read (mostly Hacker News) with a hand-written summary or hand-picked quotation

July 22, 2014

Inside Genius' $40 million fundraise

"On May 23 of this year, things were finally coming together for Rap Genius.Launched in 2009 by three Yale alums — Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory — and refined during a stint with the well-known startup incubator Y Combinator, the company was completing the details of a massive $40 million funding round by one of the top investors in tech, a piece of news they had agreed to announce as part of a profile on Business Insider."

Deconstructing The Mentor Manifesto - Feld Thoughts

"Nicole spent a few minutes going through theTechstars Mentor Manifesto. It reminded me of the importance of clearly defining what a mentor is and how a mentor can optimally interact with a startup, especially a very early stage one or one consisting of first time entrepreneurs."

How We Doubled Our Conversion Rate - Bombfell Co-Founder Bernie Yoo - 500 Startups Blog

"We started A/B testing a new variant on pricing, one that was more complicated and required more work from the user. But, we thought it might be more intuitive as well. It threw out the idea of setting a single overall clothing budget, which might look cleaner and more like a typical web app, but was actually confusing and stalling users."

Checking Your Work – AVC

"When I write a blog post, I tend to write it as the idea forms in my brain. I write the whole thing out. And then I rewrite it. I go over every line and make sure the spelling and grammar are correct, I look at the phrasing. I consider the flow. I read it start to finish at least three or four times. I think about the whole and then each part. And I’ll cut out paragraphs, move things, rewrite parts, and mess with it for almost as long as it took me to write it in the first place."

Microsoft CEO Nadella on What Needs to Stay and What Needs to Change at Microsoft | Re/code

"While [his vision] builds on most of what the company has been doing in recent years, Nadella also outlined the need to change and promised more details would come later in the month."

Uber Makes Economists Sad - Bloomberg View

"While it can be annoying at times (during a recent rainstorm, I noticed a sudden epidemic of drivers canceling rides, which I suspect was due to the rapidly rising surge price), it also allows you to be sure that you will be able to get a taxi on New Year’s Eve or during a rainstorm as long as you’re willing to pay extra."

Diving in Rails - The request handling

"Today I’ll speak about how Rails handles requests, its relation to rack and more globally what is happening when you submit a request to a HTTP server backed by a Rails application."

Surprise: Snapchat's most popular feature isn't snaps anymore | The Verge

"Snapchat says that its most popular feature is now its most public, least ephemeral one: Stories. Snapchat tells The Verge that more Stories are now viewed per day than snaps. One billion Stories are viewed per day, the company says, up from 500 million just two months ago."

Zero downtime database migrations by @jipiboily

"All developers will at some time or other have to deploy code that changes the structure of a database. You might have downtime during these deploys due to database changes being required by the new code that you just deployed. There are easy ways to work around those downtimes and provide you a real zero downtime deployment process."

Salesforce Buys Big Data Startup RelateIQ For Up To $390M | TechCrunch

"The motto at Salesforce.com seems to be if you can’t beat them, buy them. This time the exact target of Salesforce.com’s $390 million desires is the scrappy startup RelateIQ, which uses searches of unstructured data from email, social networks, and calendars to automate large portions of the sales process."

bolshchikov/js-must-watch · GitHub

"This is a list of must-watch videos devoted to JavaScript"

Design Tips For Developers | Duet

"Here’s a list of things that I think are important to becoming good at design when all you have is development background"

How to Miss By a Mile: An Alternative Look at Uber’s Potential Market Size | Above the Crowd | By Bill Gurley

"So here is the objective of this post. It is not my aim to specifically convince anyone that Uber is worth any specific valuation. What Professor Damodaran thinks, or what anyone who is not a buyer or seller of stocks thinks, is fairly immaterial. I am also not out to prove him wrong. I am much more interested in the subject of critical reasoning and predictions, and how certain assumptions can lead to gravely different outcomes. As such, my goal is to offer a plausible argument that the core assumptions used in Damodaran’s analysis may be off by a factor of 25 times, perhaps even more. And I hope the analysis is judged on whether the arguments I make are reasonable and feasible."

Building of StackLead - Buildingof.com

"We have two key takeaways from our experiences with founding StackLead. First, find other passionate founders to serve as your customers. [...] Second, launch early, but don't optimize early. Our first product was simply copying info we found online about new signups into an email template. Once our first customers validated this problem, we began building a scalable, automated system."

Slang, Goldman Sachs' proprietary programming language - Stack Overflow

"Does anyone know where to find details about Slang (short of working at Goldman Sachs)?"

How Not To Run An A/B Test

"Although they seem powerful and convenient, dashboard views of ongoing A/B experiments invite misuse. Any time they are used in conjunction with a manual or automatic “stopping rule,” the resulting significance tests are simply invalid. Until sequential or Bayesian experiment designs are implemented in software, anyone running web experiments should only run experiments where the sample size has been fixed in advance, and stick to that sample size with near-religious discipline."

Building trust with a new review system |

"To help build this trust, and to help our community share and receive honest feedback, we’re making a couple meaningful changes to how Airbnb reviews work."

When REST Gets Messy - Zapier

"Here is a peek behind the curtains of where REST worked for us and where we had to cheat."

Beware the ‘Edifice Complex’ ― and 9 Other Ways to Damage a High-Growth Startup | Andreessen Horowitz

"Here are 10 ways to damage your fast-growing tech startup– and hurt the perception of Silicon Valley in the process. None of these are specific to any one company; they’re general patterns we’ve observed across multiple cycles of tech startups."

The Oculus Rift Game That’s So Real It Nearly Destroyed Me | Game|Life | WIRED

"I found myself so truly on edge that I almost lost it while playing Sega’sAlien: Isolation demo on Oculus Rift. The game, shown at E3 this year, is a custom VR prototype based on the survival horror game coming to PC and consoles October 7. More than that, though, it’s another compelling demonstration of how Oculus Rift has the potential to make gaming so immersive that the fantasy becomes reality."

What Not to Ask

"Let’s go over some common pitfalls and how to avoid them. In the process we’ll figure out what kind of questions will help us identify the information we need [from user interviews], while avoiding questions that lead to inaccurate responses."

Tom Blomfield ― Customer churn can kill your startup

"Startups are about growth, and of all the different possible metrics, startups often focus on user growth - if people aren’t using your new product or service in greater and greater numbers, it’s a good sign that you’re not on the right track. And, as long as your business-model is solid, user growth is a leading indicator of revenue and profit growth. But there’s another key metric that can be the making of your company, or the death of it - churn, or the proportion of existing customers who become ex-customers during a period of time (generally a year)."

A study on unplanned interruptions in software development | A Novice Software Engineer’s Diary

"Interruption is part of work. Nobody can expect to lock himself away and work alone interruption free. So there needs to be a collective effort and awareness to curb the common unplanned interruption."

A Social Network With No Members, but a $6 Billion Valuation - WSJ

"We’ve reached out to the parties involved with Cynk and will update the post if we hear from them. It isn’t exactly clear how this stock jumped so quickly. In an era of venture-funded apps that send “Yo” and potato-salad crowdfunding campaigns, it’s easy to scream, “Bubble!” But there is likely something deeper going on related to the speculative world of penny stocks. Stocks site Seeking Alpha has aninteresting theory."

Kickstarter project spent $3.5M to finish a working prototype―and ended in disaster | Ars Technica

"Even with Kickstarter's prototyping requirements, projects are still capable of evaporating in the months following the end of funding. What Kickstarter, backers, project creators, and legal intermediaries still have yet to figure out is what to do when a project doesn't turn out the way everyone planned."

So Long Scrum, Hello Kanban - Stormpath User Management API

"Kanban’s power comes from its focus on getting fewer items out faster through work in progress limits. Like anything, it’s not perfect and it may not be right for everyone in every situation but ultimately, we ended up with a happy team, higher productivity, less tension between the business and engineering, higher quality software, and A LOT less overhead."

Trends in the Startup Acquisition Market

"The startup M&A market is healthy and stable in the sub-$500m range, and the M&A activity in the largest segments is vigorous and increasing, moving very much in stride with the IPO market."

How to Ruin Your Company with One Bad Process

"I am a giant advocate for technical founders running their own companies, but one consistent way that technical founders deeply harm their businesses is by screwing up the budgeting process. Yes, the budgeting process. How ridiculous is that? How does it happen and why is it particularly problematic for engineers?"

Interview with James Turnbull of Docker | Opensource.com

"I caught up with the VP of Services for Docker, James Turnbull, who'll be running a Docker crash course at the con. Besides finding out what Docker is anyway, we discussed the cloud, open source contributing, and getting a real job."

Amino

"This mobile architecture -  app constellations, if you will - is an important part of the Amino thesis: that for communities on mobile devices, hyper specific is of more value than general; that a series of apps is of more value than one; and that people are looking to build online relationships through the phone now, not just on the computer."

Here’s Why a Booming Tech Market May Fool You into Thinking You’re Successful

"I’d like to do a few posts on what life looks like on the way up and perhaps how to keep your head on straight and avoid drinking your own Kool Aid because as I often advise entrepreneurs on irrational exuberance, “In a strong wind even turkeys can fly.” It helps to have seen the way down twice before to know many of the signs."

July 17, 2014

What Qualities Make a Good Startup Engineer?

"The most effective startup engineers that I’ve worked with have the skills and decision-making abilities to effectively navigate this landscape. In particular, they exhibit some combination of these 7 qualities"

July 16, 2014

Why You Need a Strategic Data Service | JasonKolb.com

"Based on what I’ve seen, here are my observations on why data services are necessary for just about every business today."

Bill Gates's Favorite Business Book - WSJ

"Today, more than two decades after Warren lent it to me—and more than four decades after it was first published—"Business Adventures" remains the best business book I've ever read. John Brooks is still my favorite business writer. (And Warren, if you're reading this, I still have your copy.)"

From Rap Genius to Genius - Ben's Blog

"today Rap Genius officially expands beyond rap and renames itself Genius. Genius does for everything what Rap Genius did for rap. As part of that, the company is also announcing a new $40M round of funding lead by Dan Gilbert. Rap Genius will continue, forever, as part of the Genius family. I have looked forward to this day for quite some time and welcome everyone to Genius, the explanation of everything."

Courage to change things | CloudFlare Blog

"One of the things that CloudFlare is being brave about is looking at old code and deciding to rewrite it. Lots of companies live with legacy code and build on it and it eventually becomes a maintenance nightmare and slows the company down."

Looks by Dr. Dre + Subtraction.com

"When Apple acquired Beats in the spring, there was some confusion as to why; some people didn’t understand why Apple would want to get into the premium headphones market, while others (including myself) speculated that Apple was buying into the emerging streaming music market. This afternoon I found myself looking through Beatsbydre.com, and one possible reason suddenly hit me: Beats headphones come in tons of color combinations."

Optimize for readability first

"Premature optimization — everything one tries to optimize before profiling and running tests on a working system. Everything except readability. So instead of what one shouldn't do we'd better say what one should do. And the quote will look like this: Optimize for readability first."

July 15, 2014

There’s only a few ways to scale user growth, and here’s the list

"products mostly have one or two major growth channels, which they optimize into perfection. These methods are commonplace and predictable."

How Vibrant is the Hardware Startup World?

"Before 2013, there were very few hardware seed rounds exceeding $1M, but in 2013, 56% of seed stage hardware companies that raised rounds, raised more than $1M."

Book: The Alliance - Feld Thoughts

"Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh have written an outstanding and important book called The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age."

Comparing Cloud Compute Services

"I'll present actual comparisons from testing we've done recently on Amazon EC2, DigitalOcean, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and SoftLayer."

The Basic Income Guarantee – AVC

"if we really are headed into a world where there aren’t any low skilled jobs, then I guess we need to be talking about ideas like this."

Marketing your startup: What's on your checklist? | Hacker News

Detailed digital marketing advice in the top comment.

"I actually was hunting Ewoks." The Original Lucasfilm Games Team Talk About Life at Skywalker Ranch. | USgamer

"Booger Hunt. George Lucas avoiding tax penalties. Monkey Island and dependency charts. The Lost Patrol. A file drawer full of crazy ideas. This is the story about life at Lucasfilm Games - as told by the people who lived it."

Mark Zuckerberg on a Future Where the Internet Is Available to All - WSJ

"The Facebook Chief Writes That Connecting Everyone on the Planet to the Web Can Create Opportunity and Reduce Poverty"

Complete DIY guide: legal basics for startups, COO responsibilities

"Today i will show you how to include COO (Chief Operating Officer) responsibilities in the Founders Agreement."

Will Angels Lose Their Wings? | EquityZen | Where Private Investors Access Proven Startups

"In this post we anticipate what the SEC will be looking at when it revisits the accredited investor criteria."

pressfarm - Find journalists to write about your startup.

journalist contact info as a service

Vagrant with Docker: How to set up Postgres, Elasticsearch and Redis on Mac OS X -- maori.geek

"In this post I will describe how to set up Postgres, Elasticsearch, and Redis as Docker containers with Vagrant on Mac OS X."

Introducing the BPF Tools | CloudFlare Blog

CloudFlare open-sources the tools they use to deal with large scale DDoS attacks.

MIT And Dropbox Alums Launch Inbox, A Next-Generation Email Platform | TechCrunch

"Founded by Dropbox and MIT alums, a new startup called Inbox ... offers a more modern way to build apps that access end users’ inboxes."

Keeping a Research Database - Josh Kaufman

"Evernote serves as my research database. Evernote is capable of doing a ton of different things, but I only use it for one thing: storing the full text of useful articles I read on the web in a searchable, organized fashion"

July 12, 2014

The Characteristics of a Billion Dollar Consumer Hardware Startup

"I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast a top consumer hardware startup with the benchmarks of public SaaS companies using GoPro's S-1. I have three goals with this analysis. First, to understand GoPro's business better. Second, to benchmark GoPro's capital needs, capital efficiency and attractiveness to investors. Third, to draw conclusions for other hardware startups."

Code review without your glasses | Robert Heaton

"you can tell a surprising amount about a file without actually reading any of it"

HTTP API Design Guide

"This guide describes a set of HTTP+JSON API design practices, originally extracted from work on the Heroku Platform API."

From Missiles To The Pitch: The Story Behind World Cup Tech : NPR

"At the World Cup in Brazil a stream of real-time data has been pouring off the field. We can find out exactly how many miles each player has run and how fast - also, detailed tracking of ball possession and location. We wondered, how is all that data being collected?"

July 11, 2014

Why composition is often better than inheritance

"There are lots of cases where inheritance may seem the cleanest solution, while in practice composition would be better."

Rob Pike's 5 Rules of Programming

"If you've chosen the right data structures and organized things well, the algorithms will almost always be self-evident. Data structures, not algorithms, are central to programming."

This Ugly Ad Saved My Business | Grigoriy Kogan

"I made a banner ad that was ugly as sin and went against all common sense… Then it worked better than ever expected, and it saved my side business."

A practical workflow for resizing images with ImageMagick

Image editing from the command line.

During Cold War, CIA used ‘Doctor Zhivago’ as a tool to undermine Soviet Union - The Washington Post

"The memo is one of more than 130 newly declassified CIA documents that detail the agency’s secret involvement in the printing of “Doctor Zhivago” — an audacious plan that helped deliver the book into the hands of Soviet citizens who later passed it friend to friend, allowing it to circulate in Moscow and other cities in the Eastern Bloc. The book’s publication and, later, the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Pasternak triggered one of the great cultural storms of the Cold War."

How to destroy Programmer Productivity | George Stocker

Author analyses causes of his own productivity loss and things that help.

Paul Chiusano: CSS is unnecessary given a layout language with means of abstraction and combination

"It’s true that in using a language like Elm for layout, one loses the ability to cut and paste random CSS found on Stack Overflow in cargo-cult fashion without understanding what it does. I consider this limitation a feature. Layout code can and should be managed using the regular tools that programmers have developed for managing complexity and factoring out duplication."

Make Things and Show Them - Y Combinator Posthaven

"We've often been asked to make a section of Hacker News that's just for Show HNs, so we did. We're releasing it today, along with a new set of Show HN guidelines."

July 9, 2014

Betting on the Ponies: non-Unicorn Investing - Reaction Wheel

"Even with the worst-case scenarios weighted in, my expected value IRR is much, much higher than would have been available to me in other investments, and top-quintile of venture over the same period. And not because I’m some super-genius but because I haven’t tried to emulate what venture firms have to do to win, I’ve played my own game. In that sense, it’s definitely working."

Cheat Sheet for User Feedback Surveys

"This multi-part blog post reviews various feedback collection methods, outlining pros, cons, and best practices."

Encourage Your Employees to Talk About Other Job Offers - Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh - Harvard Business Review

'the “Right of First Conversation” (ROFC). If an employee decides she wants to explore other career options, she commits to talking with her current manager first, so that the company, if it so desires, has the opportunity to define a more appealing job or role.'

Hacker News, Techcrunch and Product Hunt: which is most effective to launch your product? | Front

"Last week, we launched Front after 7 months of beta. To make it really official, we managed to be featured on 3 different channels: Hacker News, TechCrunch andProduct Hunt. A week has passed now and we took the time to analyze how each channels worked for us. And we want to share the results with you."

Lionel Messi Is Impossible | FiveThirtyEight

Awesome analysis of football (soccer) player performance data, focusing on Lionel Messi's incredible statistics.

Confessions of a startup: all our numbers, insights, everything — Looking forward, a blog by Lookback

"today we're sharing it all, in a transparent way. How we got our investment, all our growth numbers, customers, finances, our mistakes and insights"

Winner of Bitcoin Auction, Tim Draper, Plans to Expand Currency’s Use - NYTimes.com

"through a partnership with the Bitcoin exchange start-up Vaurum, Mr. Draper intends to make the coins available for use in emerging markets"

The Coinbase Blog — The Future of Bitcoin Storage: Wallets + Vaults

"The Vault is a second account type designed for storing large amounts of bitcoin with higher security on Coinbase."

Happy software developers solve problems better: psychological measurements in empirical software engineering [PeerJ]

"We report a study with 42 participants to investigate the relationship between the affective states, creativity, and analytical problem-solving skills of software developers. The results offer support for the claim that happy developers are indeed better problem solvers in terms of their analytical abilities."

Sick of Ruby, dynamic typing, side effects, and basically object-oriented programming - Abe Voelker

Author expresses in detail his frustration with dynamic typed languages, TDD, OO, and suggests Haskell as a possible improvement.

GitHub · Build software better, together.

"So we created diffscuss--a code review format based on unified diffs, with editor support for threaded inline comments, basic review management and git integration, and (best of all) support for jumping right from a comment to the local source it addresses, without ever leaving the comfort of Emacs (or, because Hut 8's own Matt Papi is a Vimmortal, Vim)."

BitAuth, for Decentralized Authentication | The BitPay Blog

"BitAuth is a way to do secure, passwordless authentication using the same elliptic-curve cryptography as Bitcoin."

Learning Vim in 2014: Vim as Language

"Vim doesn't speak English, but it has a language of its own, built out of composable commands, that is much more efficient than the simple movement and editing commands you'll find in other editors."

Making code better with reviews | CloudFlare Blog

CloudFlare team cites a specific example where they benefited from doing code reviews.

TDD, where did ‘I’ go wrong | Frank Code

"I recently watched a talk by from NDC 2013 titled ‘TDD, where did it all go wrong‘, and it has completely changed how I look at unit testing. This post looks at how I got it so wrong, and the benefits of following Ian’s approach."

Social Login Buttons Aren’t Worth It | MailChimp Email Marketing Blog

The MailChimp team argues for ditching social login and improving email login error handling/messaging.

Investor Updates - Aaron's Blog

YC Partner gives advice on investor updates.

Field Study — What Really Happens When a Company is Acquired

"What really happens in an acquisition is individual, personal, and mostly below the surface. It starts with all the excitement and speculation you would expect, but then that goes away and you are left with a rewarding but complex mix of emotions and expectations, and those carry on long after."

July 7, 2014

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned From Marc Andreessen

"My primary task with this blog post has been assembling the quotations and placing them in an order which flows well, since understanding the earlier topics helps the reader understand ideas which come later in the list"

July 6, 2014

Goals Are For Losers

"Instead of goals, have a system. A system is something you can do everyday to increase your chance of success. By using a system, you won't feel bad for not meeting your goal, but rather feel good about doing exactly what you intended to do."

Reduce integration test time by 94% by using Ramdisk

"The solution we came up was to run the embedded Cassandra using a 1GB Ramdisk. We simply changed the embedded cassandra.yaml data directories to point to the newly mounted Ramdisk."

Why use www? | www. is not deprecated

"You should use www because today you have a small web site, and tomorrow you want a big web site. Really big."

July 5, 2014

The Dark Corners of Your UI

"I challenge you to take a fresh look at the following pages/flows in your product: New user on-boarding. Empty states (particularly for new users). Password and email resets. Email confirmation prompts. Emails you’re sending. User Settings. Closing an account."

July 4, 2014

An Awk Primer/Awk Overview - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

"Awk has two faces: it is a utility for performing simple text-processing tasks, and it is a programming language for performing complex text-processing tasks."

July 3, 2014

Cognitive Biases in Software Engineering

"Human logic, unlike that of the machines which we program and use every day, isn't perfect. We make mistakes, we establish bad mental habits, and we have many cognitive biases that negatively impact our ability to be successful engineers. I want to go over five of the most common biases that I see on a regular basis as a software engineer."

What Every Frontend Developer Should Know About Webpage Rendering — Frontend Babel

"Today I'd like to focus on the subject of web page rendering and why it is important in web development. A lot of articles are available covering the subject, but the information is scattered and somehow fragmented. To wrap my head around the subject, for example, I had to study a lot of sources. That's why I decided I should write this article. I believe the article will be useful for beginners as well as for more advanced developers who want to refresh and structure what they already know."

July 2, 2014

The Best Code Documentation 'Tool' Ever Made

"The Best Code Documentation ‘Tool’ is: Private methods. It doesn’t get anymore simple than that."

Twitter Founder Reveals Secret Formula for Getting Rich Online | Business | WIRED

"find something that’s tried and true — and to do it better." “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”

Why Venture Capital is So Much More Compelling Now

"This year an associate from Upfront Ventures – Glenn Poppe – helped me pull together more information about how our industry is changing. I hope to publish that deck and a full write up in the next 10 days in partnership with Dan Primack at Fortune (if my write up doesn’t suck, I guess ;-)) Having worked through the data with Glenn I am even more optimistic about venture capital than I was even a year ago. Here is a preview of what we found & what we will publish:"