Tag Archives: Startup


DSC_5954by Loop Lonagan

Whadaya think happens when 15,000 people get behind the entrepreneurs in their own neighborhood? Good things—that’s what happens! Energy. Enthusiasm. Stuff gets done! Lemme tell you about it: Continue reading

What is a Startup?

On startup hype and the distinction between a startup and a small business

“I am sick and tired of the word startup. It seems like everyone and their mother has a startup today, I might even start calling the Vietnamese grocery store next doors a food startup.”

Above is part of a response to a recent article of mine that discussed the ambitions of entrepreneurs in Europe and the fact that too many of them focused on local businesses. It is an example of several comments that addressed a growing phenomenon in our region, let’s call it a startup hype.

Definition of a startup

I don’t know whether or not we are experiencing a startup hype. I wouldn’t even know how to define it, measure it or prove its presence or absence and I am not sure if it is worth anyone’s time to do so. But if I was to side with the claim that our region is experiencing a startup hype, I would argue that there is a paradox: we are experiencing a startup hype despite the fact that there are very few actual startups. And part of the reason for such paradox would be the ambiguity surrounding the definition of what a startup is.

Trying to define a startup is a risky affair that I am not going to undertake. Instead, I am going to steal a definition from Paul Graham’s widely circulated article on growth. It makes excellent points on many topics which are worth separate posts, including why it is beneficial for profitable companies to take outside investment or why so many people hate the word startup for wrong reasons.

Paul Graham defines startup as a “company designed to grow fast”. Not just a company that grows fast, since most startups fail (his article explains why), but a company that makes an explicit commitment to grow fast. Such commitment already makes a huge difference as it accents a mindset rather than a factual description — which is exactly what we believe in at Credo Ventures as well.

Of course, the natural question is to ask how fast is fast. Paul Graham’s Y Combinator companies that he considers good grow between 5-7% a week, the exceptional ones at 10%. Ideally in revenue, although Paul Graham explains why the next best metric is active users. A typical company at Y Combinator makes about a $1,000 per week at the beginning of the program.

The natural follow on question is to ask for what period of time. The length of the exponential growth naturally defines how successful the startup will be. Paul Graham makes an example of a company, which grows from $1,000 by 5% for 4 years (and thus makes $25 MM a month in revenue). A great article by Jules Maltz shows what kind of growth do successful companies experience in more mature stages, four years before their IPO.

So how many startups does our region really have?

The point of this post is not to argue whether 2%, 5% or 10% is the right weekly growth. Nor it is to argue that startups should grow by such rate for 2 years, 4 or 8. The point is that if we look at the number of companies in our region that are at least attempting to generate such growth numbers or even thinking of reaching something like $25 MM in monthly revenue (real company net revenue, not value of processed transactions) in four years or even eight, we could cross out vast majority of companies that call themselves startups. I would call them small to medium sized businesses. The end of the startup hype.

Surely a lot of our entrepreneurs will say that such growth is impossible to achieve in a single European country. And yes, the second point of this post is to say that it is very hard. Actually one could make the case it is harder here than in the United States, China or India. But not impossible. I have seen at Benson Oak how our portfolio company AVG grew from low single digits MM in revenues in 2003 to USD 180 MM in 2009. From Brno. Czech Republic, it was later stage than Y Combinator’s companies with $1,000 of monthly revenue, therefore I suppose a revenue CAGR nearing 100% is still pretty good given the company stage. And the 2009 revenue had doubled by 2012 with current valuation of USD 1.2 Bln.

The case for building startups being harder for us in Europe is based on our small domestic markets: companies in China or India can be startups even with a ‘local’ business idea, because their definition of local is in hundreds of millions of potential users. I bow in front of those entrepreneurs who can achieve startup-like growth for a prolonged period of time by having a single-country focus in Europe. They are truly masters of business execution. But based on Paul Graham’s logic I would argue that if we want to run a startup in our region, and achieve startup-like growth, we would have an easier time starting with the premise that we want to build a global company and thus start businesses that stand the test of global competition.

Some globally celebrated entrepreneurs like Richard Branson made their first successes with local businesses such as “CD shops” or virtual mobile operator. But Branson executed them well in a market much bigger than our region. He might have even experienced the kind of growth Paul Graham expects to see in a startup. And those ‘local’ businesses made him a fortune big enough to finance his own space program. I have serious doubts that a local business in Europe will give us a chance to finance our own space program (most likely not even a chance to go through someone else’s program). Maybe I am wrong. But for all those who want to leave their own mark in the universe, I think you have better odds with sticking to a global startup. And for those who don’t, that’s fine, there is nothing wrong with a small to medium sized business. Heck, even big sized business. Just don’t call your company a startup, you will help avoid the startup hype.

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Google acquires cyber security startup Spider.io to help combat online advertising fraud

Google today announced that it has acquired Spider.io, a London-based cyber security firm that combats online advertising fraud. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Google said it would be using the startup’s detection system to improve its display and video ad services.

“By including Spider.io’s fraud fighting expertise in our products, we can scale our efforts to weed out bad actors and improve the entire digital ecosystem,” Neal Mohan, Google’s vice president for display advertising said.

Online ad fraud is a huge problem, whereby advertizers pay for exposure and clicks on the Web that are actually powered by bots, networks of hijacked devices and other non-human traffic. Therefore, advertizers are paying large sums of money for impressions that won’t result in new customers.

With Spider.io, Google hopes to improve the accuracy of the information it gives advertizers, resulting in a “a clearer, cleaner picture of what campaigns and media are truly delivering strong results.” We’ll have to wait and see.

Blog Post (Via Recode)

Image Credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images


5 steps to building something that people love


Too many entrepreneurs are just out to exploit a new market or emerging trend and have very little passion for their product. With neither first hand experience of the market or empathy for their customers they rely purely third party research and cloning an existing business model. They see other startups flocking to a burgeoning market and try to grab their own piece of the pie. What was initially a “blue ocean” soon turns into a “shark infested waters” consisting of nearly indistinguishable products. Their only differentiators beings slightly different bootstrap themes or an extra useless feature.

However, if you build your startup around your passions and what interests you then you will have a much better chance of finding a niche and owning a market. By scratching your own itch and tackling problems you’ve experienced you have the advantage of using your insight to more quickly develop a winning business strategy. Since you are your own target audience you are more likely to know people with similar issues or at least know how to get it touch with them.

What are the main challenges to building a successful startup?

  1. Having a genuinely good idea (i.e. building something customers love)
  2. Being able to execute on that idea (i.e. having the skills and resources to make the idea reality)
  3. Keeping that idea alive (i.e. developing a sustainable business model)

So how can you overcome these challenges in a shorter amount of time and wasting as little money as possible? Here are my 5 simple steps to get you going:

Step 1 — Shape your vision

Think about things that anger you in the world. Ideally focus on things that affect you; that you’re passionate about; and would love to change. Create a vision in your head of what the world would look like if these things WERE fixed. Articulate this vision as clearly as possible, share it with others and use their feedback to make it even clearer. Then turn it into a story that inspires and excites people. You want to have a vision and story that even your grandmother will understand (as well as the rest of her bridge club).

Step 2 — Define your purpose

Why does your startup exist? How will it help to achieve your vision?What is its mission? Is the purpose of your startup to create joy or remove pain? Is it a vitamin or a painkiller?

Vitamins (joy creators) feed a previously untapped need or create a new behaviour/experience. In my opinion Facebook is a vitamin. It didn’t tackle a specific problem but it did elicit a new type of interaction between people.

A painkiller on the other hand addresses a very specific, existing problem. Its purpose is well defined and it is easier to measure its value. Basecamp is a painkiller. It tackles the problem of managing projects with distributed teams.

I believe painkillers are a lot less risky to build than vitamins. The issues they tackle are more tangible and easier to understand. If speed is of the essence then trying to find painkillers is a safer bet.

Once you’ve decided that you’re a painkiller then you’ll need to create a prioritised list of all the problems to tackle. Pick the top three, making sure that they’re high value problems (i.e. the ones that people would pay to have solved). The purpose of your startup is to tackle these.

Step 3 — Take stock of your resources

What skills do you possess? How could you use these skills to fulfil your startup’s purpose? Do you know people with skills that could help you?

If you have all the skills you need to get started then great. You can move quickly. However, if you have to start employing people; make strategic partnerships; or engage with a supplier, then having defined your vision and purpose will be essential if you want to avoid wasting time and money. Your vision and purpose will help these people understand what you’re trying to achieve much better than any feature list or project brief.

Having taken stock of your resources you can now assess whether the problems you identified in the previous step can be tackled by your team. If they can’t you may have to got back to Step 2 and do some refinement around your purpose.

Step 4 — Build your community

As mentioned above if you’re creating something you’re passionate about, identifying your target market should be easy. They’re essentially people like you and so finding early adopters should be relatively quick. Furthermore, if your vision is inspirational enough you can turn these early adopters into evangelists. For early stage startups it’s hard to know whether you’re on the right track and so you want avoid expensive marketing campaigns at the beginning. Your early evangelists will be do this marketing for you at no cost. They will believe so strongly in your vision that they’ll be willing to spread the word. This is where having an engaging story will help, as it will mean the word will spread even faster.

This is may all sound a bit cult-like, but the principles aren’t far off. Make your mission inspirational enough and you’ll have believers and followers appearing from all directions.

Step 5 — Stay focused

Throughout the early stages of your startup you’ll get conflicting advice from many different sources. While most people will have the best intentions their opinions will be biased by their own experiences and their own perception of what you’re doing. Some advice will be good but a lot will be distracting. Having a clearly defined vision will stop you getting sidetracked and led off in an unproductive tangent. Since you’re working in an area that you’re passionate about you will always be the best person to judge on the relevance of any advice. You won’t be tempted by short term gains as you will be focused on fulfilling your purpose and achieving your vision. Believe in your gut!

So getting back to the title of this blog post: by creating an inspirational shareable vision you’re more likely to attract fanatical customers (i.e. create a product people love). And by using the skills and resources at your disposal you will be able to build something in a much shorter time with no need for funding (i.e. quicker and for less money).

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Startup Edition – Weekly Wisdom From Founders, Hackers, & Designers – StartupEdition.com

Startup Edition is a curated gathering of bloggers in the startup community, sharing their wisdom and response to a single question each week.

(VIA. StartupEdition)

Blogging vs. Building

“The more you blog, the less you are building”

Hiten Shah recently shared these words with me on MessageMe:

The more you blog, the less you are building.

I’m currently parked at blogging HQ, Philz Coffee, writing. I write frequently, dedicating 1-3 hours every day and publishing up to three posts each week (I have a dozen unpublished essays finished in my “queue”). Many people have asked why I spend so much time writing, sometimes criticizing this daily routine and questioning its value.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Recently there’s been a surge of debate in the startup community on the value of blogging[1], kicked off by this tweet by Keith Rabois:


I disagree with Keith’s hyperbolic statement — I can name several successful founders that blog regularly[2] — however, there is some truth to his argument. For 95% of us, blogging is very time-consuming. The attention it brings is also distracting, as one’s Twitter stream and email inbox flood with ego-boosting appreciation.

Blogging takes focus away from other things, including your startup. As Nabeel Hyatt points out, many founders ebb and flow in this blogging routine. Take Ev Williams as an example. When his new startup, Medium, first launched, he regularly published on the new platform but in recent months he’s remained largely silent. Why? Probably to focus on Medium.

Why I Write

I write for many reasons. I get tremendous intrinsic and extrinsic value from it. This daily habit helps me hone an important soft skill: communication. My writing abilities have improved, as evident by the embarrassment I feel reading blog posts I wrote six months ago.

Blogging is a joy. I use it as a vehicle to explore product design, deconstructing the psychology and growth tactics used in many of today’s most successful consumer products.

In doing so, I have built an audience of interested startup enthusiasts, providing me a platform of followers for experimentation and distribution of new startup ideas. Most people start marketing after they conceive of a startup idea or release a product. In reality, marketing can begin before a startup’s inception.

But what’s most rewarding is the feedback and appreciation I receive from readers. Not to sound egotistical, but several founders have informed me that something I wrote, provided them with new perspectives, sometimes changing the way they build their startup and even their own life.

I Won’t Always Blog This Much

But like Ev, I won’t always blog this often. I’m currently in-between roles, exploring opportunities for my next full-time, all-in startup adventure. I blog for the reasons above but it’s also strategic.

Blogging has opened several opportunities to meet amazing entrepreneurs, advise startups, and job offers. Blogging is the new resume — amplifying one’s experience, talent, and way of thinking in a more scaleable way than one-on-one communications. Fortunately, I’m in a position to invest in my blog without sacrificing focus in building a startup.

For now.

[1]: Many other bloggers have weighed in on this topic:

[2]: Here are a few founders I respect that actively blog:

Subscribe to follow my blog or say hello on Twitter (@rrhoover).

This essay was inspired by this week’s Startup Edition, “Why do you write?”. Visit Startup Edition to read more responses from other entrepreneurs.

Further Reading

Blogging is the New Resume

 — Blogging is an effective way to illustrate expertise, personality, and most importantly, thought process.

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Co-Creator of Product Hunt. Creator of Startup Edition. Instructor at Tradecraft. More at http://ryanhoover.me. Follow at @rrhoover.

View story at Medium.com

5 Traits of REAL Entrepreneurs

What’s been going on?

There’s a whole lot of fluff in the entrepreneurial world. More than ever before, people are claiming the self-recognition that comes along with “working on a startup.” Dreams of calling the shots, moving to a fantabulous house in Silicon Valley, and partaking in evenings on the town with other swanky “do-it-yourselfers” really gets a person thinking. Images of driving a freshly-minted Tesla up and down the coast, complete with unbuttoned Ralph Lauren shirt, windblown hair, and giving a noticeable yet deeply casual nod to a few screaming fans—who without a doubt noticed you speed by them in a most rebellious fashion—is what it is all about.

It all seems very real—fundamentally achievable. If so many others can do it, why can’t you? After all, your idea alone is worth a million bucks!

But entrepreneurship is about more than having an idea. No matter which way you approach it, a startup isn’t worth a damn until you take that idea and execute on it, no matter how ugly the first rendition may be.

Startups fail every day because someone tries to “look the part.” You know the story: a team finds some capital to get their business off the ground. Somewhere along the journey, the money gets spent on awesome office space, a plethora of SaaS applications, and perfecting what their product “ought to be,” according to nobody’s opinion but their own.

Successful entrepreneurs are rarely armed to the teeth with expensive software applications. “Awesome office space” is a basement decorated with spider webs and wrinkled punk rock posters. Any product perfection has been accomplished by cornering random people at gas stations and begging for any sort of substance in the answers they give. Desperate times, right?

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to hold these five indispensable traits—traits that go far beyond just “looking the part.”

Welcome setbacks

The first time you start a company, it’s going to be rough. There are going to be days, weeks, or entire months where it just seems like the world is against you. Maybe you lose a big lead or fail to impress the investor that was promising to “take you to the next level.” Sometimes it’s more personal—you lose a loved one, call it quits with your significant other, or break your arm twerking in a subway station. There are a number of things that could be potentially hostile to your startup’s health.

Remember: these setbacks are temporary. In some instances they’re a normal part of starting a company. There are always going to be “weeding out” procedures that the entrepreneurial realm will throw at you regardless of the precautions you take. Accept them with a smile. If you can find your way over the obstacles, you’re in a much better position than 90% of your cohorts. “It’s all about perspiration” is a mantra that has long been worn out, but it’s still as true as ever. Being smart is one thing; learning how to cope with setbacks is a different (more rewarding) attribute altogether.

Know your metrics

It’s difficult for me to kindly express the importance of knowing your metrics. Whether you have 1 customer or 100,000 customers, keeping a close eye on the engine of your company’s growth is the most important thing you can do. I can’t reiterate that enough.

Metrics go far beyond profit margins, though. What is your monthly burn rate? How much are you spending on customer acquisition (CPA), and what can you do to lower that cost? Do you know the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your average patron? Monthly churn rate? K-factor? All of these metrics carry their own importance. Learn to read them, measure them, and love them—they are any successful entrepreneur’s best friend.

Cater to others

These days, it doesn’t mean much to be CEO. Sure, you get to carry around a business card that declares your perceived superiority. And yes, technically your opinion is the ultimate “trump card” when it comes to decision-making. But that’s where the coolness ends. You’re not going to accomplish jack-diddly without that handful of people standing behind your every decision. You know: the people who come in to work smiling each day, ready and willing to work a 14-hour shift and receive compensation far below their fair market value. The ones who abandon their families for abnormally long periods of time, only because they believe in your company’s vision as much as you do. The same people who—at one time or another—you’ve regarded as “my employees.”

But startups don’t have “employees.” They have team members. If a large corporation discourages someone to the point of termination, they contact a department supervisor and tell them to fill the gap. If a startup makes the same mistake it can be fatal.

Imagine for a second: you distress your PR director during a product launch to the point where she can’t stand working for your company any longer. No problem—you’ll just assign her duties to your marketing lead. Within a day or two, your marketing image starts taking a nose dive. “Hey, sales team! Help out with marketing, eh?” Pretty soon, you have your customer service representatives handling sales, your girlfriend handling support tickets, and your dog handling employee satisfaction, bookkeeping, and lunch orders. All because you couldn’t ensure the happiness of your teammate. Shame on you!

Bottom line: do everything you can to keep your team smiling throughout the day. Your success depends on it.

Don’t expect short-term success

“Dude, it’s not a Ponzi scheme. The website told me so.”

I hate to say it, but I think a ton of people are joining the entrepreneurial realm for a chance at getting a quick win. In many cases, it seems more worthwhile to pursue a future like the guys you see on any given MLM site then to worry about developing your own business idea. “Make guaranteed money” sounds like a good deal to me!

99% of businesses don’t achieve overnight success, contrary to what the Internet says. Some may get lucky with a viral marketing campaign or squeezing underneath Google’s radar for a more spam-tastic approach, but you can’t expect to have similar results. Launching a startup takes sweat, brains, and (figurative) balls. Anyone who promises you otherwise is a thieving jackal. Promise me you’ll never go that route. Promise? Ok, good!

Leave a (good) footprint

Back in the day, companies cared about squeezing out the highest possible profit margins, even if it detracted from their employees or customers. It was all about the numbers—finite and objective. Your investors expected certain results. Screw it up, and you’re in hot water.

Gen Y is reshaping how we conduct global business. Team member happiness is a major priority. Customer retention measures are more pressing than ever before. Sustainability, moral practices, and strict social responsibilities are written in to the ethos of the majority of new startups. These metrics aren’t objective—they can’t be measured as easily as traditional data points. But we’re finding that, in many cases, they’re just as important as any typical business practice. Your customers care about the footprint you’re leaving. Make sure it’s a good one.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, real entrepreneurs will rise above those who are in it for the glory. Sometimes it takes years to occur; sometimes it takes weeks. Entrepreneurship is about more than trophies. It’s about more than fancy cars, star-studded parties, and a fan base. Starting a business isn’t easy, and most people will never sweat enough to see their vision through. It’s a rough journey, and there are many, many obstacles standing in your way. If creating a better future were easy, we’d have already done it all. Adopt these five traits, and you’ll be impossible to stop.

The world is waiting for you. Get to work!

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My startup life budget

10 days ago, I gave notice at my employer, officially ending my professional career in private equity. After a year of tangentially living the startup life, attending hackathons, working on a side project, and taking regular trips to the Bay, I am determined to give it a good run — right now when my aspirations are high, responsibilities are limited, and financial padding is enough for at least a few years of freedom. In part as a way of extending the “runway” that I have and in part to develop discipline for managing startup finances, I’ve gone through the exercise of budgeting out the first 6 months of expenses in an effort to reduce my monthly burn as much as possible. Here are the major categories of expenses and how I ultimately figured out the numbers:


Probably the biggest overall category when it comes to spend. Life in the Bay area can get really expensive simply on rent alone. Fortunately for me, I’m not tied to living in San Francisco and quite frankly appreciate the quite and focus that comes from living outside of the city. Having dated a Berkeley girl for the last year, I’ve gotten to know the downtown Berkeley area really well and really enjoy the atmosphere. There are some major advantages of living near the Berkeley campus:

  • Cheaper rent — studios can be as low as $1K per month, with shared apartments ranging closer to $700-800 per month
  • Access to awesome people— having met a number of Berkeley students and alumni over the past year, I know that the campus holds a community of talented, ambitious engineers and entrepreneurs to collaborate with
  • Low cost of living  — Aside from rent, the other aspects of living are quite cheap as well, especially food (college campus-esque dining locations), public transportation, and supplies
  • Proximity to SF —  Best of all, Berkeley is a 15-20 minute BART ride from downtown Berkeley. The commute isn’t quite as convenient as living in SOMA, but the cost savings along with distancing myself from the distraction of SF city life is likely an overall win

Overall, I’m budgeting my rent to be $1,000 per month, which I plan on sticking to. In the first few months, I’ll be staying with a friend, which should also help limit my rent expense.


If you know me in real life, you’ll know that this is a very real expense for me — quite likely even greater than my NYC rent expense. I’m an avid food appreciation-ist, often traveling 2-3 times per year to far away destinations just to try the cuisine. However, both as an effort to lower expenses and eat healthier, my goal in living the startup life is to depend much more on cooking and eating wholesome foods and less on dining out and junk foods.

To help enforce the habit of eating both healthy and low cost, I set my daily food budget to $20 per day, intending to spend ~$5 each for breakfast and lunch and $10 for dinner. Realistically, those kind of numbers are only doable with shopping and cooking, allowing for the occasional eating out. Still, even on what I consider a tight budget, food expense comes out to $600 per month, eventually upped to $900 per month as hopefully things get busier and revenue starts coming in.


Ah  — parting with my corporate cell phone plan is definitely one of the more heartbreaking parts of my new life. For the last 5 years (including my last year and a half of college), I’ve had an employer sponsored phone plan, spending on average probably $100-120 per month. Overages? Didn’t care. Calling from overseas? Put it on my tab. Roaming? No problem. Now that I’ll be paying for my own plan, I’ve suddenly become very aware of just how expensive plans are.

After spending a night looking up cheaper phone plan options, I’ve found a plan through SIMPLE mobile that provides unlimited talk, text and data (throttles at 3GB) for only $50 per month — definitely a win compared to the my current plan.

Local transportation:

Getting around was a tough one to figure out in advance. Initially, I thought getting a car would be a good idea because of convenience, especially since I’ll be living outside of SF. However, the economics of owning car made it difficult to accept. Including insurance, the amortized cost of a used car, and gas, owning a car meant a $700-1000 per month spend.

Instead, I’m going to initially see how well the BART + bus + Uber systems can take me around. Although I intend to spend most of my time in Berkeley, I do plan on going to SF 3 times per week, which will likely cost ~8.50 per trip. At 12 trips per month, transportation I would expect comes out to $100 per month plus another $50 for extra buses, Ubers, etc that come up as needed.


Some background: My side project that I’ve built over the last year is a government tech application that is currently used across New York City’s Financial Empowerment Centers. We recently closed a deal to provide the service to Financial Empowerment Centers across the country, which for me means that although I will be moving to San Francisco, I will have to make regular trips out to New York City in order to maintain the relationship and grow the business.

Along with the need to maintain my side project, flying back to New York City gives me the opportunity to visit my parents in Pennsylvania regularly as well. All in, the cost of a cheap round-trip flight from SFO to NYC is $278 on Delta. For me, the cost of taking one round-trip flight a month will be quite a bit less, thanks to my gold loyalty status on Delta (earned from a solid year of business travel). Every round trip flight earns me 10,000 miles, doubled from the usual 5,000 miles for the SFO/NYC flight. And since a round-trip flight on Delta can be purchased using 25,000 miles, I get a free trip for every 2.5 trips. In the end, my flight costs per month come out to $200 per month — not too bad!


Perhaps the biggest concern I have going into startup life is health insurance. After hearing horror stories of Americans going into bankrupcy due to mounting healthcare costs, I’m extra sensitive to making sure I have coverage during startup life.

COBRA isn’t an option — the HR folks at my employer quoted me the cost of our current plan, which without employer contribution comes to ~$10K per year. Yikes. Thankfully, the Covered California website made it pretty simple to get quotes on decent healthcare coverage, placing my monthly premiums at ~$300 per month. Hopefully my use of healthcare services will be limited, but having the coverage will at least let me sleep comfortably at night.


Of course there are entirely unexpected expenses. Sometimes, these can be huge items (moving costs, furniture needed, weddings, etc) and pretending like they don’t exist don’t work. Along with factoring in a ton of one-time expenses I expect to run into, I’ve thrown in an additional $300 per month in miscellaneous spend into the budget. It’s important to live a little, right?

Grand Total:

  • Recurring expenses: $2,600 per month, $31,200 annually
  • One-time expenses: $233 per month, $2,800 annually
  • Total budgeted burn: $2833 per month, $34,000 annually

Overall, not too bad. $34,000 annual spend that includes decent accommodations, healthcare, food, and regular trips back to NYC is definitely something that I can live with. Still, it is a little surprising that even with reasonably low costs for rent (relative to SF that is), healthcare, and food, the overall annual expense is over the average U.S. house-hold post-tax income. It’ll be interesting to see how close I get to my budget.

At the end of the day, if business is good enough, I’ll likely ramp up the spend to trade money for time. Like my dad always said growing up: “Those who have money, don’t have to spend the time. Those who have time, don’t need to spend the money.”

If you enjoyed this read, I’d love for you to ‘Recommend’ this piece so that others can enjoy it as well. If I forgot a major area of startup life expense, tweet me at @andrewjiang.

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If You are “Doing Entrepreneurship,” You Should Stop

I am tired of the word “entrepreneurship.” That might sound weird—but I am. The problem, I think, is that entrepreneurship went from being a means to an end, to an end in itself.

People used to see a problem in the world, and realize that founding a startup would be the best way to solve that problem. Now graduates want to run a startup, and then look for a problem to solve, which is ass-backwards.

Oftentimes, the best founders stumble into being an entrepreneur because they realize that what they’ve been trying to do has already actually been formalized for them via a startup, and that the entrepreneurial community can help support their dreams, and guide them.

But when I ask someone what they do, and they tell me they “do startups” a little piece of me dies inside.

Sometimes I do that by accident, myself! I screw up!

I fall into that trap too when I get lazy, and I don’t want to explain myself. People accept the answer and move on. But from now on, my answer will be “I invest in Internet companies by building their software in exchange for equity.”

I don’t do it because I wanted to run a startup—hell I woulda done finance if I liked it better—but I did it because I was convinced that I saw a problem no one was solving. I became obsessed with solving that problem.

I have the same issue with people who tell me “they want to be a senator.” I’d much rather hear them tell me they want to make America better, or fight for an issue, and the best way to do so would be to hold a position in office.

Titles or social structures ought to serve as vehicles, not goals.

There are many institutions that teach entrepreneurship—that help people take their ideas and build them. I think that’s fine—they are positive pieces of the community, but convincing people to be entrepreneurs is not the right thing to do. It’s the reason we see so many bad ideas.

So stop doing entrepreneurship. Start pursuing whatever your dream is. If founding a startup is the best way to pursue that dream, solve that problem you’re obsessed with or reach your end game—fine. But don’t be “an entrepreneur” and then look for a problem.

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Subscription Billings Startup ChargeBee Raises $800k From Accel Partners

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ChargeBee, a Chennai-based startup that helps companies manage their subscription billings, has raised around $800,000 in a Series A funding from Accel Partners. This brings ChargeBee’s total funding to $1.17 million, including the $370K it had raised in seed funding during October 2012.

This new funding will be used to beef up ChargeBee’s sales teams in the U.S. and also hire more engineers to work on next versions of the startup’s core product.

Subscription billing startups such as ChargeBee, Recurly and Chargify, leverage SaaS model to help customers implement a billing system fast by automating most of the back-end processes of invoice generation and payments collection.

Krish Subramanian, co-founder of ChargeBee said the startup offers more choices compared with other rivals.

“ChargeBee differentiates as the most extensible billing solution available including more choices with our REST API and the option to use Stripe tokens instead of card,” said Subramanian.

ChargeBee now has around 500 paying customers from 10 countries including Australia, US, UK and Canada. Currently, the startup processes average monthly transactions worth $1.6 million. By end of this year, ChargeBee wants to achieve $20 million in monthly transactions.

Co-founded by former Zoho employees Krish, KP Saravanan, Thiyagarajan T and Rajaraman S, ChargeBee started in 2011. A Hacker News post about Chargify increasing its subscription rates inspired the ChargeBee founders to look at building a startup that offers better services, at cheaper rates.

“Our plans start at $49 for startups and we do have a “bootstrapper” plan wherein customers use ChargeBee for free till they reach 10 customer billing a month,” said Krish.

Accel India has to date invested in around 17 startups in India at the seed stage from its $150 million+ Accel III fund.