Thoughts on the Naked Truth, from Picnik’s Jonathan Sposato
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for revenue or growth. Should he go for an immediate focus on making money, or drive for scale and market share? My advice to this young man was to first decide if he’s a “missionary or a mercenary.” Missionaries are in it to change the world, while mercenaries want to make money. I divulged with great zeal that I myself was a mercenary and in it to make a few bucks. Glenn Kelman countered with an equally valid point that if you’re ONLY interested in making money, then you might be more prone to a site that adds no real user value, cluttered with ads. Obviously a balance is to be achieved, and the young man who asked the question will need to filter.
Also related to the “no one size fits all” problem is that each of the entrepreneurs on the panel have hugely divergent experiences. Urbanspoon has had great success with their iPhone app as a driver of traffic, due in significant part to their awesome placement in the iPhone TV commercials. The iPhone is central to their growth and revenue funnel. At Picnik, the question of whether and when we should do an iPhone app comes up often, but as a rich Internet application (vs. a service), Picnik has a greater set of barriers to surmount before the iPhone becomes viable (namely that iPhone doesn’t yet support Flash and the myriad of photo effects required for a photo editing app). So again, the budding entrepeneur must filter for whose answer is more fitting to her startup idea.
Another common challenge for presenters is trying to figure out when another panelist is polarizing for the sake of provocation, vs. a substantive belief in their position. Of particular note was a discussion thread initially started months ago between Glenn Kelman and Mike Arrington around whether Seattle is just as good a place to do startups as the Valley. This question is a great example of where 7 or 8 smart folks can simply argue for days with no conclusive answer! Of course both places are great.
I tried to end cap the discussion with a humorous and anecdotal observation about the typical Google vs. Microsoft employee. With the Google employee in Mountain View, there is a constant expectation/certainty that she will move on to do a startup. Management expects you to leave and in fact routinely discusses the role of Google in preparing their young to someday “leave the nest.” Contrast that with Microsoft where typically, the employee who is considering doing a startup will talk about leaving, and talk some more, with the default set to staying on the mothership. Both cultures are highly smart, but default behaviors are set differently.
There were many similarly interesting questions from the audience. A huge thanks to Glenn Kelman for the generous invite to the event as I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with both the crowd and panelists.
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