Get things done. More building, less talking: A simple rule of thumb for raising money.

We're impressed by teams that get things done, and unimpressed by teams haven't even started to build something. I've often found myself thinking, "If you think this is so great an idea, why haven't you spent some weekends building a version 0 prototype?"
--Trevor Blackwell, partner at Y Combinator, via

Seriously, whether you're raising pre-seed from YC, seed from angels, or Series A from VC's, you've got to get moving.

This is not college admissions -- nobody is here to pat you on the head. If you want to get ahead, you've got to build, build, build. A great idea on its own is worthless without a team that can make it real.

Geocities proves websites really are like sharks: if you stop moving, you die. A call to keep innovating.

It is staggering that Yahoo has moved to close Geocities -- a site with a decade worth of content. An Internet treasure (... of sorts.) And it's STILL being used by over 10 million people monthly. It's a top 100 site, according to

Look at Google Sites, Google's website offering that has been around for a fraction of the time. They're only about 1/3rd the traffic of Geocities... but they're closing fast. Geocities has been taking a beating.

Why? For a completely reversible reason. Geocities has remained static and unchanging for years and years... and web software is like a shark. You stop moving and you die. I can only speculate about the team that got stuck in maintenance mode here.

There is an oft-repeated meme with startups around how it is staffed with commandos, infantry, or police. Commandos are the founders -- they go in guns blazing and destroy everything they see. But there aren't enough commandos, and when the front is breached, they make way for the infantry. They actually score the victory, building up upon the success of the commandos. Most mid-stage startups are waging battle at this level. And then... the police come in. They're bumbling, but the market is already owned, so they can eat donuts and get fat.

What if Yahoo had brought in a new set of commandos? Real gunners. Probably akin to what MySpace has done recently with their radical reorg. I can think of a dozen smart crack commando web startups out there that would chomp at the bit to save an Internet treasure like Geocities. Build new features, update the software to the 21st century, and get the ball rolling again. Zap that shark with a defibrilator and get it swimming again.

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YC Startup School 2009 - Thanks to YC and the speakers for another great year.

It was a pleasure and privilege to once again photograph Y Combinator's Startup School 2009 yesterday at UC Berkeley. An assemblage of several hundred awesome engineer/hackers and future founders got together to hear the most successful entrepreneurs of the computing and Internet revolution speak about what it takes and how to get there.

Funny story: I sat in the front row of SS08 last year. YC applications were due the following Monday (just as the latest application cycle is due this coming Monday). Was not a founder then, just a designer/engineer with a sparkle in my eye. I grabbed a seat in the front row and took photos of all the speakers from last year, (posted on my Posterous here). I posted my photos on Hacker News. YC partners Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston saw the photos... later they told me it played a part in helping us get selected for interviews out of the likely thousand or more apps for that batch! We accepted YC funding for Summer of 2008, launched 3 weeks into the program, raised an angel round in Oct 08, and so you're reading this now on a startup of our own.

I guess you have to give a little to get a little. We feel greatly appreciative of being a part of YC, so I couldn't think of a better thing to do than to take photos once again. If you were there at Berkeley yesterday, I was that guy with the white Canon L lens running around the stage. ;-)

The amazing speakers included...

Chris Anderson
Editor in Chief, Wired Magazine

Paul Buchheit
Founder, FriendFeed; Creator of GMail

Jason Fried
Founder, 37signals

Paul Graham
Partner, Y Combinator; Founder, Viaweb

Tony Hsieh
CEO, Zappos; Founder, LinkExchange

Mitchell Kapor
Partner, Kapor Capital; Founder Lotus

Greg McAdoo
Partner, Sequoia Capital

Biz Stone
Founder, Twitter

Mark Pincus
Founder, Zynga; Founder, Tribe; Founder, SupportSoft; Founder Freeloader

Evan Williams
Founder, Blogger; Founder Twitter

Mark Zuckerberg
Founder, Facebook

Want more photos? Check out the full 85 picture full gallery at my smugmug. That gallery includes full 12 megapixel images suitable for print. You may use these images with attribution link back to my blog. Thanks friends!

Startup career path

If your goal is to start a company, it is mostly a waste of time to work anywhere but a startup.
--Chris Dixon via

I agree. Large company experience prepares you for the rigors of navigating fiefdom and hierarchy and pleasing your boss. Those goals don't align you with creating value in the marketplace. But that's the entire point of startups! Get closer to the metal, not farther away.

The death of advertising authenticity

In the old days, you could take out a quarter page ad in the newspaper and become more legitimate. Some people would open their morning paper and see your logo and message next to the most reputable word about what's happening. Your ad would sit next to ones by trusted brands like Macy's, Cadillac and Fidelity. Ads cost a lot of money, because newspapers had costs they had to cover. Prices remained high because the newspaper controlled page count. There were finite resources, so supply and demand applied.

Today, if you take out a display ad on the Internet, you're likely to see ads for punch-the-monkey, colon cleansing, and Acai Berry scams. Ads cost nothing because of an infinite supply of untargeted display space on the web. And so if you take that ad in the wasteland of low-trust brands, you will become less legitimate.

Attention transforms into a very free-form resource. This comes directly out of the hypertext nature of the web. I can go in any direction and find any information at a moment's notice. I am not shackled to one set of newsprint sitting in front of me. When you take away those limitations, my attention can go to whatever is most interesting or most fit at that moment.

When attention becomes unshackled, we expect good stories and good products to come to us. That's how got huge without spending a single dime on traditional or online advertising. Great products and great services grow organically. Nobody will ever tell their friends about that AWESOME punch the monkey scams and colon cleansing scams they participated in. As a result, authenticity can no longer be purchased. It must be earned.

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Build it

"If only I had ____ I would succeed."

These simple words will kill your dreams faster than anything else you could say or think. There are so many self-defeating thoughts that an entrepreneur can have, and they often take this very simple form.

One of the more common phrases you hear if you spend any time around aspiring entrepreneurs is "If only I had a technical cofounder..." This is a cringe-worthy thing to say. If you want to build a technology company, how is it that you can start without a technical background? It is not impossible, but damn near close to it. If you don't possess the skills currently to build it yourself, then you've got a problem.

There is an inverse correlation between how much you need something and how readily available that thing is to you. When it rains it pours. This applies directly to your ability. If you can code, design, market, sell, and ship your product, then you will have one hell of an easier time finding people to do each of those things for you. If you can only do one or two of those things, you've got a lot more needs, and it will be that much harder to fill them. Self-reliance fixes this.

So what is a non-techie aspriring entrepreneur to do? The most straightforward thing possible, naturally. Code. Learn to do it. Learn to build. Pick up a book and type out the examples. To create great things, there are blood sweat and tears. It might take two years or ten, but better a dream realized in ten years than not at all.

The good innovation -- the innovation that makes the world a better place and builds real wealth in society -- that stuff is done by radically self-reliant creators who get their hands dirty. Not talkers. Not dreamers. Builders.

So I leave you with one simple command as you work on your dreams.

You should follow me on twitter here.

Urgency: For early stage startup founders, you live and die by it.

At the exact moment you had your idea, ten other people had the exact same idea. There was just something in the environment that made it the right time for folks to think that one up. The race has already begun! Who’s going to execute first? Who’s going to execute best? If you want to waste nine months trying to raise VC money for that idea, great. But six months in, you’re gonna cry when you see someone else put out that same product you’re pitching me right now. Like I said, forget everything else and just get your product out the door. Now.
--Seth Sternberg, Meebo via

Awesome article over at techcrunch -- must-read for the creators out there.

Get. Your. Product. Out. The. Door.

Palantir featured in the Wall Street Journal: Fighting Terrorism the Silicon Valley Way


I was the #10 employee at Palantir -- it was a blast to join such a talented team early on beginning, and I totally miss all my old colleagues and the awesome work we got to do there!

It's great to see Palantir getting the recognition they deserve. Seriously the most important startup in Silicon Valley that doesn't want or need mad crazy press.

Also very cool -- WSJ writes more: How Team of Geeks Cracked the Spy Trade

Palantir is hiring awesome engineers too, so if you're looking for a place to make a difference and build amazing software, garrytan [at] gmail d. com and I can refer you!

Is social media a fad? Social media in 2009 = Multimedia in 1993

Cynics will roll their eyes, but there are some really interesting stats in this video.

Is Social media in 2009 = Multimedia in 1993? CD-ROM's were big and new then. Siliwood, or multimedia gulch, they called San Francisco. People were going nuts about interactive video. There was real tech behind it. There were cool new user scenarios and experiences unlocked before our eyes. Interact with a movie? Tell stories in a whole new way? It was a veritable boom.

We don't talk about multimedia anymore -- but maybe that's because the boom fulfilled its promise. Here's hoping social media can overcome its hype curve as well. And we're on the front lines. Damn, it's an exciting time to be alive.