We are on our second day of Spark.Me Conference and our agenda is packed with inspiring and interesting presentations. After Bal Balaji’s presentation on building big products fast, Chris Varenhorst a Software Engineer Dropbox took the stage.
Chris is a graduate of MIT with a BA in Computer Engineering and a MA in Engineering & Computer Science. He started working at the San Francisco office four days after handing his thesis in. He decided to share what he learned from lis life experiences in founding, running and, eventually, selling his own startup Lingt, a platform for teaching languages.
Success of a Startup is a HyperCube: Everything Matters!
The success of a startup often depends on multiple unrelated dimensions:
You should imagine your startup as a multidimensional hypercube. The volume of the hypercube is success created by your startup. Any dimension that’s zero leads to no volume. It means that if any of your elements are zero, your success will also be zero.
The Ups and Downs of Startups
While freedoom you get while working on a startup can be very good, it can also have its cons. There is no structure or established plan to follow. It is exciting and you are most likely doing something you are interested in, but it also involves sacrifice:
If you drop out of college and go back to school later, you need to know that you will never get that college experience back, even if you do go back to school. It will be different.
There will be sadness in the process too, usually following a huge high. “A startup is an emotional roller-coaster”, Chris says.
Common Misconceptions About Startups
- “I can always do this later.”
- No, you can not. Do it now. If you postpone it, there will probably be a higher cost involved.
- “Technical superiority/having more features is key.”
- Many college students believe this and Chris used to be one of them. He believes Dropbox did the right thing by being simple: one folder that syncs, not all of them. Customers think they want something, but they don’t really want it.
- “I should go to grad school first.”
- 5 years in grad school probably won’t make you better at doing a startup. If you go, it should be because you really really want to go, don’t let it be the default, Chris says.
- “It’s all about just having a great idea.”
- This is not true. A startup idea needs to be sufficiently not terrible so as not to doom yourself.
- “It’s all about marketing and luck.”
- While luck is a factor, it is just that – just a factor. It gives you a chance. There is a lot about skill, you can not just lucky without having the skill.
Working Hard vs. Working Smart
Do not try to work 10 times harder than your competition, it probably can not be done, especially if they are working hard themselves. But, you can totally work 10 times smarter than them, says Chris, or at least “ten times less dumb“.
Featured photo by Marina Filipović Marinshe.