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Ask HN: Is there something like HN for successful entrepreneurs?
51 points by icode on Aug 28, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments
I still love to read HN every day. But I also wish there was something similar for people who already built a successful startup. Something where I can discuss things like: How to spend all those $s. How to invest them. How to reduce taxes. How to travel the world. What are great places and what are great things to do there. What are interesting purposes of life after you have accomplished your financial goals.

I know there are some successful entrepreneurs here like Paul Graham, Gabriel Weinberg and Giacomo Guilizzoni. But they mainly talk about how to make even more money. I would like to think beyond that. How to change the trajectory as Derek Sivers once put it. (And even Sivers mainly talks about business. Looks like its damn hard to really change trajectory).

Any ideas?

I imagine if there were such a forum, it would not be public like this because membership would imply "I have money" and that makes people a target.

I think a better approach would be to join forums related to specific interests which aren't dependent upon "I have made it as an entrepreneur." An expensive hobby would likely surround you with other people in similar circumstances in terms of financial success, though they may not have made it as entrepreneurs.

Yeah, it would rapidly be swamped by various scams intended to separate the users from their money.

Why wouldnt that apply here as well? Some successful guys post here. Do they get hassled?

I don't think it applies here because the focus is on making money and solving problems, not on "how can I spend my fortune?" However, that doesn't mean that some members don't get hassled. It's entirely possible they do but since I don't have money (I have nothing but debt and have said that repeatedly), I really am not someone who can say for sure if the folks who have made it get hassled by people who meet them through HN.

Not an answer to your question, but it is pretty common for people who have "made it" to go traveling for a year or two and then realize they are bored. Then they go back to work. This is pretty common when people retire too. Retire, think they will spend the rest of their life traveling only to find out it gets pretty boring fast.

A lot of people work because they like to work, whether they admit it to themselves or not.

> A lot of people work because they like to work

Or because they are wired in a way that they dont know what else to do. I would feel like i have been fallen into a trap if I was to spend my next 10 years trying to build the next company. I want to broaden my horizon.

Good point. On one of the "Startups For the Rest of Us" podcast, Rob essentially said the same thing. Paraphrasing:

"It took me a long time to realize I could go on vacation for a month at a time and not worry. I kept thinking 'Shouldn't I be working? Isn't there something I need to do?'"

I think it's something that would need to be built from scratch.

One thing to focus on, would be to manually verify all members before granting access.

Unfortunately, it would have to be made by someone who has the connections to make it happen. Because otherwise it won't it'll be dead.

Although, if you've made it, you got the cash to pay for advice from experts. Instead of asking a bunch random people about tax law...you can just hire a good accountant...instead of asking which vacation spot to go to, you can find a good travel agent. etc etc

> just hire a good accountant > find a good travel agent

What, no more Web 2.0? Back to the old one-on-one consultations?

web 2.0 is to make things affordable...but it's almost always subpar to getting 1 on 1 consultation from an expert

+ it goes down to opportunity cost...sure you could become an expert after spending hundreds of hours...or you can pay the fee and go back to enjoying your retirement.

Try Aman Resorts (http://www.amanresorts.com) -- I can personally recommend amansara and amandari.

Then get back to work!

I can personally recommend Amankila as well. It's one of those places that leaves you alone all the time, except when you arrive and leave. The management is there to greet you and send you off. They very graciously helped me arrange a number of things outside the normal purview of hotel staff, including a large shipment of custom furniture. They give you the feeling that you are their "boss" while you're a guest there.

I also have similarly great things to say about COMO Shambala in Ubud, Bali.

I think http://onstartups.com run by Dharmesh Shah is probably the closest thing to what you're seeking.

It looks like it also is all about making more money over there.

Join The Entrepreneur's Organization. It's excellent, and will fulfill the desires you mention.

You got an URL for that?

I would love to be a part of something like that, but I don't know of anywhere currently. If you want to get away from "new" entrepreneur, why not built a site called entrepreolder.

On a similar note, I'd be interested to know if there's an online forum for wealthy people who are trying to figure out the most effective way to make charitable donations.

Quora has many entrepreneurs and intellectuals who are happy to answer questions. It's not anything like HN, but maybe it'll help you.

Read the NYTimes Lifestyle section -- it seems tailor-made to helping people spend a lot of money.

I've been starting businesses since I was a kid. It is like a hobby, or maybe an obsession. I once started a business without realizing I had done so![1] Once I found the pleasure in selling, I just kept doing it. Once I started having a positive income (e.g.: bringing in more money than I needed to live well) I started investing. I've been investing for a couple decades, it also is a hobby. For the past four years I've been a full time nomad-- working on a startup and traveling full time, living out of a backpack. I have built a half dozen successful businesses, and worked for two dozen startups. I've spent a fair bit of time learning about these subjects and would be happy to share my experiences. I too would like to find a site like this.

The thing is, when you've become successful to some degree, inevitably, your perspective changes. The perspective of those who've achieved some success is very different from those who want to achieve success but haven't, yet.

I don't mean this in an elitist way-- there's nothing I'd like more than to share what I've learned with people who are in the position I was when I was starting out.

Unfortunately, Hacker News is not that place. When I've broached such subjects, the responses have not been of the "I'm interested in learning your perspective" variety, more of the "I'm going to tell you that you're wrong because authority X told me so."

I'm trying to come up with some examples that won't obviously and immediately offend people. But, for instance, talking about how you can invest yourself (one of the OP's topics) often is met with "you'd be better off buying index funds" responses. It doesn't matter that I've been investing myself and getting outsized returns, and found that it really isn't that hard, and I'd love to share the techniques-- the dominant perspective is that individuals cannot beat the market. Or, if you talk about tax mitigation, the response is often along the lines of "you shouldn't do that, you owe it to society". Or if you attempt to explaining what's going on in economic terms but your perspective disagrees with the popular mainstream one (which is keynesianism, or more accurately, krugmanism) you're met with often derisive responses. You know, if economics is a science, it should be able to predict things...and good economists predicted the housing bubble. Even Ron Paul was caught on video in 2001 predicting it.

Anyway, one of the big lessons of business that I've learned, is that economics is important. Perspective is important. Learning about business, and becoming successful really is about changing your perspective.

Unfortunately, due to the organization of this site (stories disappear quickly, detailed discussions are a bit difficult) and the culture, it is hard to share a perspective that disagrees with the majority one.

I once was told my company was not a real startup, but that it was a "lifestyle business".... this from someone that, near as I could tell, had never started a business. Hell, even if it is a lifestyle business... it gave me a fantastic lifestyle! I don't feel that people here on HN want to learn from those who have had success... and as much success as I have had, I really want to learn from those who have had MORE.

HN is the closest I've found, for all the seemingly negative things I'm saying about it.... I wish there were a way to change it so that we could share these things.

But if HN is too big of a ship, then I'd be keen to hang out in a private forum. Really, get just a dozen good people there- people who have started businesses and are not ashamed of being capitalists-- and you can have some great discussion.

[1] I was importing tools from china, and because I didn't know their quality, and the price was so low, I tended to buy 2 or 4 of everything figuring they might break. The quality was actually good, so I'd sell the extras, but then without realizing it I started buying more and more every order. I found that keeping four drills around was convenient, as I'd just keep different bits in each one and witch tools, but the next time I ordered, I ordered 4 more drills and then sold them, then ordered 8 extra drills and sold them as well. Same thing with bit sets, and other tools. I was making great markups on the tools, but when I realized what I was doing I stopped because it wasn't really scalable.

there's nothing I'd like more than to share what I've learned with people who are in the position I was when I was starting out.

Mz volunteers to be guinea pig and listen to whatever you want to share. ;-)


If you name the forum, I'll show up. I also realize that I'm older, and when I was younger, I thought those who were older were completely off the mark-- and from the perspective of someone who is now older, I realize they were on the mark in many ways, but outdated in others.

So, I don't mean to come off like a pompous ass. I'm also keen to learn from the people who don't have as much experience, but do have a different perspective....

I don't think it should be too difficult, all that's necessary is to make arguments over the differences, or ask questions... rather than try and beat people over the head with politics.

Anyway, as for your guinea pig offer, lets see if I can sum up the things I've had to learn the hard way in a very succinct manner, that isn't also highly repetitive of common advice--

- always have something original to sell

- investing is made extra easy when your competition thinks they can't win (e.g.: if they think the market is efficient they won't look for opportunities.)

- you can earn %25 a year with only 5 hours a year of time invested.

- If you're buying any long term investment, know what your return will be with calculable accuracy before you buy. (Timothy Vick's books on investing like Buffett are good here.)

- Everyone in the world think their country is special and unique.

- Get outside of the USA to see how different the world is from how it is portrayed within the USA

- Internationalize your products. It isn't that expensive and you'll get most of your sales abroad

- Read "Economics in One Lesson". Economics is really key. Understanding it will give you amazing powers of prediction.

- People are the same everywhere, but also different. Every new culture you live in, levels you up. You'll be surprised at what you learn. And going and living somewhere for 2 months is much better than the tourist thing. You can get work done while you do it too.

- Never be involved in a franchise unless you're the one selling franchises.

- "The Millionaire Fastlane" is a hokey books, and written for seemingly the lowest common denominator, but it contains great wisdom.

- Atlas Shrugged is the most important book I've ever read.

- All capitalism works by enriching the lives of your customers. The path to wealth is seemingly "altruistic" because it comes form improving other's lives. They're inextricably intertwined.

- If 4 out of 5 businesses fail, start 6 businesses.

- 1 out of 5 businesses fail in my experience, 2-3 break even, and 1 does rather well.

- This one from fight club: "Hitting bottom isn't a weekend retreat. It's not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go! LET GO!"

- And again: "Only after disaster can we be resurrected."

- The above two are very taoist / buddhist concepts. You have to let go of you and see what the market says. "hitting bottom" is getting to the point where you take in the response of the market to your product or your idea as the ultimate reality.... you have to let go of your idea that you have a clue what the market really wants. Only after a product launch disaster can you be resurrected as an entrepreneur. Or at least, it was something like that for me. Stop trying to control everything, because doing so keeps you from hearing what the market is telling you.

- Always be Closing. Ok, too many movie quotes, but they resonate with me.

- Always have a marketing strategy. Have at least an idea of something that customers will stop and take notice of. Something outrageous could be good- the Virgin method of promotion might work for you. But you gotta be able to wake people up with just a handful of words that immediately resonate with them and make them go "damn, I've been having that problem! Sign me up!"

- If you value the education you receive from failure, you can't lose in business. That said, might as well go into it whole hog. When you can't lose, it is impressive how much fear you can eliminate.

- Never start a business that costs more than $4,000 to get going (for the essence of the business. ) Never put in real money... it should either make money on its own right away, or if it requires some investment in technology, it shouldn't require any real capital. People are great at shopping and it is easy to rationalize a lot of spending... don't.

- Options, if properly used, greatly reduce investment risk, while also boosting returns. Stock options (calls and puts) are the least understood investment vehicle among the mainstream.

- I never spent money on a book, including a $90 "Due Diligence" book that I barely ever read, that didn't pay for itself many times over, on topics such as investing, business and marketing. Even the bad ones were worth many times the cover price.

I'm sure a lot of that is obvious... maybe I'd be better talking about specific topics or sharing specific experiences.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I'm currently planning to do a comic. I have a blog on the same site (long story) and I have a couple of other sites that are old and rarely updated. I have a parenting/homeschooling site and a health site. But I get reactions from people like I'm an effing messiah or something and they want me to save them, which is all kinds of trouble. Messiahs end up dead (like crucified, burned at the stake, etc). Alternately, I get the crap kicked out of me by people who think I am a charlatan, because their problems are too hard to solve, all the experts say so. This is apparently another means to get burned at the stake, not make money. Sigh. I'm good at solving personal problems -- real good -- and after much thought have concluded that there are two venues for that (for the "wisdom" schtick): 1) religion/personal messiah (no thanks) and 2) humor/entertainment. So after much suffering over the strong reactions (both positive and negative) that I get out of people, I have decided to go into the humor/entertainment business.

There might some day be a product (a game) on one of my sites. But for now, I would like to just get the comic going (trying to decide on the exact starting point in the story) and make enough money to get out of my day job. Then other things can happen.

BTW: I happen to be 46 and am not the typical demographic for this site in other ways. (I'm female, not a hacker, and so on.)

As for naming the forum: I am actually hoping to at some point find someone who knows how to make money who will talk to me (probably via email) and help me figure that out. My story inspires lots of attagirls and head patting. Some folks have tried to give me feedback. For whatever reason, things have failed to click so far. I keep rolling the dice, hoping that will change.

Dear Mz--

You have email on the way.

Hi nirvana, really enjoyed this comment thread, though a few days late on this post (got here via Hacker Newsletter, incidentally).

Just wanted to suggest/request you write your own newsletter which I would definitely sign up for and hopefully engage with. I have always enjoyed your comments and would love to hear more of your thoughts and experience. If you do decide to do that, please ping me at username at gmail.com.

I'm also late here but I wish there were more "older" people on the internet that had advice. Sometimes it seems that everyone on the Internet is 25. One investment forum I used to visit had many people in their 50s and 60s and there were some posters who I would always search for their comments because you could tell they had seen it all and their advice contained wisdom from experience.

Single best post I have ever read on HN. Thanks for sharing!

I forgot the most important lesson I've learned:

-- The reality most people live in, is a complete and total fiction. Most people just have no clue. They operate at a low level of awareness and understanding. The "Jay Walking" segments that Jay Leno used to do illustrate this well. Those are not stupid people, they just aren't aware. To use another movie analogy, they're still plugged into the matrix. Intrinsically, with becoming an entrepreneur is to disconnect yourself from the matrix a little bit. You do want to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes because it is very illuminating. Don't look down on the people still plugged in. The people who google for Facebook so that they can get on Facebook are the market. They're your customers and they may seem stupid, but they aren't. They're just trapped in a narrower perspective than you have. Most of them don't want to be freed. Do your best to help them out with your products, but understand where they're coming from.

The thing about these different perspectives that is really profound is that people who are operating from a different perspective often don't even realize it. That perspective is reality to the best of their ability to understand reality.

Being an entrepreneur means understanding their perspective at least enough to be able to produce products that benefit them... but that means that you've got to break out of it if you're starting from the same perspective they are.

Thanks. I've spent much of my life getting unplugged from the matrix. It's one of my strengths. Still trying to plug into the "how one makes money" mental framework. I did the homemaker thing for a long time and now have a day job. I actually was good at recognizing opportunities to make money as a kid and always had money as a kid. Then I got married and was basically treated like chattel property. Still trying to recover psychologically from that, if that makes any sense.

Really enjoyed this last point. Thanks for adding it. It gives me hope. I have spent a lot of time solving very large personal issues and this seems to convince other people I'm not really competent because of the financial issues left in the wake of that. I find that highly annoying when it comes from other people but I'm human so I still wrestle at times with wondering if I really am some lame, incompetent dolt. So this was nice to read.

Take care.

This whole thread is amazing and i'm definitely taking notes. The only thing I'd add is that ultimately there is no absolute matrix or enlightened perspective. There are relative layers of perception, eg. a corporate cog realizing that their own vision can be built from just an idea. But then there is also the opposite scenario is just as valid, an independent entrepreneur realizing that working from within the system is often the path of least resistance to bringing about a vision. There is always something we can unplug from.

I'd like to explore that thought with you in some detail, but it is hard to do it in this format. I don't think all perspectives are equally valid, as that would seem to be a form of moral relativism... but if you're saying you can always increase your awareness to a higher level, then I agree completely. There's always more to learn, and there's always a perspective that gives you a more complete and fuller awareness of reality.

How about a virtual layer on top of HN?

If you start a private forum, this has the disadvantage that it would put up a barrier to people could make use of the valuable information. A public forum would need to be carefully curated to avoid having it drowned out by the clueless majority. Both would need to attract an audience.

HN has the audience and is close to what you want, but the problem is that thoughtful discussion is drowned out by the sea of clueless groupthink. Someone who wants to contribute to the thoughtful discussion has to read, evaluate, and deliberately not respond to the "you're so wrong" comments.

But suppose I could highlight the thoughtful responses, and share that with anyone who wanted to see the thread through that filter. Now anyone can see just the posting and the thoughtful responses, if they want to. And it's a lot less work for them to join in a thoughtful discussion, because they don't have to plow through the clueless majority opinions.

Next, imagine you could create a group, such as "successful entrepreneurs" which would be able to share responsibility for maintaining your filter (instead of just one person having to do it). You would be in charge of membership of a group you created. Now anyone in your group could mark a post or comment as being thoughtful (or interesting or useful) from a "successful entrepreneur" perspective. And if I was interested in that perspective, I could choose to view HN through that lens.

This would also solve the problem of good content quickly falling off the front page. Everything that had been selected by your successful entrepreneur group would remain available in the lens archive.

I don't think there's any way to filter out the "sea of clueless groupthink" that you mention, which is the reason for the private forum. The privacy would give it a chance to develop a culture of its own, and effective reinforcement mechanisms to incentivize the behavior we'd want.

I also don't think there'd be any way to authenticate or filter the people who joined, other than an initial mutual agreement of the creators about what they want (probably a good first topic of discussion.)

Possibly the name of the group could work as a filter, though. I'd choose the name "Unashamed Capitalists". Every startup person should be a capitalist right? And shouldn't be ashamed, right? This is a bit broader so that people who are not yet "successful" would be welcome (newbies and pros are what I'm interested in, though the OP wanted a forum for successful people... my perspective is that the problem isn't newbies but the culture. I could be wrong.)

Given the way voting has happened in places like here (where a comment of mine that simply states two objectively verifiable facts has a negative score because those facts are inconvenient) and reddit and dig makes me wary of it.... however, it might work as a form of ad hoc curration. Some set of people deemed "successful" or "clued in" could do the voting, and maybe there'd only be an up vote.

Anyway, just my thoughts. I think the person who actually finds some software and sets something up will have the most influence... but I'm much more interested in a private forum with reasonable open admission policies than I am a public forum...

I don't think there's any way to filter out

How so? Do you mean that you don't believe a filter as I described is technically possible, or that it wouldn't solve the problem for you, or...?

Not making a judgement as to whether it would be better than a private forum for you, merely responding to your comment that you wish there was a way to change HN.

If you find/start that forum, I'd join. I think there is more than enough room on the internet for HN and a site/community like the one you're describing. I've learned more from HN than I have from almost any other single source, and I would love to find more communities with that same/better level of discussion.

Are there any other places you've found that come close to what you're looking for?

I think maybe we should try starting one. I'd be cool with something really small, invite only to get culture in place and then expand.

Maybe something like Ning?

I've had terrible experiences with the usability of ning. It could always just be a private invite only forum. Email me and lets chat more? Email is in my profile.

Maybe something like a ycombinator/reddit/jig/listry clone? What are the options? I like the design of www.jig.com a lot.

Send Zach and email, as I did, and he can loop us all in on email and we can talk about it there....

startupguild.com uses Yammer, which seems to be decent.

Lets start something!

What would be a good name?

Interesting! You say you invest: Do you invest in the stock market or in startups?

I would like to invest in startups, but I have no idea how to find them.

Living out of a backpack - would love to hear where you are traveling! Isnt it lonely to travel fulltime?

In the USA investing in startups requires becoming accredited, though it seems in recent years the requirements have maybe been loosened a bit. Outside the USA you can invest in more risky investments, (like canadian warrants often on companies small enough that we'd call them startups) ... but for the most part, I haven't. It is a shame, because I would have liked to be an angel. I'm very well aware of the risks involved. I had a couple bad investments in the past where I lost an amount equivalent to an angel's part of a funding in the stock market... yet I can't risk the same amount in a startup? That's just wrong.

I do invest in the markets, I tend to do very aggressive options strategies. I like to take something fundamentally sound or strong, and then use options to increase returns while reducing risk. Specifically I use spreads. Options are a very rich area of exploration, and I'm always working on seeking out that perfect arbitrage or no-risk strategy, but mostly I just buy LEAP spreads in "sure things".

We started traveling around the USA, just to make sure we could get work done while doing it, and to make sure we could live out of our backpacks. It was a bear getting rid of all of our stuff before leaving- that was probably the hardest thing we've done. Since then we have been traveling in the european area. It isn't lonely because I'm not alone.

But, if you are single, and you start traveling seriously, and do the hostel thing where you find yourself with other travelers regularly, it usually isn't that hard to find compatible fellow travelers, especially if your itinerary is totally flexible. I took some time off in the past and did this, and found that after awhile on the road I started hanging out with people for segments of travel... it was easy for me, and I'm normally not someone who is social at all.

Where did you do "that hostel thing"? Also in Europe? Do you have some examples of hostels you stayed in?

In europe we're doing AirBnB. It makes more sense when there's more than one of you, since hostels charge by the person, AirBnB ends up being cheaper. But the backpacker scene is not hard to find... you find it in every airport, train station, and of course hostels. Landing in Schipol, I felt like I'd stepped into the movie The Beach.

If you're planning to spend several months in europe, and you're in a good financial position, likely you can find a local romantic interest who is up for a once in a lifetime trip like that... a lot of concerns can be covered by covering the return ticket if things aren't working out. Someone taking you around europe is attractive to anyone, and the person who is capable of making such an offer is going to be more attractive themselves....

Then again, there's the fact that, at least for me, its a lot easier to meet women in other countries than in the USA. You start off more exotic and less threatening by nature of the fact that you're a traveller.

PS-- I didn't actually do the "hostel thing". Where I said "when I did this.." I was actually talking about traveling with the backpacker crowd, but when I was single I wasn't going to europe and hostels weren't so prevalent and I was doing it via camping, renting RVs and in the states I had a little pickup camper.

PPS-- Where in the states you wouldn't just talk to random strangers, say, go up to them and say "are you heading to houston?" or whatever... when in europe it isn't uncommon to do this with other americans. It is almost as if, by virtue of being americans (or even travelers, actually) you just have an immediate rapport. It is kinda hard to describe. But people are always sharing information about places and everyone wants to know where you've been, and tell you about where they've been... so people can find interesting places to go.

> Unfortunately, Hacker News is not that place.

Why not?

You caught me in mid edit. I'd continued from that point in my post in a frank manner, and while I was not rude, I know that I'm too politically incorrect for this site and have to self censor. So, I rewrote the rest of the post to try and convey what I was saying without using the specific examples I'd used in my original draft (since I know bringing them up would get me down votes and likely start debate on those topics rather than the OP's main point.)

what about Business of Software? Or StackExchange for businesses?

i would love to read your story. if you ever start a blog, link it to HN. thanks.

If you follow me on twitter, when I start the blog (which is on the todo list, coming soon) you'll find out about it. Details of my project and the twitter id are in my profile here.

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