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Of course it's a bold statement. But if I wasn't bold, I wouldn't have started university at age 13, set three world records for calculating pi (a stunt, I admit), ranked in the top six mathematics undergraduates in North America, received a $100k+ scholarship to Oxford University (not the Rhodes, unfortunately -- their mistake), received a doctorate in computer science from said university, and become the security officer for the FreeBSD operating system.

So you've shown that you have some (impressive) academic achievements, but have you had any business success? Just because you're book smart doesn't mean you will have a successful start up.

Many times people think that they can transfer great success from one domain into other domain. Michael Jordan and his short baseball stint is the first thing that comes to mind.

You're quite right, and if I do fail I entirely expect it to be due to a lack of business experience. But on this topic I'm working entirely based on what Paul says -- that being able to build something which people want is far more important than being able to sell it.

Friend, if you don't mind taking more of Paul's advice, read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. That, combined with your impressive record, will make you an unstoppable force at whatever you pursue.


One personal tip, you come off as an arrogant prick because of your "I am holier than thou" statements. These kind of behaviors will drastically reduce the amount of people that will want to work with you or help you.

I work with MDs and PhDs on a daily basis, analyzing their technologies for their start up companies. By far, I am much more willing to put in extra hours for friendly people than those that cram down my throat how much better they are than me.

Again you're right, and I'm sorry about the attitude. Over the past year I've started to get rather defensive when people have suggested that I'm wasting my time on this project...

I get a whole lot of that (even from my family: my sister told me "So, mom and I were talking in the car, and it's great that you're doing this startup, but honestly I don't think you'll succeed.") When I gave notice today, I had to listen to my boss go on about how I was too young to start a startup (I'm 26), how he spent about 15 years after getting his Ph.D learning about business and working in the industry, how my technical skills were too weak (nevermind that I wrote two of his products, and he's never seen me program in a language other than Java), and how if my idea was any good at all, I'd have been able to secure funding for it (nevermind that we're not interested in outside funding until we have some traction).

I've found that the best response is to sit there, listen carefully, take note of any valid points, and ask followup questions if you need more information on one. You may learn something: despite the overall negativity of the conversation, my boss had many points that I'm going to want to keep in mind as we move forwards.

Understand, there is a lot of self-justification going around when it comes to entrepreneurship. As long as rich people are the distant Bill Gateses and Warren Buffets, people can put them up on a pedestal or say "Oh, they got lucky." But if someone you've grown up with or someone who used to work for you gets rich, you have to ask yourself "Why them and not me? Are they just smarter than me?"

Many smart people will do just about anything to avoid admitting that others are smarter than them, so they instinctively say "Oh, he's just going to fail." And when you succeed, they'll say "Oh, he just got lucky." If you succeed again they'll start saying "The game is rigged!".

But if you stoop to their level and say "Oh, look how smart I am, of course I'm going to succeed," you're just engaging in self-justification yourself. And that's a dangerous mental attitude to get into, because it blinds you to details. The reason you're smart in the first place is because you pick up details that other people don't; you can easily become stupid by believing yourself smart. This comes from experience: I did precisely this in high school and college, and then found that when I actually tried to get something done, the results were much more disappointing than I would've liked.

(Therapy for myself: I think you're smarter than me, I think you will succeed, and I think that if you do succeed, it will be because of skill. But keep what I say in mind anyway. It may be useful.)

Great analysis.

I have a friend who (years ago) told me "Damn you're lucky! You have a horseshoe stuck up your [butt]. But you seem to work really hard for it..."

I never forgot that, and in the intervening years I've attributed the majority of my success to luck, rather than skill. Luck, however, that I work hard to create.

The reason is this: If you believe that your success is due to your own skill, you become lax. Complacent. Entitled. You've succeeded so far, so clearly you're da man and you should succeed going forward.

If, on the other hand, you ascribe it to luck, you acknowledge that there's little that you did to make it work. And so you have to keep working hard and scrambling to make the next project successful. Because your previous successes have little bearing on future performance.

But if you stoop to their level and say "Oh, look how smart I am, of course I'm going to succeed," you're just engaging in self-justification yourself. And that's a dangerous mental attitude to get into

Very well said.

Remember, whatever disappointments you have, don't come off sounding like this guy (someone who did well in school, but couldn't get hired at the firm he wanted): http://www.autoadmit.com/thread.php?thread_id=445136&mc=...

The letter in the link is probably the most pathetic letter I've ever read.

Clearly, you've never seen this letter before: http://www.snopes.com/embarrass/email/tripplehorn.asp

Good god, the amount of useful and practical advice in this comment is astounding. I hope you get 20 karma points. If you follow that advice you're 90% to success, because it says a lot about your personality. No wonder YC wants people to participate in YC News.. If I had any money I'd invest it in you.

I was going to vote him up, but then his post has exactly 20 points at the moment, so I guess I'll leave it at that ;-)

That is entirely the wrong way to respond: you will get a lot of that (from VCs, prospective clients, etc.) and dealing with it like that is guaranteed to lead you to failure, simply because everyone will come to see you (rightly or wrongly) as a complete prick.

Were these people questioning your ability to pull off the technical challenges? If they were questioning the business potential of the idea, your impressive credentials in math and programming are besides the point.

Whoever downmodded: I'm interested in your counterpoint. Please reply here or privately at the address in my profile. TIA!

A crucial part of making something people want is finding out what people want. Intelligence is an advantage, of course, but is no guarantee. For one thing, it may make it harder for you to understand the needs of the less gifted and educated.

Test Pilots are bold by definition. Entrepreneurs are not necessarily bold. People tell me all the time how "brave" and "bold" I am for starting a startup and it's complete BS. The only think we're risking is some money, reputation and ego. All of which grow back in time. If we were doused with gas, lit on fire and smashed with ewok log traps if our startups failed then we would be bold. As it is we're just different.

A few tips:

1. Open up Microsoft word.

2. Type all that out.

3. Save it as "Resume.doc"

4. Don't open it again until your next job search.

Psssh... He wrote an OpenOffice clone in a programming language he himself designed with syntax like vector calculus.

Seriously, Word?!

Remember that success comes from improving OTHER people's lives. All your achievements, while probably very gratifying to your mother, have not improved my life at all.

Do you use OS X or Mozilla? Have you ever used their software update mechanisms?

If yes, I've improved your life -- they use my delta compression work (bsdiff, originally written as part of FreeBSD Update) to reduce the size of updates which have to be downloaded. As of about a year ago, my work had saved users around the world well over a hundred years of waiting for updates to download.

"Remember also that every time you open your mouth in the presence of a person who has an abundance of knowledge, you display to that person your exact stock of knowledge or your lack of it! Genuine wisdom is usually conspicuous through modesty and silence."

That's a two-way street, dbosson. I wouldn't hasten to silence him, nor chasten him for opening his mouth "in the presence of a person who has an abundance of knowledge," as you put it.

That's a two-way street, dbosson.

If we assume 100 million internet users that you saved 100 years, that's roughly 30 seconds per user. Let's say just 10% of people use OS X or Mozilla - that's 5 minutes per user.

This is not to belittle, just to put your "100 years" in context. It's great work and you've saved me personally a lot more than 5 minutes.

sanj 3657 days ago [flagged]

Did you win the Putnam?

If not, please don't be "bolder" than this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravi_Vakil

"Did you win the Putnam?"

Yes, I did.

That has to be the comeback of all time.

News.YC does flame wars a whole lot better than the rest of the internet...

Sometimes with the flames on here however, it feels like Craigslist forums, in all of their 2.0 glory... ;)

HAHAHA! Awesome.

This whole thread is hilarious.

Damn. I'm totally busted.

Just the once, though, huh?

Yes, only once. But I actually consider my first score on the Putnam (53, ranked 53.5th in North America) to be my most impressive performance on the Putnam, considering that I was only 14 years old at the time.

Well, I hope your startup idea isn't this:


This post also shows a phenomenal misunderstanding of what it takes to create a successful software startup:


That is my startup idea. I don't want to take this thread even more off-topic (if that's even possible), but please feel free to contact me at the address in that first post to explain why you think it is a bad idea.

we're in a similar space -- http://www.getdropbox.com (and part of the yc summer 07 program) basically, sync and backup done right (but for windows and os x). i had the same frustrations as you with existing solutions.

let me know if it's something you're interested in, or if you want to chat about it sometime.

drew (at getdropbox.com)

Will your service offer a full server backup, or just selected files?

It looks like a great idea - except - the sucking up of bandwidth to make the first backup. I'm definitely looking for a better remote backup service for my Architecture firm, for which I currently pay far too much, but my server unfortunately is Windows SBS 2003 - whose OS I truly dislike. I am forced to do this for compatibility with my Revit BIM software unfortunately, so I guess your product won't help me.

If that would be a problem, give that first upload for free. Or is your concern about something other than cost?

As a major bandwidth user, mainly bandwidth actually. But having the first upload for free would be a great incentive.

I think it took several days to move my data to the current system remotely which was not fun. I think its just an unavoidable problem. The severity was lessened by the service calibrating the upload to occur in the middle of the night, which really did help a lot. All of the incremental uploads also are scheduled at night, which is an obvious move.

Hm, what about FedEx-ing a HD with the encrypted data? It might be faster/cheaper/more practical?

Edit: That's assuming cperciva has physical access to his server, rather than working with e.g., EC2, or that he has more bandwith to spare.

This would be off-topic in this thread, but definitely not in this forum. If you make a new top level post requesting feedback, more people will be able to contribute and benefit from it.

I just read more about your security strategy - and that is definitely something people really want - reliable and secure data backup. Good luck.

Interesting project, unfortunately I didn't found any way to enter in contact with you. You can contact me through my project web site http://www.disnetwork.info

I'll be glad to discuss this remote secure backup project with you. It was once on top of my list for a DIS application, but I dropped it for various reasons that I would be glad to share with you.

His address is at the end of the blog entry in which he introduces his idea (the first of the links above).

I think it's a good idea, but already done, though. I use Carbonite to keep an online remote backup of my hard drive. They charge a fixed rate regardless of the capacity of the drive. Of course there is always space for competition, so if you think you can improve on their offering, then go for it.

If you use Carbonite, you're considerably braver than I am. Carbonite has no effective technological security, so you'd better hope that nobody breaks into their offices, none of their employees "go bad", and they're never confronted by a subpoena or have the PATRIOT act invoked against them; and they only keep the latest version of any file, so if you ever accidentally mangle a file you'd better hope that you can retrieve the unmangled version before Carbonite backs up the mangled version and throws away the older copy.

Right, but they're secure enough for most people. Think about it, the chances that someone gets access to my own computer (stealing it, breaking into my home, or hacking it over the Internet) are higher than the chances of that happening to a professional service provider. At least that's the case for most computer users. I heard recently that 25% of all computers in the world are zombified. So much for security on your own computer.

But anyway, that's why I said if you can improve on their offering then go for it. Given the current options, they're the best that I know of; and I say that knowing that they have a lot to improve. So, if you build a better service, I'd consider switching.

_none of their employees "go bad"_

This won't happen to you? Okay. I trust you.

_never confronted by a subpoena_

If you get a subpoena for a passphrase for a client, you will give it up. Yes you will. Now, if someone was holding terroristic bombcodes or whatever and REALLY didn't want people getting them, they ain't backing up anything online. The same people who need real security aren't going to be uploading their data anywhere .

"I trust you"

"If you get a subpoena for a passphrase for a client, you will give it up."

Not if I don't have it. This is the point of strong security -- you don't NEED to trust me, because I am not technically capable (nor, unless I'm quite mistaken, is the NSA) of decrypting data backed up using tarsnap.

My first reaction was: I see this more as donationware open source. But then again, if you feel your technology would be hard to replicate, and if the cost is on the S3 ballpark, I'm in.

Wow. You really need to read this:


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