There's plenty of opportunity for truly revolutionary disruption in all sorts of sectors. I just don't hear about it. As someone with disruptive ideals (but outside the valley) am I just being paranoid or is there really a problem?
This is an observation.
Uber, Lyft are in the "self-driving car" category, not in the "more resource-efficient car" category. Put another way, they conserve a resource (attention) that is far more scarce than fuel, cash, etc.
Uber mostly seems like a better way to hail a cab in SF because hailing a cab there was previously next to impossible.
I am not sure how relevant it is in other cities but it will be interesting to see how they do.
In addition to the "can't find a cab" problem, Uber & Lyft sell experiences. This user experiences will be their biggest asset as they expand into other cities.
VCs are swinging for the fences more than ever, but that means they're loading up on one kind of risk (rapid execution risk) and have no space for any others.
At any rate, I think "world domination" is a pretty pathetic goal. Where are the companies that want to focus on excelling rather than simply "dominating" some market?
As to "world domination," it's more a joking term for startups that are creating a new product that intends to replace what the market currently has . Imagine a product designed to replace college as we know it. Incredibly risky? Absolutely. Crazy payoff (in cash and actual change)? Just as absolutely.
I just don't see these kinds of ideas anymore. Maybe we all forgot to remove our schlep blinders, maybe the community has been focusing elsewhere, maybe they exist and have been avoiding premature hype. Probably a mix of all three.
 Think Google/Heroku, not more mobile apps/anything social media
If a company is trust-sparse (that is, most people have the "bozo bit" on) then I'd rather let the market kill it than keep moving around deck chairs, leaving investors to think there's still something there. That applies both to startups and acquiring companies. Let these trust-sparse, uninspiring husks die already.
With acq-hires in the mix, the game is no longer about profits (so 20th-century) or building a business. It's about getting attention-- TechCrunch coverage, user count (which is meaningless), notoriety, and headcount (because valuations are multipliers on number of people)-- rather than building technology. So it's no surprise that the big winners are class-A marketers making quixotic, red-ocean plays.
The parties most harmed by acquihires would appear to be financiers. There seems to be a meme that financiers enable acquihires so they can jazz-hands portfolio company failures by pointing to acquisitions, but funds either make money or they don't, and a fund whose portfolio companies hit the eject button instead of doubling down and taking a shot at returning high multiples is a fund that isn't going to succeed.
I wonder (only wonder; not certain!) if demonizing acquihires is literally doing venture capitalists a memetic favor.
Thanks for the extended explanation, I feel like I've learned more from this thread than the rest of HN this past week.
On the other hand, I'd rather not work next to a guy who'd stab his grandmother in the heart to get a small promotion because he feels that he has to make VP/Eng by 30.
Very few companies need to raise more than $1M to reach profitability any more, so traction should be required before raising money, but if investors wait for traction, they'll miss the really big deals. This sets up a dynamic, particularly influenced by the JOBS act, where unsophisticated investors can flood the market with cheap capital.
When it comes time for a startup to raise money from serious investors, they won't touch it unless it looks like Midas. I'd argue that the Series A levels haven't really changed from year to year, but that we perceive it as a Crunch because of the ridiculously large number of seed rounds.
It doesn't take away from your point, but I believe there are actually an increasing number of Series A level investments happening.
We call the current situation a crunch because we're measuring the competitiveness of going from seed to Series A.
Traditionally San Francisco has been an artistic and design hub but not an engineering focused environment. However, that is a great environment to create products which are distinguished primarily by their design.
It's surprising however how dysfunctional the whole San Francisco political scene remains. One would hope that the influx of young workers and the tax base they represent would encourage improvements in the management processes in order to capture long term economic growth. Its not clear that will happen though. It makes me wonder how durable a decision to base your company in SF will be.
Is this true? If so why is PA real estate still so sky high? I understand if your startup culture is based on youthful hipness, but that is orthogonal to the viability of a startup.
Personally, I found a nice home amongst MeetUp groups and the local Techshop to the point I am far happier in San Jose than even PA. Its like all the nerding out with none of the pretension and rent is half as expensive. Then again, maybe things are different if you are trying to be a founder.
I agree. The culture, inspiration, community, and experience here is a bit unparalleled. I can just as easily lock myself away to build product as I can go out and get away from marinating in self induced frustrations.
There is also money out here. People are willing to travel and visit, there are a ton of venues for meetups, etc. I couldn't imagine a better place to be (at the moment) for both tech and life.
I sought a synonym for unparalleled for you here:
But these seem to be even worse. Sorry, I tried.
what should be the perspective then?
A startup experience will definetly accelerator your career. You are likely to be more valuable than you were x months/years before the startup.
does it take applying the name 'startup' to any company to embrace all that awesomeness in contrast to being hired by a company that doesn't meet this definition? I'm asking seriously. taking into account that 90% of startups fail in one way or the other, how is exactly working in an unknown unsuccessful young company such a strong career booster?
It's not. There are plenty of people out there with no-name companies on their resumes.
You learn a lot, but then go into a subordinate position where everyone thinks you're an idiot. Either you push back and end up in lots of conflict (possibly fired) or you accept it and gradually become what they think of you.
//edit: and in my hypothetical example I don't mean the skillset required to write a player, but the position where you worked with successful people that did everything right, rather than the same experience at a wannabe company doomed to fail.
Yes, good startups are good for peoples' careers, but there are only a few of those in existence (that are still startups; I wouldn't count Facebook) at a given time. Oh, and most of the good startups are slow-growth companies you've never heard of, but that are doing genuinely interesting work (machine learning, robotics, etc.) rather than social media. They're very selective and hard to find, but those are much better options than these VC darlings.
Social Media is the Reality TV of startups. It's not common because it's good, but because it's cheap. Here, "cheap" pertains to talent (hard to find, especially for non-technical people) more than anything else.
It's easier to get a title at a startup, and if you can convince the next employer to take that title seriously, you can swing it to a permanent improvement.
I think, though, that unless a startup has distinguished itself as a real engineering shop (and very few have, because very few deserve that accolade) that being a startup engineer is a career negative. Most of these startups have MBA-type management and the Design Paradox implies, so the engineers aren't very good. With a few startups excepted, most startups see engineers as cost centers and give them laughably low equity and if you work at a company like that, you're a chump.
That's too bad, because when it isn't making ludicrous generalizations about the CS/engineering demographics of the whole tech startup sector, it makes a good point about not accepting below-market wages from tech companies.
Why does he have to back it up? Null hypothesis, "There are no good startups", right?
I apologize in advance if you are like that guy in that movie who lost his long-term memory and therefore could only remember the last hour of his life and therefore only had my comment to go on in composing that response.
In one case, after I resigned because I refused to commit perjury, the CEO (from a well-known, rich family) embarked on a months-long campaign to ruin my reputation.
You don't get a worse position than you were eligible for before you did the startup, but if you don't have the credibility that comes with a successful exit, you don't get anything better either, which means you're overqualified for the subordinate roles into which you'll be placed, and thus less likely to be successful.
I wish it were a better world, but the truth is that there is such a thing in programming as being too good at your job, and startups are a way to end up with that problem. Sure, you learn a lot, but being learned without credibility is worse than being the idiot everyone thinks you are, because you don't get in as much conflict if you don't know anything.
Developer auction was giving out sub 100k quotes, I just ignored them.
Meanwhile, those of us living in the East Bay are somewhat happy with the price they're paying and the short length of their commute :)
I guess the big question is schools, which I know nothing about. But if you stay away from the worst parts of oakland than I think almost any east bay city would be pretty good.
My wife and I live in North Oakland and we think it's very nice. It's certainly not white yuppie suburbia, but it's also not dirty run down violent west oakland. If you want something more towards the former then you probably want to look in places like the berkeley or oakland hills, rockridge, peidmont, walnut creek, etc. Basically things along Rt 24.
Hmm, don't agree here. East Bay cities I don't find particularly family-friendly: Berkeley (except for the hills $$$), Oakland (except for the hills $$$), Emeryville, Richmond, Concord, Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood, basically the whole north 4 corridor.
What does "family friendly" mean?
I shudder to think that it has to be your typical suburbia. There's so much more to offer than a sheltered back yard where your shuttled from strip mall to strip mall to practice field in a car.
What is Mailbox (from wikipedia):
Weeks before its launch, pre-registration prompted a wait
list of over 380,000. Mailbox was added to the iOS App Store
on Thursday, February 7, 2013; it became the second most
downloaded free app in the App Store that day
In March 2013, Mailbox was acquired by Dropbox Inc.
So there's one for you.
I'm pretty excited to see the growth of a strong startup scene outside of NYC + SF. I feel like VC-istan is played out and I'm trying to get a coherent feel for what's next.
Discovery and recommendation oriented, designed to get the rather large percentage of the young population that isn't dressing as well as they could on board. Especially young professional-age men.
It's an itch-scratching problem that is dear to me. Even if it doesn't develop into a sustainable business it's worth it to me to attack.
I'm in Mountain View right now, consulting after my stint as a non-founder CTO. Not going non-founder route again.
I'm bootstrapping at least initially so I get more utility from cheap land and nice people than I do accessibility of seed money.
Interesting. That seems more like a New York startup, but COL would really be out of your favor out here, and you'd be competing with finance on salaries.
That's a great concept. I think a lot of us are late to realize that how you dress (especially for work) matters. I didn't know how to dress until I met my wife. I hope that it works out.
I hear you on that. I feel like startup founders overestimate the degree to which they've "de-risked" the business, mainly as an excuse to take 10x the equity. In truth, a company with 18 months to live, no free-standing reputation, and that fires without severance is not de-risked at all.
It's not about salaries because those aren't the major issue. The COL difference is minor in comparison to the execution risks. In fact, the traditional reason why startups "had to be" in NYC, Boston, and San Francisco is job-market latency. Yes, you can find great engineers elsewhere, but for some ridiculous purple squirrel query (production experience in the 3 NoSQLs you use) that needs to be filled tomorrow, you need to be in the Valley or New York (due to Wall Street, there's a lot of technical talent, albeit expensive). If you're in Austin, you can find great people but probably not the guy who matches your purple squirrel query exactly.
That said, a place like NYC has the urban dating problem (too many alternatives, so people treat each other like shit). We'd write great offers to people only to have them picked off based on minutiae. We were ridiculously picky and rejected people for dumb reasons; only fair for them to be.
However, I feel like the grow-fast-or-die red-ocean nonsense is played-out and the next wave is going to be in the mid-growth (5-30%/year headcount growth, focus on technical excellence) space which doesn't need to be in the Valley or New York.
It's a really nascent scene, and you want to avoid letting the culture get in the way of business, but it has a lot of promise.
Houston is a wonderfully large and diverse city, and there is always a lot of work to find around here while pursuing your startup. We've got top-notch engineering talent (NASA and the energy sector), and the best private research university in Texas. The food is really good, housing to match near any requirement is readily available, and the people are friendly.
Perhaps of interest is this report from the Brookings Institution:
Patenting Prosperity: Invention and Economic Performance in the United States and its Metropolitan Areas
* Austin, TX (seems to be the obvious pull-ahead winner in 2013)
* Portland, OR (great weather, beautiful, lots of potential)
* Madison, WI (near Chicago, great college town, not as cold as people think)
* Minneapolis, MN (underrated gem, beautiful, just very cold; I'm told they haven't had a 60+ yet in 2013)
* Pittsburgh, PA (CMU is right there; how is it not kicking ass?)
* Ann Arbor, MI (another Midwestern gem)
* Chicago, IL (if you consider that low-COL)
* Toronto, Ontario (ok, not a US city, but I spent a summer there and loved it)
Almost none of these would be considered low-COL (they're above 100) and relative to their regions they're quite high, but they're a hell of a lot cheaper than New York or Palo Alto.
Oh, one ass-kicking advantage of the low-COL places: people actually want to be lifelong software engineers. In New York, you can't raise a family on a (non-WS quant) engineer's salary.
Of course, most of young idiots have this insane dream of having a manager's title and pay (plus real stock options!) which you can get by 27 if you play the politics, but being full-time programmers and just using their magic manager powers to assign themselves the best work. It turns out not to work that way. Poor them...
I really think the fact that one can't raise a family out here on an engineer's salary is toxic to the culture. It creates the wrong kind of ambition.
And most quant salaries are not that high, I guess less than 50% of them make >200k. Again, you are probably cherry-picking successful quants working for big banks and funds and that gives you very high expectations.
Perhaps I am jaded, but I look at what most people do at their day jobs and it makes me sick to see trillions of dollars of unrealized economic value being spilled on the floor because the wrong people are calling the shots.
Can't tell if serious...
Portland, according to Wikipedia, has an average January high of 47, an average July high of 81-- some seasonality but not too much-- and with 40+ percent sunshine in most of the year, doesn't seem to have the overbearing cloudiness of Seattle's winters.
But the weather? Oh my god, the weather. The weather is horrible a good 6-9 months of the year. It's amazing for 3, but oh my god does it have a cloudy, wet, no-sun-ever feel for a good chunk of the year. Wikipedia might say one thing, but really, the weather... oh man the weather.
Portland's weather is truly miserable during the winter and is rated #1 in the country for seasonal affective disorder. The summers, however are beautiful.
When it comes to the cities themselves, just like anywhere else there are some spots that are better or more trendy than others. St. Paul is an older city but in a well maintained, charactery sort of way. Minneapolis is a small city, newer feeling, much cleaner than some of the bigger cities. Their are lots of small areas within each of the cities that are pretty popular. The suburbs are constantly being built out and are very convenient to the downtown areas.
There's a number of other great things about the area to help counterbalance the weather as well. The one thing that really gets me though is that NOBODY knows how to zipper-merge.