Posts in "Uncategorized"

The State of Startups in 2018

I always kick off a new year looking back at my own successes and failures as well as those of my students the year prior. And 2017 was a particularly tough year for launching new apps. I expect this year to be more of the same, which is why I’m advising a slight shift in strategy for startups launching this year. But first, what changed to make it so tough out there on entrepreneurs? It comes down to one word: attention. For the past decade, there’s been a battle to capture the time you spend on your devices. And while… Continue reading

How to validate your startup idea as an introvert

The most awkward part of building a startup is also the thing people skip the most: interviewing potential customers before you have a product. It shouldn’t be that surprising considering most startup advice books/blogs will tell you to do one of the following: run down to Starbucks with a sketch of your app, and start asking random people what they think of your idea cold email/call people who are in your target market and ask them about your solution ask your friends what they think and try to tell if they’re lying   As an introvert, this kind of stuff stresses… Continue reading

Things I still don’t know after building a six-figure business

About 8 months ago I launched the Code-Free Startup, an education platform teaching non-technical people how to build apps without coding. Flash forward to today, and it’s been a wild ride. I always thought once I passed $10k a month in revenue I’d have everything figured out, and from reading a lot of “what I’ve learned” posts I get that feeling that anyone with a 6-figure business must be just way smarter than me. So it’s kinda refreshing that there’s still a lot I don’t know about. Marketing Change the crayon to a laptop, and this is how I feel…. Continue reading

Use the Broken-Promise Strategy to validate your startup

When Mike Chen responded to his friend’s email, he had no idea it was about to change his life, and really mess up his week. Mike loves side projects and keeps about three ideas going at a time. Some were half-baked prototypes, others just a landing page with a headline and an email input. Whenever he got excited about one idea, Mike sent out an email to a group of friends. This time, he sent out a link to a landing page for a site called Magic. His idea? What if there was an Uber-for-everything site where you could chat… Continue reading

Nobody is going to build your startup

I stopped going to startup events a year ago because the harassment wouldn’t stop. After the small talk, the inevitable “so, what do you do?” The swarmy sea of strong-jawed business folks circle like sharks. They look for light-wash jeans and faded t-shirts among the crowd, surely a sign that they have found a developer. 30 seconds later, the pitch. 60 seconds after, the invite for lunch and a joke about how finding a co-founder is like dating. Nobody is going to build your startup. Well, except for the Romanian dev shop salivating over the thought of your $15k in… Continue reading

Advice from my heroes: How I turned AMAs into my secret weapon

I need help. We all do. But asking people for advice isn’t easy. With the amount of cold emails opening with “Can I pick your brain?” flying around San Francisco, you’d think the city was full of zombies. What if 5 of the people you respected most in business each set aside five minutes to give you advice? The impact on your business would be immediate and impactful. Well, chances are, they are, but you’re not showing up to ask a question. In the past year I’ve gotten advice from people like Chris Sacca, Jack Dorsey, Eric Ries, Naval Ravikant,… Continue reading

Our code-free future

I started learning how to code and play piano the same week. It looked a lot like this: After a few months of practice, I got pretty good at playing “Let it Be”. I also got pretty good at swearing at a code editor. Why did my piano practice start taking off while my software dreams died in a fire? A New Syntax Music theory and Javascript scare away beginners for a similar reason. Both are new languages that need to be understood, processed, and then translated by an instrument/browser into something that others recognize. When you sit down at a… Continue reading

The Getting Started Principle

My friends want to start companies, build apps, write books, and start blogging. But they don’t. We read so many articles about “how I did X” and they all end the same way: “just take this action to get started.” But we don’t. Instead, we wait. We bookmark those how-to articles for later. We put our blog ideas in a folder somewhere in Evernote. We sketch out a landing page for our app idea for when we should build it. We wait for the perfect co-founder, the right time, until we hit 3000 followers, until we get that project finished… Continue reading

Why 2016 is the year of the maker

In July, I received my invitation to the secret society. I just didn’t know it yet. It all started when a product I built was featured on Product Hunt. 200 upvotes and 24-hours of craziness later, I had passed their test. An email was waiting for me the next morning. “Hello, fellow maker. We’d like to invite you to join our community.” I was intrigued. As soon as I gained access to the Slack group, I nervously typed out my welcome message to the main channel. One of the members got back to me in seconds. “Welcome to Maker Hunt.”… Continue reading

Questioning REM and Other Thoughts on Sleep

“Awesome, another 87%.” I was way too excited to share my ‘sleep score’ with my girlfriend Natalie, who rolled her eyes and probably thought about how long I’d be raving about this new gadget. The app I was talking about was Sense, one of a myriad of new technology trackers that use accelerometers to track how well we slept the night before. Whether in the new Fitbit or in Kickstarter projects like Sense, there is a clear trend to get more efficient at sleeping by analyzing the data that today costs a fraction of what it did just 5 years… Continue reading