Day 3: "Coding is easy, people are hard"

Posted in: International

More from our Apps Crunch winners in California:

Full on sleep but lacking in breakfast, today was a look at smaller startups and what it was like to work in the city, rather than an offsite campus.

First stop was StumbleUpon, for a chat with the insanely experienced David Marks about strategies for making a startup work. Test test test, fail early and often, and make sure you can make a guerrilla marketing campaign. For the latter, he gave two examples from a friend trying to promote The first included wandering into a large conference, and replacing all the urinal filters with branded ones; a super cheap way to get people looking at his product. The second was a little more exotic:

1. Convince a town they need a new snow plough.

2. Offer to buy them this snow plough on the condition they rename their town to

$50,000 for a product mention in almost every newspaper in the country. You can’t find these ideas in any marketing book. Free food and drink, large open office spaces, central location, it was surprising to hear that companies in the area were struggling to hire new talent. The news certainly incentivised us further to get across the pond in a more permanent position asap.

Eventbrite was our second stop the day. Having moved in only two days ago, the offices were already up and running and busy, touchscreens displaying the schedule on each door, hammocks for solo hackathons, screens displaying “Did you know…”s about employees; it was a hive of creativity. Again, food and drink was provided free to all employees. This included a modified fridge dispensing alcohol from a tap, but no longer included an application to recognise people’s faces and monitor their alcohol intake for that week (Having online leaderboards was perhaps not the best idea).

None of this was as useful as the insider view of exactly what it takes to go from an idea to acquisition, given by Bath graduates Natalie Downe and Simon Willison. We had a long discussion about needing to learn on the fly, working out what people want, hiding information for press releases, what you should tell the press, right from a couple who had just in the past few years been through the entire process. The 8th-floor view over central San Francisco was certainly an apt backdrop for talk of angel investors and the difficulty of those first 100 users. “Coding is easy, people are hard.”

After a day learning the secrets of making a successful startup, we headed home to iron our shirts and shine our shoes ready for the big pitch to J. P. Morgan (who supported this year's Bath Apps Crunch) in the morning...

Posted in: International


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