Year in review: Best of 2012

About three years ago, I started journaling my startup education by blogging. In retrospect, blogging has been one of the most rewarding activities for me as an investor. Blogging helps me some observe changes in the start-up ecosystem, communicate trends primarily through data while strengthening and building relationships. It’s been more gratifying than I could have hoped. Over the past year, quite a bit has happened on this blog. I’ve tried to write a post every working day on both tactical topics for startups like fundraising and management and macro/strategic subjects like the fund raising market and trends in mobile.

Tablets: the third platform

It’s easy to call a tablet a larger a mobile phone. Or a replacement for a notebook or ultrabook. But to dismiss tablets as scaled clones of their bigger and smaller brothers is a mistake. Tablets are the third type of device: the one with the most revenue potential for ecommerce and developers alike. Tablets drive greater volumes of traffic, that convert to paid at better rates, and drive better qualified and less expensive leads through advertising.

The myth of the generalist

When I started working at Google, I heard the word generalist over and over. “We only hire generalists,” I was told. Eight years later this mantra is pretty common. I hear it often both referring to the desired characteristics of new hires and also the aspirations of a team - “we want to be a team of generalists”. At the time, I understood the word generalist to mean someone really good at a lot of things.

Changes in the rules of the [startup] game

The famous global macro hedge fund manager George Soros once said, “I don’t play the game by a particular set of rules; I look for changes in the rules of the game.” Inside the House of Money Soros' insight is equally well applied to startups. Successful startups discover and leverage changes in the rules of the game. Discovering the changes in the rules of the game is one of the hardest things about starting a company, but understanding precisely the change and developing a hypothesis for exploiting the change is essential.

Can Yahoo ever be a leader?

Yahoo has always done what people expected of it. It's time to take a lead on a new journey to rediscover the potential of the open Web

Email and meetings aren’t work

Email and most meetings aren’t work. We all know this to be true. But huge swaths of our days are allocated to meetings and answering email. It’s impossible to accomplish much aside from information dissemination. A close friend, who like me is a productivity nut, asked me a question that made this point clearly: What fraction of your day is spent in meetings you asked for compared to meetings that were asked of you?

End of the year startup checklist

I call the last working week in December Board Week because it’s packed with board meetings. These board meetings are often the most important of the year. By virtue of their place on the calendar, everyone in the room is thinking more strategically, less tactically. These meetings set the tone and strategy for the company for the upcoming year. I’ve assembled a checklist below of top 5 things I’ve seen founders do in and around the end of the year that position their companies for success in the next year.

Great startup management teams are built with interlocking parts

Great teams accomplish amazing things. But it’s rare for any founding team to have all the constituent parts on the day they start the company. Most startups will need to build a strong management team whose strengths and knowledge complement the founding team. Finding the right people to help starts with being honest. As Swizec of Zemanta wrote yesterday, there simply isn’t enough time in the day for founders to manage all the key parts of a startup: BD, hiring, fundraising, goal setting, product management and company management in addition to coding.

The software customers don’t see

Tech startups write a ton of code. Broadly speaking, most of that code base is customer facing. But to be successful, the product must be supported by a litany of great “invisible” technology - the internal tools and products that help a company scale. They are the skeleton of the startup. At Google, there were hundreds if not thousands of small internal tools built to solve problems. CRM tools, email automation tools with canned responses, lead prioritization tools, project databases, weekly snippets for reporting, email lists, and so on.