High-End Pricing: Differentiate or Die (Not X for Y)

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 - 6:26pm -- Isaac Sukin

Pricing is a funny thing. It depends a lot on psychology -- how can you convince your customers that they are getting a deal while charging them the highest reasonable value? You've heard people say "differentiate" before, but I bet you haven't really thought deeply about whether you're really different. Here's a test: are you an alternative, or are you your own category? If you didn't exist, what would people use instead, and how would they feel about it? Are you a category leader or are you a small player that tries to be better than the leader?

Startups: Don't Build (just) a Social Network

Sat, Sep 22, 2012 - 3:00pm -- Isaac Sukin

As the guy who wrote one of the first open-source status update systems in 2007, the main developer behind Acquia Commons social business software 2.x, and an evangelist of social communications technologies, writing the title of this post feels strange. I've spent the last 5 years of my life building software to make it easy for people to build social networks, so why would I suggest that sometimes you shouldn't do it?

Startup Talent Bubble

Sun, Apr 22, 2012 - 12:47pm -- Isaac Sukin

I believe that the world of tech entrepreneurship is definitely in a bubble. But more than a startup bubble, we're in a coder talent bubble. Take a minute to read 2012 is for buying startups. Companies are getting bought not because they made anything of value or with a revenue model, they're getting bought more and more because the acquirers need more engineers. Have you looked at the list of sponsors for any hackathons lately? Huge companies (Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook come to mind) have sponsored several small hackathons reasonably close to the Philly area in just the past few months. They're not doing it mainly because it's a good thing to do, they're doing it because it's a recruitment tool and they desperately need to find engineers. (But keep doing it! Hackathons are awesome!) And then there's this phenomenon:

You have an idea. You need a website. Now what?

Sat, Apr 21, 2012 - 3:46pm -- Isaac Sukin

I have the unusual distinction of being a programmer in a business school that is currently experiencing something of a startup fever. Penn also happens to have a relatively small but enthusiastic CS community in which I consider myself active. One result of these circumstances is that I am frequently approached by students1 who have ideas for a business or have started a business that requires a website, but who have no idea where to start. I've been on the other side of that table too, hiring contractors for startups I've worked on. Here's the basic outline of how I answer this common question.

How you should accomplish getting a website built depends a lot on how fundamental the technology is to your business, how complex it is to build, how much money you have to spend, and what tradeoffs you're willing to make between quality and time.

Questions I'll Ask Your Startup

Mon, Jan 9, 2012 - 1:49pm -- Isaac Sukin

I talk to a lot of startups. I have a lot to say about what (not) to do if you are on the hiring side of this exchange, but for now I'll cover the minimum set of information you should be prepared to discuss if you want to hire a developer for your early-stage company. This is the first real interaction you'll have with a potential coworker. If you struggle with convincing someone to join your company, you can bet you'll struggle with convincing someone to buy your product or service, so you should be prepared with the information a potential hire will want to know. These are questions I will pretty much always ask you about your startup in an interview, and they're pretty similar to what a VC would want to know. When I say "I" below what I really mean is "any developer" but it's more convenient to write in the first person.

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