• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

50 Things I Learned At 500 Startups

500

Personal observations and blatant rip-offs from the 500 Startups family.

By Kim Dowd (Co-Founder & Designer, Daily Aisle)

1. Dave (our funding overlord) is a zoo keeper. He gives tours to wide-eyed visitors who cluster together and avoid eye contact. Founders and habitats – cluttered desks, Post-It note rampages, white boards, esoteric tee shirts covered in hash tags – are photographed.

2. As tattoos are to musicians, stickers are to geeks. How far someone has delved into the startup world is directly proportional to the number of startup stickers on their laptop.

3. Bootstrapping does not involve holding one’s boots while bending over – it does involve a giant rice cooker from which all meals are created so as to save precious funding money.

4. There is a hierarchy to founder stories. The top of the pile – quit a super-famous school and ride a skateboard to work. Bottom of the pile — wearing a tie and ever having worked for the man.

5. “Hack” does not just refer to stitching together code with duct-tape-like ingenuity. Clandestinely running to the 11th floor bathroom is also a “hack.”

6. Documentary film people are super-cool and super-scary. Never sign the “permission to use your face/imbecile-like vocabulary” documents they give you. Run from all future cameras as if they are knife throwing machines.

7. Pickle shots are concocted from pickle juice, tequila, lemon with a sprinkling of masochism. When a founder slurs “lets do pickle shots” at you while swaying in a hotel lobby, there are two choices. First, do shots, blackout, hold on to pavement to prevent being poured into black hole of the sky. Or, second, run away like they have a knife throwing machine.

8. Do not pretend that your bed is a work station. You will wake up with a laptop shaped burn mark on your arm. Also, laptop burns are badges of honor — a tattoo of dedication to work. oo-rah!

9. Everyday, empty your mind and stare out the window and experience the view. Watch the world breathe. Consider that you are alive and making something cool and this is happy new experience. This counteracts the WTF-am-I-doing-anxiety that keeps you up at night. If that doesn’t work, drink more.

10. Fireside chats are super helpful. Pretend the red couches are the “fire.”

11. Also, the wheels on the red couches are secretly giant rolling fun machines!

12. Google could beat most of us, but they don’t notice we are here. Tee hee.

13. Batch meetings cause anxiety. Calm self by watching video of bunnies each time Paul asks “who has not launched?” Just visualize the bunnies…. it will all be ok… “Who hasn’t launched?!” bunnies… more bunnies…

14. Don’t refer to a bride as bridezilla. She is “detail oriented.” Also, all brides are “detail oriented.”

15. Night creatures roam 500. They play techno and are very pale. Beware, they may be vampires. Unce… Unce… Unce…

16. Replace all first names with company names. “Let me introduce you to Cardinal Blue. He works with photos and his team is sometimes in Taiwan.”

17. Dave is a super-nice normal guy. He just doesn’t want anyone to know. Shhhhh.

18. Free food tastes better. But food that arrives labeled with someone else’s name and is then secretly stolen, well, that tastes the best.

19. One could spend all day talking to fascinating people and fascinating things. But then one never gets any work done

20. Portable white boards can be used to create a hidden design nook. Beware marker fumes.

21. Good designers can make it look good. Great designers can do the research, synthesis and make it look good. Phenomenal designers can do the research, synthesis, make it look good and strategically target the right users for early adoption while road mapping future iterations for the masses. No pressure though. No pressure at all.

22. Don’t piss off Melissa (our office manager). She holds the power of the key fob.

23. Long hair means you look a bit like startup Jesus. This makes the money flow.

24. MVP does not mean most valuable player. It means minimum viable product, the simplest yet most useful features to launch in a site. But its really the same thing.

25. A POV is a point of view. It’s a mad libs statement that helps future design prototype directions. Like “How do we help petulant, perverse, perky founders to search for pleasant, pristine perfect office space?”s

26. Ajax is not just the Greek warrior who assisted Achilles in the Trojan war anymore! He has also written a language that is useful for dynamic code thingies on the interwebs. Dynamic like email!

27. When pitching, select your perkiest cofounder, station them at the back of the room and force them to smile maniacally at you stumble, stutter and skip slides at the front of the room.

28. Perfect is the enemy of good. Good is the enemy of adequate. Adequate is all a site in private beta need be. Lower your damn expectations!

29. Test all site interactions on your mother/grandmother/second cousin who can’t use a mouse and has a dial up modem atop a glacier, just to make sure its usable.

30. Post It notes make everything better. Especially meetings. Start by attaching post it notes to yourself to describe your current mood. “Persnickety, Useless, Festacular!”

31. Do not try to convince your engineer that Macs are better. Seek vengeance for Mac bashing by muttering “infinite loop” and watching him twitch.

32. The magic triumvirate (business, design, tech) should expand to become a magic square. A puppy should be added in this spot! Who can yell around schnookie-wookie!?

33. ”Downtown” Mountain View is the crossing of two streets.

34. (bonus!) Give up and go to sleep with you start to describe yourself as a “majority adopter” regarding gelato flavor choices.

35. To Stanfordize something add a “d.” to it. For example “Yo, that’s my d.coffee.”

36. When told “Stop making a faster horse and start making the shittiest car,” do not mention pogo sticks as a form of transportation.

37. If you fall asleep on a couch in the main room, James (our all-knowing enginnering mentor) will take pity on you and drive you home.

38. To properly claim a tiny private workroom for a day one must wake up early (before noon), enter the room and move entire contents of desk inside. Smelly food helps too.

39. The highest compliment a founder can receive is “I hope your startup fails” This just means that someone wants to hire you!

40. When you are asked when you are launching always say “two weeks!”

41. Business folks believe that conversation solves all problems. Designers believe visualization solves all problems. Engineers believe that optimization solves all problems. Communication mayhem ensues!

42. We are in a funding bubble and its bursting. Accept it early on and preach it so that others will think you are a funding psychic.

43. When in doubt, high five everyone in the room. When in serious doubt, hug everyone in the room. When in the-world-is-going-to-end doubt, have an Enrique (design god) intervention to align goals with deliverables.

44. Find the early adopters in your market. Put them in a room with cookies and your product/site/thingy you built. They will never leave.

45. Sneaking into the Techcrunch Disrupt conference is way too easy. Shhh.

46. Swedish people are super-awesome.

47. Learn to meditate or you may be asked to leave California. If you learn yoga, a probation period is possible.

48. Don’t take offence when someone renames your site and creates a new logo for you. Call them new and interesting nicknames as well. “Why hello there, Plaidtastic. How are you today?”

49. When a product manger complains about a product, you say “Well, there is the poop. Where is the scoop?” What makes a good product person is the ability to fix it.

50. Coding trumps sex only when attempting to break onto front page of Hacker News.

This post was originally posted at Adventures In Startup-Land.

About the guest blogger: Kim Dowd is a Co-Founder and Designer at Daily Aisle, a startup in the SF Bay Area and part of the 500 Startups family. Daily Aisle is making weddings better! Before this, Kim was a student of interaction design in grad school. Before that, she was a print (*gasp*) designer. Before that, she was a student of architecture. It seems that now she is now a pirate. Arrr. Follow her on Twitter at @kimsheblue.