Last week over 100 new startups competed for the attention of Angels, VCs, and press at Techcrunch Disrupt in New York City. Was the next Google or Facebook among them? Maybe, but we won't know for several years. Just two and a half years ago at Techcrunch40 two companies launched that were later acquired for over $100M each.
The pundits will say "Nothing new here", or "Nothing disruptive". But, remember, these startups are new, just launching for the first time. If you had seen Google when it was 6 months old you probably would not have been impressed either. Pundits at the time said AltaVista already does this. Or they said, Yahoo and AOL have enormous marketshare, great brand names, loads of "sticky" content, and viral applications. No one will leave them for a simple search engine like Google. The common belief was that search couldn't be monetized. Banner ads had very low CPM rates. Today we know all the experts were wrong.
Picking winners among thousands of new startups every year is very tricky. As my friend Yossi Vardi always says "We don't really know. We just have opinions and we are often wrong." Legendary Angel investor Ron Conway says he has been surprised many times...in both directions, good and bad. Ron has seen startups he thought were a safe bet fail miserably, and companies he thought were hopeless turn around and become huge hits. Ron was an early investor in Google. He was also an investor in Napster. Investing in startups is very risky, but very rewarding when things go right.
It's easy to criticize, much harder to create. Pundits who diss startups really make me angry. Pundits don't create anything. Never have, never will. Don't listen to them. Listen to entrepreneurs who have been successful. Listen to investors who have succeeded and failed. Success is a terrible teacher. Success makes you think you did everything right, and masks underlying problems. You can learn far more from failure, yours and others, than you learn from success.
Happy 5th Birthday Techcrunch - Techcrunch has written about lots of successful startups over the past five years. Many of them were totally new and discovered by Techcrunch. Just over two years ago Techcrunch created a conference to showcase new startups. Participants have included;
- Powerset - acquired by Microsoft for $100M
- Mint - acquired by Intuit for $170M two years after launching at Techcrunch
- Xobni - raised $32M after launching at Techcrunch
- Tripit - raised $13M, popular travel site
- Yammer - raised $15M, like Twitter for the enterprise
- Swype -raised funds from Nokia, Samsung, Docomo. Signed contracts with major manufacturers
- DropBox - Funded by Sequoia and Accel Partners.
- RedBeacon -Grand prize winner at Techcrunch50 2009
- Yext -Raised $25M from Sutter Hill and IVP after Techcrunch50
Entrepreneurs Creed by Theodore Roosevelt
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
The Man In The Arena by Theodore Roosevelt (1910)
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