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Curation and Urgency: Two Requirements for any Startup (and Community)

Written by Paul on April 15th, 2013

When I think about the typical community building events I see around the country, I see events that are designed to cater to anyone remotely interested in entrepreneurship. It almost always ends up being a room of wantrepneurs. At least there’s usually beer too. And lots of it.

When I think about the most successful companies I’ve met, I notice that the teams are highly curated and the culture tends to be built around a sense of overwhelming urgency. I suspect …

On being an API to Venture Capital and Functional Expertise

Written by Paul on August 9th, 2012

I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while: that it’s *everyone’s* job to be an API to venture capital and functional expertise. (Though, I owe a big hat tip to Fred Destin for being the first to publicly use the “API” term to describe 500.)

If you’re a startup founder, your sole job is to build a fantastic business. Rather than spend time organizing the …

Startup Product Development Tips

Written by Paul on October 22nd, 2010

I spoke at a Founder Institute DC event last night along with Gabe Zichermann (by the way, you’re missing out on some seriously good stuff if you haven’t seen Gabe speak elsewhere) and Matt Howard. If you’re in the startup trenches, these tips are for you.
FI: Product and Service Development

On building awesome business applications

Written by Paul on October 13th, 2010

As recently as five years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see startups raising hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, before they had a customer-ready product. Mostly, this was due to the high costs involved with internet startups (servers and bandwidth weren’t cheap). Things were expensive and you had to obtain permission from investors (via funding) to do any of it.

Today, that barrier is almost non-existent. Many founders are focusing on ramen profitability, …

For startups, effectiveness > efficiency

Written by Paul on June 17th, 2010

Chris Dixon makes an important point about not over-engineering your product in the early days:

Many products can be built much more quickly and cheaply by settling for good technology plus a bunch of hacks – human editing, partnerships, using 3rd party software – versus creating a perfect technology from scratch.

To this day, most of the work at MailFinch is still manual. Someone has to make sure a document gets printed, folded and stuffed into a …

Startup Market Positioning: Less is More

Written by Paul on May 28th, 2010

Looking back at the recent growth of MailFinch, most of the success can be attributed to what the product can’t do. We do very few things but we do those things better than anyone else in the game and we make it drop-dead simple to get started. Now Thomas Thurston, a researcher and consultant based in Portland, Oregon, has come up with a formula that predicts startup success with an 85% accuracy …

My Mixergy interview is up

Written by Paul on April 28th, 2010

A MailFinch customer introduced me to Andrew Warner of Mixergy fame and the rest, as they say, is history. Check out the interview if you’re interested in learning about how I built MailFinch from the ground up.

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Example Product Roadmap

Written by Paul on April 21st, 2010

I built the original version of MailFinch, an on-demand direct mail platform, in a few hours about six months ago. Today we’re sending a couple thousand letters a month and growing at a nice clip. Rather than give you hand-wavy advice about how you should do it, I’ll simply tell you how I did it.

MailFinch Product Roadmap
1) Core Product: Create Letter and Accept Money

  • I wanted people to be able to upload a letter and send it.
  • Before they actually

Introducing Philtro

Written by Paul on March 13th, 2009

UPDATE: Philtro was acquired by CityVoice in late 2009.

A few weeks ago, I opened up my RSS reader of choice (NetNewsWire, actually) to quickly scan the titles of the new posts available and mark the rest as “read” immediately. Total time spent: 5 minutes. Total value gained: 0. I needed to find a better way to filter my feeds or risk contuining this daily charade.

There’s no doubt that RSS (and Twitter) have become essential to the online …

How to run a small business

Written by Paul on January 15th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my thoughts on how to buy a small business. Since then, a number of people emailed me to ask how to actually run a small business. Easy enough!

First things first, running a “brick & mortar” business is much, much harder than anyone initially thinks. When I first took over my family’s construction company, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. I mean, how hard can it be to …

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