Home How to be the Anti-Microsoft

How to be the Anti-Microsoft

Yesterday, I wrote a short review of a new mobile app from Webscorer that has a curious lineage. The startup came to be from a group of several ex-Microsoft developers and is led by Vesa Suomalainen. I have known Vesa for many years, and first met him when he ran Microsoft’s mainframe communications business with a product called Host Integration server. This was back in the 3270 terminal emulation days and was quite the advanced product for its time. Vesa shared with me some lessons that he has learned with several botched startups since then and what he is trying to do with his latest venture.

What is interesting about some of these points is how different the kind of company that Vesa is creating from what his team came from in Redmond. It is almost as if everyone learned how little they liked the BigCo mentality and have purposely tried to make things small.

  • Don’t be optimistic. Plan that you will struggle initially, and this way you won’t end up diluting all (or even much) of your startup capital. “It is always better not to take any outside money and pay everything on your own dime,” he told me. Agreed. This means that you have to start off small.
  • Set your sights lower.”You don’t want to conquer the world, just make a small adjustment over time.” Vesa talks about having an excellent niche product that is highly profitable rather than shooting for the stars and failing and losing your entire company. That is what he is trying to do with the racing scoring app.
  • Know what not to do. Learning from your mistakes is just as important as success. Vesa’s failure taught him more about what not to do with his present venture. “Watching a startup destroy itself was a very potent teacher.” Speaking of which, note: “There are lots of ways to fail, but only one way to succeed.” Sounds like something Yoda might say to young Luke.
  • Don’t make too many promises that you can’t keep. Understand scope creep and keep it under control. Eliminate buttons, reduce functionality, and keep things simple. Resist the temptation to make your product more complex at every turn.
  • Don’t be greedy, share your equity with your key founding members. Even if it is a small percentage, you want to retail your key developers and engineering talent. Nothing says loving more than some points of equity.
  • Venture lightly with lawyering up your company. ‘Nuff said.

    Feel free to share your own Yoda-isms in our comments.

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