Startup Inspirations

Here at Upverter we occasionally get asked questions like: “Are you guys insane?”, “You used to have real jobs?”, and “You quit to do what?!?!” mostly in reference to us telling stories about how we used to exist in the real world with everyone else. One of our favorite questions to get is “What made you jump?”, because the answer is so different for each of us. But we do share a bit of overlap in who planted the seeds, you know, that little voice in the back of our heads that was saying jump. And that’s what I want to share today, our startup inspirations.
Paul Graham Probably first and foremost for the three of us is the Jedi, high-priest, Paul Graham. We have all been reading his essays for years now, we followed YCombinator since its birth, and we just generally believe, like Paul, that innovation NEEDS startups and that startups understand people better than big business. We all knew from a very young age that we needed to be innovators, and that a startup was the only way to achieve those needs.

+ The Mythical Man Month
 These books were absolutely eye-opening for me. How could it be possible that 30 years ago (before I was even born!) someone wrote a book demonizing all of the things that I was pretty sure were bad for productivity, but had no good way of saying? How could these guys be so, so right, so long ago, and yet so much is still the same? For us a startup lets us listen, and set the right priorities – we can make people important, and we can give them a great place to work.
The University of Waterloo While we don’t always see eye to eye with these guys, and we did very much miss out on the college life from the movies, they do 2 things incredibly well. First their co-op program is second to none. By the time I was half way through my second year I was more employable than many graduating electrical engineers from other schools. And second they, more by accident I think, do an incredible job of attracting a small group of incredibly driven, and very smart, non-conformist type engineers. These are the ones that fail out more often than not, but they clump up and go off to do incredible things. The 3 founders of Upverter met in a UWaterloo dorm room a little over 6 years ago, and it wasn’t very long into those 6 years that we knew we would build something together.
Joel Spolsky Joel is a little like Paul’s doppelganger. At the end of the day they are both very successful hackers, but what Paul offers on startups is really just compounded by what Joel offers on workplaces, people and all things software. Before we discovered Paul, and before he really wrote, we were reading and reciting Joel’s rants on architecture, and better workspaces. Steve even gets the fan-boy badge for interviewing with fogbugz a few years back! If you’ve ever read my personal blog, you’ll know I’m not one to sum up nicely – I’m really more of a rambler.
But I would like to share some of what I’ll call our inherited tenants of success. Consider these horribly stolen and merged together from our life-long relationship with the above authors/books and our previous employers.

The Upverter Tenants of Success

  • Be bold, decisive, and wrong. Its OK to fail for trying, but not because you ignored a problem. Agreeing to disagree is not acceptable!
  • It’s all about execution. Try and imagine the number of good ideas that fail, and the number of bad ones that win. Its not about the idea, or the product, or the technology – its about getting it done. This is why people are so important.
  • Have fun. Time is the worlds most precious resource. We all die – we all run out of time. Do what you do because you love it. And make sure those around you love what they’re doing.
  • Do the right thing – everything else will work out. Do right by people. Do right by employees. Do right by customers. And when picking between two options, pick the right one.
  • Be relentlessly resourceful. Kind of a summary tenant, but one regardless. Find a way to make it work. Find a way to make money. Find a way to build a business. Find a way to sleep, eat, and hack.

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