Posts tagged ‘startups’

Why Greplin is my favorite new startup

I’ve talked before about how much I love Greplin:

Greplin is a tool that allows you to search across all your content from one search box. For example, I’ve got my account set up to index my Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Google Docs and Google Calendar. With one search I can surface messages or content from any of those services with Google-like speed. Once they add indexes for Google Voice, Google Reader (both coming soon) and browser history, they’ll cover 99.9% of the personal content I want to search. They already offer lots of integrations including popular serivces like Yammer, Saleforce, Evernote and tools from 37signals.

The value proposition Greplin offers is clear. Often I’ll remember having a conversation without remembering where I had it – was it Facebook? Twitter? Email? With Greplin, I don’t need to remember. They’ll find it regardless of which service I used. It was Greplin that let me find the link to that tweet I included in this post without wasting 5 minutes digging around on I also use it as a context tool for remembering past conversations. For example, before emailing or responding to a stranger, I’ll usually Greplin their name. I’m often surprised to find that we actually met years ago at a conference, were CC’d on the same email or had some interaction on twitter that I had forgotten about. Being able to surface that context in a split second is invaluable.

On Friday, Greplin became even more useful. They now give you the option to replace the default search tool in Gmail. For anyone who uses Gmail search on a regular basis, you know how painful the experience can be. I’ve never understood how the worlds best search engine manages to be so terrible at search inside Gmail. With Greplin, my searches inside Gmail are now blazing fast.

There’s an obvious concern about the security aspect of using Greplin since they have access to all my content and are storing the indexes in the cloud. For me, the value they provide is big enough that I’m willing to take the risk and I’m not one to hand over the keys to my data easily! In this case, the cloud really does make more sense than storing large indexes on my hard drive.

A big part of the reason I’m willing to trust Greplin is because of how much I’ve been impressed by the team. Greplin is a YCombinator company and they have an interesting story of how they got started. The latest features didn’t work for me at first and I mentioned the problem in a comment on the TechCrunch post. I immediately got an email from their CEO, Daniel Gross asking for more details. Today Daniel emailed me to tell me it was fixed and sure enough, it’s now working great. Thanks Daniel!

If you haven’t tried Greplin yet, I recommend you give it a shot. I’m willing to bet you’ll fall in love with it just like I did.


Seeing the world between startups

On Christmas, Paras Chopra wrote a post titled Do a startup or travel the world? I found it on Hacker News and started to leave a comment before deciding to turn it into a blog post instead.

I happen to have a lot of thoughts on the subject. I’m 26, have visited 13 countries and am on my 3rd startup. My goal is to visit 50 countries by the time I’m 50. I guess you could say traveling and entrepreneurship are two of my biggest passions.

One of the reasons I gave people for starting my own company was that I could work from anywhere. Want to work from the beach in Thailand for a month? Sure! That plan turned out to be rather naive (at least for me). I soon discovered that running a company requires 110% of your focus. There are tons of extra complications of trying to run a company on the go. I have a hard enough time keeping up with email on business trips around the country! How do you hire and manage a team? How do you take sales and support calls? These issues aren’t trivial, but they can probably be overcome depending on your business and how big a priority travel is for you. I think the bigger challenge is the lack of mental focus. How do you figure out a bus schedule and diagnose a server issue at the same time? I’m not going to wait to be a millionaire to do the things I want to do, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to travel the world while giving a business the attention it requires to be successful.

I’ve also found that people I meet while traveling usually have very different attitudes from the people I’m usually around. Every day you are meeting people who quit their job to travel. They don’t have a care in the world. They have no idea what their career will be and their care-free attitude can be very contagious. It’s probably good to relax and remember there is a world outside our tech bubble, but that attitude is the last thing you want rubbing off on you when you need a 110% focus on your startup.

For me, the answer has been to go travel the world between startups. I ran EventVue for 3 years. After it shut down I traveled to Australia and New Zealand for a month. I did contract work for a few months and then traveled to Europe and Egypt before starting Torbit. I don’t know how long I will be working on Torbit, but I’ve accepted that I won’t get more than a week or two of pleasure travel a year. Yes, I’m dying to see Machu Picchu, climb a mountain in Nepal and eat Italian food in Italy, but I’m also really happy right now. I’m working on something I care about. Something that excites me. Something that matters.

I always seem to have time and no money or money and no time. I have a rule that whenever it works out that I have both, I go travel. If you’re in a startup and wishing you were traveling instead, my advice is to save up and get out of debt now so when things line up for you to travel you are in a place to take advantage of it. I’ll get back to traveling the world at some point, but in the meantime I’m laser focused on speeding up the web and I’ll continue to live vicariously through Andrew Hyde as he travels the world for a year.


Startups and Risk Assessment

Did you know that more people die every year from falling down the stairs than from snake bites? Crazy, huh?

Did you know that a child is 100 times as likely to drown in a swimming pool than be killed by a handgun?

It turns out that most of us do a poor job at evaluating risks. We’re terrified of snakes, but don’t think twice about walking down the stairs. Parents won’t let their children play with their friends whose families own guns, but they don’t have a problem with them going swimming every weekend.

I’ve noticed that many startups suffer from similarly poor discernment into risk assessment. Here are a few examples:

Maybe you have a startup but won’t tell anyone what you are doing because you are worried that someone will steal your idea. Instead, you run around with a stack of NDA’s and tell everyone you are in “stealth mode”. As a result, you miss out on valuable feedback that would undoubtedly improve the direction of your product. Sure, there is a chance that someone might steal your idea, but isn’t the greater risk that you will build something that no one wants?

Perhaps you are worried that your web application won’t scale to millions of users. As a result, you spend a large percentage of your time and resources making sure your application is fully scalable. While scalability is an important issue to consider, the majority of preparation for future growth should come after you’ve proved that people want what you have. Is there a risk that your product won’t scale? Sure — but that’s a good problem to have. As Dharmesh Shah recently said:

Don’t fall into the trap of spending your limited resources on planning and preparing for success. Instead, spend them on things that will actually increase your chances of success.

With any luck, your product will experience growing pains at some point down the road, but that shouldn’t be your first concern. Instead you should realize the greater risk is that your company will run out of money before you get a chance to show your amazing product to the world.

Don’t let the perceived risks make you take even greater risks. Instead, try to evaluate them as objectively as you can, and then act accordingly.