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When Shane Snow co-founded Contently a year ago he had just 48 cents in his bank account. Fast forward to the end of 2011 and the startup is on track to clear over $1 million in revenue.

Watch Shane’s interview to hear about his experience going through the TechStars mentorship program, raising money and how his experience of losing a big sale helped him better understand Contently’s business model.

The prevailing wisdom these days is that to get the intial set of 1000 users, you have to be featured in TechCrunch or Mashable or similar blogs in your country, like Pluggdin, and YourStory.in in India. While this is true, getting featured in TechCrunch or Mashable is not really upto you. You have to have a good story, you have to have the skills to convince these blogs that your story is good, and then too if you happen to launch on the day Steve Jobs dies (God rest his soul), then you do have an uphill task.

1) get rejected more
2) climb the right hill
3) create an amazing toy
4) grow that toy into something big that transforms an important industry

He talks in detail  about how he thinks about Amazon (AMZN) and how he runs this business.  In my opinion, with Jobs now gone, Bezos is the best CEO in the world.  How he’s built the company into an e-commerce juggernaut over the last 15 years is utterly amazing — especially when you consider he was in his early 30s and an ex-quant from D.E. Shaw when he moved out to Seattle and started the company.

What lessons can be learned from this experience?

  • Never get too far ahead of the market. Creating new markets, new business models, and value propositions is very difficult and takes lots of time and money. Pioneers are usually unsuccessful, the fast followers make most of the money.
  • Understand who your customer is, what problem you solve, and how much they are willing to pay for it. Sounds simple enough but you would be surprised how many start-ups get excited about their technology innovations and forget about the basic business proposition.
  • Never start a business focused on solving a big company’s problem. They don’t know they have a problem…and they are probably right. That is how they got to be so big in the first place. The record labels didn’t know they had a digital distribution problem and were not interested in our solution to it.
  • Test your assumptions before spending lots of money. Interview your potential customers. Understand what their top 10 problems are. Don’t try to convince them that you have a solution to a problem they don’t know they have. Take a survey of 100 potential customers. Ask them to list their top 10 problems, without prompting from you. If you don’t see your problem area listed…move on to another problem.
  • Marketing and image matter. Provocative challenges make good headlines but don’t make good business.

It’s August 2011, and Andrew Mason is agitated.

He’s at his desk in the middle of Groupon’s wide open, call center-style office in Chicago. His headphones are on. His brow is furrowed.

His company had been the darling of the business press for the past two years. Suddenly it’s not. 

He can’t hang on to a COO. The SEC is asking questions. Industry executives are calling him a ponzi schemer.  Early employees are demanding six-figure pay for 9 to 5 hours. One even filed a lawsuit. Merchant customers are screaming. And Mason and his board, having helped themselves to $900 million of cash that could have gone to the company, are are now being blasted for incompetence and greed.


When LivingSocial launched in 2007, the co-founders thought it would be interesting to match a user’s location with their interests. The model has evolved to selling vouchers to users for local experiences, and LivingSocial now serves daily deals to over 30 million subscribers.

One of the countless people influenced by Steve Jobs was former Apple engineer andPosterous founder Sachin Agarwal.

Agarwal talked to us last year about how Steve Jobs fostered a startup culture at a multibillion dollar corporation. It was an environment where the engineers made decisions, not managers.

We wanted to create an article addressing some of the problems start-up companies and young entrepreneurs have. So we asked!

“What do you wish you knew before you started a business?”

The fact that you are learning only from success is a deeper problem than you imagine…drawing conclusions only from data that is available or convenient and thus systematically biasing your results.

It’s Back to School week here at Lifehacker, and while we’ve been focusing much of our attention on the college-bound, we consider education a life-long endeavor. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of how I went from zero to a fully functioning, semi-successful web site in one year.

I’ve been founding and helping run technology companies since 1999.  My latest company is Fab.com.

Here are 57 lessons I’ve learned along the way.  I could have listed 100+ but I didn’t want to bore you



It’s a well-accepted axiom in the investor community that entrepreneurs learn more from their failures than their successes.

Thus a well-explained startup failure often can actually improve your odds of funding in the next go-round.