Category Archives: starting the startup

Don’t be an idiot with your email address

Setting up email is pretty much one of the first outward facing things that a startup does.  You need to own your company identity, and folks need to associate you, your product, your everything, with that identity.  This often happens first via email.

So let’s say your name is Bob Fundergrass, you’re a founder, and your startup’s domain is  If I can’t email you at, you’re an idiot and you are doing it wrong.  I don’t care if you really use, or some other variation, but your first name, what people actually call you, better work.  If it doesn’t, you’re an idiot.

Please don’t make this mistake.  You’re a founder, claim that first name and own it.  Sure, maybe down the road you’ll have 30,000 employees and need a really stodgy, strict format, but right now, you need to make it as easy as possible for everyone and anyone to email you.  Your first name @ your domain is the easiest way to do this.

You have enough things stacked against you already, please don’t add bounced or black-holed emails to the list.

PS: An easy way to do this if you use Google Docs is to set up a Group and name it and set the Group email address as your “easy” address.  Then just set your main account as the owner and select “Also allow anyone on the Internet to post messages.”  Bingo.  You’ll capture those emails and be able to reply from your preferred address.

Five rules for startup + family happiness

I spend a lot of time out and about at startup events here in Boston/Cambridge.  The scene has really been picking up steam lately, to the point where there are at least two or three really great meetups per week.  Being a pretty outgoing guy, I do a lot of networking and answer a lot of questions about our company, mentors / advisors, TechStars and the like.  But this post isn’t about any of them, it’s about my family.  Or more specifically, the question I get asked more than just about about any other – how do you have a startup *and* a family?

Rule zero – Pick an amazing wife / husband

Seriously, the only way to do this is to have someone who will really step up and do way more than 50% of the family work.  Someone who understands that this is what you need, that you have the startup defect(1).   Not everyone can handle the serious ups and downs of being married to a “you”.  The term “startup widow” isn’t a joke.  Respect that.  Seriously.  If after laying out the deal (leaving a well paying job, living on savings, working way to much), your spouse isn’t into this, stick with your job until you can de-risk it for him/her more.  And understand that they may never be into this life.  That’s ok.  It’s certainly not for everyone.   If that’s the case, maybe you can join a funded startup and still keep your startup defect happy.

Rule one – Learn to juggle

I’m not kidding.  Really, do it now.  Why?  Cause you’ll quickly see that juggling isn’t about having everything precariously up in the air.  Juggling is about control.  It’s about keeping as many things under control as possible and realizing that you’re constantly going to be losing control of something (a bit), but that’s ok when you’re gaining control of something else and have full control (ie: it’s in your hand) of the last ball.  For me there’s my company, TempMine, my wife, and my son.   I will never be able to do everything I wish I could for everyone.  It’s ok to let your startup fly a bit, so you can keep your wife happy (and sane) and your son remembering what you look like.  Just keep the flight of the company in mind and realize that you have to toss something else before the company lands.

Rule two – Keep everyone in the loop

If I have something family that has to happen, I let my team know.  If I have something startup that has to happen, I let my family know.  Sure, there will always be surprises, but work really hard to make them the exception, not the rule.

Rule three – Over deliver

Your schedule is just plain insane when running a startup, but you make sure you over deliver often.  If this means cranking late in to the night to get something done for your team, do it.  If it means blowing out of work early so you are home for bath-time on a day when you normally wouldn’t, do it.  Realize that your role is hard on everyone, but they’ll forgive you for a lot of the not being around if you over deliver when they least expect it.  This stuff also goes a long way towards keeping you sane.

Rule four – Weekly something

Every Saturday we have a family breakfast.  It’s usually a little  more elaborate then a regular breakfast.   We sit at the table (something we don’t do together often enough) and eat and laugh and just enjoy each other.  I make it.  I clean up after it.  It’s one of my favorite times of the week.  I don’t think it matters what you do, but pick something and do it with everyone.  I wish we could eat together every night, but for now, Saturday breakfast will do.

Hash browns, scrambled eggs, and sausages? Oh yeah!

So, what works for you?    Leave a comment!

1. What’s the “startup defect”?  Well, it’s that thing that makes you *have* to do this.   Starting a company that has a little chance of success and a major chance of eating up your savings and retirement is a *not* the smart thing to do – even when you’re smart person (and I hope you are, because I hear it really helps to be smart when running a startup …)

Screw serendipity – make it happen!

I’ve heard these stories of startup founders where great stuff just happens to them. They’re telling a friend about their latest idea and are overheard by some angel who immediately writes them a check or they create some neat tool in their spare time, while holding down a real job, and then become superstars earning millions and flying around the world to speak to their screaming throngs, or they create some neat little tool in a weekend and end up selling it a month later for $10 million.

All crap, seriously. I don’t believe any of it. Sure, there might be some fantasized retelling of a startup that starts with these lines, but there not reality. Maybe I don’t believe them because they haven’t happened to me. Maybe I’m just a doubting Thomas after all.

Last spring when we applied to TechStars with the original, now long-dead idea for TempMine, we were very excited to make it through the first cut from a  500 or so companies down to fifty.  But making the first cut wasn’t the goal and we weren’t in yet.  We still had to beat out 40 other teams to get a slot.

I then saw a tweet that Shawn Broderick, the Director of the soon to be first Boston class of TechStars was going to be at Andala Cafe for OpenCoffee the following week.   Did I wait around for someone to overhear me talking about TempMine?  Did I sit in my house and code, code, code hoping to get noticed?  Did anyone buy TempMine for $10M?  No, no, and sadly, no.  I got off my butt, skipped a few hours of work, and got in Shawn’s face.

Applications for TechStars Boston 2010 are now open and getting into TechStars is hard.  The odds are quite literally stacked against you.  Tilt them a bit, go meet Shawn.  Go meet some of the TechStars alums who are going to be there too.  Go find out why I jumped at the chance to leave a great job and chase my dream.

Come learn more about TechStars as Shawn hosts an Info Session at 10:30a on Wednesday, Dec 2nd at Andala.

Screw serendipity – make it happen.

Writing about my summer in TechStars … or not.

When I started this blog it was with the intention of saving some of the great summer experiences for myself and sharing them with my friends / family who weren’t seeing a lot of me.  But then, every time I tried to write something, I couldn’t divorce it from the fact that the reason I was among the missing was that our company, TempMine, had been accepted to the inaugural class of TechStars Boston.

We’d decided that it was best that we keep mum as the word about our TechStars  participation because you only really get one chance to make that first impression.  And frankly, for most of the summer, our product and business model were in such states of flux, we didn’t even know what sort of an impression we wanted to make anyway.

So I started posts, and then left them, to wither on the vine – something that is very easy to do as you have so many other things going on whether it be big sessions with mentors, one-on-one’s with mentors, pitch sessions, weekly updates with Shawn (Broderick, the Director of TS Boston), meetings with potential customers and users, or just plain building something.

When in TechStars you have no time. Everyday is jammed. Crazy jammed full of things that you just can’t miss. Meetings that are far to valuable to skip. So taking time to blog, just didn’t happen, especially when I felt like everything I wanted to say wouldn’t have made much sense without the word “TechStars”.

But now, we’re graduates of the program. We’re TechStars alums – a very nice club to be in btw. We’ve longs since had that first impression thanks to TechCrunch (TechStars Debuts Nine Startups In Boston).

We’re actively raising funding. We’re working on our MVP. We’re talking to customers and users. We’re building our company. But now, now I’m going to take a bit of time to catch up on some of those things I wanted to talk about during the Summer of ’09, but just never had the time to.

TempMine in MassHighTech

So I’ve actively avoided the subject of TechStars since we were accepted last Spring.  The theory is that we don’t want to 1. toot our horn before we have something worth tooting about, and 2. we’ve been iterating so quickly through how exactly we’re going to change the world, that it’s best not to mention it yet.

Well, we’ve been outed. We knew it was coming and were fine with it, but it’s still a bit weird to see it in (lcd) print:  Fast pace, less funding define TechStars.

Here’s how it went down.  Galen Moore from MassHighTech was in the office and was asking questions – in the bathroom.   Once we moved the conversation a few doors away from the urinals, we chatted a bit about TempMine, what’s public and what’s not about our young company, and how awesome TechStars is.  Yeah, I’ve not just drank the Koolaid, I’ve bathed in it.

Galen must be good, because despite my brain saying “yo, you’re not ready to talk to a reporter”, the rest of me sure wanted to talk about TempMine and TechStars.  So I did.  He was kind enough to keep it general, but I’ll be looking forward to talking to him moew once we have more to say.

A day in the life

So yesterday there was this post yesterday on news.yc “Ask HN: Startup founders, would you walk us through a day in the life?” that got me thinking.  What is my day like?

6:20am – One year old wakes up. Grudgingly, I do to.

6:25am – Change diaper, PJs if they’re wet, make a bottle, feed the boy, try to keep eyes open.

6:40am – Catch up on email on the iPhone while the boy plays on the family room floor. Can’t use the MacBook because he’ll want to play with it.

7:20am – Make coffee, clean the boy’s bottles, change his diaper.

8:00am – Wake up wife so I get to shower. Shower.

8:45am – Send replies that were too long for iPhone. Review where last night left us. Review what I want to get done today. Start working.

10:30am – motivate to the subway to go to the office. Pleasure read on the train.

11:15am – get to the office. Talk to office mates. Get situated, try to get back into the groove. Put off lunch as long as possible.

Lunch – try to find something cheap. Generally fail.

Rest of the day – work, have sessions with our mentors. Maybe get some dinner.

9:45pm – head home. Pass out on the subway.

10:30pm – Catch up with wife until she goes to bed.

11:00pm – 1:30am – Work.

Rinse, lather repeat and never second guess giving up that good 4 day a week job I used to have to start my own business.

It’s a pretty fancy life, eh?

“So, what does it feel like?” you ask …

Yesterday was a whirlwind of trying to get way too much done in way to little time, of trying to not stiff my friends, and coworkers with too many unanswered questions and incomplete tasks, and trying to make sure I didn’t work a 14 hour day.  I think I succeeded on points one and two but failed pretty miserably on number three.

So what does it feel like to wakeup with your job being the startup you had the idea for over a year ago, the startup, that you’re a few months deep into working at night, on weekends and whenever you can steal some time, the startup that has to pay the mortgage and feed the family?   Insanely, unbelievably anxious, that’s what.  Wow, I’ve not been this anxious since my driving test.  The driving test that I hit (and likely killed) a bird on the way to.  And yes, I passed.  And my Dad swears the bird was suicidal …