Day 1 in the Valley
Our first full day here in the Valley was absolutely packed with visits to Nest, Khan Academy, Piazza, and Shasta Ventures.
In the evening we attended a Startup/Y Combinator Mixer hosted at Microsoft HQ where we heard from two Microsoft employees - Matt Thompson and Dan’l Lewin (Princeton Alumnus).
The following panel also presented and answered our questions:
Hai Nguyen spoke about his experience starting Appfluence while studying at Stanford, consulting for Ebay, and managing other part-time commitments. He explained that Appfluence was a bootstrapped startup (it didn’t raise venture capital) and became profitable with over 50,000 paying customers today.
Lee Linden (Facebook Commerce) spoke about his experience as part of one of the early Y Combinator groups and how he went on to found Tapjoy and Karma — the latter of which was acquired by Facebook around six months ago.
Steven Yarger talked about working as a mobile product manager at Trulia. He discussed the role of mobile in a more ‘traditional’ vertical like real estate.
Ray Bradford (KPCB) shared insights he learned while working for Amazon in cloud computing (Amazon S3). He also explained a few of the key factors he looks at when evaluating potential investment opportunities at KPCB including technical, market, and team risk.
After the panel presented, our questions prompted further discussion on a variety of interesting topics.
We discussed the value of an MBA, the central role of engineers in today’s startups, and the debatable claim that creating a billion dollar company (in yearly revenue) is near impossible on existing platforms such as the App Store. Further questions prompted discussion on the contrasting “lean startup and minimum viable product” approach vs. extended product cycles and development typical of hardware companies such as Apple. We noted that there is certainly a difference between hardware and software companies and no one size fits all approach to iteration and prototyping. We also discussed Peter Thiel’s assertion that there is a shortage of real deep innovation present in the country, with people instead adding incremental features on existing platforms.
The trip has been awesome since then.
Hafiz Dhanani ‘16