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Lessons learned at the Webexpo 2.0 SF 2011

Spotdog’s Oane Hettema and I spent last week in San Francisco at the W2E (Webexpo 2.0). There we enjoyed the great atmosphere of O’Reilly’s web conference in Moscone West. The conference covers many subjects in three days ranging from hardcore coding, user experience (UX) design, advanced webmarketing techniques, startup lessons and funding, and general trends in webconsumer behavior.
Below you’ll find a top 10 list of eyeopeners taken home from the Webexpo.

1. It’s okay to start a company in a field where there are competitors already, as long as the market is not being cornered by one of them. (Jon Dahl from Zencoder)
2. Angel investors need to be careful as the market for startup investments seems to be heating up. The power in the startup-investor relationship seems to shift slowly to the entrepreneur as many low-end investors seem too eager to invest, afraid they might miss the ship. (Naval Ravikant, Angellist)
3. In a world where there are dozens of apps performing exactly the same function for users, focusing on the user experience (UX) is key to success. (Akshay Kothari and Purin Phanichphant of Pulse News)
4. When using Twitter as a marketing tool to reach out to your target demographic keep the percentage of advertising under 10% so as not to alienate your followers. (Victoria Harres, PR Newswire)
5. The strength of the Y-Combinator experience comes from many clever processes. One very important one is the alumni network of former YC startup founders. You can call anyone from the alumni network and they will try to help you out. Three observations: (a) this makes the YC model hard to imitate as they have a 150+ alumni legacy, (b) YC has a good rep, otherwise the community would not be so open and willing to share, (c) point a and b increases YC’s attractiveness to talented founders even more. (Jon Dahl, Zencoder)
6. Businessplans don’t make sense in the startup phase of a webfirm. The product- and marketpotential are unclear at best. Focus on a basic idea (minimum viable product), get a good team together and secure reasonable funding for a runway of a couple of months. If you can’t find enough market potential after 6 months or follow up funding, something is probably wrong about your setup. But be sure to get the businessplan in place as soon as you get some market traction and the dna of the firm starts to set. (observed and heard throughout the conference)
7. The impact of Steve Blank’s thinking on customer development as a parallel process next to product development clearly takes hold in the startup community. Test your assumptions and your product from day one with real customers (Laura Klein of Users Know and Shay Frendt of Relevance Inc.)
8. Focus focus focus; there is no point in producing bloated apps, the users want a clear proposition: this app does XYZ and does it very well. Note however to be creative on the HOW part: this app does XYZ, but does it a little different than other apps. (Kevin Systrom of Instagram)
9. Viral advertising is indeed a business of the good idea. Even less flashy stuff gets the world’s attention as long as the idea is hilarious (such as Disaster Girl), (Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed)
10. Tim Ferris is a lot of fun in any Q&A session, his positive outlook on things and good mood reminds us all to be professionals but also keep light hearted. (Timothy Ferris and Gary Wolf of Wired)

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