November 20th: Paul Graham & Jessica Livingston on What Makes Startups Succeed

Our speakers for November will be Paul Graham & Jessica Livingston, of Y Combinator and Startup School.  Paul will be speaking on what Y Combinator has learned about what makes startups succeed.  Jessica will also speak about her book Founders at Work, and offer her thoughts on successful startup founders.

Paul Graham, Y-Combinator

Paul Graham, Y Combinator

Paul Graham is an essayist, programmer, and programming language designer. In 1995 he developed with Robert Morris the first web-based application, Viaweb, which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998. In 2002 he described a simple statistical spam filter that inspired most current filters. He’s currently working on a new programming language called Arc, a new book on startups, and is one of the partners in Y Combinator.

Paul is the author of On Lisp (Prentice Hall, 1993), ANSI Common Lisp (Prentice Hall, 1995), and Hackers & Painters (O’Reilly, 2004).

Paul has an AB from Cornell and a PhD in Computer Science from Harvard, and studied painting at RISD and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence.

Jessica Livingston, Founders at Work

Jessica Livingston, Founders at Work

Jessica Livingston is a founding partner at Y Combinator, a seed-stage venture firm based in Cambridge, MA, and Mountain View, CA.  She is also the author of Founders at Work, a book about startup entrepreneurs.

Jessica was previously VP Marketing at investment bank Adams Harkness. In addition to her work with startups at Y Combinator, she organizes Startup School.

Jessica has a BA in English from Bucknell.

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October 30th: Reid Hoffman & Matt Cohler on The Social Web & Starting Up during Downturns.

Our speakers for October are Reid Hoffman & Matt Cohler.  Reid is Chairman and President, Products at LinkedIn, and formerly EVP at PayPal.  Matt is a General Partner at Benchmark Capital, and formerly VP Product at Facebook.   Reid & Matt will speak about social networks and platforms, and the emerging social web.  Given the current market conditions, we’ve also asked them to speak about building startups in tough times, noting LinkedIn and Facebook as two examples of great companies started during the previous 2001-2004 “dotcom depression”.

Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

Reid Hoffman is founder and Chairman at LinkedIn, and was the founding CEO for its first four years before moving to his current role as President, Products in February 2007.  While CEO, Reid built the company to over 9 million members and profitability.  He now drives product and business strategy for LinkedIn.

Prior to LinkedIn, Reid was Executive Vice President of PayPal, where he was in charge of business development, corporate development, international & government relations, and banking/payments infrastructure.  While at PayPal, Reid was instrumental to the acquisition by eBay and was responsible for partnerships with Intuit, Visa, MasterCard and Wells Fargo.  Prior to PayPal, Reid held management roles at both Fujitsu and Apple.   Reid currently serves on the Board of Directors for SixApart and Mozilla Corporation.   He graduated with distinction from Stanford University with a BS in Symbolic Systems and from Oxford University with a Master’s degree in philosophy.

Matt Cohler, Benchmark Capital

Matt Cohler, Benchmark Capital

Matt Cohler is a General Partner with Benchmark Capital.  He has extensive experience working with consumer Internet companies, and has held senior management roles at Facebook and LinkedIn.  Matt joined Facebook in early 2005 and recently served as Facebook’s VP Product Management, where he helped drive strategy, organizational growth and product direction.  Matt is now a special advisor to Facebook.

Previously Matt was VP and General Manager at LinkedIn, where he was a member of the company’s founding team. Before LinkedIn, he was a consultant in McKinsey in Silicon Valley and also worked in Beijing for AsiaInfo.  Matt holds a BA from Yale University and graduated with honors and distinction.


September 25th: Matt Mullenweg & Toni Schneider on Open Source Communities & Business Models

Matt Mullenweg & Toni Schneider, Automattic

Matt Mullenweg, Toni Schneider - Automattic / WordPress

Our speakers for September are Matt Mullenweg & Toni Schneider. They are respectively President and CEO of Automattic, which runs blogging software platform and web service WordPress.com (used to publish this blog), as well as several other  cool products & solutions. Matt & Toni will talk about open source communities and business models.

For more on open source, try these on for size:

Matt Mullenweg blogs at http://ma.tt. He is best known as the founding developer of WordPress, the blogging software he guided from a handful of users to the most widely used open source blog tool. In late 2005 he left CNET to found Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, Akismet.com, and Gravatar. In his spare time he enjoys taking photographs and playing jazz.

Toni Schneider is the CEO of Automattic, makers of the highly popular WordPress blogging software. Prior jobs include a VP position at Yahoo where he started the Yahoo Developer Network, and CEO of Oddpost, an AJAX/webmail pioneer that was acquired by Yahoo in 2004. Toni began his career developing 3D audio software for NASA. He blogs at toni.org, is a venture partner at True Ventures, grew up in Switzerland, studied computer science at Stanford University, and was named startup CEO of the year 2007 by TechCrunch.


Top 10 Tips for Term Sheets by Naval Ravikant, Venture Hacks

Naval Ravikant of Venture Hacks & The Hit Forge was the featured speaker at the August 28 Startup2Startup. Naval gave valuable advice to the audience of over 100 entrepreneurs on raising capital and negotiating term sheets. The feedback on Naval’s presentation was wildly positive, as Naval helped both first time and serial entrepreneurs peek into the black box that is venture capital.

(fyi: Naval’s slide presentation is below, and a video interview with Naval is included at the bottom)

The 10 key things that you should know when raising venture capital, according to Naval:

Continue reading ‘Top 10 Tips for Term Sheets by Naval Ravikant, Venture Hacks’


August 28th: Naval Ravikant on Venture Hacks & Term Sheet 2.0

Naval Ravikant

Naval Ravikant

Our speaker for August is Naval Ravikant, an experienced entrepreneur and startup investor, and occasional contributor on the Venture Hacks blog (which he co-founded). Naval will speak about startup financing & term sheets, and present a Top 10 list of startup finance tips from the best of Venture Hacks.

Naval is currently an active investor in early-stage ecommerce and social media startups via his angel fund The Hit Forge. His areas of expertise include viral marketing, seo, monetization, general management, and (of course) fundraising.

Previously he was a co-founder or investor at Genoa Corp (acquired by Finisar), Epinions.com (IPO via Shopping.com), Chainn, Hive7, and Vast.com; also an advisor to Bix.com, iPivot, and XFire, among others. Naval graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in Computer Science and Economics.


July 31st: James Hong, HOTorNOT

James Hong

James Hong, co-founder HOTorNOT.com

Our speaker for July will be James Hong, co-founder of the popular photo rating / casual dating website HOTorNOT. James will speak about his experiences as a scrappy entrepreneur, how to bootstrap a startup, and how he built a very profitable, subscription-based web business.

James is a creative, unorthodox, and scrappy Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He came up with the idea for HOTorNOT while drinking (heavily, we suspect) with fellow co-founder Jim Young in October of 2000. In its first week the site topped 2M daily pageviews, and became an immediate cult hit. With *zero* angel or VC funding, HOTorNOT grew quickly to a multi-million dollar subscription business. After operating profitably out of a living room for much of its first eight years, the company was sold in early 2008 to an investment group for a rumored $20M. If there’s a shrewder entrepreneur in the valley than James, we’d like to meet ’em.

Since the acquisition, James has been on temporary sabbatical from entrepreneurship — in other words he’s at home watching television, where his latest indulgence is MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. James also enjoys spending time with a few of his angel investments, including Slide and Mochi Media. He is currently waiting for the economy to completely tank before embarking on another venture… or until Boogie Bots is voted off the show. James is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where he earned a BS Electrical Engineering and an MBA from the Haas School of Business.


Recap: Chad Hurley on Growing YouTube

YouTube Co-Founder Chad Hurley spoke to a packed house at the latest Startup2Startup event. Chad gave a very candid recount of his time starting YouTube.

Although originally aimed at online auctions or meeting new people, they eventually moved toward a general online video solution. Chad described the idea as branching out from their experiences at PayPal and their own complications with online video. The idea was to create a video experience that users could take with them similar to the way users could take the PayPal experience with them.

They started out of their garages, eventually taking up residence inside of Sequoia before taking a round from the same firm.

Chad confronted one of the chief criticisms raised against the site, that the site achieved much of its growth from illegal content hosted on the site. He pointed out that although other sites face similar problems, they haven’t achieved the same growth, because they weren’t able to achieve the same community as YouTube.

Although the choice to sell was hard, Chad said they eventually decided to sell to Google as the best path to growing and supporting the service.

Liz Gannes at NewTeeVee has more details and a video from the event.