Startups

Here's the latest in the world of startups. You'll learn how to start your own company, acquire customers, and find success.

The Unexpected Naming Trick that Launched Amazon Out of Obscurity

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Amazon.com wasn’t the company’s originally conceived name.

The first name that Jeff Bezos chose for his new online bookseller was Cadabra, short for Abracadabra. But he found out quickly that Cadabra wouldn’t work. When he told the name to his lawyer over the phone, the lawyer replied incredulously, “Cadaver?”

He toyed with a few other names — MakeItSo, Relentless, Awake, Browse, and Bookmall — before finally settling on Amazon.com.

Bezos chose the name Amazon for two reasons. First, the Amazon River is Earth’s largest river and he intended to create Earth’s largest bookstore. “This is not only the largest river in the world, it’s many times larger than the next biggest river,” Bezos said. “It blows all other rivers away.”

The second reason Bezos chose “Amazon” seemed like an incidental thought at the time, but it turned out to be a surprisingly important driver of early growth — one that launched Amazon.com out of obscurity into becoming a billion dollar company.

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Why You Shouldn’t Build a Billion-Dollar Startup

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Entrepreneurs dream about building the next big billion-dollar company. But the Apple, Google, and Facebook-shaped stars in their eyes end up clouding their vision. It’s easy to get caught up imagining your company going viral and getting to millions of users — all before your business has made a single dollar.

All the hopes and visions in the world won’t get you any closer to your billion-dollar exit. In fact, setting out to build a billion-dollar startup is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

Gary Chou, an instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, teaches his students how to launch a startup by taking a completely divergent approach. His course in Entrepreneurial Design has an unexpected syllabus for a business class: forget about creating a business plan or making a pitch deck for a fictitious billion-dollar unicorn company. Instead, get out there and do it — create a real $1,000-dollar company.

Chou’s assignment is to create a business that will produce $1,000 in monthly profit in a way that’s repeatable and sustainable. What has emerged from this exercise includes real profitable, ongoing businesses and funded Kickstarter projects. But beyond the money that’s been made and the companies created, what’s most important is the experience and knowledge you take away — for if you take on the challenge of building a $1,000 startup, you’ll learn three invaluable lessons.

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3 Psychological Traps that Keep Your Startup in the Trough of Sorrow

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You’re stuck in the trough of sorrow. No matter what you do, nothing in your company is improving.

You look around you, and everyone you know is crushing it. Their companies are getting acquired, they’re raising huge funding rounds, and they’re announcing new product features that people love.

But not you. You’re stuck in the trough of sorrow, and it feels like you’ll never get out. It’s emotionally trying and tough to handle psychologically, and you’ll want to quit. That’s why famed startup investor Paul Graham has said that the number one underlying cause of startup death is that “the [founders] become demoralized.”

How you handle those plateaus, psychologically, will determine whether you remain stalled there forever and your company ends up in the startup graveyard. You’ll face these three psychological traps — avoid them, and you’ll have a chance of making it out alive on the other side.

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Open SSL Heartbleed Bug Security Update

At this time, we have no evidence that iDoneThis has been attacked or that there has been any compromise of user data. All our measures have been precautionary.

We recommend that iDoneThis users change their passwords.

Heartbleed for the Less Tech-Savvy

Heartbleed is a recently uncovered security vulnerability in OpenSSL, which is used to secure highly sensitive data such as passwords. This would allow would-be attackers to view sensitive, encrypted data from a compromised site without leaving a trace and to use this data to potentially impersonate users of the site.

We’ve fixed the security vulnerability and recommend that you change your password as a precaution.

See the BBC’s coverage as well as Lifehacker’s plain language explanation for more information.

Heartbleed for the More Tech-Savvy

Yesterday the OpenSSL Project released an update to address the CVE-2014-0160 vulnerability. This vulnerability affected over 60% of web sites, including iDoneThis.

We updated the relevant code on our servers on April 8th, 2014. As of 1pm (Pacific Daylight Time), the vulnerability is no longer present.

As a precaution, we have also re-issued our SSL certificates and revoked our old ones.

Questions or Need to Get in Touch?

Email Rodrigo at rodrigo@idonethis.com. Head here if you need instructions for how to give us security reports.

How to Keep Believing in Yourself

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I stood there catching my breath. Thoughts were gushing in my mind. “You don’t even believe in me,” I sighed to my best friend. “No one does.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, it dawned on me. This was a metaphorical mirror — a projection of my own reality. I’d hit a wall. Exhausted physically and emotionally from working 100-hour weeks, it was now as clear as day: I had lost my way in believing in me.

This wasn’t about others, it was about my own relationship with myself.

Usually fueled by a quiet confidence, I’d become worn down, paralysed from making decisions as big as the best way to issue company stock right down to the minutiae of which Instagram filter to use. I was plagued with self-doubt. Which was the best way forward? What are all the possible outcomes? Are things succeeding or failing? Who can and will help me? How do you keep believing in yourself?

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How to Attract the Right Audience and Subvert the Funnel

We were lucky enough to have Chris Savage, co-founder and CEO of Wistia, deliver a great talk to the Vegas tech community on why video marketing is so powerful when building audiences and how to make video production easier.

The good folks at Wistia often recommend to video newbies that they work with whatever camera they have handy — so we MacGyver’d something with Walter’s iPhone, some tape, a picture frame, and a bar stool to capture Chris’s words of wisdom.

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3 Simple Systems Tweaks for Growing Your Business

In Part 1 of this series, guest poster Mandi Ellefson showed how focusing on systems within your business brings out the best. In Part 2, she explains how to choose what to target for the most momentum.

If you want to grow your business more sustainably, be proud of every project you deliver to clients, and get the best out of your team — build systems. Focusing on your business processes empowers you and your team to do great work and see more creative, reliable results.

But if you’re impatient like me, you want to see that improvement quickly. The good news is you can begin right away with this simple method: Start small, and change one thing at a time.

Why? You’ll get immediate feedback. By focusing on one change at a time, you can isolate the results of every change you make. Putting more than one change into the mixing pot makes it tricky to analyze. Even small changes can have larger consequences. Your business is an ecosystem, so tweaking one thing can cause multiple effects.

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5 Startup Founders on How to Find Startup Success

When I interviewed my favorite founders for my book, Startup Series, to gain better insight into their road to success, I got some honest, inspiring, and even harsh answers.

Speaking with the founders of reddit, Indiegogo, AngelList, and Kissmetrics, just to name a few, about their biggest accomplishments and hardest lessons has been eye-opening. What’s been most surprising and reassuring is that these founders are just like us. Hard work and heartache got them to where they are today — and the journey for the rest of us will not be much different.

From hundreds of answers, here are my five favorite tips from founders that will inspire and guide you along your own entrepreneurial path.

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A Non-Developer’s Guide to Understanding Software Developers: On Coders and Climbers

I am not a developer, and until I started with iDoneThis as its Chief Happiness Officer, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know any.

It’s taken me some time to understand how to relate to developers. It’s part of my job — I work with them, I’m immersed in the tech world, and many iDoneThis teams are developers. I need to be able to relate in order to understand their pain points, what makes them happy in their work, and what they need from a tool like iDoneThis.

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Trying to relate to startup developers through the prism of my earlier profession as a former lawyer didn’t really work. The startup world couldn’t be further from Wall Street law firms and junior attorneys.

So here’s what finally did work. I found the connection through my greatest love, a hobby-turned-obsession: climbing. And coding, I’ve realized, is a lot like climbing.

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Treat Yourself Like a Role Model

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In December I completed my first 200-hour yoga instructor certification. With New Year’s resolutions in full gear and Q1 initiatives in motion, I’m often reminded of an idea I explored during my certification and has guided me since, in both my personal life and in all of my work at Zirtual.

The idea is simple yet stunningly important: You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Our society has an intense quest for productivity and endless improvement. We look at our past with a dissecting eye and zoom in on what we didn’t accomplish. We set goals and record what we did, day in and day out.

But how do we use this data? Is it to celebrate each accomplishment? Hardly! We usually use what we have done to highlight what we haven’t, and everything starts to center around what’s next. “Tomorrow I’ll get through this,” we say. Or “next quarter I’m finally going to tackle that.”

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