Jessica Mah’s $500 to Startup

Jessica Mah, 18-year old entrepreneur, launches her startup, internshipIN, today. Her total cost was about $500 and roughly two weeks of development time. She started the website with two other friends (Arielle Patrice Scott and Andy Su) at UC Berkeley, with her story here:

internshipIN began at Gypsies, the local Italian restaurant in downtown Berkeley, where Arielle and Jessica discussed how they planned to change the world. They knew it had to do with helping other students and startups, they just didn’t know how. They were only a couple of bites into their pasta when the laptops were busted open and they were discussing implementation and design – internshipIN was born.

But Jess knew she was going to need Andy on board to make it happen. Arielle’s stomach went crazy waiting to find out if Andy would agree to join the team or not. She didn’t wait too long, however, because a couple of hours later, Jess and Andy were already working on a prototype. (what a great way to procrastinate math homework!) With only five nights of coding, the two of them were able to launch the first beta.

InternshipIN is a job board, specifically focused on the internship matches between employers and students. InternshipIN allows employers to make job posts, while also crawling other job boards, such as SimplyHired, for internship-specific listings. The website’s goal is help smaller companies find good talent for a fraction of the price.

Moreover, getting that first summer internship is pretty hard. When I was looking for internships a few summers ago, I remember how nerve-wrecking it was. I had basically no work experience, and there were not any specific tools to help me out. This website aims to fill that niche. Another website that students may find helpful is InternshipRatings.

Overall, internshipIN is a good example about just getting your product out there. Their website is very minimal, but it works. The next step for them would be to get user feedback and continue to iterate on top of that. I wish them the best of luck.

Start A Blog

I sound like I’m from 2004, but start a blog! Loren Feldman, who usually goofs on Silicon Valley, makes an excellent speech why you should start a blog. In the world of social networks, blogs are the decentralized form of them. Be passionate about what you write and people will discover you. Even if no one visits your site, at least you’ll get practice writing.

Big Companies As Market Openers

It is normal to be afraid of big companies. With all their resources, they are a major competitors and steal your customers with a snap of a finger. For example, I’m sure Google Calendar killed a lot of other web applications out there. However, another view that people don’t normally think about is to look at large corporations as market openers. As much as they have the power to move things against your favor, they have just as much power to move things in your favor.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs have really great ideas, but the market or infrastructure is just not there yet. Big companies have the power to move the industry, thus complementing your ideas. More often than not, you need them as much as they need you. Let’s take a look at some examples.

1. Photobucket and Myspace. Photobucket had been known as the “parasite” of MySpace. It was the go-to site when uploading pictures and hotlinking them from your MySpace. The social network created a huge market for people to show off pictures to one another. As a result, MySpace acquired Photoshop. Both would not be the same without one another.

2. Blogging and Google. I would argue that blogging would not be as successful if it weren’t for Google indexing them. Blogs seem perfect for a high page rank: unique content, lots of words, many pages within the site, and updated constantly. Linking to one another is almost essential in blogging, as pro bloggers live off their SEO. Again, both parties have benefited greatly.

3. Mobile Apps and iPhone, G1. Mobile applications has long been known as “the next big thing.” Every year, investors repeatedly say that this was the year for mobile applications to take off. Each year ends in disappointed. However, with iPhone and G1, innovation has finally begin to take off. Of course, the story has just started and things are only beginning to pan out. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. How open or close Apple and Google wants to be going affect how startups operate.

There are other examples, such as iLike and Facebook, YouTube and the rise of broadband. Take a look at what big companies are doing now. Where are they moving and take advantage of the opportunity. As simple as that sounds, I’m not sure exactly how easy it is to do that. As smart as you are, the market can make or break you.

To quote Marc Andreesen:

Ironically, once a startup is successful, and you ask the founders what made it successful, they will usually cite all kinds of things that had nothing to do with it. People are terrible at understanding causation. But in almost every case, the cause was actually product/market fit.

Kevin Rose: Start Up During A Recession

Kevin Rose chimes in on why he thinks it’s good idea to do a startup in the midst of an economic downturn. My views is similar to his. He agrees with Paul Graham’s original post, and so do I. Since Facebook, Youtube, Digg, MySpace, and Flickr were founded, there hasn’t really been any other companies that has captured my attention in the same way (well, maybe except twitter). There has been a lot of excitement, but frankly too much noise.

Why to start a new startup in a bad economywww.kevinrose.com

Thx @loltini for showing me the vid.

Job Boards Fell 46%

While Startuply seems to be doing OK, other job boards have been seeing a decline in jobs. Joblighted, an online job aggregator, has reported its statistics, showing a clear decline in job listings. As I noted, Startuply is only one player this entire ecosystem, and it’ll be great to see data on others as well.

Joblighted aggregates some of the biggest job boards, such as KropJobs, 37 Signals Jobs, CrunchBoard. While, there roughly 65 jobs posted per day pack in July, now there are roughly 35 jobs posted per day in October. That’s a 46% drop. Moreover, $4,902,859 spent were spent on 22,704 job listings. That translates to about $216 per post. The creator of Joblighted has also noted that, “in the last few weeks my subscriber counts went up at much higher rate than they used to,” meaning an increase in people looking for jobs. Unemployment is at 6.1% right now, and I really don’t want it to go higher.

On a side note, a lot of big blogs have been making good side money with their job boards. With advertising falling and job postings declining, maybe we will see a few more angry bloggers on the rise.

Below is a pie of Joblighted’s top sources:

  1. Krop Jobs 439319.3%
  2. 37signals Job Board 341715.1%
  3. Joel on Software Jobs 291812.9%
  4. CrunchBoard 269611.9%
  5. TechGigger Jobs 15196.7%
  6. Startuply 14696.5%
  7. Authentic Jobs Full-time 12655.6%
  8. Slashdot Jobs 11705.2%
  9. Python Job Board 7893.5%
  10. Coroflot Jobs 7273.2%
  11. VentureBeat JobBoard 4401.9%
  12. FreshWebJobs 4081.8%
  13. Ajaxian Jobs 3571.6%
  14. MetaFilter Jobs 2571.1%
  15. JavaScript Ninja Jobs 2030.9%
  16. Ars Technica Job Board 1910.8%
  17. Smashing Jobs 1600.7%
  18. Read/WriteWeb Jobs 1470.6%
  19. nPost Startup Jobs 1270.6%
  20. Jobs on the Wall 280.1%
  21. Boxes & Arrows Job Board 230.1%

These statistics is mainly for startup jobs. Other big names such as Indeed, Simplyhired, and Monster, would be interesting to look for bigger companies. One crucial site that seems to be missing is Craigslist jobs. That would be really interesting since it covers across all industries.

Startuply: Job Market Holding Steady … So Far

It’s clear by now that the technology industry is not insulated from the Wall Street fallout. Layoffs have been popular from large corporations (EBay, Yahoo, HP) to startups (Mahalo, Seesmic, Adbrite). On the hand, TechCrunch has also noted that many of these layoffs may not be actual layoffs, but just an opportunity to get rid of the dead wood.

I reached out to Startuply, a YCombinator job site focused on jobs at startups, for their input on this matter. Luke Groesbeck, one of the co-founder, stated that he “hasn’t seen any major effects from the recession…yet.” Moreover, “It’s pretty normal for us to see a 1%-2% fluctuation in the total number of job listings on a given day.” While VC’s have been warning startups with scary presentations, investing will not freeze totally. Through a phonecall, a VC expressed that “startups are always hiring.” I believe it’s just a matter of which ones. Startups that are still growing are well-positioned to take hires from the startups that are oversized (as Allen Stern questions their startup status).

Personally, I believe that job sites such as Startuply are more important than ever in times of hardship. While hiring may not be as aggressive before, people maneuvering between jobs is an inefficiency that needs to be solved. As hiring slows down, some crucial factors will arise, giving the company a chance to grow:

  1. Fewer startups will hire for fewer positions. By keeping their numbers decent, Startuply can reach a bigger share of the startup market.
  2. More people will be looking for work…(including a whole lot of Yahoos!)
  3. Fewer jobs + more applicants = more applicants/job (and a higher applicant quality, too)

Of course, Startuply is only one small player in this big ecosystem. Another job matching site I admire is SnapTalent. From Compete.com’s data, it seems their traffic has dropped in the month of September, when a lot of the layoffs started occuring:

Taking Compete’s data with a grain of salt, I think this is also a time for SnapTalent to grow and help solve the market inefficiencies. More people will roaming their publisher website widget, rather than working. I may even create one myself just to test it out.

Looking at all of this, one thing is clear to me: college seniors need to start buckling down; no more picking and choosing like it’s 2006. It might be a little more realistic to just take what comes now.

Update: Other Job Boards chime in

Loopt Coming to T-Mobile G1

Loopt just announced it’s Android version of its application.

Loopt on Android is coming soon and the team here has their hands full developing on this wonderful and robust platform. We’ve included a sneak peek with two screenshots. On the left is the Map View of you and your friends with a roll of your friends at the bottom. Click on a friend’s image and you’ll know where that person is. On the right is the Friends List, showing you where they are, their distance from you, and what they’re doing.

Lead by 22 year-old Sam Altman, Loopt has come a long way since its original launch. This was actually a company I doubted at first because of the limitations of mobile phone at that time. With iPhone and G1, their product is starting to look more promising. The company has done a good job tackling at upcoming technologies, rather than just mature markets. While they still have much work to do before any meaningful user adoption, they are positioned pretty well to become the leader in this field.

On a side note, I think Android would be way cooler if it had a better looking UI. I sort of get an Linux feel out of it. While it works get functionally, it just doesn’t have the oooh factor of a Mac.

Be Crazy, But Not Delusional

Entrepreneurs are always telling other entrepreneurs to just go for it. Drop out of school, start a company. Quit that job, do something you’re passionate about. We are the misfits. I’m totally for the gun-ho attitude, but I think it’s almost important to keep a realistic mindset.

I don’t want to see people putting their whole life on the line, on an idea that probably just won’t work. Do you really need another generic web 2.0 toy. There were a lot of toy-ish websites built from 2006-2008, and most of that will die given the recent economic downturn. People need to get real. Build something that solve problems.

1. Know when to quit. My logic is same as what Seth Godin says in The Dip: “What really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.” Think about if you are fighting a drawn-out battle. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell, but are users interested? do you have a core following who keeps coming back. Know when there’s a cliff ahead of you and that you need change paths.

2. Be prepared to fail, and adapt. Your college degree will probably do you no good in world of startups. Your first idea probably won’t be your best. However, maybe you don’t need to quit entirely. The smartest thing to do is probably see how you can modify your product to something better. You can’t be cocky or arrogant. Don’t be stubborn and try to fit a square in a circle. Loren Feldman is probably going to tell you that you suck, and be prepared to face reality.

3. Have a backup plan. What the hell are you going to do if the startup dies? Would you have the motivation to start another one? Can you go back to school? Outline a plan of what you’re going to do, and see if it’s something you can handle. We always hear about the startups that succeed, but rarely about the ones that disappear. It’s crazy to do a startup, but it’s delusional to go on with the idea thinking it’s a one-way street to billionaires.

4. “All we have to get is 1% of the market.” Don’t let this be your only motivation for pursuing your startup. First of all, getting 1% of the market is not that easy. And second of all, if you product is only geared toward 1% of the market, it’s probably not going to change the world. Even saying your “projections are conservative” is not a good approach; you have no idea what your sales are going to be.

5. Make App, Get On Blogs, Profit! Don’t let your entire marketing plan be based on getting on TechCrunch. The best way to go viral is to build an app that matters. Similarly, Facebook’s platform is not going to help you “go viral” if you making something meaningful. Then again, 90% of Facebook apps are meaningless, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

That being said, it’s much easier to criticize than to actually build something. Like many others, I still have a lot learn. I still believe it’s still a good time to start up. Go crazy :)