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Joel Spolsky On How To Bootstrap a Business

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the got-aeron dept.

Businesses 75

Meredith writes "This is a great interview with Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software. Joel talks about the negatives of taking money from venture capitalists, and how the entrepreneurs that don't take money become 'super entrepreneurs,' learning how to make something significant out of nothing. This is a very popular interview among tech entrepreneurs and provides really valuable information for startups."

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75 comments

Joel Spolsky drinks the Frosty Piss (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22375934)

Yes, that's right. You wouldn't think it, but I've served him up more than his fair share of steaming mugs of frosty piss. I guess it's the foam he likes so much. It's a New York thing I'm guessing.
 

Speeking of bootstrapping (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376144)

I'd like to bootstrap my cock into your mother's arse.

Re:Speeking of bootstrapping (0, Flamebait)

professional_troll (1178701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376230)

Like how I'm doing it you your mother's throat?

Re:Speeking of bootstrapping (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376304)

Like how I'm doing it you your mother's throat?
Ha! You just got herpes!

Note to the obviously inexperienced (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22378804)

Her pees come out of a different hole. :-P

Re:Joel Spolsky drinks the Frosty Piss (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22386966)

More like a homo thing. Joel Spolsky is a notorious homosexual and often engages in anal fisting, water sports, docking, scat, cock and ball torture, etc. Not the kind of guy I'd take advice from.

hell ya (4, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376010)

Pretty much anyone in business will tell you - if you want to build an idea to sell off later, get the money from wherever. If you want to build a business, a VC is your last resort - only use them if you *really* need a shit load of money to even start. The negatives just outweigh the positives, especially in this day and age where a lot of businesses can be started with a $500 server and a fast internet connection.

hell ya-Make millions with my system!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376330)

"The negatives just outweigh the positives, especially in this day and age where a lot of businesses can be started with a $500 server and a fast internet connection."

Coming to a broadband connection near you. Downloadable hardware. Now what?

Re:hell ya (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377282)

But you could borrow $5 million for your Web 2.0 site vap.0ur.war3.com change your name to Vicioso Gonzalez and then flee to Mexico.

Re:hell ya (1)

emag (4640) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381282)

My lawyers will be contacting you and /. with a DMCA Take Down request for disclosing the contents of my new start-up's business plan, as soon as they stop chasing the ambulance that just went past...

tradeoff (2, Interesting)

brenddie (897982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376080)

it depends on your situation. IF you have the time, money, skills and patience you could make it work with less compromises. Most of the time you get to a point where all you want is to finish as soon as possible and start getting some profit. For that to happen you need to make some compromises. Maybe you will end up with less profit as you add more "partners" but the load should be less and you wont go crazy or loose your hair trying to figure out how to get the money to finish

Re:tradeoff (4, Insightful)

coolGuyZak (844482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22378444)

The main concern with venture capital isn't losing capital, it's losing control. VCs invest large sums of money into a company, they appreciate large returns on that money. The agreements an entrepreneur enters are usually rather draconian. The preferred stock VC's request include limitations such as veto-power on board decisions, "first dibs" on liquidation funds, multiple seats on the board, etc. VC's also hold a "predatory" mindset; often, they wholly replace your executive staff within the first year of acquisition. Their influence can impose "corporate" values on your company, to the detriment of the environment an entrepreneur previously established. For some businesses, VC is the only way to finance a fledgeling business.

If you're business doesn't need this kind of capital, there are many other options available to you. Loans, angel investors, hedge funds (almost VC for the east coast), family investment, and "winging it". Often, these methods require about the same amount of as attracting VC. The upside: more control. The downside: less capital.

Confused (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376152)

I am seriously confused. I learned the golden rule as a teenager: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

If your parents are paying for your food and shelter, you do what they say.
If you pay for your own food and shelter, you do whatever you want.

In business, if you get venture capital; the investors have equity in the business.
If your equity capital comes from your own pocket, you take all the risks and reap all the rewards.

In politics, public campaign financing lets all viable candidates compete on equal footing with no ulterior motives.
Without public campaign financing, candidates rely on "donations" (read: bribes), tell you they are interested in alternative energy, yet provide oil companies with record profits and state-sponsored corporate welfare.

In those famous words: "Show me the money!"
Why is it that so many people seem ignorant of this basic premise of how every "civilized" human society operates?

Re:Confused (5, Insightful)

shenanigans (742403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22378060)

I agree. And as a lot of people are now finding out, if you go to the bank to pay for your house, then it's not really your house at all.

Everyone is ignorant until taught otherwise. That is why basic financial sense and responsibility should be taught in school, along with a great deal of other things that are missing. Unfortunately, western schools (it's the same here in Europe) are still geared towards creating industry workers in countries that hardly have any industrial production left.

Re:Confused (1)

aevans (933829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383764)

It's really pointless to teach basic financial sense in school. They should really just teach everyone how to become NBA players, so that they'll have enough money to not have to worry about finances.

Re:Confused (3, Interesting)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22379454)

Without public campaign financing, candidates rely on "donations" (read: bribes), tell you they are interested in alternative energy, yet provide oil companies with record profits and state-sponsored corporate welfare.

Or we could cut taxes, close down numerous government departments, replace the lobbyist-designed federal tax code with the Flat Tax [hoover.org], and otherwise reduce the amount of loot for "special interests" to fight over. It'd make life easier for small businesses who don't have K Street lobbyists on retainer to protect them from the federal government too.

Let 'em take all the campaign donations they want, just have full and immediate disclosure on the Internet.

Re:Confused (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380890)

In politics, public campaign financing lets all viable candidates compete on equal footing with no ulterior motives.
It also means you're wages are being docked to fund candidates you hate.

It also gives politicians the power of deciding who's allowed to stand against them.

Re:Confused? Yes you are. (1)

Shadowlore (10860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22388640)

In politics, public campaign financing lets all viable candidates compete on equal footing with no ulterior motives.

BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!
Seriously, mod this guy up as Funny.

Big hole in theory #1
"Who determines who is viable?"

Big Hole in theory #2:
In order for your notion to (pretend to) work you have to ban private money being used. All of it.

Those who have the gold (can make the laws) will decide who can be considered "viable" in your proposed system. It's bad enough now, it'd only get worse. At least now if the government or powers-that-be don't think you (or want you to be) viable you can still go prove them wrong by getting your own funding.

By banning private funding you just cut off millions of people's free speech. That's your nose lying on the floor as you laugh at your face.

There is one and only one solution to the "problem" of campaign contributions:

1: Reduce the demand.
Politics follows supply and demand laws like virtually everything else. If the legislators have less power there will be less demand for them. The more power a legislator can have the higher the price will be.

2:
Remove all limits that natural people have on contributions and ban *any* corporation or other government created/sanctioned entity from having any. Let PEOPLE decide.

3:
Realize that just because person A gives money to candidate A doesn't mean candidate A is bound in any way to follow what Person A wants. Most people/groups contribute to people that *already* are going to or are more likely to vote the way they want them to.

The vast amounts of money going to elections is a symptom, not the cause. Fix the cause (excessive power among legislators), everything else is a finger bandage on a sucking chest wound.

Your trite "Show me the money" is a scapegoat. It lets you believe you've done something when all you've done is exacerbate the problem and left the festering arrow in the wound.

WHY is the money going where it is? THAT is the important question. What do you ostensibly get for your money?

If Senators did not have the power to grant favors from government, people wanting favors would not try to pay Senators for favors. Yes, it is that simple. Nobody is going to pay me to build them a race car because I can't do that.

Some may consider this an extreme example but think about it. If there were no government taxes, who would be lobbying (i.e. spending money) for tax breaks? Nobody! If the government did not or could not "protect" subsets of people such as through "professional licensing", who would be lobbying for their group to be protected? Nobody!

The sad reality in today's politics is that the arguments have been tortured into "what bad things are we going to do this time?" not "why should we be doing those bad things?".

Until the debate/arguments get back to those basics, we are all screwed.

Read something from someone more successful (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376274)

I'd be more impressed if this were from someone who started up a company that grew. This guy has a little software company with one product, and he's had a little company with one product for, what, ten years now?

For comparison, read The Autodesk File [fourmilab.ch]. Autodesk was started with $60K from the founders, never accepted any venture capital, and had revenue of $1.8 billion last year.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376302)

Wishing for mod points. Joel has one piece of poorly written software. And he takes this as license to spout off his mouth like God.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376354)

I see three of them at fogcreek.com.

I must not be able to count :-\

Re:Read something from someone more successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376878)

Only one is successful enough to be noted as an example.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (5, Insightful)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376600)

The reason you might want to imitate Spolsky is the nature of his success. He hasn't got a growth company, he's got a massively successful boutique ISV. They've got several products, none of which is particularly hot; but collectively, they sell more than enough, at a high enough price, for him to maintain an office in Manhattan that an architect redesigns every year. He also pays really high salaries and retains all the dot-com benefits so he can hire one or two rockstars (his term) a year, run an internship program, blog, and just generally be the IT celebrity that he wants to be. The company funds largely useless world tours for the launch of his software, which is just a business deductible junket for him. And I bet the code for all his products is *exactly* the way he likes it.

No one will ever use his name in the same sentence as Torvalds or Jobs or Gates. But he's got a pretty sweet lifestyle, and I bet most here would trade their left nut for it.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (3, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376712)

But he's got a pretty sweet lifestyle, and I bet most here would trade their left nut for it.

Well...not my *left* one. That one's my favourite, you see. I know you're not supposed to have favourites, but I can't help it.

You owe me! (1)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376886)

You owe me a mouthful of Mountain Dew Amp and a new keyboard.

For the record, you're allowed to have a *dominant* one, just like being right handed... I happen to be right nutted.

You'd better laugh; I'm going to lose a job interview some day over this post when they ask me what tech. sites I frequent!

Re:You owe me! (3, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376936)

You'd better laugh; I'm going to lose a job interview some day over this post when they ask me what tech. sites I frequent!

Only if you fill out 'Gazzonyx' on the job app.

And I don't owe you any Mountain Dew Amp or a keyboard. I have diplomatic immunity courtesy of my sub-5-digit Slashdot UID. :)

Re:You owe me! (1)

NateTech (50881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22389254)

I'm surprised we haven't seen people buying/selling low Slash ID's on eBay... with all the amazing perks and what-not. Ha.

Re:You owe me! (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22389798)

I'm surprised we haven't seen people buying/selling low Slash ID's on eBay... with all the amazing perks and what-not. Ha.

Nah, people just don't get rid of these things - they run 'em into the ground.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (2, Funny)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377062)

Well...not my *left* one. That one's my favourite, you see. I know you're not supposed to have favourites, but I can't help it.

You people are all going about it wrong. You shouldn't trade your left nut. You should trade somebody else's left nut. This is a business proposition after all. *grin*

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377150)

You people are all going about it wrong. You shouldn't trade your left nut. You should trade somebody else's left nut. This is a business proposition after all.

Your proposal is acceptable. Fork over your left nut.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376720)

How does that compare with Autodesk's founder, John Walker [fourmilab.ch]? He made millions, retired, lives in Switzerland, and spends his time hacking on whatever he likes, 24/7.

I suspect he's closer to slashdot's ideal than Spolsky.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (2, Insightful)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376736)

Spolsky made enough from Microsoft and Juno that he doesn't need to work. Fog Creek is what he wants to do. I imagine that comes from his non-open-source career--his dream is having his own perfect ISV, rather than contributing to research or open source.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376866)

But it's a bit strange -- he's notable for his successes at Microsoft/Juno. Now that he's had a chance to practice what he preaches in his blog, shouldn't Fog Creek be incredibly successful? If not, why does anyone read his blog?

Re:Read something from someone more successful (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22377004)

He used to provide a lot of insightful posting on the software industry. These were not, whatsoever, based on his own insights but rather how Microsoft worked internally. As Microsoft was unique in how well it worked and was still the pinical of the industry, it provided a lot of good information for others to copy. If you read his essays about Microsoft now, they seem like good ideas already widely adopted. But back then, they were true gems.

However, if you look at Joel's actual achievements, there's not much to be wow'd by. In fact, he seems less than stellar and ignorable. Thus, his popularity has steadily decreased as he has less to offer. For the last few years, his entries have mostly been advertisements.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377518)

OK, that explains Joel's fame, but what of the likes of Jeff Atwood? Every post seems to be a proof of finding the truth by deliberately placing incorrect information on the internet.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22379018)

You're still defining success as huge sales and the company that goes along with that. That's not where Spolsky wants to work. He makes tons of money selling some niche products (really, just bug tracking and easy-remote-desktop for consumers). He gets to run his own business, with no interference from VCs. Because profitability is so lopsided for him, he gets to live the executive life of a much larger company (architect designed Manhattan office, junkets to the far east) with fewer than twenty employees. He also doesn't compete with anyone who might decide to crush him with sheer corporate mass. And he's free to experiment with new business ideas.

Perhaps I've misestimated ./ers definition of success, but that's one I'd be totally happy with.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377276)

I don't know how you can suggest Walker is close to the slashdot ideal considering the man actually works on his diet [fourmilab.ch].

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

MagicMike (7992) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383004)

Ah, but +1 on the Hacker's Diet, a no-BS diet that actually works

Goes a long way to dispelling the Unix Guru stereotype when you're actually *not* the guy with the beer gut :-)

The company you want, vs the most profitable (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376942)

I debated for a good half a minute about whether to AC this. Surely it would be read by a lot more people if I posted under my normal /. account (which has at least a few fans, and my posts are generally modded up), but I think I would feel constrained in some ways about what I could say. Normally I am very open in my slashdot posts, but I'd like to talk about some of the transitions that our company is currently in, and I wouldn't be able to do that openly under my normal nick.

I'm the CEO of a tech startup (not in IT/IS, however), we've been a legal entity for about 2 years, and the entire project is 3-4 years old. I spent every penny I had to get started, and bootstrapped the rest of our seed money (around $1M) from family. There was a bunch more stuff here about how the project started, but I edited this and cut a lot of fluff out, because I dont think anyone needs to really read it to get the point. We build a few products, products that are technically superior to our competition, and at the same time cheaper.

When we had recently began to engineer the first product, I started to talk publicly on the Internet about what I was up to, and asked for feedback. People responded positively. Although some of the other companies out there are more hype and marketing related, and it was difficult to compete for attention when we had zero marketing budget, we were able to get good feedback from serious users. Some people I knew in the industry introduced me to executives at some of the more serious players that would eventually be corporate clients. Some of them dismissed us entirely, I think both because I don't look like a CEO, and because we aimed to do things that were very complicated, and to do them reasonably. One time in an introduction meeting, I actually had the CEO of one of the potential clients/partners spend about 85% of the meeting talking directly to our lead engineer (who is about twice my age) instead of to me, because I guess he didn't listen well when we were introduced, and had assumed I was the engineer and "the gray-haired guy" was actually the CEO, haha.

The greatest reward of bootstrapping, for me, has been the ability to run the company I want to. For me, that means making tools for other techies, and making them accessable to techies. I'm not really a CEO, I'm a techie. I've probably made some less than optimal decisions as a CEO-- We could have priced our product at double what the competition sold their crippled ones for, and it would have made more net profit, but I didn't want to cater to just the most affluent segment. I didn't want to cripple my products just to slowly dole out a "new" version of the same old tech each year with less embedded crippling. I wanted to make a really robust, useful product, get it in the hands of guys like me, and use the profits to make it better and better.

So as you point out, Spolsky enjoys the same type of company I do-- I could make more money by changing our business model, but I wouldn't be as happy. I wanted to run an office where people didn't have to conform to some arbitrary dress code that had no bearing on their job performance, or leave their pets stuck at home alone all day. Life should be about enjoying yourself, and I feel very fortunate to be in an industry where I do enjoy myself, and no longer be in a position where I have an idiot CEO above me, who doesn't really HEAR what I'm saying, and with whom I have to wrestle to do my job properly. I try to listen to our engineers, designers, programmers, and *NOT* be the archetype of the idiot CEO that we've all had to deal with before. Our competitors.. most of the people in the industry know those CEOs by name. Most people in this industry probably couldn't tell you my name (although most of them know our products!). The downside (if you want to call it that) of being a niceguy techie CEO is that most people don't take you seriously as a CEO-- I don't inspire Jobs/Gates/Trump style excitement with the various fanboys of my industry (as I said, most of them wouldn't know who I am), but I make the products I want, and they work better than the products our competitors make ;)

The flip side, is that there's a lot more I'd like to do, product-wise, and if I want to do it in a timely manner, it will require some pretty serious second round financing. We've finally reached the day I've been dreading.. we're taking meetings with venture/equity investors, and I have been weighing pretty heavily the tradeoffs between being able to make three times as many powerful and well-priced products, while no longer enjoying all of the "bootstrap atmosphere" our company has. We've come to be known as the little guys, who don't spend money on hype or marketing, but we're at every tradeshow, and we'll grab a beer with anyone. Venture investment will mean bringing on a big PR firm to elevate the profile of our products. The manner in which I conduct myself (along with the couple other "executive level" guys at my startup) will have to change-- I don't know that I'll have to start wearing a suit, but I'll definitely have to become more of a CEO than I am now, and less of a techie. Or, I'll have to step into a more appropriate role ("Director of R&D") and some other guy will run the show.. not something I'm excited about either. Worse yet (one could debate if "worse" is the right word here), I've seen several other small companies that started out a bit before us, gobbled up by the "microsofts" of our industry. For me, the idea of an eight figure payout sounds pretty enticing-- but I'm quite cogent of the fact that those guys I knew who started those small companies.. they all wear sweatervests now, and when I see them at tradeshows, their business cards say "Executive Vice President of [bigfuckingcompany], blahblah division." They have to go to work everyday at [microsoft/ibm of my industry], and deal with the archetypical CEO, and sure they now drive Aston Martins, but I don't know that having a fat bank account and a car twice as expensive as my current one will exactly balance the scales when I have to deal with a less open work environment, seeing the efforts of my labor priced at 3x what they are now, and fighting with beancounters about whether we will or won't cripple features in the products to enhance our revenue streams.

So good for Spolsky for living the way he wants to. I fear I may soon "sell out," at least to some degree, and I'll have to come to terms with that (I mostly already have).

Re:The company you want, vs the most profitable (1)

legoburner (702695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377772)

Just posting to draw attention to the parent post. Mods, mod it up as I dont have any mod points right now!

Re:The company you want, vs the most profitable (1)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22379208)

You talk of dreading going after venture capital. Then why do it? Yes, R&D is expensive, but are you profitable. I think if you are profitable, and you keep turning your profit back into R&D, you will be able to go to market on your own, albeit maybe not as fast. I have no idea what industry you are in, but if your products are superior, then I don't think you have to be run under by your competition. It is YOUR company. If you dread bringing in the vulture capital, then don't do it. Find alternate means. Maybe branch out into a new market for your product that did not see a need for it, but is a new and novel use. Maybe find private investors. The bottom line is do what you want to do, how you want to do it. The way you write, it sounds like, yes, you could grow the company through VC, but if you did you would pretty much become what you loathe.

Re:The company you want, vs the most profitable (3, Insightful)

eison (56778) | more than 6 years ago | (#22381536)

Summary of your post:
Companies with a better image have more people using their software. You spend no money on marketing and enjoy a collegiate atmosphere. Your next step is to get a better image. You're going to get VC and scrap the collegiate atmosphere to do it.

So:
Why do you need the VC to have a marketing budget and a better image? Why not just spend some money on marketing and have somebody (yourself in a suit, an imported gray hair, whatever why should it matter who your customers think is in charge if it makes them happy?) present a polished look to the world so that you can get more customers and write more software?

Nothing particularly magical about the VC money. They might have connections, and can probably recommend a respectable looking gray haired new CEO, but you can find those things without them too.

answers and such. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22387626)

Your next step is to get a better image. You're going to get VC and scrap the collegiate atmosphere to do it.
We already have a good product image, and it continues to improve every day, but the overall brand image definitely doesn't fit the traditional mold-- and while I'm okay with that (the real users go for products that work; multimilliondollar tradeshow booths are not a significant factor imo), going the VC route will necessitate elevating the total profile of the company, including the founder (me) and one or two of the other top guys. Some of this isn't even bad stuff, pe se-- [big-PR-firm] proposed me authoring a monthly editorial column in a trademag. But I can just feel that overall, the direction of the company will lean a lot more towards a stuffier atmosphere.

Why do you need the VC to have a marketing budget and a better image? Why not just spend some money on marketing and have somebody (yourself in a suit, an imported gray hair, whatever why should it matter who your customers think is in charge if it makes them happy?) present a polished look to the world so that you can get more customers and write more software?
The marketing budget would be in regard to increasing the valuation of the company, as one of many parts in a long term exit strategy (see: comment I made about getting absorbed into one of the MSFT/IBM of our industry). We could probably endure that budget without VC money.. the bigger issue at hand is that rolling a company into being profitable takes several years, and building a full suite of profitable products takes perhaps a decade. If we want to have that suite going in the next year or two, it will mean bringing on sizeable investment. The tradeoff is that instead of making a dent in our industry, we could revolutionize things. One or two really good and reasonably priced products are nice.. but a whole end-to-end offering is an entirely different story. The only way I can see to actually get there is to take on VC money, though. Rolling profits into development of new products means attacking them one at a time (with a 2yr development cycle), and using the profits from A to fund B. Develop B over 2 yrs, and use profits of B to fund C. The [bigfuckingcompanies] of our industry are starting to take notice to what we're up to, though, and if we continue to move at a slow pace (A then B, B then C, etc), our competitive advantage over them is significantly weakened (as they can design A, B, C, D, E, F all right now, with just the change in their sofa cushions, and use the intervening years to improve them and create vendor lock-in).

I'm pretty proud that we've made it as far as we have, given the barrier to entry in our industry. Similar companies might have spent 10x as much cash and not gotten as far (but we had a solid idea, and a (less than voluntary ;) commitment to run lean since our seed funding was bootstrapped). I guess my ultimate point was to say that I really enjoy running a company the way I think it should be, and with the principles I feel are important, rather than to some arbitrary standard.. and VC money changes that.. but sometimes you're faced with no option. I respect Spolsky for figuring out a way to do it on his own and stay true to what matters to him (and perhaps a bit of luck in the process assisted him). Of course, long term, if things do work out (re: exit strategy), my next venture will be self financed for the long haul, and I can run it as I please.

Re:The company you want, vs the most profitable (1)

aevans (933829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383924)

You're right, you should have told us more about who you are. Then we might be we willing to take some of what you say seriously. That's the difference between you and Joel. Whether he's done it right or not, he puts his name and his product on the line when he talks.

Re:The company you want, vs the most profitable (1)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22384718)

Good post. Why not just sell out, then start another company with your "sell out" bucks? The hardest thing for a creative person to do is to let go of the creation, once it starts a life of its own, and be able to walk away without regrets to create something else. Does the company you leave behind really need you in the driver's seat, or CTO chair, that badly? Or are you so ingrained in the culture you cannot step aside? Can you divorce yourself from something you really enjoy so it can grow beyond what you realize or imagine? If you can, then you have a skill which few posses.

Re:The company you want, vs the most profitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22392908)

I bootstrapped my own company the same way. I think our stories are quite similar since I don't look like a CEO either. I am 32, but I could easily pass off for someone who is 22 - that is despite the fact that I dress pretty formally. I noticed that people don't take us seriously even when our products are pretty good due to the following reasons:

1) The fact that I look very young. Also, I am a techie.
2) The fact that we are not a big company (number of employees)
3) The fact that our office though nice isn't built like a Googleplex.

I decided to change a few things around to get ourselves to be taken more seriously and it has worked.

1) I started to dress very formally (much more than before - including suits). I have noticed that brands are pretty important even for things like the phone you carry, the watch, shoes you wear etc.
2) I now drive a fancy car
3) I have made some changes in the office to make it look much more swanky
4) I have also changed my personality a bit to make myself a bit less friendly and more bossy. (Sad, but it works)

Over time, I am thinking of moving my office into a more expensive locality (I am already in a fairly expensive locality) and get one of those offices with glass facades (though I live in a tropical country and glass facades are absolutely stupid to have in this country because of the amount of sunlight that it lets in and the resulting heat).

The truth that I learned from this experience is that people are stupid and that they will judge you and the company you represent within a minute of meeting you. After this first impression is made, no matter how good your product, you can only get them to deviate from that impression by x% (where x is pretty small). So it is very important to choose all the weapons in your arsenal to ensure a great first impression.

I never thought that external appearance would mean this much, but I am finding out that it does matter a lot.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380930)

Even with all that, it just makes him a successful businessman, not an entrepeneur.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22382306)

A businessman runs a business. An entrepreneur creates one. He created his from scratch, with a partner. The scale isn't relevent.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376702)

I guess that was a good troll, because it made it to +5, but it seems kind of weak to me.

One product? Offhand, I can name three [fogcreek.com] separate [fogcreek.com] products [copilot.com] which FogCreek ships.

Doubly so because you're comparing it to AutoDesk, which has ... well, there's AutoCAD. I don't know any others. According to the Wikipedia, the first non-AutoCAD product of mention is Revit, which they bought in 2002, after the company was 20 years old.

FogCreek is only 8 years old. Even AutoDesk wasn't paying $133 million for other companies when they were only 8 years old.

I'm not seeing anything particularly useful in "The Autodesk File". Could you point out what parts of it might be of use to us budding CEOs? I like the parts about how they're stocking up on 8" floppy disks [fourmilab.ch] and looking at porting to C for the 8086 and 68000 [fourmilab.ch]. It's a regular blast from the past, but I don't see anything here that's very useful in building my own company.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (0, Troll)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377106)

Yes, three products, but what good are they? They don't run on Linux!

Re:Read something from someone more successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22379514)

Right, except for FogBugz for Unix [fogcreek.com], which runs just fine on Linux.

Really, if you're going to criticize Spolsky, it should be for his attempted cover-up of the McKinstry suicide note, rather than for any deficiencies in his mediocre software.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380150)

Troll??? The moderators who don't recognize a joke must be out in force.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

edwdig (47888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22380286)

Doubly so because you're comparing it to AutoDesk, which has ... well, there's AutoCAD. I don't know any others.

I'm sure you've at least heard of 3D Studio, right? They had 3D Studio in the DOS days, which was replaced by 3D Studio Max for NT.

They also had AutoDesk Animator, a 2D animation package. I think that died off in the late 90's though.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22382094)

I'm sure you've at least heard of 3D Studio, right? They had 3D Studio in the DOS days, which was replaced by 3D Studio Max for NT.

I'm not a graphics person or a DOS/Windows person, so no. Strangely, that wasn't in the Wikipedia history.

3D Studio DOS was first released in 1990, when AutoDesk was 8 years old. So if FogCreek ships a second product this year, they'll be right on target. But wait! FogCreek is already on number three.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

thetagger (1057066) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377970)

I'd be more impressed if this were from someone who started up a company that grew.

He seems to be happy. Beat that.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22379932)

You must not have read much of what he's written about his business over the years. Way back in 2000, he posted a perfectly good explanation [joelonsoftware.com] of why his business wasn't going to try to grow really quickly. A year later, he posted another article [joelonsoftware.com] explaining why trying to grow quickly is such a monumentally stupid gamble (if you're the developer and not the VC).

Your example of Autodesk is pretty stupid. Autodesk was started in 1982, which was 26 years ago. They were a very early player in the market for CAD software, and they did a lot to shape it. They were in the right situation to grow almost as fast as the market for their kind of software. I'd imagine their sales data would probably support Joel's assertion that "good software takes ten years." Fog Creek, on the other hand, produces software in markets that are pretty much saturated, and they've only been around for 8 years. So far, everything seems to be going according to plans for Joel.

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

aevans (933829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22384074)

Wrong. Autodesk was a very early player in the PC market. They were going to create a form builder application, then a general graphical library, then stumbled onto CAD. AutoDesk was a perfect example of a flexible company that followed market demand instead of pigheadedly trying to sell their "product."

Re:Read something from someone more successful (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22384958)

The point is that they started producing CAD software long before CAD was a common concept and household term. They got in on a developing market. That isn't always possible these days, and it isn't something anybody sane should count on being able to do.

Seems to be interresting but... (1)

Smartcowboy (679871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376362)

Where is the text of the interview?

Re:Seems to be interresting but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22376542)

Agreed. The interviewer's voice was grating on my nerves, and the quality of the recording was subpar. If anyone finds a link to a text version of the interview, I'd be interested in reading it.

Transcript? (5, Insightful)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22376880)

I'm really disliking this trend of posting interviews in a video format. Just because you can doesn't mean you should... come on folks.

Anyways, anyone know if this thing has a text version or transcript of some sort with it? :-\

Re:Transcript? (1)

finnw (415539) | more than 6 years ago | (#22377864)

I'm really disliking this trend of posting interviews in a video format. Just because you can doesn't mean you should... come on folks.

Anyways, anyone know if this thing has a text version or transcript of some sort with it? :-\
There's an interview with Joel Spolsky in "Founders At Work" by Jessica Livingston with some quite similar content.

Re:Transcript? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22377892)

Lessee, less to download, easier to (re)read, you can scribble on it and it's easier to save. And, it's way faster to read something than watch something. So, unless there's a performance aspect to Joel's interview, yeah, how about a transcript? Or, is this only intended for people who have to stand or bike on the way to work?

Re:Transcript? (1)

ubergoober (151136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22383714)

But wait! A transcript could never describe the awesomeness of an interview narrated by Homestar. NOW I see the genius!

/bet Strongbad's jealous

Re:Transcript? (1)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 6 years ago | (#22386004)

I agree, who has time to WATCH stuff, I mean when you could read it.
I find a video less engaging, and mosty a negative experience, it would probably spawn a seperate browser window which will then spawn a codec download, which will then spawn a reboot required, and - where was I?

AIK

Re:Transcript? (1)

epine (68316) | more than 6 years ago | (#22388796)

I agree. Video is even slower than reading a 40 page article at Toms Hardware, sliced up to contain one paragraph of text and 17 bar charts on each page.
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