Startup Panel Review

Dan Croak


Last night’s startup panel included representatives from self-funded (thoughtbot), angel funded (oneforty), and Series A and Series B funded companies (Panjiva and Zendesk). All four companies are using Ruby in some form.

While many topics were addressed, such as why each company uses Rails, how they developed their products, how they hire, and how they secured funding, there was a common theme to every topic.

People are the most important part of a startup

The following quotes are paraphrased from memory and Josh Nichols’ notes.

“Investors aren’t interested in Ruby; They’re interested in startups.”

  • Jim Psota, Panjiva

“The most important effect of publishing open source code for us has been attracting great employees.”

  • Matt Jankowski, thoughtbot

“The best people want to be part of something big so as a founder, you need to articulate the vision and communicate why it makes sense to job candidates.”

  • Jim

“The great secret of startups is every day you’re doing something for the first time so the most important quality we look for is ability to learn quickly.”

  • Jim

“We secured our angel round through networking. They then introduced us to the right people for later rounds.”

  • Jim

“We were initially self-funded, then raised enough from friends and family, offering 1% portions of the company for cheap, to allow us to work on the product full time.”

  • Morten Primdahl, Zendesk

“When you pitch an investor, be very honest. Say, ‘These are the things I know, and these are the things we don’t know. Here are our current hypotheses on the things we don’t know which we need to experiment on.’”

  • Jim

“We secured angel funding due to the strength of our founder’s network. She knew or found the right investors for our type of business.”

  • Mike Champion, oneforty

“It’s a positive to structure your team like Lincoln’s ‘team of rivals.’ Contrarian views questioning the status quo are necessary from inside the organization.”

  • Jim

Comprehensive notes

If you’re interested in reading more about the tools, techniques, and technologies each companies use, read Josh Nichols’ comprehensive notes, which are available here.