Dharmesh Shah

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Boston Web Innovator Registration Stats (and $200 reward for trivial PHP Script)

By Dharmesh Shah on January 27, 2008

I've been a regular attendee of the Web Innovators meetup in Boston/Cambridge for a long time. I can remember way back when all the attendees (less than 50) would fit into a bar. I remember when Reddit presented for the first time in public.

The group has grown considerably since then. There's a meeting coming up this Tuesday (Jan 29, 2008) for which there are already 650+ people *registered*. Of course, not all of them are likely to make it, but that's still a pretty big number.

Since I have some reasonably structured data from the RSS feed of the attendee list, I thought I'd take a quick peek at some of the data. I figured if I'm interested, others would be too:

Here's a quick idea of how many of the attendees match certain search terms (there are 659 right now).

Note: This "data" (and I use the term very, very loosely) is for amusement value only. Resist the temptation to criticize me for this frivolous and unscientific approach.

Search Term (and number of matching results):

1. Developer: 13 (This number is way too small).

2. Programmer: 1

3. Investor: 0

4. Venture: 39 (!)

5. Startup: 3

6. Mobile: 8

7. Blog: 162 (Lots of people with links to blogs. Great to see)

8. MIT: 22 (Yay, MIT!)

9. Harvard: 20 (Harvard's not far behind).

10. Babson: 1

11. Marketing: 33 (Lots of marketing. I'm surprised).

12. Sales: 11 (Even sales is getting into the startup game).

13. Finance: 2

14. Architect: 14 (More architects than developers. Who's building all the great software?)

If you're ambitious, and want to take a more programmatic approach to this, I'm going to offer a small bounty of $200 (payable via PayPal) to the first person reading this article that can develop a simple PHP script that does the following:

1. Can be invoked via a query string parameter named "feedurl" (passing in an RSS feed URL)

2. Retrieve the contents of the feed and parse all data into tokens.

3. Output a simple HTML table which shows all "tokens" found in the various elements in the feed, in descending order by hit count.

For test data, you can use the feed I used for the above brute-force analysis:


Rules: Void where prohibited, no purchase necessary, only one winner, and I get to decide what's considered "working". Email a working, public URL where I can test the script to dshah [@] onstartups.com. If you're the winner, I'll post a notice as a comment on this thread. If you win, I agree to send you the $200 to a PayPal address of your choosing and you agree to send me the code (so I can make it available to others or use it for whatever purposes I choose). Deadline is 11:59:59 Eastern Time today (Jan 27, 2008). If nobody participates, no harm done.

Please, no questions allowed. It's a trivial dollar amount and it's supposed to be fun. Just use your judgement. If I had time to clarify the rules further and answer questions, I'd write the script myself (smile).

Note: If you're working for HubSpot, you're ineligible. Give someone else a chance to make some quick cash.

Hope to see you at the Web Innovator's meeting. If you're an OnStartups.com reader and end up attending, please come up and say Hi. I'll be the introverted Indian guy that's trying really hard to avoid making eye contact with people he doesn't know.

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Why Your Startup Shouldn't Hire Seth Godin

By Dharmesh Shah on January 25, 2008

A recent article by Zoli Erdos really got me to thinking about startup hiring. The article was titled "Startups: Executive Hiring Challenges or Beware of the Suits".

If you're a startup founder about to hire an executive (particularly if you're using an executive recruiter), you should really take 15 minutes out of your busy day and read Zoli's article. You'll thank me (though you should thank him).

I'm going to lead with a comment I put on Zoli's blog:

A startup should not hire Seth Godin for its VP of Marketing. It should hire the next Seth Godin.

Before I go on, if you don't know who Seth Godin is, feel free to replace with someone else you know who is really successful.

Here's why you shouldn't hire Seth:

1. Though past success is often a predictor of future success, it assumes similar circumstances. If you're hiring some hot-shot executive from Oracel to be your VP of Sales and that executive sold $300MM (or managed people that did), that does not mean they're going to be able to make a single sale for your startup. Or even find people that are going to sell for you. They may just not have it in them.

2. Even if they would be successful at a startup (because their prior success was a startup too), if they've been that successful, they're not going to be particularly hungry and aggressive. Yes, there's a certain floor of passion that some successful people are going to have (they're constitutionally incapable of working 40 hour weeks), but the fire is not going to be the same. They don't have a point to prove. They've already proven it. This is somewhat paradoxical. If they're really as successful and good as they look on paper, they're probably not going to be hungry.

3. Startups are an arbitrage game on many levels -- particularly recruiting. Any chump can pay $250,000 a year plus options and go hire a VP of Marketing with a pedigree. Show me a startup that can recruit world-class people at below fair market value (at least temporarily) and I'll show you a startup that has their head on straight. In the world of startup recruiting, you're playing a passion arbitrage game.

4. Beware the resource needs of executives from big firms. Though they may be great at turning a $20MM marketing budget into $2 billion, it doen't matter much if you don't have $20MM. They be a world-class player, but you may not have what they need to succeed.

Summary: Use your passion and instincts to help find the next Seth Godin, and then help them kick-butt.

Topics: recruiting
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