Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rich Miner @ MIT

Rich Miner of Android - Google fame spoke to us at Founder's Journey on 10/13. It was a lively discussion on the future of Android vs. other platforms, and the stakes riding on Android's success. It was followed by a Q&A session, some of which I managed to capture below:

He was asked why Google does not build cell phone handsets. He responded "Our goal has never been to monetize handsets or Android. Instead of one perfect handset, consumers will have a pretty broad set of excellent handsets. If we can achieve this, we will have succeeded." Quite a contrast to Apple which perfected one widely acclaimed handset. It's a very different mindset - one vs. many, closed to the point of being paranoid vs. fully open, seeking complete control over the user experience vs. come, build and make the experience what you will, lock in with a single carrier vs. freedom to choose your favorite carrier and handset...

When asked how does one know they're a bright entrepreneur with a compelling case, Rich's instant response was "if you don't know that about yourself, you're not going to convince anyone else of it". Well said! He then expanded on it: "We never fund ideas, we fund teams we believe in. The teams we choose to fund have a decent idea that is defensible, that they can get to market, in a reasonable amount of time".

Some other thoughts Rich shared:

- In order to build a capital efficient business, the key is to assemble the right founding team so the idea can be moved along as far as possible before money needs to be raised.

- When the business model is unknown, present an investor with different options - a systematic and realistic process for how you are going to evaluate each opportunity to zero in on the business model that's the best fit or the company.

- When deciding who to raise money from, think of geography (VCs have strong local network), and expertise within the firm.

- On the value of east/west coast start-ups for a web/IT company, it is eventually a personal decision, combined with a knowledge of how effective you can be with your own network.

The constant refrain was "Know thyself!" - whether it be self-confidence in one's capabilities and ideas, knowing the markets and industry one's trying to play in, or, knowing what it takes to assemble a winning team.

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