5 startup lessons from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg & others

I spent the past few days at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. My aim wasn’t so much to cover the news, but to soak in ideas both on and off stage. While I saw a lot of promising startups and a few great ideas, mostly it was a way for me to get plugged into the zeitgeist of post-Internet entrepreneurship. Or perhaps it was just that I need to be around some blind optimism to take the focus off the harsh reality and ugly truths of our world.

Either way, the best part of the conference for me was to quietly sit and enjoy the wisdom (amongst a lot of marketing) shared on stage. I picked out five things that stuck in my mind long after the event ended and am sharing these with you.

Evan Spiegel, co-founder & CEO Snapchat


“A lot of people talk about the feeling of wearing Google Glass and having technology melt away, but I don’t think that acknowledges the experience of all the people standing around the person wearing the glasses.” (more)

My takeaway: You can’t design and build consumer technologies without understanding how they impact social interactions and behaviors. You also have to understand, no matter how cool your idea might be, there is always some social friction to adoption. It was the case with instant messaging back in the day and that will be the case with Google Glass or some smart watch.

Boris Sofman, co-founder & CEO, Anki

All entertainment will have a higher level of intelligence built into it. (more)

My takeaway: Entertainment isn’t going to be what it has been in the past, and thus there are opportunities to create new experiences. Most importantly, this intelligence is going to be in pretty much everything we will interact with in the coming years and intelligence will be a key part of the design/interaction experience. (Early examples are MindMeld and the marriage of MotoX with Google Now.)

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter (& founder of Feedburner)


There are many different ways to be successful, and you need to find your own way to be successful.

My takeaway: If you don’t know what success means to you and your startup, then you are pretty much on a wrong path. A vertical social network trying to define success by matching Facebook’s growth (and metrics) will always look like a failure. (PS: I loved Costolo’s talk — it was passionate, delivered from the heart and it didn’t really have a single Twitter marketing pitch. Only thing missing: his trademark comedy.)

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder & CEO Facebook


Building things is about seeing things through and sticking to it.

My takeaway: Founders always underestimate the amount of grunt work and patience it needs to build something that is lasting.

Don Valentine, founder, Sequoia Capital


What is important is to have the ability and willingness to be different. Great companies are built with different products by different people.

My takeaway: Don’t belong to the herd, think and do different. Don’t let rules define the strategy, hiring or path your products might take.

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Also, from Disrupt 2013, I posted these two pieces: