I find all the web talk about venture capital and startups unsettling, and disturbing, but it can be occasionally interesting. The onstartups.com blog has been posting some nice articles lately, definitely worth reading if you are into this startup stuff..
In the most recent essay, titled “The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups”, Paul identifies (as you might expect from the title) the common causes of startup failure.
I’d like to focus on point is #17: Choosing The Wrong Platform
I agree with Paul that picking a wrong platform can indeed sometimes kill a startup, but I’m not yet convinced that this is always the case. History is replete with startups that picked what were widely considered to be the “wrong” platform and still survived to tell the story (and make a ton of money in the process). ..
But, this is not my primary point of contention with the article. Little harm is done by identifying wrong platform selection as a potential mistake that startups should try and avoid (in fact, I think it helps to raise awareness of the importance of this decision). My issue is with how Paul advises startup founders go about actually picking a platform.
Paul Graham: “How do you pick the right platforms? The usual way is to hire good programmers and let them choose. But there is a trick you could use if you're not a programmer: visit a top computer science department and see what they use in research projects.”
I agree with the first half. A great way to pick a platform (if you’re not a programmer yourself) is to hire great programmers (not just good ones) and let them choose. But, I don’t think visiting a computer science department and seeing what they use in research projects is an effective strategy. Here are my issues with this particular approach: