When we were building Flickr, we worked very hard. We worked all waking hours, we didn’t stop. My Hunch cofounder Chris Dixon and I were talking about how hard we worked on our first startups, his being Site Advisor, acquired by McAfee – 14-18 hours a day. We agreed that a lot of what we then considered “working hard” was actually “freaking out”. Freaking out included panicking, working on things just to be working on something, not knowing what we were doing, fearing failure, worrying about things we needn’t have worried about, thinking about fund raising rather than product building, building too many features, getting distracted by competitors, being at the office since just being there seemed productive even if it wasn’t – and other time-consuming activities. This time around we have eliminated a lot of freaking out time. We seem to be working less hard this time, even making it home in time for dinner.

Caterina Fake – Working hard is overrated – Sept 25, 2009

Startups are hard. They require an insane amount of hard work and stress. But I like how Caterina calls out the difference between freaking out vs working hard.

The double standard

Reading Techmeme this morning and came across two stories that gave me a bit of the heebie jeebies.

1. Carriers aren’t happy with the FCC Chairman’s position on net neutrality

ATT & VZW believes net neutrality should apply to wired broadband service providers but not mobile carriers. I believe that is a double standard.

Mobile carriers use cable’s broadband network, without permission, as a dumb pipe with their 3g microcells (femtocells). What would happen if TWC or Comcast blocked ATT microcells connectivity. Answer: ATT would be pissed.

Here’s what FCC Chairman Genachowski said yesterday:

This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.

This principle will not prevent broadband providers from reasonably managing their networks. During periods of network congestion, for example, it may be appropriate for providers to ensure that very heavy users do not crowd out everyone else. And this principle will not constrain efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and spam-free Internet experience, or to enforce the law. It is vital that illegal conduct be curtailed on the Internet.

That’s exactly right Julius.

2. Microsoft Poaching Apple Store Managers and Sales Staff.

This one is more like a rumor. And I have no idea if it’s true or not. But here’s the thing. Microsoft recruits from it’s competitors all the time. As does Apple. As does Google. etc. Competition is good and crazy competition is even better.

But here’s my issue: if you work for Microsoft you are required to sign an employee non-compete agreement (boo!). That means Microsoft won’t let you easily leave and join a competitor but they have no problem hiring from the competition.

That’s a double standard too and I don’t agree with that.

N.B: I don’t want to sound righteous here. I’m sure I am guilty of my own double standard from time to time. But I am passionate about these two issues (net neutrality & non-competes) so I had to point them out.

In closing, we are here because 40 years ago, a bunch of researchers in a lab changed the way computers interact and, as a result, changed the world. We are here because those Internet pioneers had unique insights about the power of open networks to transform lives for the better, and they did something about it. Our work now is to preserve the brilliance of what they contributed to our country and the world. It’s to make sure that, in the 21st century, the garage, the basement, and the dorm room remain places where innovators can not only dream but bring their dreams to life. And no one should be neutral about that.

Some thoughts about company culture

I think company culture is extremely important. It’s true in a big company and it’s true in a startup. I’m not talking about a 7 point mission statement that hangs in the office kitchen.

I’m talking about something much more natural and part of the fabric of the company.

But one size doesn’t fit all as you can see in the very best companies.

Apple’s culture and Google’s company culture couldn’t be any different. And I’m not suggesting that one is better than the other. In fact I don’t think you can. Each culture works for their company.

That culture impacts everything though. It impacts the company point of view about hiring, customers and conduct. It also impacts their attitude about product design and attitude about release.

I see some companies in our portfolio shipping product regulary and often. They want to get their software out to the masses and they want feedback so they can do it again and get better each time.

Other companies tend to be much more obsessive about what goes out the door and would rather wait a bit more to get it right.

And while I think company culture can vary from one successful company to another, I think there is one thing in common they all have: a culture of operating execution.

The best companies know how to execute. They take nothing for granted but they expect it and they work hard at it. Really hard. They get into a rhythm where decisions are made and stuff happens. They do it with respect & care. They strive to get better. And it happens everyday.

I don’t believe you should try and force your culture to be like Zappos or Apple or Google or Facebook or Craigslist. That feels too forced to me. It has to be natural and most often comes from the founders and the initial core team.

But i think everyone has a important role in the company culture. And it’s something to handle with care.