# Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I often get the question, “why the focus on hybrid development for your accelerator?” This question has come up more and more as Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s focus on HTML5/hybrid development was a mistake.

As I argued over a year ago on this blog, it is mistake to bet exclusively on native or hybrid since some Apps will call for a native approach and some will call for a hybrid approach. Projects that need maximum performance and hardware interaction will require a native approach (medical scanning/rendering apps and some games come to mind) and projects that require larger reach and very fast time to market require a hybrid approach. Each approach has its limitations and trade offs.

If I advocate both approaches in a developer’s toolkit, why would I be starting the world’s only Hybrid Accelerator? The reason is that a startup should never, ever, go native. The very nature of a startup is that you have no money and require a super fast time to market. Just last week at a startup networking event in Hong Kong two super cool startups showed me their native apps on their iPhones. They then asked me what I thought of the app. I said: “your app sucks since over 75% of the smartphone market can’t use it, myself included as an Android user.” They countered: “we have no money, so we choose one platform to build the prototype on.”

My advice for them and most startups: For your prototype and V1 release you should go hybrid. You will have a much broader reach and won’t have to maintain two or more codebases (and double the programmer staff.) You’ll save time and money. Once your company matures and you have lots of users and the money to spend on the development, then you should consider going native if you are bumping into the limitations of hybrid development (chances are only a small percentage of apps ever will).

What about a company with 1 billion users, over $1b in profits post-IPO, and a super slow API in the first place? Yes, Mark Zuckerberg proves my point, hybrid development helped Facebook get to market fast with its hybrid mobile app. It was not a mistake for Facebook to go to market fast and cheap with a hybrid app. The mistake Zuckerberg made was not deploy some of those profits to build a better hybrid or go native years ago.

posted on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 2:07:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [4] Trackback
# Thursday, September 13, 2012

As Paul and I are starting to review the first batch of applications to AcceleratorHK, we have stressed that you can’t apply for the accelerator program with only one founder. The optimum team make-up is two people: one “business” co-founder and one “technical” co-founder.

The most frequent question that I get from potential applicants is: “Why do I need a technical co-founder?” The question alone tells you something since it is not: “Why do I need a business guy co-founder?” This tells me that there are TONS of excited non-technical people willing to take the plunge and start a business, but not enough techies. This is a problem.

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I answer this question by saying that first you can’t do it all alone. Very few tech companies today were founded by one business guy. Second, at such an early stage (and by definition if you are applying to an accelerator you are an early stage), you will be doing a lot of Customer Development, MVPs, and “pivots.” It is critical in this early stage that your tech lead is part of the Customer Development process. If your tech lead is not a co-founder, at best, they will not understand Customer Development and want to do product development, and at worst, they will resist the process every step of the way. Only by constantly meeting with potential customers, doing Customer Development, and “having skin in the game” will a programmer be able to deliver on the vision of the company.

I’ve witnessed quite a few early stage companies enter an accelerator with a hired gun (consultant) as the “technical co-founder” in order to satisfy the two co-founder rule. The founder and the consultant have an agreement that the consultant would build the MVP and prototype and get the company to demo day in exchange for some equity. Never have I seen this work out; most have had disastrous results. In just about every case the consultant “co-founder” is in consulting mode and complains that “all those Accelerator meetings get in the way.” By forcing the startup into product development mode, the consultant negates all the benefits of the accelerator, since all accelerators are built around the Customer Development methodology. This also shows the level of disengagement, an accelerator cohort is for the entire team, not hired guns. I have seen one company recently lose their technical consultant “co-founder” halfway through the accelerator when he got a better gig. He used the first pivot as an excuse to bail. (At least he returned some of the equity.)

Usually, the non-technical founder is held hostage by the development team’s schedule and often times, the development progress is slower. Since the same level of passion is not there, the consultant just chugs along doing what he is told, leading to a misallocation of total work. You have founders working 16 hour days sleeping under their desks and the programmers pulling some overtime grumbling that they are losing money on this gig.

The only exception I have seen to this is a founder who had a team of guys in another country as full time developers lined up. He applied to an accelerator and was told he needed a technical co-founder, so he brought the lead developer to the accelerator for the duration of the program. While this worked out well, the company already had enough cash on hand to lock up the development team, so this is probably not the case for most other early stage startups.

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If you are thinking of doing a startup, remember you can’t do it alone. If you are non-technical, you can’t outsource your core intellectual property. Besides if you can’t convince a techie with a well paying and stable job to quit and work at your high risk venture for free, then well, you probably don’t have enough sales skills to convince customers to buy your revolutionary new product. Smile

posted on Thursday, September 13, 2012 9:21:32 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Over the past year I have been a mentor at an accelerator called Haxlr8r. Haxlr8r, based just north of me in Shenzhen, China, is a unique accelerator since it is the only accelerator to focus exclusively on hardware startups. The targeted hyper-focus of the cohort paid dividends as everyone is in the same space and learned from each other and shared their experiences.

That got me thinking, why not do the same for software!?!? Over the past few months,  I’ve been helping organize the first ever early-stage startup accelerator in Hong Kong. This accelerator is not like any of its kind. It is the only accelerator to focus exclusively on startups doing hybrid mobile development. Why the focus on hybrid? Gartner predicts that by 2015, 80% of all mobile applications developed will be hybrid or mobile-Web-oriented. Just like at Haxlr8r, the laser beam focus of the cohort on hybrid mobile development will only enhance the experience. Why Hong Kong? There are two mobile phones for every man, woman, and child in Hong Kong. In a country of 7 million people, there are 7 independent 3G mobile phone providers with coverage everywhere, even in the subway and on top of the tallest mountain. Facebook penetration in Hong Kong is one of the top per-capita in the world. Hong Kong is not only all over Twitter, but Weibo as well. This is one mobile crazy town, the average taxi driver even has 2 phones. Hong Kong is a great place to validate your mobile app and one of the top places in the world to do business.

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The accelerator runs from Nov 5th to Feb 8th and we are going to to provide mentors, investment ($15k USD), lean startup education, co-work space, demo day with investors, just like the gazillion other accelerators out there. In addition, we will also add a little on software development best practices, provide access to free developer tools (Telerik’s Icenium and KendoUI), do agile development training (I think accelerators forget about item #2 in the Customer Development Manifesto), and include free Pluralsight subscriptions.

I think that this represents the next stage of accelerators; laser focused with a little extra love for the tech team.

Want in? Apply today, we close out the cohort applications in a few weeks.

posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 7:21:32 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback