Not so long ago, the internet startup landscape was driven by individuals who had creative ideas and the determination to create a product. While the startup landscape is still driven by these individuals, they now have teams of people that help turn their visions into a reality. Today, while reading about the launch of MOG TV I began wondering about what happened to the old companies where the technology was developed by one individual (with the help of reused code, I’m sure). Examples include Napster, MySpace, and eBay. While all these technologies have additional programmers that have since improved the systems, all the existing programs were created by a single individual.

Now that the web has become more complex, and new technologies need to be leveraged (AJAX, SOAP, etc) to make a presentable site, start-ups are requiring small teams at a minimum to get off the ground. While this point has been hit on by many other individuals, it suddenly hit home when I saw the success of a new online music community (MOG). I myself tried to single-handedly create an online music community while in college. While the project (Frusic) ultimately failed, I know that it was pretty much up to par at the time (with the exception of some minor kinks that needed to be worked out). While witnessing the change of the startup environment on the web, I have learned a few things.

In the rapidly changing environment of the internet, new startups require a few key components:

  1. A well defined product - I have worked for and heard about countless companies that fail to have a well defined product, or companies that have a continuously changing product offering. To get the company off the ground, a well defined product (or service) is critical. Later on, you can afford to introduce new products to the market. In the beginning though, follow the KISS model (Keep it simple stupid).
  2. An enthusiastic team - To get over all the initial hurdles that face a startup, the employees should be passionate and enthusiastic about what they are creating. If the employees aren’t excited, it will show in the product. While I will allow this rule a little slack, it is pretty darn important.
  3. Rapid execution - This is a critical component of a successful startup. Development models such as agile software development are needed for a startup to succeed. In unsuccessful startups, as new products and technologies become public, the startup will try to adopt the new system into their product that still has not launched. As a result the product ends up in a continuous cycle of adding new features, testing, and back to adding new features without ever launching.

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list of key components of a successful internet startup. It is simply a few of the maxims that I like to follow. Additionally, I do not intend to suggest that going it alone in a startup is ever the right way. It is simply a fact that some of the largest internet businesses were started by one person from the comfort of their own house (or dorm room). Nowadays it is much more challenging for the rare individuals to succeed given the massive influx of venture capital and dynamic teams. While it still is possible, it has become even more rare.