Reporters' Roundtable: How to start a tech business today

Got a great idea for your own tech company? Today we're talking about how to make it a business, with two great guests: XMarks CEO James Joaquin, and Mahalo CEO (and This Week in Startups host) Jason Calacanis

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
3 min read

Today we're talking about how to start a company in 2010 and 2011. A little background: I started covering startups in 1998 at a magazine called Red Herring. I wrote a daily column about startups called Catch of the Day. Over three years, I interviewed the leaders of over 1000 companies.

Most of those companies are now out of business. The methods of starting companies in that dotcom bubble were, clearly, temporary. The companies didn't last. Today we're going to try to learn from the last bubble, look at the current state of the economy and of technology, and try to come up with some guidelines for starting a new tech business today.

Our guests: First, in the studio, we have James Joaqin, CEO of the browser bookmark sync company XMarks. I asked James to be on this show, though, because he was also co-founder of a dotcom bubble company called When.com, a calendaring app that was acquired by AOL in 1999 for $200 million, almost exactly one year after the company was founded. When.com won the lottery. We'll be talking about that, and whether we think it's possible, or even desirable, to have that happen again. James was also co-founder and CEO of Ofoto, which was acquired by Kodak.

And joining us from Santa Monica:Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo and co-founder of ThisWeekIn, a podcast network for which Jason just happens to host a podcast called This Week in Startups. If, after this show, you want a deeper dive into the workings of starting a tech business, be sure to check it out. Jason is an angel investor in companies and was previously CEO founder Weblogs Inc, which launched blogs like Engadget -- which AOL acquired.

Watch this: Art of Start


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Show notes and talking points

Say I wanted to start a tech business today. What is unique about this point in time for starting a business?

So how do you stay ahead when the barriers to start are so incredibly low?

How do you attract people to work at your brilliant company?

What did we learn from Bubble 1.0 (1998-2000)?

What is the lean startup movement? Discuss the "Minimum viable product."

Let's talk about raising money. When do you do it, how much should you look for, and from whom?

And the exit: Discuss IPOs, acquisitions, etc.

Open spaces where you're looking for opportunities?

Most educational failures.

Should you beta test your business model at same time you beta the code?

Listener question from Christopher Beyer: "I have several manual processes I've developed for performing network administration tasks (like device discovery on an IP network) that I could automate in software. When I look through existing patents, I see close to 100 patents for ideas very similar to mine. Is it worth spending the money to hire a patent attorney to investigate this for me, or is it worth taking a chance that my idea is really different enough (or small enough no patent holders will care) and save the $$$ I'd have to pay for an attorney?"

Next time: The Defcon/Blackhat report with Declan McCullagh, Elinor Mills, and Seth Rosenblatt

E-mail comments to roundtable@cnet.com, and get all the show notes as well as replays and downloads of the podcast on the blog.

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