31 lessons on startups, writing, books, habits, productivity from Danny Crichton, contributing writer at TechCrunch

Total read time: 10-15 minutes

While in Singapore for Echelon 2014 (annual tech conference in Asia), I used the opportunity & shot the long overdue 15th episode of ‘Princeton Startup TV’ where my guest was contributing writer at TechCrunch - Danny Crichton.   

Danny Crichton is currently a doctoral student at the Harvard Kennedy School and a contributing writer at TechCrunch. Founding his first company in high school, Danny was formerly an investor at General Catalyst Partners. Danny was a Fulbright Scholar in South Korea, where he was a visiting researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon. He worked in product management at Google, where he conceived and launched Google+ Search. His award-winning thesis was on the history of Silicon Valley and Stanford’s Department of Computer Science. He graduated with honors and Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a B.S. in Mathematical and Computational Science. 

We discussed a ton of topics: lessons learned as an investor at General Catalyst and APM intern at Google+, his favorite home screen apps, book recommendations, typical day as a writer, techniques to make yourself to write, daily habits and goals, productivity tips, mistakes novices make in writing & blogging, favorite quotes, all things startups and Silicon Valley, etc. Here are the 2^5 - 1 lessons from Danny:

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Daniel Ha, CEO and co-founder of Disqus: 9 lessons on the path to reaching a billion readers

Total read time: 6-8 minutes

Daniel Ha is the CEO and co-founder of Disqus, the web’s community of communities, online discussion and commenting service, which reaches one billion unique users a month. Daniel studied Computer Engineering at UC Davis before deciding to drop out from school to pursue his startup full time. He was selected as one of the "Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs 2011" by Businessweek.

Here are some of Daniel’s most memorable thoughts from the interview.

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53 Electrifying Minutes (or 20 Minutes, It Depends) with the Stanford superstar - Feross Aboukhadijeh

Total read time: 20-25 minutes

The 13th episode of Princeton Startup TV is coming to you from Mountain View, CA. Our guest is Feross Aboukhadijeh. He’s currently Master’s student at Stanford where he got his BS degree in Computer Science, but more known to the world as a web developer with interests in high-level programming languages, browsers and web framework design. In the past he worked at Quora, Facebook and Intel. What skyrocketed Feross to fame was Youtube Instant - a real-time search engine hack built in 3 hours as a bet with his roommate. The site got immediate worldwide media attention - 1 million visitors in 10 days with hundreds of news stories including stories at NY Times, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Washington Post. Chad Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Youtube, was so impressed that he immediately offered Feross a job at Youtube.

- Let’s start big. What’s your life story, starting from where you grew up?

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Justin Kan, co-founder of Justin.TV and Exec: ‘You’ve got to have the relentless ambition to not give up!’

Total read time: 10-12 minutes

Justin Kan is the ‘Justin’ of Justin.tv, co-founder of one of the largest live video platforms in the world with more than 30 million uniques/month, TwitchTV, mobile social video app SocialCam, and errand service Exec where he currently serves as the CEO. He is also an angel investor and part-time partner at YCombinator. Justin graduated from Yale University with degrees in physics and philosophy. 

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Aaron Lee, co-founder & CTO of Redbeacon: ‘If things are under control, you’re not going fast enough’

Total read time: 13-15 minutes

On the day of leaving to East Coast for my friends’ graduation, I went to the offices of Redbeacon in Foster City, the affluent small town next to San Mateo, to interview its co-founder and CTO, Aaron Lee, who I’ve met at MIT Startup Connector event hosted at Plug & Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA a couple of weeks earlier. Since I don’t really look for local service providers, my only familiarity with Redbeacon before that was the fact these guys won the prestigious TechCrunch 50 conference in 2009. 

Let’s quickly introduce the guest of the episode. Aaron is the co-founder and CTO of Redbeacon where he works on product design and engineering. Prior to that, Aaron was one of the founding engineers on Google Video as well as Tech Lead on YouTube monetization. Before joining Google, he worked at Bosch building one of the most advanced 3D navigation systems for in-car infotainment. Aaron received his Ph.D. in Computer Graphics from Princeton and has interned at NVIDIA, Microsoft Research (where he received a Microsoft Fellowship), NASA Ames Research Center and Lucent Technologies. He has published papers in SIGGRAPH, IEEE conferences. Aaron earned an M.A and B.A. from University of Cambridge with first honors in Computer Science. Aaron holds four patents with seven others currently pending.

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30 Insightful Minutes with Frank Chen, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Total read time: 18-20 minutes

The 10th episode marked the first VC on the program! Last Wednesday I went to the office of one of the leading Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Andreessen Horowitz, on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, CA to talk to a partner at the firm - Frank Chen.

Before joining Andreessen Horowitz, Frank was the VP of products at Opsware. Prior to that, he was a director of client services at Loudcloud. Before Loudcloud, Frank worked for as a VP of products & UI design at Respond.com. He also served as a director of product management at Netscape, a product manager at Oracle and a senior technical writer for GO Corporation.

We set up an interview with Frank’s assistant back in February over email. And two months later here I was sitting at the conference table at A16Z next to him: 

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Sahil Lavingia, 20-Year Old Founder & CEO of Gumroad: ‘Be Contagious and Optimize for Happiness’

On Saturday I sat down with Sahil Lavingia, founder and CEO of Gumroad. We had a great time talking about different things ranging from optimizing for happiness to living in the world of opposing truths. Sahil shared how his ideal day look like, why he prefers to talk to makers, and not necessarily public figures; how he got his first 10,000 users and in which areas of his life he would like to improve. 

P/s: And by ‘hiccup’ I obviously meant ‘hiatus’ :P

Other shows and podcasts for entrepreneurs I would recommend: “The Random Show” with Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose, “Foundation” with Kevin Rose, ‘ThisWeekIn Startups’ with Jason Calacanis, “Mixergy” with Andrew Warner, Pandomonthly Fireside Chats with Sarah Lacy, “TechCrunch TV Founder Stories” with Chris Dixon, “Stanford Entrepreneurship Corner” videos, etc.

Robert Sedgewick, Princeton Computer Science Professor, Director at Adobe Systems: ‘What Am I Reading? I’m Usually Just Writing!’

And again we have a world-renowned computer scientist on the program! On Friday (April 6), I’ve sat down and talked with Robert Sedgewick:

  • founder and former chairman of the department of Computer Science at Princeton
  • William O. Baker Professor of Computer Science at Princeton
  • member of the Board of Directors at Adobe Systems
  • Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery for the seminal work in the mathematical analysis of algorithms and pioneering research in algorithm animation
  • author of numerous research papers and several books, including a series of textbooks on algorithms widely used all around the world (published by Addison-Wesley)
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The Legendary Brian Kernighan on Teaching, Writing, Programming and Startups

Guest: Brian Kernighan
Producer/host: Arman Suleimenov
Princeton, NJ
March 20, 2012

Brian Kernighan! The computer scientist who doesn’t need any introduction:
- co-author of the programming classic - ‘The C Programming Language’ (with Dennis Ritchie)
- coauthor of AWK and AMPL programming languages
- Professor of Computer Science at Princeton
- author of many Unix programs including ditroff, cron for Unix 7
- early contributor to Unix alongside its creators Ken Thomson and Dennis Ritchie

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Ryan Bubinski, Co-founder of Codecademy: Learn to Code by Playing

It’s time to to dispel the gospel that programming is a skill which can be acquired by only a small cohort of people. Programming is just like playing a piano, juggling, or swimming: if you put enough effort, you can learn to code too. Codecademy is a website which provides an interactive and fun way to learn how to code. Codecademy was the runner-up for the ‘Crunchies - Best New Startup of 2011’ (the first place went to Pinterest). Code Year, Codecademy’s New Year resolution project that encourages people to code, attracted 127,000 users in just 3 days after launch and now has more than 400,000 people who are learning to code by receiving lessons via email. Among notable people who joined Code Year are New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg and one of the best VCs in the US - Fred Wilson.

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Conversation with Joe Perla, Entrepreneur, 2-time Princeton Dropout and Founding Team of Turntable.fm

Joe Perla was a co-founder or CTO at Zandigo - social network around the college admissions process, Labmeeting - social network for scientists, and Turntable.fm - popular social site to DJ and collectively listen to music. He coded ProHDR 2.0, the leading HDR photography app for iPhone, and created Weby Templates - minimalist Python web framework. 

In this episode we’ll hear the exciting journey of Joe Perla: how he started brainstorming startup ideas during his freshman year with friends Mick Hagen and Jeremy Johnson, how he eventually left Princeton for 2 years to start companies, why he is pursuing graduate school to do original research in artificial intelligence. 

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David Lieb, CEO and Co-founder of Bump Technologies on How He Built One of the Most Popular Free iPhone Apps of All Time

Guest: David Lieb, CEO and co-founder of Bump
Producer/host: Arman Suleimenov (twitter.com/suleimenov)
Mountain View, CA
December 8, 2011

Bump is one of the most popular free iOS apps of all time (more than 65 million downloads, 7th in US, 3rd in Japan). It is the mobile application which lets two smartphones to share contact information / schedules / photos / app recommendations / etc. by simply bumping phones together. After the recent partnership with PayPal, you now can exchange money using Bump. It also can automatically send the friend request on Facebook and LinkedIn as well follow on Twitter. Bump is funded by Marc Andreessen (creator of the world’s first browser, co-founder of Netscape), Ron Conway (godfather of Silicon Valley), Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, Ram Shriram and the others. 
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Adam Goldstein, CEO and Co-founder of Hipmunk on How to Build the Best Flight and Hotel Search Engine

Guest: Adam Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of Hipmunk
Host: Arman Suleimenov
Date: December 8, 2011
Location: San Francisco, CA
Princeton Entrepreneurship Club

Hipmunk is the flight and hotel search engine which presents flight results as the visual timeline, sorts flights by agony, searches for hotels in the areas with many points of interests, and provides Amtrak train routes among other things. Time magazine named Hipmunk as one of the 50 best websites of 2011. The founders are Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman (co-founder of reddit.com). Investors include SV Angel, Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail), Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) and Ashton Kutcher.

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Vinicius Vacanti, CEO and Co-founder of Yipit: How to Make It as a First-Time Entrepreneur

Guest of the show: Vinicius Vacanti, CEO and co-founder of Yipit (twitter.com/vacanti)
Host: Arman Suleimenov (twitter.com/suleimenov)
Date: December 2, 2011
Location: New York City, NY
TigerTreks / Princeton Entrepreneurship Club (princetoneclub.com)

The topics discussed:
- Yipit - daily deals aggregator
- 8 projects before stumbling upon the idea for Yipit: unhub.com, 140it.com
- The Lean Startup methodology by Steve Blank, Eric Ries
- 3 blogs to read: ‘Both sides of the table’ (Mark Suster), ‘AVC.com’ (Fred Wilson), ‘Techmeme.com’
- Actionable metrics

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Mick Hagen, Founder of Zinch and Undrip, Princeton Dropout: Mastering the Art of Hustling in Startups

Guest of the show: Mick Hagen
Host: Arman Suleimenov
San Francisco, CA. Nov 4, 2011
From Princeton Entrepreneurship Club

'Princeton Startups' is the podcast where we talk about startups and entrepreneurship. Questions discussed in this episode:

  • Zinch - LinkedIn for high school students
  • What were the initial challenges?
  • Early years of the company
  • The art of launch
  • Joining a startup vs creating one
  • Undrip - filtering Twitter / Facebook stream
  • Long-term stealth mode approach vs ‘launch as soon as possible’ approach: art.sy, spotify
  • The Lean Startup: actionable metrics, Minimum Viable Product, Build-Measure-Learn loop, pivot