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June, 2007

What is your W2SAT* score? (*Web 2.0 Startup Aptitude Test)

Guest blog by Andrew Chen, who also writes at Futuristic Play.

Are you a Web 2.0 startup founder? Many of the skills required to make a "typical" Web 2.0 company are becoming more and more well-defined. So let's talk about what it takes, and rate your skillset and knowledge.

Read on if:

  1. You are building a consumer-facing site that...
  2. ... acquires users virally and...
  3. ... is free to use, and ...
  4. ... makes money through advertising.

With that in mind, I present the W2SAT - the Web 2.0 Startup Aptitude Test - a collection of rough questions about the consumer internet space - it should help you identify the areas you know really well, and the abilities you might want to develop further. This test is really for potential founders of Web 2.0 startups, and is not a general knowledge test for how often you read Techcrunch :)

One caveat: This test is for fun :) And in fact, even if you have a low score in areas, the real test is how well you adapt and learn.

With those excuses in place, please answer the following questions:

The Web 2.0 Startup Aptitude Test

1. Can you make something useful?
  • Do you build websites and/or write code?
  • Have you gone through a full cycle of creating and shipping a product?
  • Do you know how to launch a simple, core experience in less than a month?
  • Are you exposed to new company ideas every day through blogs, people, etc.?
  • Have you interviewed users and/or conducted usability tests to iterate on concepts?
2. Can you get users?
  • Have you bought users through advertising before?
  • Do you know how to optimize signup landing pages?
  • Do you have the relationships to get your company into major blogs and publications?
  • Have you employed organic user acquisition tactics successfully? (viral/SEO/etc.)
  • Do you know what metrics to use to measure retention, stickiness, viral, etc?
3. Can you make money?
  • Have you used AdSense/YPN/etc to monetize a site?
  • Do you know the difference between CPM, CPC, and CPA?
  • When you have a free+subscriptions model, do you know a typical subscription %?
  • Do you know the typical CPM for social media sites?
  • Have you ever sold a sponsorship deal to another company?
4. Can you handle all the business overhead?
  • Have you ever incorporated a company?
  • Do you have a mentor that has already done what you aim to do?
  • Have you sold or partnered with another business before?
  • Have you ever interviewed, hired, or managed people?
  • Have you ever persuaded anyone to invest in a company?

Great! Keeping track?

So where are you?

  • 0-4 points: You might be great in one area, or be an early generalist - try to learn faster!
  • 5-9 points: You might be a first-time entrepreneur - here's a great opportunity to partner with someone with complementary strengths
  • 10-14 points: Awesome sweet spot - you know what you know, and also know what you don't know. You'd be a great co-founder or early employee. Email me! (voodoo [at] gmail [dot] com)
  • 15+ points: Stop reading this blog, you aren't learning anything :)

Again, wherever you are, it's a starting point. In particular, it's a good way to learn what you are good at, and potentially find someone else who is good at the other stuff.

What profile are you?
Let's do some analysis. There are a couple typical profiles of people out there that you might fit in:

Independent consultant/designer/programmer:
If you're a independent player, you are probably quite good on managing your own little small business building products, so you'll be strong on part 1 and 4. Sometimes you won't have to worry about getting users or making money through ads, since you're not working on your own products, so 2 and 3 will be weaker.

People with big company resumes:
Big company folks might be great at products, managing overhead, and making money, but because they are tapping into existing cash cows, the actual traffic acquisition process can be difficult. So part 1 might be pretty good (although somewhat overspecialized or abstracted), part 2 will be pretty weak, and part 3 and 4 might be reasonably good.

MBAs with banking/consulting backgrounds:
Without operational experience, a "pure" business guy might have a hard time. In particular, although they might have great relationships, be very polished, and be good at business development, the other skills can be lacking. So typically part 1 and 2 might be pretty weak, with making money possibly higher, and part 4 the highest.

Typical startup employees:
Depending on the stage of the startup, an employee at an early company might be pretty balanced across all 4 parts. The reason is that they see a little bit of everything, which is great. This is probably the best training to do your own startup, IMHO.

Students and future entreprenurs
In the case of people who are still learning, the only thing you might have a great grasp on it part 1. You might be building a lot of useful things, and/or reading a ton of blogs, but without thinking too much about distribution and the business side of things. This is a GREAT start, and if you have enough years ahead of you, it'll be a short while before you master all the other skills.

If you've read this far, thank you! :) And thanks to Noah for inviting me to write a blog. If you want to reach out to me, feel free to write me at voodoo [at] gmail [dot] com. I also have a blog at http://andrewchen.typepad.com.

About Andrew Chen
Andrew Chen is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at MDV pursuing initiatives in advertising and digital media for the firm.

Prior to joining as EIR, Andrew was director of product marketing at Revenue Science, where he co-founded the ad network business and was instrumental in growing the network to thousands of websites with over 5 billion ads served per month. He also led teams to handle the company's initiatives around MySpace and Yahoo, two of Revenue Science's most strategic partners. In addition, Andrew played key roles in winning the company's initial brand advertising clients, which now include dozens of top-tier publishers including America Online, InterActiveCorp, ESPN, Washington Post, among others.

Prior to Revenue Science, Andrew worked at MDV's Seattle office, conducting due diligence for investment opportunities in enterprise software, consumer internet, and life sciences. Andrew came to MDV after serving in software engineering roles at Cobalt Group, a lead generation and eCommerce platform for over 12,000 properties in the automotive vertical.

Andrew holds a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Washington, where he matriculated at the age of 14. He writes a blog at http://andrewchen.typepad.com.

June 15, 2007
Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.