Turning Fifty

Looking back at our 10 best posts after one year and 50 editions

The number 50 is a big deal. It’s considered a big birthday and anniversary milestone. Fifty also has symbolic meaning in Judaism as the number of years of Jubilee and in Christianity as the period for Pentecost.

I think of fifty as a turning point. Before achieving fifty of something, you are still testing, failing, learning, and iterating. After fifty, you are now on a path towards scaling your big vision into something impactful and long-lasting.

Fifty also happens to mark the number of weeks in a year (ok, it is actually 52, but work with me here). When we launched Founders in the Cloud with our announcement post on April 26, it was hard to imagine getting fifty editions of this newsletter out. With our travels and how busy things at AWS get, being as consistent as we have been is not easy.

Founders in the Cloud turns one year old, with 50 editions published!

So yes, this is a navel gazing post to say that we turned one year old on May 4th , or better known as Star Wars Day, when we posted our first edition! The Force has definitely been with us, helping us to figure out exactly what to write about and then kicking our butts to publish something meaningful for you, our loyal audience of startup founders and operators.

Has the effort been worth it? Absolutely! We now have 5,614 subscribers to our LinkedIn newsletter that have viewed our posts 99,249 times. Over our email distribution, we have an open rate of 54.4% and click rate of 11.3%. We have a global subscriber base with NYC, Singapore, and London representing the largest percentage of readers. And more importantly, wherever we are in the world, you have told us you are avid readers, so thank you!

While we could plow on ahead with a new topic to delve into this week, there are many of you that only joined us recently. We are therefore going to look back to revisit our top ten most popular posts and give you a chance to catch up on our back catalog of content.

Before we dive into our retrospective however, we also want to share what’s in store for year two. First we want to tackle more topics for technical founders and engineering leaders, something we never had a chance to do previously. Second we will invite more guest contributors to share their experiences directly with you. And third we will place a heavy emphasis on AI given how significant of an impact AI will have for startups, the technology industry, the global economy, and society.

Now that we have gotten all that out of the way, here are the best hits of Founders in the Cloud. Let us know your favorite posts and enjoy!

"21 mistakes I made with my startup” discusses key errors Mark made during his startup journey, from the importance of owning your engineering, to choosing the right co-founders, to effectively utilizing resources. We categorize mistakes into avoidable ones and those that are inherently part of the learning process in startups. The idea is to be a guide for founders new to the startup world to help them avoid similar pitfalls, which Mark also turned into a YouTube video series called Founder Mistakes.

"How NYC became a startup town?" explains the evolution of New York City into a major startup hub. We highlight how the presence of existing large tech companies and the financial crisis of 2008, which released a pool of talented individuals into the job market, contributed to this change. Key developments such as the founding of notable startups like DoubleClick, the rise of cloud computing, and the establishment of local venture capital firms like Union Square Ventures, significantly shaped NYC's startup ecosystem.

"The Coming Thai Startups Resurgence" examines the current challenges and potential revival of Thailand's startup ecosystem. It discusses the decline in activity during COVID-19 and the less vibrant startup environment compared to before. The post also highlights the components needed for ecosystems growth, such as government support, more seed-stage investment, and improvements in global ecosystem connectivity. Positive signs like increasing corporate and foreign investments, alongside initiatives like AWS's commitment to Thailand, suggest a promising future for Thai startups. We also explored other ecosystems in previous posts such as East Asia as well as MENA.

"How to be a Startup CEO" talks about the critical need for a startup to designate a CEO early on. We have personally seen startups without a CEO often struggle and fail. Having one clear leader helps in decision-making, attracting investors, and managing customer and team expectations. The post also covers the evolving responsibilities of a startup CEO, from tactical to strategic roles, and the importance of community and mentorship for startup CEOs.

"Startups Anywhere and Everywhere" was our very first post, exploring the shift from Silicon Valley's dominance in the tech industry to the rise of global startup ecosystems. Key factors contributing to these thriving ecosystems include passion, talent, tools, market access, and capital. From our own experiences, we have seen successful startups emerge from virtually anywhere, challenging the notion that the Bay Area is the sole hub for innovation.

"How to Build a Nearly Zero-Cost Startup" explains the massive decrease in costs for launching a startup, due to technological advancements and support systems. Developments like cloud computing and the proliferation of freemium models have drastically reduced startup costs from millions of dollars to under $500. We also mention the value of startup programs like AWS Activate, which offers resources and credits to further minimize financial hurdles for startups.

"8 Ways to Build Your Startup Culture" emphasizes the significance of cultivating a strong and positive company culture for a startup's success. We discuss how a well-defined culture helps in attracting talent, making quicker decisions, and enhancing overall performance. Key recommendations include writing down your vision and mission, involving the whole company in culture discussions, and regularly revisiting and updating the startup’s values.

"How to Sell as a Startup Founder" focuses on the necessity for founders, especially those from technical backgrounds, to develop sales skills. The article highlights twelve core selling skills that founders need, from adopting a sales mindset to understanding customer motivations and crafting effective messaging. It also notes that hands-on selling experience is crucial for founders to build the initial sales process and later to manage sales teams.

"Is ChatGPT Your Golden Startup Ticket?" explores the opportunities and risks of building startups on third-party APIs like ChatGPT. Some downsides include limiting access or changing functionality without notice, potentially affecting the startup's operations and data ownership. However, we recognize the enormous upside for generative AI to accelerate startup innovation, and suggest balancing dependencies with contingencies.

"What VCs Want" shines a light on the often confusing interactions between startups and venture capitalists (VCs). We discuss the challenges of interpreting VC behaviors and motivations during fundraising, emphasizing the importance of understanding VC operations and decision-making processes. We then offer practical tips for founders on how to effectively pitch and engage with VCs, navigate their expectations, and avoid common traps in the VC-startup relationship.

As we travel the world, we want to share some of the experiences of the places we visit and their efforts in supporting and growing their startup ecosystem. One of those places is Essaouira, Morocco where Mark recently wrapped up a talk he gave at the Connect Morocco Summit.

Excellent talks and discussions during the Connect Morocco Summit!

The summit brought together thought leaders across startups, policy makers, investors & the digital nomad community to share insights into how innovation thrives in emerging cities and countries. During his time there listening to talks and speaking with local leaders, he gathered the following takeaways:

  • The digital nomad movement is growing, with 17.3 million Americans identifying as nomads.

  • Digital nomads are proven positive contributors to emerging startup ecosystems.

  • Over 60 visa programs launched to attract a global talent pool of nomads & entrepreneurs.

  • Morocco ranks 5th in Africa in the number of developers and 2nd in ease of doing business.

  • Most common industries for Moroccan startups are e-commerce, mobility & fintech.

  • Exits are few (6 in 2 years), but deal activity continues with $93M across 17 deals in 2023.

  • Technopark Maroc provides startups modern coworking spaces & community across 6 Moroccan cities.

With trends in remote work, ease of global mobility, and countries like Malaysia and Estonia leading the way with simpler visa programs, Morocco has an opportunity to become a global attractor for nomads and entrepreneurs. This in turn supports local economic growth and innovation.

Desirability of a location is also a significant factor in the success of these efforts. Essaouira is one of many cities making a play to be that sought after destination for nomads and entrepreneurs. Despite being smaller than more well-known Moroccan cities like Casablanca, Rabat & Marrakesh, the town has laid back vibes, a diverse culture, highly creative populace, and good affordability.

The Connect Morocco Summit was a huge success. Thanks to Lauren Razavi and the SafetyWing team as well as Faical Alaoui, for organizing an excellent event. We also had the opportunity to meet leaders in Essaouira from the government and visit one of Morocco’s recently opened technology and innovation centers, Technopark Essaouira, part of a network of spaces under TECHNOPARK Maroc (MITC).

Talks during visit to Technopark Essaouira where Mark spoke.

Next week Mark will be back in NYC before heading back out to Southeast Asia to speak at the AWS Summit in Hong Kong on May 22. Then he lands in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City to meet with startup founders. In Ho Chi Minh City, Mark will also be attending the Tech in Asia Summit, give us a shout if you will also be attending!

Basil also has a busy rest of May with a keynote talk at the Hub5 conference in Dubai on May 14. Then he travels to the AWS Summit in Berlin on May 15 to 16. Wrapping up the month, he will be speaking at DTEC Forum Dubai on May 28 and the AWS Summit Dubai on May 29. Hope to see you there!