Articles by Tim Berry

The Startups Weekend Phenomenon and Angel Investors

Actual, fundable, serious startups in a single weekend? No. Real? Great learning experience? And worth doing? Yes.

Last Sunday night I judged nine pitches from nine groups that started from scratch just two days before, late Friday afternoon. They had some good ideas, good pictures, a prototype or two, some good video … and an entertaining event.

Startup Weekend

I’m posting this here for two audiences: angel investors and founders (including would-be and wanna-be founders) of startups.

I was one of four judges, all of us members of local angel investment groups working with the platform. In two hours we had pitches and questions and answers. Then we met for 30 minutes and chose a winner. This was in Corvallis, OR, for the Willamette Valley.

This isn’t exactly news. It was a Startup Weekend as conceived and licensed by the organization at, supported by the Kauffmann Foundation, Google, Microsoft,, and others (my company was a sponsor of this local one). You probably already heard of it. I had, and I’d been invited to speak or judge before, but hadn’t been able to actually do it until now. The Startup Weekend organization has run 970 of these weekends in 108 countries and is doing about seven or so every month now.

It’s a good reminder about what it takes to start a business. The whole thing started Friday with a vote on the better ideas. They formed teams, worked Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. They ended up with market validation, execution, and what seemed like a lot of progress in very little time. Several of the pitches looked like interesting prospects that could happen.

It was a lot of fun, good for the local startup community, and good for the 75 (or so) people who spent all weekend doing it.


Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
January 30th, 2013

Is the Startups Buzz Dimming?

Is the bloom off of the startups rose? Two days ago the New York Times published this story about investors getting pickier.

Investors pickier on startups

I think the NYTimes’ headline is slightly off from the story’s content. It’s not that much about a rocky recent past; it’s more about money being too easy in the recent past, and now, as a natural result, things get tighter because “easy” money doesn’t always mean enough of the due diligence and thought to make good deals. Read more

Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
January 15th, 2013

The Experience vs. Education Curve in Startups

Years ago I came across the idea that in entrepreneurship, education and experience contribute to likelihood of success roughly like you see in the chart here. The underlying assumption is that a lot of education makes up for very little experience, and vice-versa. And this is in the context of startups, investment, and entrepreneurship.

education vs. experienceI’ve drawn it here MBA style, with a line on two axes, pretty much the way I first saw it, with a smooth curve from one extreme to the other. It’s almost symmetrical in this drawing, and would be even more so if I had better tools (who wants to devise an equation? I just drew it.) The idea is some sort of a conceptual break-even point between the two factors.  Read more

Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
January 9th, 2013

On Why We’re Pivoting from Mobile-first to Web-first

Consider this (emphasis is mine):

Ads are the Internet’s tax on users who want free apps and websites. Allmost all free apps and services have ads. Ad-supported companies are akin to the government in the sense that they are both really good at finding ways to charge you without it seemingly coming out of your pocket. Many people’s taxes are taken automatically out of their payroll, so they don’t think of that money as being theirs to begin with. Similarly, we feel like everything that we don’t directly pay money for on the Internet is free, but that is simply not true. Read more

Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
December 18th, 2012

Users Guide to Startup Advisors

What’s an advisor to a startup deal? Technically, advisor is one of those bucket terms that means anything and everything, depending on context. Those names and faces and backgrounds that turn up in pitches and business plans might be deep and important relationships, somebody with options or equity who is going to be helping for the long term; or meaningless fluff, somebody who agreed once to have his or her name appear, but really does nothing. Read more

Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
December 6th, 2012

Founders Learn One Day at a Time Like Everybody Else

I like this a lot. The executive summary:

Dropbox Co-Founder Drew Houston believes false mythologies about tech company founders do a disservice to aspiring entrepreneurs. While many people think all tech founders start with world conquering visions, says Houston, the reality is that founders learn one day at a time just like everyone else.

This less-than-two-minute video comes from Stanford’s Ecorner, its online entrepreneurship center, which is a great resource.

If you don’t see the video embedded here, you can click here to see it on the original source.

Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
October 16th, 2012

Investors are Aiming for the Big Win, Not the Mean or Average

True story: many long years ago I had founders’ stock in a video game company. At one point they were just a few weeks from going public, but that’s not the point of this story. It was about a “hit” business, meaning a business in which you had to have a lot of products in play to get one of the big hits that paid for the rest of the disappointments. Video games in the early 1980s were such a business.

Books became a hit business in the 1990s when the retail chains took over from smaller stores. I followed that business as an author looking at royalties. The average book sale dwindled. The publishers that survived did so on by riding a big hit that paid for all the rest.

Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
October 2nd, 2012