Venture Voice – interviews with entrepreneurs

Entertaining Entrepreneurship

VV Show #20 – Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software

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While some entrepreneurs fret over new business ideas, Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software focuses on hiring the best and brightest for his New York City-based software company, and then figures out how to make a profit with the products they create. He bootstrapped his company to profitability and built a loyal following of fans along the way. While Joel developed Fog Creek’s first product called FogBugz that tracks bugs, he let his 2005 summer interns develop their own product called Copilot that has already hit the market. Joel’s out to prove he can put capital to work, scale his business, and maybe even revolutionize venture capital along the way.

Update: Joel returned for a second interview on Venture Voiceover three years later in 2009.


1:30 Starting career at Microsoft

  • ‘In those days Windows was remarkably cheesy.’

6:00 Gaining versatile skills in a big company

9:15 Starting Fog Creek Software

  • ‘I think what happened around 1999 when I finally made the decision to jump off, is that so many people were starting companies and they were being so successful — and they were all so stupid — that I felt I could probably do better than they did.’
  • Released bug tracking software FogBugz.

15:00 Trying to build a content management system

16:35 Bootstrapping a company with Aeron chairs

  • ‘Our model is to make the best working environment for programmers’ leading to profit.’

19:30 Project Aardvark

23:00 Recognizing good business opportunities

  • At a New York Tech Meetup, Joel felt none of the six businesses pitched addressed a pain that people have.
  • ‘I don’t think you can make a high tech company in the long run that doesn’t have geeks making the key decisions, unfortunately for the MBAs.’

28:00 Fog Creek Software management training program

32:30 Competing for smart students with Paul Graham‘s Y Combinator

33:45 Avoiding venture capital

  • ‘I think venture capital is radically misaligned with the needs of founders and entrepreneurs.’
  • ‘I wrote an analysis in those days called ‘Fixing Venture Capital‘ — it should have been called ‘venture capital is broken’ because I never got around to explaining how to fix it.’

40:45 Ambition

  • ‘People are starting to think about exit strategies.’
    Refers to Paul Graham article about VC.
  • ‘The VCs, basically, by refusing to invest in anybody during the nuclear winter of the dot com fallout, have actually, unfortunately, now created a super-breed of entrepreneur that is immune to the need for money.’
  • ‘At some point we might say, ‘hey, the IPO window is open, let’s accelerate a bunch of that future revenue, put it all in our pockets right now so we can spend it while we’re young and good looking.”

51:15 Venture Voice listeners started podcasts

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