Seattle entrepreneur Dan Shapiro interviewed by Nextcast's Jeff Dickey

When Dan Shapiro joined the startup world in 2002, he was bitten by the bug…hard. Find out what he’s learned along the way and hear his startling confession in this episode of Nextcast.

Dan Shapiro grew up with computers, getting his first one at age seven and using it mostly to play games. Decades later, with a stint in the gaming industry under his belt, he now specializes in the start-up world and shares what he’s learned with his fellow entrepreneurs.

He’s got a lot to say – on everything from funding to teamwork to luck – and he’s even writing the book on it. Dig in and find out – in a Nextcast exclusive – what Dan has up his sleeve.

  • Dan Shapiro “got bitten by the startup bug and was badly infected,” he says, and so spends much of his time “helping as many startups however I can.” In the last decade, he’s worked in several startups and has made a point of trying to learn as much as he can. What he’s come up with, though, is fairly simple. “It’s all matters of tradeoffs and degrees of risk.” (14:45)
  • (11:48) “If you try to turn startups into a science, you’re either going to go down a sub-optimal path or go down entirely.” Dan knows that every startup – no matter what you do – depends in part on luck. Your business may fail, but you do what you can to improve your odds at good luck. “Pitch anything that moves,” advises Dan. Have your pitch ready and tell it to everyone until you find the right person with the right need at the right time. (13:30)
  • From tiny startups to Microsoft and Google, Dan has worked at companies of all sizes. The two experiences are quite different, and people who misunderstand the differences with struggle. “Startups need someone who’s very good at a lot of things,” he explains. At big companies, it’s more important to have someone who is excellent at each thing. (18:20)
  • A shocking confession from Dan Shapiro: “I’m a Powerpoint addict.” He knows how many of his peers feel about the software, but their concerns fall on deaf ears. It’s the software he knows how to use best and, if you ask him, “the simplest and best UI is the one you know how to use already.” (24:00)

Previously on NextcastDr. Gary Flake, CEO @ Clipboard … Todd Hooper, CEO @ Zipline Games

Nextcast founder Jeff Dickey is passionate about technology, business and philosophy. He works as the chief cloud architect at Redapt, a Redmond-based cloud and big data infrastructure company. [Editor’s note: GeekWire is proud to partner with Jeff Dickey who produces the Nextcast entrepreneur interview series].

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  • Bob Crimmins

    Really Dan???  A USB battery charger?  I was expecting a remote operated helicopter that automatically delivers a freshly charged battery (or lunch) to your location using GPS.

    Jeff, I just discovered your webcasts and am enjoying working through the library.  Great resource for Seattle.

  • RobertinSeattle

    Completely agree. Entrepreneurship is definitely not science but a combination of a lot of things: Art, timing and as Dan Shapiro points out: Luck. I like to call it Serendipity. In more cases than most people would probably care to acknowledge, being in the right place at the right time is the only key for the success or failure of a startup.

    Unfortunately with that kind of good fortune, all too many of the earlier local millionaires who simply made their fortunes – by being at Microsoft or Amazon for example – during the startup phase have strutted around thinking they must have been brilliant and have subsequently lost much of their fortunes trying to duplicate a stroke of luck at a single moment in time.

    Sometimes having a failure or two can turn into a blessing in disguise. Sounds like Dan continues to keep learning along the way and his adventure is far from over!

    • Dan Shapiro

       That said, I’m happier to see the folks who got lucky stay in the game and try again, than those who spend their resources on living a life of luxury.  I love to see people who’ve had some success (however they had it) plow their wealth back in to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

      • RobertinSeattle

         Wholeheartedly agree, Dan.

  • frankdevin

    Spot on with the increasing your “luck surface area”, too many people worry too much about talking about their idea and miss opportunities to learn more. If an idea is that easy to copy i probably doesn’t stand much of a chance anyhow, so talk about it and you never know what will happen.

    Dan suggestion of a Nextcast with a lawyer is a good one. Pat Franke at Graham & Dunn is a great resource for start ups and emerging companies with a sort of LEAN approach, providing just enough when you need it. I’m sure he has some interesting opinions and insights.

    • Dan Shapiro

       There are too many great lawyers in Seattle to list, so I just stuck to suggesting the two I’ve worked with closely.

  • Cindy Engstrom

    Always enjoy your perspectives Dan!  Many a day I channel a great comment you shared with me two years ago. You said “you might be winning and not know it.”  That always makes me smile and i’ve shared this Danny Shapiro quote with many others.

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