Jason Davis is a New York City entrepreneur, data scientist, and hacker. He previously founded, developed, and sold ad-tech company Adtuitive to Etsy, and spent his tenure at Etsy improving various aspects of the marketplace. Jason holds a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, a BS in computer science from Cornell, and currently resides in Brooklyn with his wife and dog, Monster.What would be the "one thing" that is critical for any startup trying to cut through the noise in the tech space right now?
Jason Davis: For me, the core of any great startup is a great product. And in order to build great products, you need to align yourself and your company to do so.
Build a culture of innovation and creativity. Especially at early stages, your minimum viable product will look nothing like where it will end up if you're successful. Recognize this, and build a healthy culture that questions how things work, considers possible solutions, and executes on ideas by testing and experimenting with new directions.
Recognize that stress is the enemy of creativity, and working at a startup (especially if you're a founder or CEO) can be quite stressful.
Stay focused; avoid distractions. Don't get caught up in VC and media hype. Yes, not all successful startups have great products. And some folks "make it big" by being in the right place at the right time, getting lucky, or both. If you find yourself enamored by that 19 year old wonder boy who raised $18 million or the latest $1 billion acquisition, go to the store and buy yourself a lotto ticket. Then go back to you desk and write some code. Or design screens, or do whatever you do to make the product better.
Hire the best. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this. Hiring can be very painful and can at times feel like you're not directly improving the product. But of course, great products are built by talented folks.There's been a lot of buzz around New York being a hotbed for startups, what are some of the main differences that you're seeing in the digital space now versus ten years ago? Why do you think that is?
JD: Ten years ago is a long time in internet land, but one thing that's changed a lot since then, and is continually changing every day, is the fundraising climate.
If you're currently raising money and are able to do so, celebrate briefly and then go back to building your product and business.
If you don't need to raise money (either because you're profitable or bootstrapped, or both), now there's something to celebrate.
I'm a big believer in controlling my own destiny, and building an awesome product is something within reach. Ensuring a healthy fundraising climate when I'm up for my series A, B, etc. is out of my control.Describe yourself in one word.
JD: Passionate. I try to only work on problems that excite me, and I try to only work with people who I love working with.
There have been plenty of times in my career where I've taken on projects that were critical but boring and other time where I've collaborated with folks who I wish never existed. Sometimes these things are necessary for success, and success requires good execution. I make efforts in completing everything that I start, which can be a drag sometimes.
Overall, I try to align myself, my team, and my startup such that everyday is awesome.
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