Dom Segolla's Advice for Startup Success

Colombia Summer 2013 Blog

Written by: Xenia Antipova

July 4, 2013

MIT AITI Colombia was invited by the Camera Comercial Cali to attend the Expo Negocios Cali held at the Valle de Pacifico. The main speaker on the first day was Dom Segolla, co-founder of Twitter.

After the general Q&A session, Coralie and I spoke with him one-on-one. We asked him: what one piece of advice was most important for the entrepreneurs of MIT AITI 2013? It was as follows: Have Laser Focus. We will post the video of our chat soon!

A short synopsis of the speech

The three principles for success in a startup: 

  1. Simplicity
  2. Constraint
  3. Isolation

Start each day with a scrum (=short meeting updating everyone on the progress and what needs to be done that day) and keep the meetings short by having everyone stand.

Care less about the content, and more about the human connectionMeaning: Many articles have noted that the key to happiness is the connections - your friends, family. Concentrate on these.

Dream big, start small. Relation to class: begin with your beachhead market. Don't try to capture everyone at once. For your product, limit it to the minimum viable product - only offer the features that are most important and necessary initially so that you can start the customer feedback loop and that you can get to your users as fast as possible.

It is not about the idea, but about the execution of the idea. Relation to class: Sure, the idea is important, but you need to validate it, and with the product itself, do an incredible, fantastic job, that your clients will want to use. 

Instagram started as a drink-sharing app. It wasn't going to tell, but they had a great team, and they pivoted to photo sharing. The result? An app that was super simple that only focused on photo sharing. There were plenty of other apps out there - but Instagram adopted a laser focus. Their path to success? Do less and do it better. 


Metaphor of surfing - with surfing, your board is the most dangerous thing, as it can hurt you quite badly. Same with a company, the board of the directors is the most dangerous - it can fire you (as a CEO, and bring in someone else). With surfing, there are dynamic forces: you have to constantly re-evaluate the wind and the water, listen and undertand the pattern. Same with a company. Stay relaxed, stay ready, watch+listen

Lastly: internalize the three principles for success. Simplicity, Isolation, Constraint.