Build Your Own Silicon Valley Startup

Do you have a great idea for a startup? Want $20m funding from angels or venture capital? There are a few books and docs that you'll need. You can either pay $25,000 to a Silicon Valley lawyer or get them here for free.

I've worked at a bunch of startups. I co-founded a few. I'm an advisor to several more. A friend asked me "You work at a Silicon Valley upstart?"

I've worked in Silicon Valley since 1992. The web was the Internet and we had Usenet, Gopher, Archie, and Veronica. I wrote one of the first books on HTML. Did you use Netcom? I wrote its UNIX manual. Did you use Dialpad? I wrote the website and its manuals. Brio? TurboCAD? SGI O2? Yep. I WTFM.

The Best Books about VCs, IP, and Startups

I have perhaps three shelves of books about Silicon Valley. Here are the best ones books for SV startups. If you're doing a startup, you must read these:

  • How VCs Work: The Business of Venture Capital by Mahendra Ramsinghani (Wiley, 2nd ed., 2014. 408 pages, index. $75) is a deep, detailed description of what venture capitalists (VCs) do. It covers the investors who give money to VCs, the VC firms, and how VCs interact with the founders. With dozens of interviews with investors, VCs, and founders along with lots of tables and graphs, you'll understand the VC's motivations, limits, and problems. This book strips away the mystery of the VC world.
  • Building Your Startup: Zero-to-IPO by David Smith (Cambridge Manhattan Group, 396 pages, illustrated, index. English and Japanese) is an excellent, clearly-written guide for startups for acquisition or IPO. David has a law degree, an MBA, and has done three startups and lots of M&A. He's also the founder of the Silicon Valley Business School. $65 at Amazon or free at
  • Protect Your Intellectual Property: Patent Practice Skills & Strategies by Britten Sessions (Lulu, 2013. 612 pages, index. $66), a law professor who also works in Silicon Valley. You need to understand how to develop ideas that can be patented, how to negotiate the patent process, and how to protect your patent. IP (intellectual property) law is part of every startup.
  • Learn from Other Startups: Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston, co-founder of Y-Combinator (APress, 2008. 466 pages, index. $18). Interviews with the founders of 33 SV startups. They describe in detail how they built their startups, incl. the problems, mistakes, and chaos. Learn from 33 founders.

Update: April 2016: If you've read good books on Silicon Valley startups, please let me know. I'm writing my next book about Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, and the world of startups. To be published in 2016.

The Best Books for SEO, PPC, KPIs, Analytics, Social Media, ASO, and Content Marketing

I have pretty much every book on SEO (search engine optimization), PPC (pay-per-click) (also called SEM (search engine marketing) by newbies), Content Marketing, and analytics. In every area, one book is clearly the best.

  • SEO: For search engine optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing, Inc. by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt (IBM Press, 712 pages. 3rd ed., 2014). The authoritative book on SEO. Mike Moran is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and was head of SEO for IBM. As the Manager for Global SEO at Cisco, I was the technical reviewer for this book.
  • SEO: For a quick overview of what's happening in SEO and search engines, see my SEO eBook. Released in collaboration with McGraw-Hill. (Free at, March 2014).
  • PPC: Advanced Google AdWords by Brad Geddes (Sybex, 3rd. ed., 696 pages. May 2014).
  • KPIs: Use KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to manage your marketing. Investors will grill you on KPIs, LTV, ROI, CPL, CPA, and maybe CYA. Get my KPI eBook. Easy to read and you can stare down Stanford MBAs. At Coremetrics, my eBook was their #1 download. The KPI eBook (Free PDF).
  • Analytics: Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton (Sybex, 3rd. ed., 696 pages. April 2012). Brian Clifton was the head of Google Europe. Lots very useful information. You must get the 2nd or 3rd edition.
  • Content Marketing: The Big Book of Content Marketing by Andreas Ramos (, May 2013). Yep, by me. It covers the reality of content marketing and has lots of ideas and tips. See more at my website about this book.
  • Twitter: Get the #TwitterBook by Andreas Ramos (, September 2014). Also by me. This isn't a fluffy marketing book for marketing people. It's a real book on how Twitter works, how people use it, and why they use it. Lots of stuff that other books about Twitter don't cover (or won't cover). See more at about this book.
  • ASO: How to get your app to the top of the app stores? How to get people to use your apps? Do this with App Store Optimization (ASO). That's SEO for apps. I wrote the ASO strategy for Cisco's 130 apps. Based on that experience, here is The ASO Book  by Andreas Ramos (, October 2014). Okay, so I write a lot of books. Available at Amazon.

The Best Tools for Digital Marketing

I did webdev from 1995 to 2007. I still manage a few sites (I use TextEdit to write HTML by hand). But that's over. Now, there are excellent tools such as Wordpress and Wix for creating websites. If I forgot something, let me know.

  • Text EditorTextEdit (v. 3.70)  You'll often need a text editor. I use TextEdit both for text and to manage my website (I write HTML by hand). TextEdit is a developer's tool. It's powerful: you can wipe out your server with this. Learn RegEx to use this.
  • Blogging: Use Wordpress. Easy to use, to modify, and it works. Free.
  • Web Analytics: Google Analytics (free at Google). I've used every major web analytics tool: IBM Coremetrics, Adobe Omniture, Webtrends, and Clicktracks. Google Analytics is free and it's just as good as the $100,000 /year tools.
  • SEO Tracking: BrightEdge and SearchMetrics are enterprise-level SEO tools with tracking, reporting, etc.
  • App Analytics: Distimo (app store reporting); Flurry (app analytics); Google Analytics.
  • Social Media: Radian6 or Sprinklr to track trends, sentiment, and more.
  • Influencer Marketing: Use eCairn or Radian6 to find influencers.
  • PPC: For managing Google Adwords (GAW), you need three tools: GAW itself (free account at Google). MCC (My Client Center), a tool by Google lets agencies manage multiple accounts (free at Google), and Adwords Keyword Editor (KWE). There are two versions of KWE: The internal version is the tool that Google staff use to manage accounts. The external version is for the public (the internal version has a few more features). This tool lets you make bulk changes to an account. This is what I use to manage 60,000 keywords in million-dollar budgets. This was developed as an engineer's tool for Google staffers, so it doesn't have safety features for naive users. If you don't understand how to use it, it can be extremely dangerous. It's like giving a chainsaw to a six-year old boy. Actually, it's like a hundred six-year old boys running with chainsaws.  But there's no documentation on how to really use this. To be an expert in this, you must either work at Google or hire me :-)
  • ASO: For App Store Optimization (ASO), there are several tools. For app analytics: Flurry, Google Analytics, and App Annie.  For app sales reporting, use Distimo.
  • Twitter: To use Twitter, you must use a dashboard. I use Hootsuite. It's good on your desktop, it's even better on your cellphone.

Silicon Valley and Design

For decades, design was considered secondary. Silicon Valley companies however slowly realized that design is fundamental not only to the product but also the company. This is outlined in Make It New: The History of Silicon Valley Design by Prof. Barry Katz, Stanford (published by MIT 2015). Design transformed Silicon Valley into the most powerful engine of innovation in the world. Startups, companies, universities, foundations, and even governments have learned to apply "design thinking" to their missions. Strongly recommended.

Tips and Docs

A collection of documents and tips for building your SV startup.

  • You'll need a one-page executive summary for the angels and VCs. I collected several, took the best parts, and created a template for a one-page business plan (Word). Download it, edit it, get your $22 million funding, and send me 5%.
  • You'll also need a Term Sheet that conforms to the NVCA model document.
  • Haven't given up yet? Get a Stock Purchase Agreement.
  • Ready to IPO? Can you handle $100m? You'll need a press release. Either hire a PR guy ($10,000 per month plus an unlimited bar tab at Madera) or learn How to Write and Distribute Your Press Release.
  • Plus a map to the Ferrari dealer for Silicon Valley and a map to the Ford truck dealership so you can haul your $22 million in VC funding back to your studio apartment.
  • What's the real story when you build a company and sell it for $400 million? Here's the best insider account about building a Silicon Valley startup.
  • Would you like to know how the Internet works?
  • Did you know the Internet once ran on steam?
  • How do networks grow? How does something go viral? Read Barabasi on Networks.
  • Just what is a search engine? What are its limits? What are the problems?
  • Here are my Laws of Computering.
  • You think you're going to change something and you find out it changes you. "The Effect of Computerization on Companies and Workers" by Chris Benner.
  • You'll also need to set up a blog. What are blogs?
  • Are you thinking of building a social media startup? Do you think there's a bubble in social media? When will Facebook crash?
  • Want to take payments on your webpage? Really easy with Paypal buttons. Try it out.
  • What about marketing? How do large corps do marketing? Learn about geodemographics, which is the basis of mass marketing. Did you know there are 62 social classes in the USA? Here's the list. What group are you in?
  • And of course, the obituary for the Dotcom 1.0 crash.