You know that much of what you learned about how businesses were built is bull, right? It’s a collection of anecdotes created by PR people whose job is to promote their clients–not to give us an honest business education.

To help get at the truth, I invited Owen Byrne, the man who built the original Digg site, to talk candidly about how that great success story was built. Owen shattered some myths, but I think the account he gave us is even more inspiring, because it’ll leave you with a more practical understanding of how to build your startup.

Video Excerpt

About Owen Byrne

Owen Byrne

Owen built the original Digg site, and until the company’s series A funding, he was its primary technical decision maker. He’s currently Senior Manager at Travelpod Labs, a Tripadvisor company.

Text Excerpts: Myths We Discussed

Myth 1: Outsourcing you whole business is easy and cheap

Owen said: The PR story is that Kevin Rose found me on (outsourcing site) elance, hired me for $10 an hour and paid me either $200 or $1000–depending on who you believe. The actual story is that it was a larger amount and there was equity involved. The PR agency made it up because they tried to craft a story that will capture the public’s attention. A 4o-something programmer is something they probably wanted to downplay.

Andrew’s note: Entrepreneurs keep telling each other this lie as a way of saying how fast and cheap a business could be built by some stranger on elance. If you’re foolish enough to believe this nonsense (and I admittedly was) you start to wonder why your developers are sluggish and expensive.

Myth 2: All innovation comes from users now

Owen said: In the early days, I’d tell Kevin “That idea sucks” and he’d defend it. Or I’d tell him “That’s a good idea. I could probably do it really quickly.” Or “It might work this way with a slight change.”

Andrew’s note: If you listen to this interview, you’ll hear over and over the power of founders’ vision.

Myth 3: Everyone is treated the same in companies

Owen said: There’s one clause that I might have insisted on in my agreement: liquidation preferences.

Andrew’s note: This came up when listeners at the live program pointed out that Kevin Rose was able to sell some of his shares in Digg, but Owen wasn’t able to.

Myth 4: Internet startups are run by the young and photogenic

Owen said: It’s a bit of a myth that it’s all young coders. There actually lots of people in their late 30s and their 40s. I’ve been a programmer for 25 years and I’ve actually worked hard to keep up with new technology.

The full program includes

  • The inspiring story of how Digg was built.
  • More business myths dispelled.
  • Respect for the coders who built up internet companies.

[Thank you Andrew Tunnell-Jones for suggesting this interview. Thank you Thomas Hawk for the picture of Owen.]

Suggestions for your comments

  • What other myths are there in business?
  • What do you think of Owen’s story?
  • Did you feel we got the whole truth here?
  • Was the video excerpt helpful?

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