I have a new idea that I totally think has potential, is worth pursuing, and building technology around.
The urge, as an engineer, is to first build the site + functionality, and then "roll it out". But after years of being in tech, and having seen many never get out of their comfort zone and, as a result, having built too much in isolation, its an urge I need to resist.
So the first tasks ? Go sign up the stakeholders. Create enough functionality and documentation to sign them up. then go find other stakeholders as users - give them just enough so they can appreciate the core value of the offering.
Then think of the code.
Been about 4 months since Linger went operationally live - including some test runs.
Its been a major journey - entrepreneurship wise.
- First up - its a very different feeling when you create something someone likes enough to pay for, and gives positive feedback later. I think this defines entrepreneurship, in a sense.
- Next, an entrepreneur's main challenge is to live with, and manage uncertainty almost all the time. Doubt too, often, though one might not admit the same.
- You will make mistakes, despite your best efforts. And there will be some goof ups that you did not plan for, and cannot control. There is little time for regrets, introspection. Get over it, fix what you can and get on with it.
- Your venture is often you! It takes your personality, and what you like and do not like, how you do things starts showing up everywhere. So figure out early if you're in a business where your interests and personality resonate with the business success parameters.
- Its rewarding! Only, for an entrepreneur, the reward is rarely monetary alone. In fact, that bit may not happen for a while as your spreadsheets start making less and less sense :)
- Honesty works. With customers, employees, your own self. Don't pretend to be what you're not.
- Defensive pricing is a bad signal. And you do not want to attract the wrong customer or keep the right one away. Even if its slower, build the brand/attributes right.
- The expenses are always more than they seem to be :)
I've also learned I enjoy the hospitality part of it a lot! I love it when people tell me they read a book, or spotted a bird, or were surprised by the stars in the sky. I appreciate it when they appreciate the raw, warm but with-no-formally-training service provided by the staff.
Its a tough journey, but it seems totally worth doing.
By and large, in the startup space and media, startups, VC funding, and the entire ecosystem is more or less is assumed to be about technology, software products, code, platforms, etc.
In real life, entrepreneurship is all about businesses, deals, real needs.
VCs go right ahead and fund companies based on a product seen (despite what they claim) and more or less hope the team will learn about the actual business they are engaged in serving. A travel portal is more about travel and the food chain in the industry, and less about the technology powering it. Very few software businesses are about usage of the software itself - BaseCamp etc come to mind.
However, when funding non-IT businesses, a question about the team's lack of experience will promptly raised! How's a bunch of guys who can write code to create a site tracking brand reviews more equipped to understand branding, brand management budgets, advertising, than, say, a geek starting a restaurant is to having a good knowledge of how that space works ? Yet, the ecosystem does look at both differently!
I am hardly suggesting that people start doling out cash to geeks starting restaurants, or getting into hospitality randomly, but quite the opposite. When we stitch up teams to create businesses, and write up plans and models, and invest in these companies, we consider the business cases, needs, and think of the software as infrastructure that is needed for the execution of that business. The search engine that managed to then grow an advertising business just happened, and chasing that as a model is fraught with dangers.
First, figure out the business first. Next, whether its interesting enough for you through its ups and downs, and does running it have by-products that make it worth it for you?
And if you understand and relate to the above it, does not matter whether you want to code it or not, or build the house, or cook the food. Those are details. Details which can make or break the business, and must be executed right, for sure. But they come after you've figured out the business, and your passion for it. Technology itself - the love of it, or the need to create it freely - cannot be a healthy, sustainable enough basis for entrepreneurship for a large percentage of cases.
GigaOm had a post on a more open Twitter like universe: http://gigaom.com/2010/06/17/what-would-a-more-open-twitter-look-like/
I quite like the thought and would like to extend it
- Use twitter's downtime to "fill transient need"
- Support Closed communities/groups, workgroups, signed up customers. Yammer, for instance, could also support Twitter accounts with a failover option for account holders! So folks from co X, Y, Z can still communicate beyond workgroups using @twitter-id@twitter etc
- Create add on functionality that makes it valuable for specific interests. E.g. a cycling community that also has syntax/an interface/smart parsing for logging, planning rides, in-community classifieds, etc. Some sort of an enhanced forum on the same channel ? Again, keep the links alive with Twitter and other open standards.
Some of the above do exist - but there's clearly a space for niches. Twitter has essentially helped establish a habit of and create a market for a new mode of communication on the web and mobile. The next round of innovation to piggyback on this is just waiting to happen!