Together with most people, I was deeply saddened by the loss of Steve Jobs. He inspired so many and set a very high standard for anyone looking to innovate and create products. Even in his death, he inspired us through videos and articles that everybody posted after hearing the bad news.
Perhaps most famously, Steve Jobs said in his Stanford graduation speech: “trust in something”. How does that apply to startups and their founders? A startup is almost always a leap of faith, by a group of people that truly believe that they are creating the next Apple or Facebook. So, what should they trust in to have a chance at making it?
It’s just two things:
Startup founders have to truly believe that they are solving a real and a really important problem. Almost always, in order for them to truly believe that, it has to be personal. They must have experienced the problem first hand, and then set out to solve it. That feeds their passion which is critical to success. When the problem is personal, the founder is much more determined to keep working on it after a setback. That passion and the resulting perseverence is what enables a startup to be successful, because invariably they will hit a number of roadblocks, one after another, before becoming an “overnight success“.
The founders have to believe in each other’s capabilities and motivation. They have to trust that collectively they will be able to solve the problems they will encounter along the way, because they have the combined skills necessary. They also have to trust that each of them passionately believes in what they are doing – solving that one very important problem. Many non-technical founders fail because they start their journey with a CTO who doesn’t care enough about the problem they are solving. Worse yet, they start with an outsourcing firm that almost never cares about it. Oftentimes, they don’t have the right skills. Only personal experience working together between the founders prior to getting involved in a startup can ensure this vital trust.
If you are a CEO or a founder of a startup, you have to believe that the problem you are solving is really important and that the people you are working with are both capable and dedicated to solving it. If you have any doubt, then it is time to ask “why” and take action.
Found an interesting site with lots of content about sealcoating and paving of roads, parking lots and driveways. Lots of good content here despite the fairly old-school industry with companies like this having very little online presence until recently.
The idea of starting a blog appeals to businesses and individuals – over 170 million are doing it – yet it is difficult to settle on a good topic for it. When I started this blog, I wrote that I will talk about web apps and provide advice to their creators. I have been building web-based products as a developer and a product manager for over 13 years, so it seemed like a logical choice. Was it the right one?
As I continued to generate blog ideas and think about what I wanted to write I realized that there was a disconnect between my stated mission and those ideas. The things I was inspired to write about were not quite fitting into the mold I had created. As a result, the things that I actually ended up writing about, did not really fit my blog’s stated theme and purpose. Worse yet, I ended up not writing about most of my ideas.
I read countless articles and blogs about writing. Almost all of them state that one of the key things is to “find your voice”. Unfortunately, most don’t talk about how to do that. It’s tempting to define your voice as something you know a lot about or something related to your job. It is logical and most people do just that. However, you can’t really “define” your voice, as it is already defined and part of who you are. It is not possible to change it simply by stating what it ought to be. You have to find it.
After much soul searching, I was still stuck. The key breakthrough occured after I read an article about how “your title does not define who you are”. Soon after starting to talk about myself as a web product geek as opposed to a product manager, I made the connection to the blog: I wanted to write about business issues founders of web-based startups face as they create new products and get their companies off the ground.
Thinking back, here is a simple exercise that what would have helped me find my true voice much more quickly:
- Write down 10-20 one-sentence blog post ideas.
- Tag each idea with 5-10 keywords that either describe it or associate with it.
- Count the number of times each keyword is mentioned
- Check for patterns among the most frequently occurring keywords.
After step 4 it should be clear what you truly want to write about. If not, you may need to generate more ideas and keywords, and iterate until it becomes clear.
I hope this helps the people similarly conflicted about their true voice. I would love to hear how well this works for others and how it could be improved. Happy blogging!
Smart phones and GPS technology enabled a new generation of apps, geo-local-mobile (GLM), most notably FourSquare, Whrrl and Gowalla. I heard them mentioned by various people, verbally and in my LinkedIn activity stream, and at a certain point I had find out: “What is this check-in thing all about? How do I too become a mayor? Give me badges!” As I found out, these apps are addicting at first. They gave me a way to tell my friends what and where I am doing, and make a game out of it. However, all suffer from three fatal flaws:
- As with any network-based idea, the value to the user is dependent on the size of the network. None of these apps achieved the critical mass of having enough of my friends engaged, so the incentive to post for the purpose of keeping in touch is not there.
- There is nothing that these apps offer that most people would pay for.
- Once the novelty wears off, the user has no reason to use the app. Game mechanics can only take you so far, and the rewards offered by the apps simply aren’t compelling enough.
To make matter worse, both Yelp and Facebook added seamless check-in capabilities. Given their vast existing networks and their incredible user engagement, it seems that the GLM apps are destined to fall by the wayside along with the Facebook also-rans. Although, given todays tech investment climate, the founders might still get nice exits!
– Will they come?
Check. Novelty and “me to” are drivers here.
– How will they know about it?
Check. Viral apps and lots of press. Great combination!
– How will they get to it?
Check. FaceBook and LinkedIn streams serve as reminders.
– What will they say?
Check. Game mechanics make this fun at first.
– Will they stay?
Check. Game mechanics keep the user engaged for a while.
– Will they pay?
Fail. No reason to pay, not much reason to even tolerate ads.
– Will they come back?
Fail. Not for long. Network effects aren’t strong enough and apps have no intrinsic value.
– Will they tell others to come?
Check. Word of mouth and social app integration are major drivers of user growth.