Archive for August, 2012
Look, not to be a pessimist here, but no matter how good things are going for you or your company, even if you’ve been on a run of good luck for a good while, you’re bound to hit a bottleneck or six sooner or later. Call it summertime blues (the last week of August tends to be a deadzone for investment and action), or call it karma, it’s just a fact of life.
It’s all too easy to get pessimistic and be blind to any silver lining. After all it never feels good to have people criticize you or your project. From personal experience in Epilogger’s earlier days, I can share that it’s hard when possible investors pretty much send you packing. You wonder if your pitch deck needs work, start to toy with the prospect of taking all that advice you’ve been getting in changing features or the direction of your product or life, or even question your fitness to continue doing what you do. Substitute “investors” for “supporters” and the same queasy feeling may come over you whether you’re a CEO, a CTO, blogger, salesperson, athlete, or artist. People love support and can do great things when the world strokes their egos. The true test of character, however, is when the gravy train stops and it’s just you and the open tracks.
Don’t give up. Trust me on this one. Tenacity is the ultimate form of optimism. No one knows what you’re capable of like you do. No one knows your business like you do. Know one knows your limits like you do. No one wants you to succeed more than you do. Being an entrepreneur can REALLY suck sometimes but that’s the sacrifice we make to try to change the world. I’ve said it before in this post. If one was to ask me what the common x-factor is among all successful people, I would say it’s tenacity. Many people who saw “The Social Network” think that Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook at Harvard, met Sean Parker and got investment and fame over night on the heads of Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevi. The real story of Facebook is that Zuckerberg got turned down by numerous investors before finally landing his VC. Some told him to give up and that it would never fly. How’s that working out? You have the vision, make the world believe it by executing.
Don’t confuse tenacity with plain old stubbornness though. There are legitimate cases where people just have a genuinely crappy idea that needs to fail. Usually the bad idea is due to lack of due diligence (Is this even needed? Is there at least a niche market? Did someone already do the exact same thing?) A few episodes of Shark’s Tank or Dragon’s Den should paint you a good picture of what I mean.
Get advice but always take it with a grain of salt. Ask whether the source of advice is playing with a full deck and has the right experience. Celebrity does NOT make expertise. You could be talking to the most well known though leader in internet security who has sold his/her company for a bajillion dollars, but if that person would need buy into what you’re doing/selling and has no understanding of it, keep that in mind before panicking and changing it all. There’s a difference between opinion and advice – one is criticism, the other is constructive. So take advice from people who you really trust and want what’s best for you. I can count on one hand who those people are in my life and you can be sure that those will always be kept close. They have helped me profoundly.
You are NEVER alone:
The world is more social now. As such businesses have changed and communities have become more tight knit. What’s really great is that there are now more people and programs that are willing to help you solve a myriad of problems that every entrepreneur faces at different stages. If you don’t know something, ASK SOMEBODY! Don’t worry about looking stupid because I guarantee you that you will look even stupider when negligence to learn something important comes to bear in an important situation. Get social and get out there. I learned a lot from my advisors, but to get to the level where their advice made sense, I had to go back to basics. I enrolled in the MaRS program, signed Epilogger up for Founderfuel, read books, attended tech meet meetups, and pulled the right contacts to get me to the right people to teach my dumb ass the things I didn’t know jack about.
You are not alone If you were ever stranded at sea or on a desert island you would do everything you could to signal for help. Apply the same logic to your startup, your art, and especially your life.
I’ve been asked to be a GROW Ambassador this year but I made sure that the folks at the Grow Conference could make it worth your while too. I’ve gotten them to give me a code that will get you $100 off admission to the conference.
This thing is going to be huge and it’s as good an excuse as any to head to Vancouver for a couple of days. Take a look at who’s coming to speak at the GROW Talks and Grow Conference sessions, and you will see why, as a startup entrepreneur, you need to get out there pronto!
So, look, I’m just going to come right out and say it. I’m in cahoots with GROW to a small degree and can offer you $100 off tickets. No catch, straight up.
Just follow and tweet at me and I will DM you a code you can input to get the discount. No need for some key phrase, just say you want to GROW and Boom! $100 from me to you. You need to be there. Hurry up though, Grow is only 2 weeks away!
That is all. See you at GROW.
I know this post will get a lot of you mac addicts (I’ve called you mac zombies in the past) up in a tizzy but I wanted to share my feelings about my recent purchase of the iPad.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been brand agnostic. When I buy a product the single most important factor that decides whether or not I whip out my wallet is the practical use of said product. The other factors that go into my decision, in this order, are: specific need for said item (i.e. I need a shirt for x reason), recommendations from friends/peers, and then price/value. Price is the last one because sometimes the value of an item justifies a higher price, however value, in my books goes back to necessity (the first criteria), meaning that the brand or “coolness” factor have little bearing on my decision.
As a startup entrepreneur you most likely apply the same criteria to making a new hire. Unless you are hiring some high profile team member to attract more investors, most of the time potential hires that come your way are not necessarily known to you. At that point you have to rely on the above criteria when making a decision whether to put that new developer, project manager, or designer on payroll. Do you need to make that hire to reach certain objectives? Can your peers in the business vouch for him/her or do their references check out? And, of course, is their salary expectation worth what they’re promising?
The same due diligence is what went into buying my iPad a few weeks ago. I needed a light computer to be able to pound pavement in Silicon Valley, tons of my peers said that iPad was the cat’s pyjamas, and the price was pretty good for the perceived value. HOWEVER, in practice, the iPad was an overpriced electric newspaper.
When I complained about it to some of my peers, what I got back was the same, almost cult-like, response from all the macheads: “Oh well the iPad is a consumption tool! It’s great for watching videos and reading books.” That drove me crazy. The other feedback I got was “you didn’t buy it for the right reasons.” That drove me even crazier. Given the above, I thought I did buy it for the right reasons. The feeling I got was that I was a square who didn’t fit the almighty Apple rather than vice versa. Maybe it’s because mac buyers tend to contort themselves into fitting the limited choice that Macs offer as far as customization (annoying in some cases for PC converts like me, but I can see how this limited choice is also likely the secret to their success in controlling the vertical market through their line of compatible products).
Pulling this back to the hiring allegory, I see similar behaviour from people in the tech scene all the time. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: some well known tech company hires a new CEO with great pedigree to replace their old one in a time of need. The new CEO starts his/her first day on the job to great fanfare, only to run the entire thing into the ground.
Or maybe you’ve heard the one about the young startup who got some big name investor to give them some money and join their board. While in many cases this is a great thing that helps the startup grow and flourish, there are some that find that particular investor is out of his/her depth with the type of business they just got themselves into. The relationship between investor and entrepreneur get strained as the big investor puts on the pressure to go in a direction that deviates significantly from the vision of the company. Scary stuff.
And then there is the busy entrepreneur (me) who needs a thin, light, computer that can help me make my everyday tasks easier. I knew going in that the soft keyboard was not for me so I bought a physical keyboard cover (as pictured above), still giving the iPad the benefit of the doubt. As sexy and sleek as the iPad was to hold and show off, this thing did nothing particularly useful, like, oh I don’t know, EMAIL! Yes, iPads can send emails just like an iPhone would but without the ability to attach a file in-line with an ongoing email chain, it gets extremely clunky. In order for me to attach a file (like say, a pitch deck) I had to download DropBox to act as a virtual drive (which it does quite well. I’m a big DropBox fan), and then download iBooks as a halfway point. I had to basically open the file from Dropbox in iBooks then hit the share button to get it into a separate email from the original email chain!
That was only one of the many problems, but I won’t get into the rest to save you the reading length. The thing is that Apple advertises the iPad as a productivity tool in their TV commercials. If so then how do they explain the iPad cutting my productivity in half due in large part to the need to hack together a bouquet of apps to get a task done that any laptop computer can do in one app, like a fully featured browser, and with Flash to boot!
The amount of extra moves needed to accomplish my computing goals were akin to having to hand-hold that new hire despite them coming highly recommended. It cuts down on productivity in a big way. Therefore, iPad is not a tool that is meant for productivity. It really is just a consumption tool, as my machead friends say.
It plays games, watches videos, surfs Facebook, and takes pictures, but gets little work done. Just like a crappy employee.
So I fired my iPad and hired its much more productive, and equally light, brother; the MacBook Air.