“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
— Steve Jobs, 1998
Stop staying around people who have your problems and start staying around ones who have your solutions.
– Jeffrey G. Allen, Instant Interviews
About a month ago, I was at local Startup Drink night and met Mohd Shahnawaz. Crying in my beer about my inability to get traction for my startup, Mohd recounted Jeffrey G. Allens’ quote & suggested I try finding events where people may actually have the skill-sets I looking for. Oddly enough, my favorite Startup Lessons Learned is Steve Blank’s “Get Out Of The Building”. Unfortunately, my myopia equated it with Customer Development & not recruiting. But as luck would have it, I had just received an email inviting me to the weekly Westmount Networking Breakfast & figured that’d be the perfect place to start.
Westmount Networking Breakfast
With about a dozen people in attendance, we went around the room giving our respective 60-second “info-mercials” (or, “Elevator Pitch” in geek-speak) and concluded by describing the perfect new contact we’d like to meet. Being the week after the International Startup Festival, I figured my pitch was in fine form. I figured wrong! It was met with confusion. However, it did validate that I definitely needed someone in Marketing.
During the meeting & over the next week, I met with some & gathered more & more feedback. As each week went by, I tweaked my Pitch & tried my best to come up with something that not only resonated with the audience but had potential to even help some.
Going For Coffee is Not a Waste
As a techie startup, not every challenge can be resolved writing code – like Customer Development (Steve Blank). Instinctively, going out for coffee seems to align more with Lean’s definition of Waste (“Any human activity that absorbs resources but creates no value”, Taiichi Ohno, Toyota Production System.) But nothing can be further from the truth. Providing you’re not going out for coffee to listen to yourself pitch, or, drink your own Kool-aid, getting out offers huge opportunities to save precious time & resources.
Recently, I started attending a weekly business networking breakfast of 10-15 regulars where we all take turns presenting what we do (Elevator Pitch) & the ideal contact we’d like to make. And while I’m the only Techie Startup, everyone else in the room is pretty much a Startup, whether they’re a Small Medium sized Business (SMB), or, an agent for a larger organization. Personally, I love presenting/pitching, so I look forward to every meeting where I could tweak & tune my Pitch, hoping it aligns better with the audience’s needs. It’s a lot cheaper to change a 60-second Pitch than to keep cranking out scalable code that customers will may never execute.
For those who shy away from presenting, there’s no better place & forgiving audience to practice in front of, week after week. (Steve Jobs doesn’t wing it.) Going for coffee is not a Waste – it’s a opportunity. Blowing a face-to-face potential stakeholder (employee, business partner, customer) meeting, now that’s a Waste.Thanks Mark for drawing those thoughts out of me. I feel a blog post coming on 🙂
Lessons To Learn
Read Mark’s post, join a local business networking group, go beyond “Getting out of the building” and “Coffee Meetings” and “Stop staying around people who have your problems and start staying around ones who have your solutions.”
Not just the Spanish Main, love. The entire ocean. The entire wo’ld. Wherever we want to go, we’ll go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that’s what a ship needs but what a ship is… what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom.
– Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Gibbs: Jack, I have to ask. You had the chalices, the water, the tear, you could have lived maybe forever?
Jack Sparrow: The fountain does test you Gibbs. But better to not know which moment maybe your last. Every morsel of your entire being alive to the infinite mystery of it all. And who’s to say I won’t live forever, hey? Discoverer of the fountain of youth. I have no say in it, Gibbs. It’s a pirates life for me. Savvy!
That’s what it’s like living the life of a Startup. Even the Pirate Code – which crew members sign, entitling him them to vote for “officers and on other affairs of moment, to bear arms, and to his share of the plunder” bear resemblance to some startup structures.
Lessons To Learn
Whether you be a captain/founder, or, an employee/crew member, you always have to think like a Pirate. The startup is your ship and your ship is your freedom.
The wind’s on our side boys! That’s all we need!
It’s better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.
– Steve Jobs’ Stanford University Commencement address (2005)
I was preparing a Prezi presentation on my startup Lessons Learned, looking back to my blog and and our Cynapse cyn.in social software suite for help in tracing my steps and it hit me. OMG! It’s been two years since I posted about this Steve Jobs quote & Garr Reynolds’ images are still stuck in my mind’s eye. It’s been one year since I posted about my first Pivot – inspired by Startup Lesson Learned 2010 conference and the Retrospective (Agile) has simply compelled me to blog about my dots and where they have led me.
My Lessons Learned Sprints
My Lessons Learned Prezi may still be a work in process but the dots seem to be in place. Trying to blog about the entire Retrospective is just too daunting. So in the spirit of Agile, I’ll break the Prezi up into dot-size sprints and will change the posted dates accordingly.
Some of us folks in the social software field need to take a lesson from 11 year-olds & Steve Jobs.
Apple Specialists are at the heart of our reputation for extraordinary customer service. You love people. Have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Apple. And can translate technology-speak into everyday language. You’re ready to not just serve up information, but also inspire the next generation of Mac, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV fans.
– Job posting for an Apple (Store) Specialist & the Steve Jobs philosphy of why a customer should care
In my previous post – Early social software adopters eager for extra homework, I bragged about how quickly and effortlessly Sara’s Grade 6 class not just adopted, but embraced their new social software site. But this week, was about The Project & actually working in their Deliverables – modifying Cynapse’s Best Practices Guide For Elementary School Students.
I don’t get “getting feedback on interim deliverables”
Mayby you can shorten the text to make it seem less,… daunting.
i don’t get it ????????????
What does surfacing and interim mean?
I guess it makes sense, but 1/4 of your day is a pretty long time – 3-4 hours’ worth!
What does fragmented mean?
What is RSS?
What’s 2.0 enterprises?
Kids usually don’t care about publishing!
What is tacit knowledge
what does infrastructure mean?
What is this adopting, exactly?
What’s facilitate and aggregate.
well what are we talking about?
— from Driving Adoption
Can you reply to their comments, like an Apple Store Specialist – translating technology-speak into everyday language 11 and 12 year-olds can understand?
The time has come to put down the books, close the blogs and simply focus on doing and not learning. Here’s my Idea’s Five Ws and one H.
What’s Your EQ (Entrepreneurial Quotient)? The intent is to test your knowledge of the subject of entrepreneurship, not to test how good an entrepreneur you are, because, there’s no way to measure that. Therefore, scoring high doesn’t mean you’re the next Steve Jobs, and scoring low doesn’t mean you’re not. This makes the EQ test as reliable as the IQ test, but it can’t hurt to have a good working knowledge of the reality of entrepreneurship.
What your score means:
17-22. Your score is high, so you can now focus on doing, not learning.
Arising from my three-part Connecting the dots series, here’s the first entry of my Start-up Chronicles where I’ll journal about decisions made and ones coming up; actions I’m taking and those I’m deferring.
Take a look on the right sidebar under “Pivotal Reading”. I’ve read all I could read – for now. (FYI, my “idea” image was inspired by Back Of The Napkin.) So it appears the time has come and the stars are aligned to take a shot. To be quite honest my idea is not the kind of stuff that will change the world but it might just change a few things for a few people. And if I could do that, well that’s pretty good for starters.
In the interest of keeping things short and sweet, I’ll briefly blog about my Idea’s Five Ws (and one H). However, I’ll save the What entry for when there’s actually a piece of executable code for you to try for yourself.
My next post will discuss the Who decision-making part of my Idea.
There is no plan… well, maybe a little one.
A few months ago, I had another one of those
Wouldn’t it be great if you could… yada yada yada
moments. And after consulting Anna and the kids, have decided to do my best to bootstrap this yada yada yada into reality – while looking for work of course 🙂
Don’t worry! I’m not going to use this blog to promote the start-up – too much. I’ll create a new blog in its appropriate space when the time is right. This blog is going to return to the grass roots of what blogs were once meant to be.
- blog noun
- : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer ; also : the contents of such a site
Here’s the plan – for now; I’m going to journal my start-up adventures. Decisions I made and ones coming up. Actions I’m taking and those I’m deferring.
So whether you’re among the 90% of Viewers out there, or, among the 10% of Most Fequent Contributors (MFCs), please join me as I chronicle my start-up adventures. But until my next post, I’d love to hear from some of those MFCs out there about their experiences, or, opinions. And for the record, I too was once a Viewer. So Viewers, fill out the Leave a Comment box below and let me know you’re out there following along. It’s actually a lot more fun to leave your mark than just reading all the time.
There is no plan… well, maybe a little one.
In my previous post, Connecting the dots – Part 1, I provided three sources of inspiration for this three part series.
While I may not share much in common with Steve Jobs – aside from a first name, I do feel I have to stop trying to connect my dots looking forward. I’ve been in the business of software development for over 25 years now. Truth be told, if I had to do it all over again, I would still be in this business – but I’d do things a little different. There’s nothing I love more than creating things. And the only thing more exhilarating that thinking
Wouldn’t it be great if you could… yada yada yada”
is actually bringing it to life.
Back in the dot com days, I was fortunate enough to get asked to join a start-up. We put together an e-learning solution & without going into too much detail, I have yet seen anything better. But as you may have guessed, it was a dot com & it suffered the same fate as many. I held on for three years, despite only being paid for one & picking up the odd contract here & there. Others, for their own reasons, clung on to hope even longer. For myself, with a wife (Anna), two kids (Sara & Alex) and many of the other things that come along with them, it was the hardest lesson I ever learned. It was also the best time of my life. From early morning conference calls to one’s that stretched into Sara’s soccer games, or, Alex’ bottle, to working through the night feeling quilty while Anna was alone watching TV, or asleep in bed. We were at it 24×7 and would gladly have worked more if we could have only found a way.
What started from a 10-minute phone call, went to whiteboard, proof-of-concept, alpha, beta and live. For the first time in my development life, I actually understood and contributed to the value of marketing, sales, service & support. It was the best & the worst all neatly bound together. But my dot (com) s were not going to connect as dreamed.
Within a few months, I was fortunate to get a much appreciated job with IBM Canada’s Montreal Rational Software Lab. And while it was a great experience, I never really felt my dots would all of a sudden start aligning. And so, as Seth Godin might say, it was a good Dip-dot, but a dot nonetheless.
And so, here I am. If you’ve seen any of my last few posts, then you may know I’ve been trying to build a case for the shared services of a Community Product Manager. To be quite honest, it’s been a tough sale. Not so much because the concept lacks merit, but more so because it’s difficult to only talk about delivering value. Today, you have to deliver value first and then build on that in order to get the business. Unfortunately, the cost of delivering first and selling later – in this particular case, is just too high for me. So I’m going to consider this a little Dip-dot and simply move on.
My next and final post in this three-part series will lay the foundation for my next dot. In the meantime, it’d be nice if any of you could share some of your own dot-stories here.
There is no plan… well, maybe a little one.
When reading Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, I came across an example of his work – Daniel Pink‘s Adventures Of Johnny Bunko. Not only is this a great testimony of his presentation style, but it’s an even greater introduction to the book. Actually, it’s a comic book that you could read during lunch. And if it’s one of those days when you’ll be strapping on a feedbag in front of your screen, then you should at least check out the book’s trailer. It’s less than two minutes.
Now with your head hopefully in the right place and your tummy full, let’s circle back to Garr Reynolds’ ‘Career Advice ’08’ presentation. Here lies an even greater find – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech 2005. This is a must watch video. It’s by no means the classic image I have of Steve Jobs – an absolutely marvelous presenter, effortlessly parading around the stage preaching another Apple keynote speech to his minions. It’s actually quite the contrary. This is the first time I’ve seen him standing behind a podium, seldom looking up from his written speech, almost nervously revealing personal stories of his life. So refill your feedback & take the 14 minutes to watch this!
My next post in this series will be about taking inventory of my own dots. In the meantime, feel free to you go off and ponder yours for now.