In the spirit of Agile, here’s my retrospective on when we realized the primary objective is to build a business & not to get funded.
Inflating Our Own Bubble
Back in June 2009, I read about the TechCrunch50 2009 contest & while we barely had any running code, submitted an entry. My collaborators thought it was a bit of a stretch, but we all agreed it’s nice to set goals. So while trying to get a grip on what was required of us, I immersed myself in TechCrunch stuff. From what I understood, there was a common theme emerging – get funded & get out. And making it to the semi-finals only encouraged me.
I Think Our Bubble Has a Leak
We thought we had something that was so paradigm shifting, yet so simplistically obvious at the same time, that we’d have no trouble bringing on a CEO to help us reach Jason’s Promised Land. But it wasn’t happening like that. And as time passed, we realized that if we wanted to see our dream change the world then we couldn’t wait on someone else to make it happen.
A few tweets later, I was signed up and working with one of BeanSprout‘s founders – Artie Patel. I told him “Ideally, we’d like to hook up with someone like Localeze“. To which Artie responded; “They’re a customer of ours. Let’s see what we can do to help.”
Lessons To Learn
I’m actually planning on meeting Artie next week when they present at International Startup Festival – Montreal, Canada, July 13-15th 2011 where I’ll be volunteering for my Starving Startup ticket. Stay tuned for more details about how another startup delivered an awesome experience & whether it can help us learn to build a ______ profitable business.
This year, 46% of retail sales will be influenced by the web – but more than 90% of total retail transactions will occur in-store, from small neighborhood boutiques to national chains *. No matter where our users are shopping, we want to help them find your products.
OMG this is amazing. I’m now competing with Google!
Just when I was killing myself with how to market AnotherSocialEconomy, I find this beta service from Google. Do you know what that means? Yes, Google already has all the eyeballs in the universe and yes, they could blow me out of the water at will.
But what that also means is that I no longer have to worry about finding my target audience. You see AnotherSocialEconomy brings retailers’ available supply to consumers’ demand. Pretty vague, eh? Try finding a good mix of AdWords keywords for a local buying network like that. It’s nuts. More importantly, it’s hugely expensive. Most importantly, customer cost of acquisition is astronomical.
With Google out there now, all I have to do is set my Google Alerts and other social media listening tools to “Google Local Shopping” and “Google Product Search”. I could follow their Buzz in the wake of their Wave & target my pitches.
It does seem like a small amount of work to get listed; however, anything you can do to make your products more available and searchable is a good thing.
AnotherSocialEconomy’s barrier for adoption is an email account and optionally, a modern browser with an Internet connection. That’s it! No multiple Merchant Accounts. As a matter of fact, registered Retail Sales Associates could also use their Twitter account / text messaging (SMS), Jabber Instant Messaging (IM) – like Google Talk, as well as, an Androida app. Basically, anyone with a smartphone is literally in business. There’s no XML data feeds to set up. No inventories to maintain.
Just details? Maybe, but the feedback I’ve gotten so far is that small/medium businesses (SMB) are living on smaller and smaller margins. So the fewer details, the less investment in the service, the greater the return on investment. And vice versa.
AnotherSocialEconomy is not free
Consumers pay a token fee for requesting goods/services – Demand. And Retailers pay a token fee, as well, for proposing their Supply. Why? Well for starters, we hope to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio. Less noise going to the Retailers, means higher quality sales leads. Higher quality sales leads means higher quality Proposals going back to the Consumers. Higher quality Proposals, results in greater probability of closing sales.
But wait there’s more…
Ok, so AnotherSocialEconomy isn’t free. But it is another social economy. That means that it shares with its community members through its the Influencer, Reseller and Referrer programs.
Be sure to come back & visit as I ride in the wake of Google’s Local Shopping wave trying my best to compare our competing services. Please feel free to share your own experiences, opinions and comparative thoughts.
There was something familiar about Twitter back in December 2008 when I posted My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included). It wasn’t necessarily the short messages – like text messaging (SMS), even though those were its roots. It wasn’t so much the chat-like short messages either. It was something I recognized as an IBM MQ Series feature call Message Persistence – basically meaning, the messages are saved on some hard disk on some server somewhere on the network. So what? So as opposed to email, text messages, or, chat messages that are 1) unless they’re spam, are sent to a select group of people, and 2) can be deleted, Twitter messages are potentially in the public domain, persisted (save to some disk) and searchable.
The original idea behind Twetailer was to expand on those persisted tweets, as if they were MQ Series persisted messages and use them as a poor-mans’ communication channel. And just like MQ Series with its ability to have operating system agnostic clients communicating to the MQ Series server, there were already a whack of Twitter client applications out there like TweetDeck, Twhirl, Seesmic, etc. That way Twetailer could focus on the transaction engine and let its users choose their favorite client app. We even had free text messaging (SMS), courtesy of Twitter.
Hence the name Twetailer, which is short for Twitter Retailer.
Sounds like a plan, eh?
But Dom Derrien was concerned about relying on Twitter for these persisted messages, so, we decided to persist our own. Still true to our Twitter inspiration, we built a transaction engine that runs in 140 characters, or, less. As a Consumer, your initial request looks like:
d twetailer wii console locale:1235 us range:25 mi expires:2010-12-23
and subsequent requests could look like:
d twetailer rent twilight dvd
since we already knew your previous preference for location and default the expiry date to one month in the future.
Oh, by the way, Dom was right! To date, Twitter does not persist searchable messages beyond a few days, at best!
While everyone we yakked to about the concept Where Demand comes to meet Supply loved it, they either didn’t tweet, or, thought the messages were too cryptic.
I have two start-up projects underway. The first, Twetailer was inspired by one of those “OMG! Wouldn’t it be great if you could just yada yada yada?” moments. The second, http://edu.cyn.in, was not. No edu, was created out of my 11-year old daughter Sara’s frustration with her school’s computer curriculum. Complaints like: “Why do I care if something is bold?”, or, “Insert a column? When am I ever going to need that when I grow up?”. Yikes! Wouldn’t it be great if Sara could actually use technology for something she cared about?
You can’t always get what you want
– Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones
But Sara also shared the frustration she felt when some of her friends – who are on Facebook, kept urging others to join up, even though they know the minimun age is 14. Similarly for those with MSN, or, gmail accounts. And while I love seeing kids adopt technology, there are valid reasons why these services have age requirements. So, as a parent, what do you do? Do you stick to the rules & tell them to wait until they’re old enough? Do you let them waste their effortless ability to embrace these social technologies and stick to making things bold & inserting colums?
But what if you were able to trust another parent to monitor your kid’s activities for you? Like when you let your little one go on a playdate to a friend’s house, or, they’re invited to the movies. If you trust the friend’s parents then you let them go.
Perhaps your first digital social safety net
edu started out to be a way for Sara & her Grade 6 classmates to socialize in a secured and monitored Internet playground. A place where they could experience the power of blogs, wikis, discussions, audio, video, image sharing, etc. while learning the new minimun skills sets required in today’s digital and globally distributed workplace. Pretty soon, edu will be made available for the rest of her school and any other school interested under the following conditions:
The student has to be attending an educational institution registered with edu
There must be at least one parent/guardian, teacher/faculty member monitoring that student’s grade.
In Sara’s case, I monitored her grade. Did that mean all the other parents trusted me (and edu with their children’s related activities? Not necesarly. It turns out, most didn’t have a choice. Over the course of the project, I spoke with a few parents and they simply felt they didn’t have the skill sets to monitor. Even after informing them its just a matter of reading their email, they still felt uncomfortable with this “type of stuff”, but looked forward to watching how their kids used it.
Do the math
So in essence, condition #2 above, became those parents’ new social safety net. All they needed was one adult out of twenty students, to feel comfortable enough to watch over their child in their new digital playground. Is this any different than letting your child go to the movies, or, a school field trip with a parent like that?
My parents always told me: “All we want is for you to have more opportunities than we did growing up.” And they certainly succeeded. As a parent in today’s digital world, it would be a shame not to continue the tradition. edu gives those who aren’t as connected as their kids the opportunity to do just that.
Twetailer: Brokering Consumer Demand with local Retailers’ available Supply – via tweets, for f(r)ee, or, Reverse Retailing.
Last night I presented the slides & recordings as above but did the audio part live. Technically, I had 10 minutes – 5 for demo & 5 for Q&A. I actually consumed 7 minutes, leaving on 3 for Q&A.
Here’s the Q&A (paraphrased):
Q. Do you have any retailers signed up?
A. That’s the stage we’re at right now. We actually have one, my Volkswagen dealer Volkswagen Des Sources. GregVW thinks its great for used cars!
Q. Is it fully functional?
A. Yes! The recorded demo part was just to make sure we didn’t run into any timing issues. We also weren’t sure about Internet access here – which as it turns out, there’s none. But Yes, it’s fully functional. You can even do you own demo by sending “d twetailer what-are-you-buying #demo” and a robot will play the Sales Associate role. If you want, try sending “d twetailer used vw 2010 #demo” and Greg may even play along too.
Man I told you… my day is, I come to work, I get paid, I go home. You think I want to do this all my life?
– Retailer Sales Associate (Let’s call him Trevor)
Over the past few posts, I’ve spent some time describing my Social Software in Schools project, which has been an absolute blast & has yeilded some surprising results. (But that’ll be another post.) However, I also spend my time on my true start-up – twetailer. Without going into much detail here, I’ll just put things in context by defining it as:
Twetailer: Brokering Consumer Demand with local Retailers’ available Supply – via tweets, for f(r)ee.
Prior to heading off to pitch a potential business partner, I decided to try out my routine on an unsuspecting Retail Sales Associate who I thought fit our personna – young, tech savy, looking for an easier way to get things done. My pitch demos how consumers Google for product reviews, make a decision, then search for a local retailer to make the sale. Part of the demo, demonstrates how local business directories / search engines were failing local retailers, thereby creating greater barriers for entry (sales) to their stores – partly due to their antiquated taxonomy/categories.
The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I approached Trevor – an unoccupied Carl’s Cameras Sales Associate, as opposed to, the older gentleman behind the cash register making sales. I introduced myself as being part of an Internet start-up company offering a free search service that matches consumers ready to purchase products with local retailers ready to make sales – all via Tweets/text messages. While Trevor didn’t use Twitter (too young), he was willing to listen, so I opened my MacBook & started my Keynote presentation. I went through all the slides/videos & stopped at the demo part to elaborate. Trevor was engaged! He had questions & thought it was “really cool”. He thought searching Yellow Pages for “cameras” locally was useless but did accept there may not be many alternatives, even after I demoed Google Maps local search. He wasn’t surprised to see Carl’s Cameras not among the initial Yellow Pages search results & conceded that no one walks into the store asking for “digital image processing equipment” – Carl’s Cameras taxonomy & there’s no way anyone in the store could change that. He loved the idea of “social tagging” Demand & Supply in the language (terminology) of the consumers’ & retailers’ & thought it was very practical.
However, here’s how the conversation continued;
Me: “Would you use Twetailer to help you close sales?”
Trevor: No. It’s not like I’m going to work here the rest of my life. My day is, I come in, I go home, I get paid.”
Me: But you could just sit down in the back room, have a coffee & make sales? Do you text message?
Trevor: Yah, for sure. But I’m not going to use my phone for work & Carl’s Cameras is not going to give me a phone to text.
Me: Carl’s Cameras doesn’t have to give you a phone to text. Especially, if you’ve already got unlimited texting. Tell me, if a friend texted you & said he knows someone looking for a nikon d5000, do you have any in the store, would you text back? Wouldn’t you text “Yes, tell them to come see me.”?
Trevor: True dat… of course I would.
Me: So what’s the difference with Twetailer?
Trevor: I guess nothing. But my day is, I come here, I work, I go home, I get paid. You know… you should really speak to Carl’s Cameras’ Regional Sales Manager. He’s a really nice guy & he’s gonna love this thing. He could probably get all the stores to use it. (He then went to get me the contact info.)
Me: Thanks so much for your help. I really appreciate it. Take care.
True Dat Story
I then glanced over to the cash, where the elder gentleman was eavesdropping from all the time, waited to see if he had anything to add & then left.
In the days that followed, I tried on several occassions to contact the Regional Sales Manager. The phone number Trevor gave me was also listed on the web site. Yet everytime I called, the phone system went on & on about the office hours & no matter what options I chose, no matter what day, no matter what time, I always ended back at the beginning. For the record “Carl’s Cameras” is my alias for a national retailer!
A few days later, I demo’ed to Kevin Makice – author of Twitter API: Up and Running – O’Reilly Media. He had a funny/sad take on this story. His theory is that small/medium sized retailers – the Mom & Pop stores, are so busy treading water, that they can’t imagine stopping for 5 minutes to try something new, simply on the hope that it can change their world. This would be especially true, for a technology they don’t get – like Twitter/ text messaging.
Unfortunately, the irony of the situation, is that text messaging/tweets empowers these retailers to get back in the digital age. There’s no need for static brochure-ware web sites – which they may have missed, or, are out-dated. There’s no need for online e-commerce shopping cart sites – which they probably can’t afford, or, could never see any return-on-investment. There’s no need for anything more that an old mobile phone that can text message & someone to push those little buttons.
All they need is someone like Trevor to give a damm. Someone who would probably love the excuse to text at work. Someone who would probably find it easier than answering the phone.
Next time, I’m going to demo someone on commission 🙂
Have you had a similar experience? Is this a generational thing, or, simply a management issue?
On one of the last days before school broke for the holidays, I was left with only ten minutes of demo time. So I decided to quickly peruse the site structure which has a Space for the elementary school and sub-Spaces for the Students and another for the teachers and parents. I explained to the students that parents & teachers can view, but not write, in their Student Space, so they need to be sure that whatever they post is appropriate. Furthermore, they can’t even view what’s in the teachers’ & parents’ Spaces. However, everyone can post (read/write) in the Home and their school Space. Basically, the students are allowed to write whatever their conscience allows for.
Having explained the Big Brother philosophy and with precious little time remaining, I gave them a quick tour on how to navigate the site & then showed them Cynapse’s Status Logs. This is almost the equivalent of Twitter except:
there is no Following, so there’s no need to Follow whoever is in fashion
the messages are threaded, which allows members to Comment on a specific Status message, as well as, Reply to those comments.
Out of the 34 signed-up members, 50% (17) are parents – none of whom, aside from myself, have contributed any content yet. Of the remaining 17 students, nine (9) have contributed. So with an introduction of less than a total of 60 minutes spread over two weeks, the student-MFC numbers (over 26%) better those in the above study of 10%. And that’s over the holiday break!
What does this mean?
My guess, and hope, is that once school starts up again this week, and I start my usually Monday Lunch & Learn sessions the following week, that even more of the students will be contributing content. Once I layout the The Project Plan and dates, I’ll have the students present their own Lunch & Learns about their adopted Features. As their knowledge increases, my guess is their adoption will increase with it. As the student adoption rate increases, my guesss is that the parents and teachers will follow shortly after.
What kind of social software adoption rates have you experienced? Are they better/worse/in line with the MFC study?
My father – Max, has been in a long-term care facility – Maimonides, for the last 7 years suffering from a form of Dementia – Lewy Body Disease. On Monday November 9, 2009, after spending the last two weeks in Emergency at the Jewish General Hospital suffering from pnemonia, he returned to Maimonides where he has now entered the end of life cycle.
To the best of our knowledge, the Comfort Care he is receiving will only sustain him for a few days.
Throughout the years, both Sara(11), Alex(7) and my wife Anna have visited my father almost on a weekly basis. The last time they saw him – three weeks ago, he did not look well. However, since his return to Maimonides, he not only looks much better, he’s also more comfortable & peaceful – which is the only goal we have.
On Tuesday, November 10, 2009, we picked the kids up from school and explained that we were going to visit Zadie (grandfather) so they could see for themselves how much better he looked than the last time they saw him. We also rationalized Curative versu Palliative Care as;
We don’t want Zadie to get sick before he dies. We are trying our best to make sure he doesn’t get pneumonia again, or, any other kind of infection. Even though Zadie has been sick for so many years, he was – all things considered, always comfortable and well cared for. And when it’s time, we would just like him to be comfortable, fall asleep and not wake up.
For all the pamphlets, books, posts and web sites you may read, for all the doctors, nurse, orderlies, care givers, friends and families you may consult, here is my contribution. From Max’s bedside, or from home, I’m trying to journalize the experience, in 140 characters, or, less with one, or, two daily updates.
Update: Twitter no longer returns search results beyond a few days
Maybe this is part of Twitter’s monetization strategy – which would be a good one. Nonetheless, I copied my updates in my FriendFeed channel.
Spending first night of “comfort care” at my father’s #max bedside at end of #dementia http://myloc.me/1qq0m
studies show that patients on palliative care often live longer, are happier and families have time to say good bye http://bit.ly/2hVEsq
#max fave was soaking up the Florida rays, so played ocean surf mp3 & opened bottle of tanning oil. Quiet night. #dementia
About to pickup Sara (11), Alex(7) & wife Anna to visit my father #max while he’s still comfy. #dementia
Having my wife Anna & the kids Sara (11) & Alex(7) visit my father #max to say their goodbyes went incredibly well for everyone #dementia
ComfortCareDay1. Brother’s turn to relieve mother & stay bedside with father #max tonight.Still on 6hr Tylenol,occass 2mg Morphine #dementia
ComfortCareDay2 morning report: #max needed 2mg Morphine during night. We may have to start giving it every 4hours sometime today. #dementia
Rationalized Curative vs Palliative Care to Sara(11) & Alex(7) as; “We want Zadie (#max) to not get sick (like…) before he dies” #dementia
ComfortCareDay2 nighttime: #max started on 2mg Morphine every 4hours & oxygen today. He had a lot of visitors & is sleeping now #dementia
ComfortCareDay3 morning: #max didn’t have as restful night as I would’ve imagined but better now. Guess we’ll have to up morphine #dementia
ComfortCareDay3 evening: #max had better day than last evening. My fault 🙁 I should’ve raised his head.Good day for visitors:-) #dementia
ComfortCareDay4 morning: #max had a bad night again coughing/choking & needed extra shot of Morphine. Hoping day will be easier #dementia
ComfortCareDay4: had to give #max something to dry up fluids to stop choking. His breathing is now about half normal rate. #dementia
ComfortCareDay4 night: #max had to have morphine upped to .3mg every 4 hrs but resting comfortably now. Getting Robinul too #dementia
ComfortCareDay5 early: tough night 4 #max. Robinul isn’t helping, trying Scopolamine in 3hours. Morphine 2b upped to .4mg #dementia
ComfortCareDay5 early: oxygen & puffer helped #max a little but hoping Scopolamine will bring relief. Just got .4mg Morphine #dementia
ComfortCareDay5 evening: #max is comfy. Scopolamine beakthru not needed yet. Robinul working with .5mg Morphine #dementia
ComfortCareDay6 morning: #max had a relaxed night. Scopolamine beakthru needed 1x, Robinul, .5mg Morphine & combivent working #dementia
ComfortCareDay7 morning: Very very quiet night for #max. We’re just sticking to the routine. Week has been full of family/friends #dementia
ComfortCareDay7 afternoon: stopped robinul & opted for only regular doses of scopolamine. #max is very very quiet. #dementia
ComfortCareDay7 evening: all this robinul, scopolamine & combi-vent yet congestion is always problem. But #max is resting again. #dementia
ComfortCareDay8 morning: A record for #max: 12 hours with no _indication_ of any congestion or pain! #dementia
RT @4Gma: Having a sad moment… #dementia. There’s a Jewish expression Yasher Koach — `you should have strength’. I think that says it all
ComfortCareDay8 night: After 21 comfy hrs #Max has 6 hours of coughing/Apnea ~20 seconds no breathing. Just got .2+.5mg morphine #dementia
ComfortCareDay9 morning: After 9 days of no food or fluid, #Max gets some breathing relief from oxygen #dementia
ComfortCareDay9 morning: Overnight nurse helps #Max by suctioning water out of lungs & pledges to us he’ll die with dignity #dementia
ComfortCareDay9: Day Dr upped morphine to .6, scopolamine & robinul for #Max (breathing heavy) & left orders for Plan B. #dementia
ComfortCareDay9 evening: Meds stopping #Max from coughing but still has a little gurgling. Breathing heavy/steady last 10hrs. #dementia
ComfortCareDay10 Morning: #Max had an uneventful & restful night. Nonetheless, his breathing is weaker & a little erratic. #dementia
ComfortCareDay11 Morning: With shorter & shorter breaths, #Max passed away peacefully with dignity & family by his side. #dementia
ComfortCareDay11: please help me immortilize #Max at https://migrate4.stevenmilstein.com/2009… & leave a comment. #dementia
ComfortCareDay11: Sorry!!! WordPress Comments now working. Please try again for #max https://migrate4.stevenmilstein.com/2009… #dementia
Thanks for the RT @aboutdignity regarding my father #Max http://twitter.com/stevenm… #dementia
@ElderCareRN my heartfelt condolence re: your father. #Max was in long-term care for 7 years. Lewy Body Disease caused awful hallucinations
MILSTEIN, MAX. On Friday, November 20, 2009. Beloved husband of Frances. Devoted father and father-in-law of Elaine and Alan Sims, Steven and Anna Maria, Alan and Resa Milstein. Cherished Zaidie of Benjamin, Sara and Alex, Samara and Danielle. Dear brother of the late Hymie Milstein, and brother-in-law of Mort and the late Vivian Braunstein. Max will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Funeral service from Paperman & Sons, 3888 Jean Talon St. W., on Sunday, November 22 at 2 p.m. Burial at the Beth Israel Congregation Section, Kehal Israel Cemetery, D.D.O. Shiva Sunday through Thursday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. daily. Donations in his memory may be made to the Maimonides Hospital Foundation, (514) 483-2121, ext. 2207.
A Son’s (and a Grandson’s) Eulogy
The Ultimate in Closure
When the funeral service has ended, the mourners come forward to fill the grave. Symbolically, this gives the mourners closure as they observe the grave being filled in. One custom is for people present at the funeral to take a spade or shovel, held pointing down instead of up, to show the antithesis of death to life … to throw three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave.
My original intent was to play a couple of music videos I mashed-up to see how familiar the students already were with services like Facebook & MSN. Unfortunately, as I plugged the external speakers into my 6 year-old Dell laptop, something went pop & then all we heard was nothing but snap & crackle.
I should have known better than try to resolve the situation. Mr. N. jumped right in with a little discussion on the pros & cons of things like Facebook & MSN. But as Sara gave me her “Daddy…?” look, I figured it was time to move on and demo the mini-site I set up the night before.
I started off logged into the site with Sara’s credentials & displayed the day’s Calendar Event. I toured the bullet items and the Video Gallery – like YouTube, I wanted to show. I clicked on Sara’s Profile page to draw the analogy to Facebook. I showed them the Image Gallery with a few pictures Sara took at their last 3-day field trip & mentioned Flickr. I showed them Status messages & Discussions – sort of like MSN, GTalk, Twitter, Facebook, myspace, gmail, hotmail, etc. Then there was the shared Bookmarks like delicious and digg.
In the end, I never needed the videos. For the most part, the kids were very much tuned into the virtues of social software. If anything, they just didn’t know that that’s what it was called.
For myself, I learned that more than half the kids were already on Facebook & avid MSN users. In fact, the Facebook users were also well aware of the fact they are “ineligible” to register but lied about their birthdays as a work around. MSN doesn’t challenge anyone on registration but it’s buried somewhere in the Terms & Conditions that a “Child” must have the permission of a parent, or, guardian – which seemed to bother some of the kids on MSN.
For those, not registered with Facebook, many were very quick to say they didn’t want to lie about their age – Sara included. In addition, I also found out that some felt the peer pressure to be on Facebook.
A simple analogy
So that’s what we offered the Grade 6 class. All the social software capabilities they want in the privacy and safety of their own school. I pointed out that at recess time, the school doesn’t send them out to the public parks to play. They go out to their gated schoolyard where there’s school staff to monitor them. And on some occasions, they get together with other schools to play soccer, or, football. So this was going to be exactly along the same thinking – just virtual.
While I wasn’t able to play any videos for the kids, I did cover the material the old fashioned way. I explained to them the deal in the making – described in my previous post The Start-Up Chronicles: Chapter 2. Who, Part 4, under “Who’s in for a little extra-curricular activity?”.
In the end, both Mr. N. & I concluded that there is certainly a desire and need for us to bring social software into the school. In the fact the interest level seemed so high, that Mr. N. offered to integrate the social software activity into his curriculum and even dedicate Friday afternoons for me to mentor the kids – given enough parents grant their permission.
Permission Slip and all the parents/guardians have been directed here to permit, or, not permit their child to participate in the social software activity.
[form 2 “Social Software In Schools Permission Form”]
with only the bare bones of running code, I submitted our TechCrunch50 2009 application. My contributors (The Start-Up Chronicles: Chapter 2. Who, Part 2), while suggesting I was being too aggressive, agreed that it’s always nice to have Milestones, and agreed to try.
July 27, 2009
I received an email informing stating:
Congratulations, your company has been selected for a phone and screensharing interview. We were truly overwhelmed to have over 1,000 applications from over 40 countries submit to launch at our event this year, so please feel great about making it to the next round of consideration.
August 2, 2009
We received an email instructing us to book a demo time and make whatever live demo arrangements necessary &
The duration of your interview will be 15 minutes. Please plan to demo your product for 8 minutes (show the product, we have the background information in your application) and use the remaining 7 minutes for Q&A.
As a reminder, DO NOT comment about your interview status publicly (including social media such as Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, etc.) Unfortunately, we’ve had to eliminate 2 companies to date from consideration who posted about their status with the conference. We don’t want to take these steps, but other applicants are certainly looking out for people who do not follow the rules. Please don’t let this be you.
Sunday September 8, 2009 5:00 PM to 5:20 PM PST
Our twenty minutes of fame. Jason Calacanis logged into the demo a couple of minutes late. I reiterated our assumption that he’s seen our background video uploaded with our Application to which he informed us that he only saw our names & that of our start-ups’ as he found the demo log in information. Somewhat disappointed, I pushed back reminding him of the previous email. All Jason said was:
And demo we did. Not taking any chances, we had a prerecorded simulated demo of how the system will work end-to-end, followed by a live demo of its current development state. Jason made a few observations. Fortunately for us, we had collaborated for weeks on an entire internal wiki pages titled -“Pitch FAQ”, which just happened to provide fuel for my answers. And that was it. twenty minutes does not last long. Jason thanked us for taking time out of our Sunday evening, told us we should hear something in about a week and immediately signed off.
The three of us stayed on the conference call for another hour going over and over those twenty minutes and wondering if we could have done any more and whether Jason got it, or, not. And the truth of the matter is, if we could have done it all over again with hindsight being 20/20, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. So we were just going to sit tight and wait for an answer.
August 18, 2009
Unfortunately, we regret that we are unable to place your company as a TechCrunch50 finalist. This is certainly not a commentary of your business, technology or team. Many applicant companies have gone on to great success without launching on stage. For our 50 limited slots, we purposely showcase a diversity of technology innovation from different countries, mixing both funded and unfunded businesses. In many cases, our need to curate this content matrix eliminates many outstanding companies from a lead position on stage. We received more than 1,000 total applications— making for many tough decisions.
As one of our semi-finalist companies, we would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in our DemoPit. Over the last two years, the TC50 DemoPit has become one of the main assets of the TechCrunch50 Conference. It enables another 100 companies (50/day) the chance to showcase their technology to conference attendees. And the favorite “Audience Choice” from our DemoPit wins the last presentation slot on stage, along with the right to win the $50,000 best in show award provided by the TC50 organizers. The DemoPit wildcard is our way of acknowledging that our judging is subjective and that there are many more outstanding companies in our West Hall than we can fit on stage.
This year, we will be selecting two DemoPit companies to present on stage, one from each Monday and Tuesday. So your odds have doubled for a shot to still get on stage.
For a while I considered dipping further into my line of credit and “invest” in the DemoPit and associated travel expenses. But after conferring with my Contributors, it seemed the responsible thing to do was move the project to the next level by investing further in legal services. And that’s what I did.
I replied to Peter of TechCrunch my thanks for the opportunity but simply couldn’t afford it. But at the same time, in the interest of outside-in software development, I asked if we could possibly get any feedback to help us.
August 20, 2009
Email to Peter at TechCrunch
Here’s a thought…
TechCrunch should publish an index of the semi-finalists with their 140 character description & video (link to youtube if you prefer) in exchange for them not going public until after the site is published at TechCrunch50.
Ideally, you would let your community rate & comment on their favorites. That would be a win-win for everyone:
You’re still the mecca for launching start-ups
You’re still The Sensitive One when it comes to non-funded (some call it ultra-light) start-ups – you’re almost angelic 🙂
We get exposure & hopefully feedback that can be used in subsequent outside-in development
My one-liner is: [Still a secret] & you could use the 5-minute video that’s uploaded from my Application, or, I can repost it somewhere for you.
Just a thought 🙂
Steven, I’ll pass this along as something to consider for future years. Thank you.
Peter, in the meantime, is there any feedback you can possibly share with us to add even more tremendous value to our TechCrunch50 experience?
Steven, I spoke with your reviewer, Jason, who told me “I thought they were off to a really great start and that [still a secret] is a real challenge and opportunity. However, their product was not as far along as the top 50 we are selecting this year. I have no doubt they will get to the promised land with a little more time and effort.”
Peter, you just made me very 🙂
September 14-15, 2009. TechCrunch50 Conference 2009
I haven’t watched all of the presentations yet, but enough to honestly say that my heart and nerves went out to everyone presenting. While all of the panelists I saw offered practical and useful feedback, I did feel that some of them were hell bent on not giving any kudos. Yet despite the pressure, I thought the demos were great and the presenters ability and preparedness to answer the panel’s questions were even greater.
Big Thank You
I can only imagine the organizational nightmare it must been to pull off this event with such class – not to mention the temperaments required in dealing with start-up to guru egos. I thank you Peter and Jason for all your efforts, patience and inspiration. I look forward to one day meeting you in the Promised Land.
Once the legal work is complete we’ll start expanding our start-up Community to prepare for a limited private release. In the meantime, I’m going to try to bring in some income by seeding the social software seeds at my Sara’s elementary school.