Is it relevant after 13 years?

This is about writing technology posts and reading them 10 or more years later. How relevant you think such posts could be?

Recently I took a break from corporate culture to try out few business of mobile software ideas. As part of new routine I decided on the challenge of writing at least 1000 words per day about technology, mobile development and about building something people are willing to pay for. Such writing helps to better crystallize your thoughts and ideas before hitting publish button. It also pushes you to read more what other people think about technology and software.

I already knew few good posts written by Joel Spolsky on this subject but other day I decided to quickly go through early entries on his software blog which started at year 2000. I say quickly as there are 1108 posts in total on his site.
Can these writings by someone who at the time was (and to the day still very much is) well familiar with software world be relevant even after 13 years?
I find that some things are still much relevant. And here on my blog from time to time I’ll share my thoughts on why they are.

First one is Joel’s post about human aptitude and lowering the bar.

If for example only 20% of potential users can understand what problem your new great and shiny mobile application solves – you are right away loosing interest of another 80% even if your app actually has a solution to their problem. Your application has to communicate very clear and simple message. Through its interface, app store presence (or other distribution channels for that matter) and through social communities who will share the message further.
Engineering efforts have to be justified by research, great knowledge of your users and their behavior while using mobile software you are building.
Now days building software has became an art of putting various peaces together and making them work.

 

If you have reached the bottom of this post, chances are you like what you see or you strongly disagree with what I’m saying. Either way you can follow me on Twitter, connect on Google+ or subscribe to RSS feed of this blog and we can continue the discussion!

Funding your products with customer money

London’s startup scene is not much spoiled with events about bootstrapping your technology company.
There are many things going on almost every week, related to approaching angels and VC’s about raising funding for your startup, hiring, firing, hosting in the cloud and learning “Hello World” type of coding. But not so much about bootstrapping your company to profitability by building what people love and are willing to pay for.
Once I see an event dedicated to this subject I’m always trying to free up some time and join the discussion or listen for peoples stories. Dreamstake crowd have organized one such meetup in London Campus recently with 3 entrepreneurs sharing their thoughts about growing your company without money from VC’s.
Here is my short summary of interesting thoughts from this event. I have applied technology product mask to some of them.

As this was not a tech startup meetup, I got a chance to see what it is like if majority of attending people are wearing suits.
But never the less, speakers seamed interesting and with lots of experience while growing their bootstrapped business.

Christopher Fogg started by going right to the point. Bootstrapping is testing your project or business idea quickly and with customers money. As most useful funding source for your product are the customers. If you manage to get this funding source going, most likely your product will succeed.
Who will join your team without great numbers on the salary sheet? Well, people who are looking for challenges and learning experience. Most of the time such people are the best people to work with and create new things customers love.

Christina Richardson had few points about marketing: time is your greatest asset if you don’t have much money to spend, so spend it wisely. This also means you have to be very concentrated on your customers and do not spend energy for something which will not get your product further. Find where your customers are hanging out online. Find something unique about your product and be different. Set one goal and concentrate on achieving it. Winning some contests can give you free publicity (and maybe some extra cash to spend!) so don’t be afraid to do it (I will add something for techies here: its totally true about going and participating in various hackathons these days. You can win things but also meet great people and show them your product and convert them to users).

Nico Perez (who bootstrapped internet radio startup Mixcloud) talked about finding co-founders for bootstrapped startup. Its like getting married on the first date (doesn’t apply if you know your co founders for some time). What worked for building Mixcloud is collaborating. You trade your knowledge and time to help someone else and they do the same for you. After some time you’ll see if it makes sense to combine the things both parties are doing into one.  Call it skill swap. Hire slow, contract slow, spend money as slow as you can until you see that putting more money into product gives proportional return. And collect feedback as much as you can. As you are getting very attached to your product by living with it everyday.

Overall, quite a few valid points, some are already well known but its always interesting to hear how successful people are applying them in order to build great products.
 

If you have reached the bottom of this post, chances are you like what you see or you strongly disagree with what I’m saying. Either way you should follow me on Twitter, connect on Google+ or subscribe to RSS feed of this blog and we can continue the discussion!

 

What about now?

I had really great time last few years.
Doing innovation in technology field these days is very interesting, rewarding and challenging task. Even if its quite a specific and narrow technology area like payment tech. And having a chance to travel around the Europe to talk with smart people about cool technology things we did was definitely an added bonus. Well, it also added good few air miles to my BA membership card.

Working with smart people is always great fun as well. And I met good few of them at PayPal. You know who you are :/

But in time all this greatness and comfort starts to get down on you, specially if you have an entrepreneurial spirit. I noticed that I started to take many things for granted, be so sure about everything, and started to treat multiple meetings per day (where we would constantly discuss who owns things or how to do them) as quite a normal everyday work schedule. This became even more important than actually getting stuff done.

Field general in me started to slowly get bored. You want to lead your team and give them a chance to actually win battles. Specially if so many things in technology world around you are changing and opening up new opportunities at the same time.

And there is also a building on what you own thing. Having started tech startup few years before, I knew what it is like to be growing your own crops and staying hungry. And my memories about it were quite good.

So one day it became obvious that I missed this uncertain environment. Environment where you are always open, always listening and where you are actually doing things, not just discussing them.

Whats now? In mid February I took a break from corporate world. I have started small mobile software development company in London where I’m helping clients with their mobile projects and dedicating some of the time to build my own mobile products for publishing. Since 2009 I have started to invest in and grow niche web projects so I’m glad I will have extra time to spend with a small team running them. I got much impressed by what impact resolution for everyday writing can make, so I took a similar challenge and will be writing at least 1000 words per day as a technical guest writer for couple of blogs out there. This everyday writing resolution should also give a boost to finally finish my first eBook about accepting payments in mobile apps world (hey, to be really successful we always have to share the knowledge and give much more value than we get! right?)

And I’m always looking forward to meet nice people, even if its just a chat over the coffee. Don’t be shy and get in touch!

 

If you have reached the bottom of this post, chances are you like what you see or you strongly disagree with what I’m saying. Either way you should follow me on Twitter, connect on Google+ or subscribe to RSS feed of this blog and we can continue the discussion!

 

Mobile first DNA. Not for everyone.

Internet and electronic banking in Eastern European countries just rocks. Actually majority of countries from Top10 fastest Internet speed list are from Eastern Europe.
How did that happened? How can countries, many of whom have only started to build their economy and infrastructure 20 or so years ago be leading the Global table? Well this is the key. They were building from scratch. No legacy things, all cables are fiber from the start. The same goes to internet banking, internet voting etc. As technology is changing so fast, legacy things are really big show stoppers.

I feel the same is happening with mobile first approach. Many companies and big guys these days are trying to embed mobile into their culture and DNA but there is so much legacy in this culture that all of it is happening super slow.
And newborn tech companies already have mobile embedded in their culture. They actually cannot even imagine building something not mobile.

Know your strengths then fighting with stronger oponents!

Bootstrappers manifesto or why tech startups fail

Decided to go through The Bootsrappers Bible from start to finish this evening. I have seen many quotes from this book all over the Internet and Seth Godin does write good things most of the time. Book is actually nearly 10 years old. But still very relevant for today’s tech startup ecosystem (mostly for the ones who are building profitable tech companies). Its about doing business with limited resources and striving to survive. Sounds familiar?

I have highlighted several quotes which I think are much relevant to us in tech startup World. I mean bootstrapers. If you like them find some time for this Seth’s book. Its short and free to download. And strongly increases the chances of your startup survival.

For me, a bootstrapper isnʼt a particular demographic or even a certain financial situation. Instead, itʼs a state of mind.” – indeed, you have to have little bit of financial intellect to understand how money works in our society.

If a market can be bought with cash, a big company will do it.” – remember, startup is not a big company. But giants do need much food to survive. Bootstrapers don’t.

You canʼt hire nine women to work really hard as a team and produce one baby in one month. Teamwork doesnʼt always make things faster” – good wisdom about finding right team members for your company.

If you try to steal the giant’s lunch, the giant is likely to eat you for lunch.” – again, about food.

The time to develop a multiple income source strategy is not when you run out of money. Then it will be too late.” – diversify income streams from very start. Every good businessman knows it.

Learn as you go. Change as you go. Building a business is like walking through a maze with many, many doors.” – stay hungry, stay foolish.

WIT Capital is an online company dedicated to raising money for other startups. But it used to be a brewery!” – don’t be afraid to change your direction. Find what works and follow the money.

 

Hunger is good for you

In last couple of months I have visited several great tech events and conferences in Eastern Europe and Russia. Including Russian Internet Week, SeedCamp Budapest, Slush and Future of Web Apps in Prague.
And after having spent many hours with local tech entrepreneurs from these regions I can say one thing: Man, they are hungry.
Hunger to succeed and do well in life combined with very good knowledge on how to engineer things is very powerful mix. What’s left is to learn how to market all that power.
And for the ones who get pessimistic about hunger, well, after quick google’ing I found 10 tricks to deal with it.
Best wishes to all Easter European tech entrepreneurs! Hunger is good for you (us).

Building on what you own

Recently Michael O.Church – startuper from New York said loudly something what lots of tech folks working in startups are talking mostly only among themselves. Working for just another cool startup will not make you rich. In most cases it will not even lead to senior roles within company even if it finally wins race against tough startup ecosystem 10:1 gravity.

Michael’s thoughts encouraged me to write this much shorter blog post. About ownership and building on top of it.

First, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that getting rich should be your purpose. There are lots of things, which drive us forward everyday and which get us exited. But many techies are declaring their wish to get wealthy while joining startup teams or even joining teams in big corporates with reasonable developer salaries. Well, is nearly impossible to get rich that way.

Having started my after-school life with studies in technical university I have first learned and latter practically used the best ways to communicate with computers (in their own language of course). In order to do such communication first programmers had to talk directly to computer processors (non techies, you can think of it as computers heart which only does 2 things – inflates and deflates) in literally pages of instructions. Latter, once they have learned how to do that, things got simpler as previously built knowledge was reused and new programming languages had many basic commands all “inbuilt”.  Now days most popular high level programming languages are so simplified that they look almost as normal human expressions (example: print “Users do not care how this is shown to them. As long as its one click of the button” will simply show text to user). But they are still as powerful as ever, simplicity is achieved by building on top of what was created in last couple of decades. This allows for exponential increase in speeds in which we are now creating new technology solutions. If you have 1 hour of spare time check this talk by one of the smartest people on Earth – Ray Kurzweil. He explains why technology is growing exponentially. If no time to waste (good, you have great time management habits!) – Ray says it’s all because technology is constantly built on top of already existing great technology. Only this allows exponential growth.

I believe the same dynamic goes to building great (this means useful to many) technology projects or getting rich. As Felix Dennis says: “Ownership is everything. Period.“

By working on something you own, even something small at the start you are constantly building on top. If you latter decide to start new project you don’t have to start it from very scratch. You can reuse the power of what you already have built. Because it belongs to you.

I love story of Envato. First it was FreelanceSwitch.com (built by using experience and user base gained from NorthxEast blog project) then they started Tutsplus.com network of tutorial blogs. Again by using traffic power (and financial power gained from first project) to bootstrap and grow. And things grew fast (and exponential) from there.

Or another story of SitePoint.com / Flippa.com (latter was sinned from Sitepoint forums and grew exponentially because the power of already existing community and audience on original site). They now are doing doing $88 million turnover (Flippa.com alone) and growing very fast (again if you have one hour to spare you can watch their story told by founder Matt).

And there are many other stories. Just ask any successful tech entrepreneur.

And build on top of what you own!

 

Springboard Mobile at Innovation Warehouse

This week I had a chance to meet and share my knowledge with great mobile tech startups from Springboard Mobile at Innovations Warehouse in London (what a place, literally on the doorsteps of London’s Central Market at Smithfield. Very entrepreneurial atmosphere).

Spent great day with startups. Teams are full if ideas and keen to execute on them. With a great energy.
Some accelerator participants already have made quite an impact.

Like XtGem from Vilnius. They are hosting over 3 million customer created sites on their system. And knowing how numbers of mobile devices are growing around the World that’s the way forward (as MG Siegler says in his Product Feedback).

Or Shhmooze who are great mobile app for tech conference attendees and speakers and are present in most big conferences around the globe. App lets event attendees interact, find friends and even see what time their speaking slot is.. I remember Shhmooze since first Dublin Web Summit and it was quite popular among attendees already.

Other great startups from the ones mobilizing sports space AppTheGame, iJudgeFights, changing the way we give gifts – GiftCannon to social translation services team Flitto who have close to 20’000 registered members already.

Good array. Now is the time to grow!

Don’t pitch. Tell a story

Mentored bunch of great startups at SeedCamp London today. Its always exiting to do sessions with startup founders and share knowledge plus exchange ideas. Lots of good and passionate spirit.

But this post is about masterclass which follows startup initial pitches in almost every SeedCamp event. This time it was Saul Klein and Chris Riley talking about founders telling stories. Because stories always live longer than the popularity of the brand itself. Because every entrepreneur has to be great story teller. Story which his customers will listen to.

Here are several points I have captured during today’s great masterclass.

  • # Great story tellers know their audiences more than audience knows themselves.
  • # Learn telling the story (your own story first) before announcing to the World that you are entrepreneur. The same goes to pitching your startup.
  • # Bad product however will kill your great story at the speed of light.
  • # Think about product launches as releasing the movie. With all pre release buzz, rumors and drama. Then do a premier and follow up with great success stories.
  • # European startup industry is now grown up enough so it doesn’t need drama anymore. We already have good success stories in Europe to tell.
  • # Good story telling is 2 way process. Not only going through your experience or slides but also giving audience a chance to apply their context.
  • # While you are telling your stories 90% of the work is done in audience heads. They fill all the gaps.
  • # Context of every story is only relevant to particular community it was created for.
  • # Great product stories are not about the product. Its about something bigger. This approach allows for scaling your stories up as you grow (key to storytelling done by Apple)
  • # Ideas and stories always last longer than the brand itself.

And after spending few years building communities around products and technologies I can add to the following to the list:

  • # Communities will tell your story. Make it attractive and useful. Give them a chance to do this.
  • # Happy and engaged community are the best evangelists you can find.

Good luck building your own story.

Enigma explained

Have spent part of very long weekend in Betchley park. Where second year in the row OverTheAir team managed to attract probably best mobile developer folk in UK. Who as always had a great fun.. (@cbetta and crowd)

And there were some speeches about mobile things. As always with OTA talks – interesting and geeky (for example: Illustrated history of computation, All you know about QR codes is wrong and many others.)
As Betchley park was the home of cryptographs who broke Enigma code  - hole track of speeches was dedicated to this subject. I mean Enigma and history things. Its fascinating story even now, after so many years. Its about engineering, passion and being better than other guys. Sometimes only little bit better. But it was all that mattered. And at the time then so much was on stake. Now days developers have created Enigma as an app on Android. On the device which also handles mobile calls, GPS communication, gyroscope and other things. We have achieved a little bit of progress in the last 70 years or so.