“Good morning, Timothy Nott speaking. How can I help you?”
- You aren’t listening to me
- I can’t understand you
- You don’t care what I think
“Good morning, Timothy Nott speaking. How can I help you?”
I’m continuing to work with Team Bushwhack from my recent Startup Weekend experience and we’re seeing some of the typical growing pains. Well, ‘growing pains’ might be premature. Bushwhack isn’t growing yet. ‘Colic’ might be a more appropriate term.
Going from idea to organization is a tricky business. In my day job at MobileIgniter, it was about as easy as it gets. My business partner Dominic and I go way, way back. We spent too much time together in college, worked together for a few years afterwards and have a good understanding of each other. Forming a working entity was easy. But, with a more or less random group of folks this task is much more difficult. It’s probably made worse by my diminished role. After coming up with the idea, pitching it and forming the team, I have jumped into the back seat. There’s probably some quip here about jumping into the back seat after the baby is born, but I’m missing it.
Aside from deciding who’s going to drive the bus, there is the matter of when it’s going to stop and where. Ok, this analogy is not really going anywhere.
New teams need organization. This keeps the work focused and the team productive. One of the best tools in existence for keeping a team organized is the Meeting. Oh, I can viscerally feel you groaning. OK, I admit that meetings can suck. Sucky meetings give good meetings a bad name. A focused meeting is an awesome thing to behold. Information comes in, decisions are made, everyone goes forth with a set of actions. Next meeting, discuss the results of those actions, make new decisions, go forth. Rinse, repeat.
Now, it’s true that team members can accomplish a lot without ever having a meeting. we all know how to do what we do. But, without the sharing of info, we could be working really hard in the wrong direction. Or, a team mate may know a faster way to do the same thing, or someone who has already done it. Or, better yet, a fabulous reason not to do it at all. Right now, I have no idea what each member of the Bushwhack team is doing. I’m pretty sure the others don’t, either. Recently an email went around with the resume of a designer. The fact that the team is in touch with a designer is awesome. They’re really hard to find. But, who knew we were looking for one? “Not I”, said the fly. But, for all we know, each of us is looking for a designer. That information hasn’t been shared. Neither have our criteria for selecting a designer.
This is one example. Given that three people are actively working on the project and another 2 or three are pitching in when they can, there are likely more. Or, maybe there aren’t. Who knows?
My take-away from the this experience is pretty simple.
Businesses run on information. Right now, we’re running on fumes.
I’ve been using the new parking meters in downtown Madison a lot lately. They are awesome. That is all.
Used a gift certificate I got off Madison.com to get a tasty deal at Jim’s Meat Market.
Finished the night off with a romp with M. Ward at the Barrymore. Outside of the absurd use of language, I agree with this review.
Learning the ins and outs of Yii authentication from an excellent collection of posts by Larry Ullman. Need to take it to the next level with some RBAC.
Digging through Yii’s own documentation. Boy this is fun! Can someone explain why Yii uses an int field to hold AuthItem types? Why not an enum with ‘operation’,'task’,'role’? How hard is that? Not hard. Not hard at all! oh well, I’m never supposed to have to look at it.
I went to Startup Weekend to support the local startup community and work on my public speaking. I shot my idea around to colleagues and friends to get feedback. Chris Keller was one of those folks. Coincidentally, his boss had encouraged him to attend. I had met Mike Schuette a couple months prior and knew it would be a good opportunity for him to meet a lot of the people in the local ecosystem. So, I encouraged him to go as well. With respect to the idea, Mike and I knew there was at least one potential customer for a ball golf course mapping solution. I knew from prior experience that finding one’s way on a disc golf course could be frustrating. I had a sense that some simple technology could solve both problems. In Madison, in front of a younger demographic skewing toward geek, I assumed disc is sexier than ball, so I pitched disc. It’s also easier for an audience to conceptualize an app as opposed to a platform to create apps.
When the votes came in for DGCaddy, I knew I had to make a decision. If I wasn’t to waste the opportunity, I had to find a bunch of talent. Fortunately, I already knew Mike and Chris and was able to use peer pressure to get their sticky notes and participation. The rest was lightning striking. A talented designer, a programmer a few weeks away from joining a startup in Cali, and two guys who had experience running their own businesses. All we had to do was execute. And we did.
Then, I had to make another decision. What to do with DGC now that we had won? As much as I wanted to own the project I had created and personally keep the momentum rolling, I knew that my prior commitments would make turning Bushwhack into a business highly unlikely. So, better to help organize and encourage a team of people who could keep things moving than to turn it into a personal hobby that would most likely be neglected.
The odds of a startup succeeding are low. But, the odds of any one idea out of more than 60 pitches inspiring the right team to come together and execute are actually much lower. I can’t even begin to quantify the likelihood that the team goes on to pitch the following weekend in front of an investor who is also an avid disc golfer. We’ve done the startup equivalent of anti-gravity. The odds mean nothing now.
I got much more than I bargained for in the course of Startup Weekend. I had not one, but two public speaking opportunities. I met some awesome people. I saw Wisconsin ingenuity shine. I celebrated with a victorious team.
Here’s our finished product:
I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with one of the guys over at Codiqa moments before I needed to use the tool they just so happen to provide.
I got a call from a client that wanted a new feature. It’s not on our dev calendar, so they offered to pay to get the feature built just for them – a feature we at MobileIgniter call the private module. It’s just like the other features in our product, except it’s only available to the client who owns it – or the client that rents it from them via our marketplace. At any rate, I drew up a prototype using Codiqa and it turned into consulting revenue. Not only that, but it could be the first live module in our marketplace.
Could this all have happened without Codiqa? Sure. I would have built the prototype using something else. But, now that I’ve done one using their tool, I’m going to keep using it. It’s simple, fast and fun. Just like me. Well, two out of three, any way.
Several dozen aspiring entrepreneurs lined up to give their elevator pitch. From those, about a dozen teams were formed and 54 hours later those teams presented their products to a team of judges.
What can you get done in 54 hours? A lot. Especially with a good team. 8 people times 54 hours = 2.5 work-months. If everyone is on the same page, fully caffeinated, and busting ass, the result is a functional prototype with business model. To get there, some team members will be writing code, some will be out conducting customer interviews.
And there are prizes. I’m pretty confident most judges will tell you that a validated business model is worth several times snazzy code. Sorry fellow programmers, but businesses live and die by the bottom line, not line count. That said, a functioning product is the only way to land and actual customer. A team that can do that and have someone paying to use the product by the final bell is going to garner a lot of attention.
To that end, it makes sense to go out and solve a real business problem. Sure, we all have personal pain points that could turn into an awesome product, but if no one else is willing to pay it’s not a business, it’s a hobby.
So, Madison and surrounding area, do you have a real business idea that needs to be built? Can you get customers? Can you carve code like a Thanksgiving turkey? Are you the Frank Lloyd Wright of digital design? Well, here’s your chance to prove it. Come on down and test your mad ideas and skills. Get started on Friday, April 27. Work like a dog for the next 54 hours. Show your new baby to the world on Sunday. Who knows, you may wake up Monday morning a full fledged entrepreneur. Then the real work starts!
Finally got Git in Netbeans working to my satisfaction. Actually quite nice, but good docs are lacking. I hacked my way through this, but I have to admit it still wasn’t obvious. Here’s my 2 cents:
Now, on to the programming task du jour. I’m supposed to be working on an XL project, but the day is growing short, so I’m going to do some quick HTML stuff instead. I need a way to make a static asset placement on a mobile web page. Both Android and iOS have made this difficult in the past, but rumor has it that iOS 5 and Froyo play nice with the CSS position attribute. We’ll see!
Eek! This isn’t what I wanted to see! That suggests Android 3.0 and up. Disgusting!
Moving on, JQM to the rescue?
Wait.. It looks like it works in the Android mobile view, if not the browser itself… NICE! I bumped into this when testing things that seemed to work in iOS. At first I only tried in the actual browser, but then brought up the same thing inside an app web view and voila!
The Support tab on the Sprint.ly app is really convenient. Questions I ask stay in a list along with responses. Responses also come in via email. The saved list is a really handy reference so I can look back to answers I’ve gotten in the past without going to a full-blown help site or searching emails.
I’ve been rocking stead with “Timout”, anelegant pomodoro timer. The dev is talking about integration with Google tasks. That would be awesome. Would love to be able to connect to Sprint.ly, though! Would also like to be able to set the sound level on alerts. The completed task alert let’s the entire neighborhood know! I know, I know. Fork it!
Back to Sprint.ly: the email API is excellent. Just sent a bug report from my iPod with a screen shot via email and it dropped right into our backlog. If I had done it correctly, it would have assigned the bug to my partner, as well. Next time!
MySQL subqueries get me out of a data collation pickle
Need to identify the outliers in our average session length data, so we look to the median! I’ve seen a couple of good median solutions out there. Anyone have a favorite?
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