Startup Idea Stuck? Spend a buck!

If you’re stuck for an idea to build your startup on, then I’ve got just what you need – and it will cost you a single dollar. Rene Andreasi-Bassi is one of those rare people who throw off great ideas like way sparks fly when molten steel gets poured. His day job is in the television industry where a thousand ideas live and die before lunch. And he’s done what every good founder does in the age of the Internet – design/define a way to monetize that uniqueness, reach out to build an audience and then a market and disrupt the status quo.

Rene built and is very effectively marketing BuyMyIdea.com, where you can go, browse his ideas and if you find one that makes you jump, buy it for a dollar and up. Pure genius, a clean intellectual property provenance and well worth a visit. Check it out.

Think Apps not Books

Years ago, on my first podcast, I interviewed Ned Hallowell, M.D. about his then bestseller, CrazyBusy. Ned’s in the business of helping harried professionals get some sanity back into their lives. The book was a great read, the interview a great listen, but content in doesn’t equate to action out.

Ned’s now launched CrazyBusy Tips (free) with CrazyBusy Pro as an in-app purchase ($1.99) for iOS. Looks awesome – downloading it now, and will post about it in a week or so.

Ned is one smart doctor – I recommend his app sight unseen. But the point here – the conclusion CrazyBusy the App cements in my mind – is the world doesn’t need more passive content – it needs more content designed, structured and delivered for action. Content that people can grab cheap, get into, and get specific measurable results from – be it getting the crazy out of their lives or moving their startups forward.

So what’s Silicon Valley like?

I was chatting with Alvin of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this morning on my site – he’s a law student thinking about doing a startup. He wanted to know: what’s Silicon Valley is like?

Having lived in the Bay Area and worked in the tech industry 30 years, I’ve got a pretty good sense of that.

The good news re SV is that now it’s digital and online: it’s all available to everyone on the planet. What you need to pick up on if you want to succeed is the habits, mindsets, techniques that work in the Valley and make the Valley work.

Other answer – lots of tech jobs available, great weather, new stuff all the time.

Here’s the habits I mean:

  • You try something, it fails, you learn, you try something else.
  • You help other people, because in this industry, what goes around, comes around, damn quick.
  • Doing beats talking and wondering and trying to work everything out in advance every time.
  • Make stuff people want, let them know about it, and the money will follow.

If you live in the Valley – even if you live in Valley online – the above are obvious. You go to other industries, places, mindsets and they above is anything but obvious. Where do you want to be?

(image from the Onion – a great read!)

I’m starting a Mastermind Group – who’s up for it?

The hardest part of building a startup isn’t coding, marketing, building the web site, finding your market, defining your product, raising seed money, raising equity money, getting press attention, building a Twitter or Facebook or Google+ following, finding a URL, setting up a VPS, getting approved by Apple, finding a co-founder, making a YouTube video, writing marketing copy, building a blog, deploying to your server, scaling your servers, managing your cashflow, doing your business taxes, or getting Robert Scoble to notice you.

It’s dealing with the doubts, fears, objections echoing around in your own head, dragging you down. Alone.

Mastermind Groups is an idea that’s been kicking around for 85+ years. Find a number of like-minded people trying to succeed, provide each other with feedback, constructive criticism, different points of view, resources, accountability. Meet on a regular basis, what happens in the group stays in the group, mutual respect and support are the rule.

A quick google makes it clear more than a few people have tried to make money one way or another out of Mastermind Groups. Chris Pirillo, whom I respect, started “Gnomies” a couple of months ago and I wish him well. But that is not kind of Mastermind Group I want to build or join.

What I want to do is find up to 1o technical founders closing in on launching a new startup willing to meet once a week via Skype or probably Google+ Hangouts to brainstorm ideas, get and give feedback, and support each other. Lifehack.org did a good writeup on what Mastermind group is really about – I intend to follow it.

Who’s in? Email me at bob.walsh@47hats.com.

This will make you feel old… and that’s a good thing

Charles Holbert over at Killer Infographics shared with me one of his agency’s new graphics I found interesting, “The Ten Biggest Entrepreneurs of 2011 under 30.”

Being considerably older than 30, I have to admit my first reaction was not unbounded joy and happiness. I don’t know about you, but I tend to with each story I read about a startup getting funded, sold, etc. feel a sharp pain right around my ego.

But as I thought about it, and reread this infographic, I realized none of these entrepreneurs possess super powers, they all worked their asses off to build their startups, and there’s nothing they did that I cannot do.

I hope you come to that same realization, and act on it for 2012.

10 Biggest Entrepreneurs of 2011
From: Business MBA

Go back to school for your startup. Free!


Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could take a class in how to build your startup, from a world known authority, at one of the best colleges in the world, for free?

That’s exactly what you can get from Steve Blank, at Stanford University, starting in February. The Lean Launchpad, also know as Engineering 245, is an online class with free enrollment. That’s right, for the price of your email address and name, you can take from the comfort of your computer an Honest-to-God Stanford University class.

How cool is that? (look for me there, third row on the left.)

Here’s the class description:

In this class you’ll learn how to turn a great idea into a great company.

We now know that startups are not smaller versions of large companies. Large companies execute known business models. They use big company tools – business plans, income statements, revenue models, etc. to help organized their execution. In contrast startups search for a business model. And all the big company tools are irrelevant in the early days of a startup. This class is not about how to write a business plan. It’s not an exercise on how smart you are in a classroom, or how well you use the research library. The end result is not a PowerPoint slide deck for a VC presentation. Instead you will be getting your hands dirty as you encounter the chaos and uncertainty of how a startup actually works.

You’ll learn how to use a business model canvas to brainstorm each part of a company and customer development to get out of the classroom to see whether anyone other than you would want/use your product. Finally, you’ll see how agile development can help you rapidly iterate your product to build something customers will use and buy. Each week will be a new adventure as you test each part of your business model.

And who is Steve Blank, you have to ask?

The Instructor:

Steve Blank is a serial entrepreneur and has been a founder or early employee at 8 startups, including 4 resulting in successful IPOs. For the past 7 years he’s been teaching entrepreneurship to Stanford Engineering students. He’s been awarded a Stanford Undergraduate teaching award, and the San Jose mercury news has called him one of the 10 influencers in Silicon Valley.

Already know everything there is to know about building a successful startup (Ha!)? Well, how about a couple of other classes? Technology Entrepreneurship or Software Engineering for Software as a Service? Same deal: free, online, world-class instructors and information.

(A note re the sign up pages above – the html/css coding is kind of funky, at least on OS X Chrome and Safari. After you enter your name, hit tab, then do your email address, then tab to get to the sign up button.)

Weekend Ponderable: The net value of your idea

Derek Sivers nailed it. So what’s the value of an idea? Well, it does have some value, but it’s really a multiplier for execution.

Say ideas are worth 1 to 20. 1 to 20 what? 1 to 20 as ideas in and by themselves. Not exactly enough to retire on, right?

Now do something with that idea. Make it real. Execute on it. Even if your execution is crappy, you will actually have something.

Here’s how he explained it in this AppSumo Action Video – (free, but go grab it now!):

So, if you already had the awesomely amazing idea (like I do – of course! – with ProductivityToDo.com) you’d better focus 99.9999% on execution. (He says to himself.)

An idea alone – that’s nice. Idea times execution: Now you have something.

 

In or Out?

In the Zone

Of the Zone I mean.

You’ve heard about it over and over, but here is the best description I’ve read (Thanks Rands!):

Let’s talk about the Zone once more.
You’re either sitting down with your computer to futz around with something or you’re attempting to get in the Zone. This is that magical place where you’ve managed to fit the entire context of your current project in your head. With all this content in there, you can perform superhuman acts of productivity and creativity because you have the complete problem space at your mental disposal.

That’s it.

If you can claw your way past every email demanding attention, every web site (including mine!), every self-inflicted attention wound, you can load up all of the problem in your head and do really good work. But it’s all, or nothing. One damn call, one little growl, and the cathedral in your mind comes crashing down before you can actualize it into something external to you.

Oh, and don’t forget that little red devil slyly whispering into your ear! “You’ll never do it, you’re worthless, look at all those people being written up in TechCrunch. You’re not them! It’s not worth it, and you can’t do it. Go back. Give up.” That’s the voice of your lizard brain (see Seth Godin & Daniel Pink for details).

So it comes down to this: How are you going to repeatedly and deliberately get into the zone? Please don’t give me that crap about waiting for inspiration. This is about perspiration, about making real value.

Here’s a tip: make it as automatic as merging onto a freeway – you do it exactly the same way each time.

One more tip: You can “store” a Zone, go do other things, and reopen that Zone and pick up right where you left off, with minimal effort. But you need to at least power up and then power down that zone once each day to keep it fresh. Stored Zones (whether they’re a novel, a codebase, or all the moving parts you need to do a really awesome WordPress membership site) start to stink like dead fish in a day. Then you have to throw them out and start all over.

ok – so this is ugly.

But I could use 20 seconds of your help. Do either of these HD YouTube vids play for you? After Iain’s killer post I decide to take a cannonball jump into video. Blame Iain :) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkEqVPmupLY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gITrCFCDUC

Thanks! You should get over the shock with a few deep breaths.

(An aside: if you run a WordPress site (and who doesn’t?), check out http://pippity.com/ very very nice, and two! updates since launch a week ago.)

 

 

 

Ponderable: Bookfunding.

Phil's New BookPhil Simon (the Startup Success Podcast #104) is doing some very sophisticated customer discovery: Give this interview with him a read. While I am sure that Phil’s book is going to make a good read, the mechanism he’s using (Kickstarter) is a story in and by itself.

Screw traditional publishers.

Instead, give people a way to invest in specific content creation, and get in return extras that enhance the experience.

Very cool model, but Kickstarter, why stop there?

What about adding to this get big or go home funding model an investment model?

Say Fred the author is willing in to put up 40% of the post sale revenue for 18 months as equity that can be bought. He estimates, based on what else he has done, that that will be conservatively $10k. He will sell it for $5K, if enough people join the pool and pledge to buy.

Fred’s investors may lose their investment – it’s speculative. His investors decide if they want to place a bet that may lose, break even, make money or maybe lots of money.

Now, I have no idea how all those U.S. securities laws that since the Great Depression protected investors from conman financial types after the last time Wall St. raped Main Street work. Or for that matter, how the same laws got their polarity reversed so they protected the conman financial types when they raped Main Street again a few years back. Maybe it has to be some sort index fund arrangement where you invest in one fund, then divvy out your money in the fund to content you think will pay off.

Sounds like a startup to me. Sounds like just the kind of startup funding mechanism that would work. While somebody makes a few hundred million executing this idea, I’m looking forward to Phil’s new book – and I’m glad he’s not waiting for hidebound traditional publishers to allow it to happen.