Archive for start-up

Managing your time is hard.

It is hard with everything else that is going on to make time for blogging, hence why my posts here have been somewhat infrequent. Time management has never been a great strength of mine, but two things have happened in the last few weeks which give me cause for optimism.

By themselves they are small, but together they can have a massive impact upon your ability to get things done.

1. Inbox zero

The basic tenant is that the most effective way of dealing with an overflowing inbox is to process to zero. An inbox is not a to-do list and should not be treated like one. Every single email is either replied to, deleted, archived or moved to a “to-do” list. Be ruthless.

I won’t go into great detail about the why and how, for Merlin does a much better job of explaining it than I would.

www.inboxzero.com – links through to the original series of posts on 43folders.

You can also catch Merlin discussing the concept at a Google tech talk. Watch it through while preparing dinner one night as I did, and you will find it worthwhile investing the 60 minutes it takes to watch.

Take your inbox zero methodology and combine it with concept number two.

2. Schedule EVERYTHING

A to-do list of 10 items that doesn’t have a schedule is a waste of time. Trust me, this is 10 years of corporate life talking here. Over the years I have created a myriad of to-do items, and then wondered why at the end of the day I only achieved 3 of my 10 tasks.

3 out of 10. Am I inefficient or just plain lazy?

As it turns out, it’s neither (although my girlfriend may disagree about the laziness call).

The problem is that it was never possible in the first place to achieve all ten tasks in one day. It looks so easy on paper…ten little things to do….should have this all wrapped up by lunchtime…duck out to the noodle house for dumplings….come back and spend the last 5 hours working on fun stuff. Too easy.

It doesn’t work. It sounds so simple, but the answer is simply to schedule everything in your day. Take your ten tasks, work out how long each is going to take and then plot them into your favoured calendar tool.

To show you what I mean, here is my actual calendar for today.

Thursday Calendar

Everything I want to achieve today is slotted into a time. Even lunch. I am only writing this blog post because I was scheduled to do so!

I know..I know. You are thinking “This is so obvious, what are you going to teach us next…the multiplication tables?”

My only response is, yes it is mind blowingly obvious. But do you do it?

The upshot of all that is that I am now scheduling regular blog posts. Proper detail, to really fill you in on what it is like to go through the process of starting your own company. The first is being written this weekend, so come back Monday for some more.

Scheduled blog posts means they get done. Inbox zero means I have the time to do them.

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To start or not to start

Marc Andreessen (he of Netscape fame), posted yesterday on reasons Not to do a Startup. It makes for great reading, and it made me think about why I decided to go down this path.Marc begins with covering some of the positives of a start-up environment:

  1. The opportunity to be in control of your own destiny
  2. The opportunity to create something new
  3. The opportunity to have an impact on the world
  4. The ability to create your ideal culture and work with a dream team of people
  5. Money

While my motives have ebbed and flowed with time, my primary motivations are a healthy dose of 1, a dash of 3, and a side serve of 5.

This quote from the article sums me up perfectly:

you get to succeed or fail on your own, and you don’t have some bozo telling you what to do. For a certain kind of personality, this alone is reason enough to do a start-up.

My career history is marked by “nose bleed pace” rises up the corporate chain, followed by spectacular flame outs. I would rise just to the point where I either completely fecked up, or hit an internal executive who didn’t think it was up to me be explaining why their particular strategy was a pile of poo. I’ve never been sacked (perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough), but I’ve seen the writing on the wall twice now.

To quote Andreessen again, in a post on hiring right:

Driven people don’t tend to stay long at places where they can’t succeed, and just because they haven’t succeeded in the wrong companies doesn’t mean they won’t succeed at your company-if they’re driven.

True words indeed.

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From service to software

How do you move from a services/consulting company to a software company?
Not easily.

For over 2 years now we have steadily built up a web consulting company, all the while thinking of the next big thing we could build. News Limited buys Myspace for $700 million, and Google grab YouTube for a paltry $1.6 billion. Even the weakest start-up can find a few million in funding to get off the ground, so surely a couple of smart guys sitting in Melbourne can come up with a winning idea that will sweep the world? It all seems so easy.

It’s not.

Ideas for new businesses and web applications fly through my head every day, but 2 years on we still haven’t started one. Two false starts in those two years, with neither progressing far past the planning and branding stages.
If ideas were enough I would be a millionaire by now (and I’m not). Ideas are worth nothing on their own. Execution is where the sweet spot is.

But sticking with a half way decent idea and then just building it is not all that easy either (hence our two false starts). It is probably easier to take the funding option from the start and focus exclusively on your idea, as that way there are no distractions. The move from a consulting company to a software company is a much more difficult path to follow, requiring more time, more adjustment, and more pain. Try looking at the invoice for the monthly office rent, then decide whether you are going to work on that website for your ASX listed client, or your unfunded, half developed start-up.

Eventually, things have to come to a head. When I was 26 I decided I wanted to own my own company by the time I was 30. I made it with 45 days to spare, but only by chucking in the safety of a full time job and making the leap into the “I want to be an entrepreneur” mindset. The same definitive step needs to be taken now, so here goes.

We have the idea, a successful consulting company, the cash reserves and a collection of enormously talented developers. So we are commencing development before we have a full business model sorted out. Before we have any customers lined up. Before we know what we are going to
charge.

Good enough is good enough, and we will launch something within eight weeks no matter
what.

That is our stake in the ground. Set the launch date, and work back from that to work out what can get in and what cannot. Once launched, we will iterate quickly to eventually build a product that everyone needs and wants.

Our consulting business will continue to grow and develop, but we won’t be sitting here wondering what might have been this time next year.

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Diary of a Start-Up

Posted by Paul Ryan
Editor
Australian Anthill Magazine

A little while back, a young Melbourne businessman by the name of Scott Handsaker contacted us with an intriguing offer. He and a few colleagues at web consulting company Huge Object were launching a new web company and were offering to provide us with a diary of the company’s progress as it unfolded.

It’s certainly not the first time we’ve received this offer. However, such offers in the past have always been motivated by a quest for shameless self-promotion, with little benefit for readers. But Handsaker and his team offered to provide an extremely candid account of their start-up journey, with exclusive access to blog posts, photos, audio, video and, most courageous of all, financials. So we agreed. Enjoy the ride!

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