Aww, shoot. I posted a humor post (read it, it’s the one below, and I thought it was funny), and forgot that I didn’t write my actual post for this week…
Not much to report. My milestone for this week was to have the PCB layout for the hardware designed. I didn’t hit this milestone, not because I was busy, or got lazy, but because we realized that we’re changing the hardware on this guy too rapidly to invest money in printing out custom circuit boards. Rather, we decided to use prototyping boards as the core hardware for our early field testers/customers.
That way we can swap out a device at a location, and reuse the parts for the next iteration, which is a lot harder with printed circuit boards. After we solidify everything, and have a design that doesn’t change very much, that’s when we can worry about printing up circuit boards
As the CEO, I would like to use this time to clarify some of our policies on relationships:
We at Console Cowboys LLC do not believe that any employees should be engaging in any activities that distract from the company’s vision and hinders the process of making the stockholders filthy rich. A non-exhaustive list of not-allowed activities includes: school, sleep, fulfilling hobbies, exercise, spending time outdoors, and having friends. Relationships can be especially troublesome, as they run the risk of making employees happy, which upsets the delicate balance of self loathing, aloofness, and complete disconnect with reality that makes a truly top tier programmer.
However, the executive management does understand that the fear of dying alone can become overpowering. In most situations, cases of sudden relationship can be solved through a technique management likes to call “Being-An-Asshole”. Being-An-Asshole may seem complicated at first, but through simple tricks, like skipping planned dates, asking if she has gained a few pounds every time you see her, barging drunk into her apartment in the early hours of morning, and sleeping with her best friend/sister/grandmother, you’ll be out of a relationship in no time! If you want more information, HR has a pamphlet they would be glad to show you.
For clingy girlfriends, family, and friends who actually care, more drastic measures may be needed to cut them out of the picture. As such, HR offers consoling sessions on topics such as forging travel documents, crime scene clean up, body disposal, and proper usage of a silencer.
Because we care,
Console Cowboys LLC
When going into hacking mode, I like to have The Social Network playing in the background. It’s the fantasy version of what I do, but the dramatization of being an entrepreneur, mixed with the story of a person who hit it very, very big, is inspiring, and it helps me stay on track. But I can tell where Hollywood biases cloud real businesses.
The biggest example is when the Winklevosses start screaming how Zuckerburg got there first, launching Facebook after leading them on for 41 days while he coded his own site. I can tell you, finding out you have a competitor that you didn’t know was there can hurt, but what Zuckerburg did wasn’t that big of a deal, and you can tell that by how much money that the Winklevosses got. Sure, to the average person (even the average entrepreneur), $85 million is a hefty chunk of cash, but it’s pennies compared to the entire valuation of Facebook.
Now, Eduardo’s $5 billion dollars, that’s a bit bigger sign of some foul play…
This was one of those weeks. Through factors outside of my control, working on getting a mortgage for a condo I close for next week, weirdness at work, and Jakob being super busy with work as well, work on the product has slowed down incredibly, and this week’s milestone was reaching a completion milestone.
Unless the weekend is super-productive, this is going to be a miss week, my first. Ah, well, sh*t happens. Time to buckle down for next week!
Following the advice of Kevin, and to meet this week’s milestone, I spent the entire morning making phone calls to potential clients and interviewing them on their server room environmental needs, see what they currently use to mitigate the problem, and start gauging the price range.
The first bit of surprising data I found was that my original target market doesn’t actually exist. Small web hosts don’t actually host their own servers anymore. They use other larger, more sophisticated, hosts to house the physical servers, while the smaller companies just manage them, and the large hosts already have some kind of tracking in place, usually through their HVAC systems, so they really aren’t a target for me at this time.
However, I stumbled on my new market just as suddenly: when I started calling up potential customers, I started by calling some libraries and schools in the area, mainly because it’s the type of place I have most experience with, and I felt starting off with a bit of home court advantage would help boost my confidence. I discovered that these guys, on a whole, really liked my product.
Expanding outwards, I realized that there is a small-to-medium sized company, typically around 100 employees, that typically needs to host some kind of server themselves, even if they put their web and email services in the cloud. These companies don’t have the money for the sophisticated solution that the large server farms have, yet these machines still tend to be fairly mission critical for them, shared file servers, active directory and LDAP servers, and the like. Nearly everyone of them had a story of walking into their server rooms a couple of times a year, and the temperature being through the roof. To them, a device like this was very valuable, and they never heard of any alternatives before.
Interviewing them about price, I found out that around $500-$600 for an initial cost is about the sweet spot. Although earns me a nice return on the device itself (even in development, the material cost ends up being somewhere around $300), I need to work on a good subscription plan that doesn’t seem to expensive, but earns me yearly income on all deployed devices, so I don’t have to sell a kajillion of them a year.
All in all, this process very scary for me to start, but returned some very important data, and validated my idea. A major win!
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Dadaist literature, and I have to say, I’m thinking about adopting it as a lifestyle. It really speaks to my inner Giraffe. Indigo Banana.
This was a long-winded response I posted on Ramzey’s blog on Compulsive Innovation. I was kinda proud of it, and it does represent some of my beliefs about new ventures, so I’m reposting it here.
Are you planning on paying the web developer with money or equity?
I ask, because I’ve actually been on the other end of the stick before, working as a tech guy on a consultant basis for a guy who was starting his own telemarketing company, which, because of VoIP and outsourcing, surprised me by how large a part technology played in the business.
In this situation, I was payed hourly, which led to some awkward situations. The guy who was starting the company was an older gentleman, who was doing it in his retirement, and didn’t have very strong IT skills. Because of that, he used me heavily, sometimes for things that I would have normally considered non-IT (typing up letters, etc.), but mainly for the smaller, nitpicky computer things associated with starting up a tech business (installing software on new employee computers, being there for when they installed the new internet line, etc.).
I became a money hole. I knew it, and felt bad about it, but I had a rate that I negotiated walking in the door, that he agreed to, and I made sure to be clear that I would do anything he wanted me to, but my rate would apply. I tried to teach him how to do the tasks himself, writing up help documentation and training him, but he wasn’t interested, but nor was he interested in bringing anybody new on board with technology skills.
Eventually *he* realized I was a money hole, and tried to save money by re-negotiating my pay down for certain tasks, which I allowed in the short-run, but it left a bad taste in my mouth because I knew that I could be earning more money elsewhere. After a while, I politely bowed out
The lesson I learned from this long-winded story is that if you are starting a tech company, make sure a tech guy is there at ground floor, a member of the founding team, who gets paid in equity. Don’t jump in and hire someone just to hire someone, but find someone who is as passionate about the project as you, because this person will be expected to put in the same ungodly hours as you do. Understand that the IT guy won’t get why you aren’t putting as much time working on the tech as he is. Develop a patient way of explaining what you do, and be there, and *really* listen when he tells you what he’s doing.
It’ll go a long way. Trust me.
Last week, I sat with Kevin Taylor, a brilliant entrepreneur who started his own coding company. A lot of the insight he gave me during the chat seemed so simple, I don’t know why I wasn’t doing it already, but I guess simple doesn’t always mean obvious.
One of the first tasks he sent me on was hunting down potential clients, sitting down with them before I even have anything to sell, and chatting with them, and set up a chart with them, filling in three categories: 1) What do they do now to address the problem, 2) Would my MVP be an improvement on that and 3) Would they be willing to pay X dollars for the MVP? (Changing X for each of the companies, of course).
This process, though simple, would help me narrow in on whether or not people are interested in my product, how they are already addressing the issue, and allow me to start honing in on a cost that they are willing to pay.
I wish I could say that I’ve already have had a few interviews, but midterms have slowed me up a bit. The next few days will be spent emailing managers at data centers around Chicago and setting up appointment times so I can start this MVP pitch process.
I was going to write about my meeting with Kevin Taylor, talk about trying to set up meetings with potential future clients, and how that may help me find out pricing points and what not, but then I found this:
It does everything my product planned on doing, and hits the same target price range. They’ve diversified the product like I planned, selling it to non-computer businesses that need temperature monitoring. And it’s founded by a bunch of MIT grads who have been producing similar products for the last five years, releasing this one last year.
I’ve known that AVTech, and ITWatchDog produce similar products, but they seemed to have aimed at the larger Data Centers.
I really don’t know what to do… Do I keep going, completely change gears, or try to find something similar, but different enough to hit a different market? But I don’t know what that is right now…