November 15th, 2005
Just got hit by another typical Bootstrapping Anti Pattern, I have been writing using “We” and not “I”.
It is such a bad habit for me, but I keep catching myself writing “We …” when I am writing text for my businesses. I am but myself so why should I write “We offer a secure service.”. I have just gone through a little self audit and updated the text I have written on WideWord and found more than a few cases. I hope I’ve removed all of it by now.
Why should you talk about your solo venture as I and not We? People won’t respect me? Bullsh$t. I think people nowadays much more respect the individual voice and not the boring corporate robot speak. It is really hard to wean yourself from this though. Besides it’s dishonest. If you are small, be proud to be small. If you are big be proud to be big (or scared???).
September 19th, 2005
Focusing on a large long term abstract revenue goal makes you loose focus and morale. Instead focus on building the first $50K of revenue. Just saw this by Wil Schroter, The First 50 Plan via Ken.
The problem with trying to think in terms of “how do we get to $10 billion in revenue in 2050” is that you lose sight of the fact that your resources are very limited today. Staying focused on earning the first $50K of revenue allows you to concentrate your resources on a very well-defined short-term goal.
This is a brilliant little trick Wil came up with. Following the same logic I was also thinking that a better or maybe earlier goal of $2k pm in regular revenues might be better for a small bootstrapped web startup. For a frugal bootstrapper this may be sufficient to break even. Once you have proven to your self and others that you can make regular monthly cashflow and not just a burst of big sales. This could be an easy metric to yourself. Lets say your $2k revenue comes from 100 sales at $20. That is something you can understand and focus on. Our goal is to reach 100 monthly sales.
Updated, Thanks to Peter for noticing a slight math error.
July 7th, 2005
You’ve all heard the common advice that to startups that you need a good team. I’m sure that is right, however some times and at certain stages that team should consist of just you.
Granted if you happen to have a really good small founding team of really capable people, by all means you should work together. However, don’t go searching for your team unless you have a specific requirement.
Over on Allen’s Blog there is a interesting article
Some Tough Questions You Should Ask about picking the “team”. Go read the full story, but here is the gist of it:
Founders are also â€œexpensiveâ€? in terms of equity (usually, and sometimes even rightfully, to reward them for taking the risk in joining a startup). Founders are harder than normal employees to transition out of the Company (not legally, just emotionally: â€œHow can we fire Joe? Heâ€™s a founder.) Just like most people (including VCâ€™s), founders usually have skills and experiences that are narrower than they, themselves, believe (even sincerely). And finally, founders donâ€™t always pick their co-founders with a beady, cold-eyed, highly calculating gaze with a tough-minded focus on who can actually make the biggest contribution to the Company. Often, co-founders are picked because they are friends, or like-minded, or â€œgreat people, the kind youâ€™d pick if you were in a foxhole under fireâ€?.
He talks about how VC’s analyze the team. This also applies to us bootstrappers and it is certainly a kind of uncommon wisdom that we should heed.
My take on it is stay solo or tiny where each party has a clear role and clear talent to fulfill this role. When you actually feel a specific need that you can’t fulfill in your existing team (or by your self) bring partners in one by one to fullfill the necessary tasks. See for example 6 simple rules for micro ventures for more information on when you should bring further partners in.
July 6th, 2005
Most of us entrepreneurs have a dream and we are very focused on this. Unfortunately things that are obvious to us can very often be undecipherable for others.
Startups with more people can also have this problem, but are less perceptible to it as the other partners or investors will start questioning you early on. Us solopreneurs rely on public feedback.
I was inspired to write this by the recent simple changes I have done to StakeItOut.
I was wondering why many people who signed up for StakeItOut, didn’t found ventures or add assets. I figured it was some usability issue, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
Luckily I’ve received some great feedback in the last week, highlighting two major deficiencies:
- It was not obvious what to do next once you’ve signed up.
- The bookmarklet method of adding assets was not obvious to people.
Now, I’ve cleaned it up a bit and added some bold “First steps” to show exactly what to do.
I’ve also tried to hightlight the option of installing the bookmarklet. I also stop pestering the user to use it once he has used it the first time.
I realise that there is still more to do. Especially with respect to the new webservices features. So that is where I will put focus now.
June 30th, 2005
â€œYou must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end â€“ which you can never afford to lose â€“ with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.â€? Jim Stockdale
While browsing around Joe Kraus blog after my last story about Great times for Entrepreneurs I stumbled upon this story about Startups and the Stockdale Paradox . It’s a story about optimism and realism, the story of Jim Stockdale who spent 8 years as prisoner in a Vietnam jail and was tortured regularly. He says the only reason he survived was that he was confident that he would survive, but realistic that it would take forever. He says the people who died first where the optimists.
Joe found the story in the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins which explains why this is important for startups in the chapter Brutal Facts
As I read this it hit me that this is probably one of our greatest errors as entrepreneurs. I know that my greatest fault in some of my prior ventures has been not changing strategy when I should have done so.
For example things mostly take time. Most of my articles here in this blog reflect this. You could save up $20,000, quit your job and start full time on your business. However I have learnt the hard way that if you do this, you have to be ready to support your business even if things don’t move quite as fast as you want. Maybe your business is fine, just growing slowly. Is it really a good idea to quit your dream just because there is no money for rent or food? Maybe it is, but it might be better to be realistic early and work out other alternative ways to carry out your dream. Thats why I’m Funding through a nine to five. If you keep going to the last possible point of survival you can easily get so disillusioned that you stop alltogether.