Archive for the ‘Successful Startups’ Category
I had breakfast last week with someone who works at a relatively big company. He has a front-line job, and was telling me how he was reprimanded recently for spending too much time inquiring about the roles of his peers and the overall strategy for his department. His boss, he said, told him that he just “needed to put his head down, stop asking questions and do his job”.
This got me to thinking about my earlier post on Managers and Executives. One thing that went unsaid in that post was the importance of internal communications. Almost everywhere I’ve worked has underestimated how important it is to constantly communicate to the team the goals and strategies of the business, and how the day-to-day projects that various teams are working on tie into them.
My friend Cody lives on the top very large hill outside the city of Seattle with an absolutely spectactular 270° view. On Sunday, we were out on his deck enjoying a bottle of wine, discussing how things were at our respective companies.
As those of you who are regular readers know, I work at Cheezburger which is a very small little company and where just about everyone is a jack-of-all-trades. On the other hand, Cody is a vice president at a Fortune 100 multi-national corporation. It was interesting discussing the contrast in our jobs and companies. This led to my better understanding the different roles that exist in a company.
Our friend Jill made the most amazing gazpacho for Lisa and I tonight. “Jill, this is hands down the best gazpacho that I’ve ever had! How do you make it?!” “Well, Scott, a little secret: the Barefoot Contessa.” Of course, she followed a recipe.
That reminded me of a conversation Martin and I had earlier today Cheezburger Inter-Galactic HQ. I was stumbling through trying to explain some new tables in the database by way of a tortured analogy to abstract classes. “Well, it’s a Decorator Pattern,” Martin said.
I am a golfer. The primary reason I golf is because nobody has invented a way to keep score in paper cuts.
But, I digress…
Last week, before our round, one of the guys in my foursome sent a link to the video below, The Peace Bubble. I think he meant it as a joke, but I couldn’t quite tell, so I ended up watching the entire thing until the end.
A lesson about business that Seth Godin learned by riding a bicycle: your best opportunity to improve your cycling performance is while riding uphill. In other words, your speed has limits when you’re riding downhill, so extra effort doesn’t make that much of a difference. But, when riding uphill your extra effort really counts.
Let me show you how this lesson applies to web development. To do so, let’s ride our bicycle up and down the Hill of Traffic. What you see below is a chart representing traffic on a web site over a period of time. On side A, you see that traffic is going up, and on side B it is going down.
After leaving drugstore.com, and before I started working on Cheezburger, I worked on a startup with some friends. After awhile it never quite “started” or “upped”, depending on which way you look at it.
We still have it going with one part-time developer, but I doubt it will ever amount to anything. Which is really too bad because I think it was actually a pretty good idea. In fact, all of our market research and dozens of potential customers told us it was a good idea.
I was struck just last weekend when I crossed paths with someone who was part of our initial focus groups and she was still enthusiastic. So enthusiastic that she was eager for it to launch so she could pay us money to use it! I had to ask myself, “with such a great product, why didn’t it ever get going?”
In Launching: The Only Thing That Matters, I made the point that your startup couldn’t realize the value they were creating without putting the product in front of customers. In other words, if you don’t start the race, you can’t win.
Want to Get More Done? Here’s How: Do Less! illustrated how by focusing on one project at at time a team can deliver results more quickly while providing the business greater flexibility and eliminating waste.
I gave a talk recently about some of the development practices we follow at Cheezburger. The structure of the talk was a series of questions, one of them being:
Why try to get a lot of stuff done when you could just do one thing instead?
All companies want to get as much done as possible, and most companies try to accomplish this by doing a lot of things. Our experience has found that doing less things actually results in greater productivity.
I was inspired to write the Launching is the Only Thing That Matters post based on an experience I had with a client over the weekend. Let me start the story by telling the ending:
In web development, a launch is not the finish line. Launching is the starting line. Not only is it the start of a business, it’s also the start of the next phase of development. I think the people I advise are a lot more comfortable launching quickly when the realize launching is just the beginning.
The clients I was talking to are trying to launch a relatively straightforward online retail toy store. The design is beautiful, the product selection exquisite. But after a year of developing the site (read: one year equals paid lots of money to a web dev shop) the were not very close to launching.
The most dangerous pitfall for a startup is to waste resources–time, energy, and money–on things that don’t matter. I mean “don’t matter” in a relative, not absolute sense. In other words, spending resources on things that “don’t matter now“.
When I advise startups I return to this theme a lot. And, there is one piece of advice that I find myself repeating over and over again: the absolute, number one most important thing is to launch.
Let me repeat that because I can’t emphasize it enough: strip out everything that is not absolutely 100% essential and get your product, feature or site in front of real users or customers.