I was reading the great post by Vidhu Norby called Don’t Launch Your Product that included a single paragraph that really resonated with me.
The fact is that when you create the big launch event, you will always see the subsequent big drop-off. Your market is not TechCrunch readers and Mark Zuckerberg does not want to eat vegetable tempura rolls with you. If you plan for massive scale out of the gate, you will face disappointment and a morale drain that can kill your company. And unlike a lot of other problems that you face in the startup world, learning this lesson the hard way can cost you your startup right at the outset.
The key element here is the inevitable connection that founders have between the product and their emotions. It is inevitable because the founders have created something from nothing and you will always have a strong emotional connection when that happens. However, it is important for founders to understand when and how their emotions are holding them back.
We all know that this is business and that we should be rationale about the work that we are doing. The best entrepreneurs are those who leverage passion to incent themselves and their team to create something amazing. However, it is the same set of emotions that discourages founders from launching their product. It discourages them from getting the incredibly valuable feedback that comes from putting a product in front of customers. It discourages them from taking the final step to show the world what they built because in their eyes it isn’t finished yet. It will never be finished yet. It will never be good enough.
When the founder gathers the necessary courage to make that leap, they look back questioning what took them so long to launch. It isn’t as scary as you fear. My advice is to remove the emotion from it and start small. Don’t rely on the huge launch event for your product. Just start rolling it out from alpha to beta to release and gather momentum as you go. It will be easier on your emotions and increase your chances of success.
I had the pleasure of attending a talk by John Hennessy today at the University of Waterloo as he shared his thoughts on the impact of online learning on the entire education industry.
Here were my key take aways from the session:
- Credentialing – While many people think of online education primarily from the perspective of the delivery of content, one of the more critical elements provided by education institutions is credentialing. That is, providing a statement that the student who completed the course or program has mastered a certain level of skill in a focused area. Online learning will need to create a similar model for capturing skill level of students and providing that assessment to stakeholders. There are several challenges in this area and sadly not enough in the way of solutions.
- Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs as John called them) are creating some unique opportunities to explore how students use online learning tools. There is gigantic interest in these courses (100K or more students in some courses wasn’t uncommon initially. Even American Poetry has a 30K classroom). However, the picture isn’t all positive. There is an over 90% drop out rate with the biggest issue being the dynamic range of student skills in the class. The scalable tools available to instructors also make it difficult to determine student skills and find the “sweet spot” for exams by challenging top students but not defeating struggling students.
- Top students are motivated by virtual recognition (e.g. badges) and there are several opportunities that should be explored on how best to create an effective student online learning community.
- Peer assessment can provide an improved perspective in online courses that is much more difficult in traditional classrooms. Students can seamlessly rate the performance of the peers in their groups along with reviewing/rating submissions for assignments or projects from other teams in the classroom as well. The ability to learn from the submissions of other teams provides a new perspective on the learning process.
Finally, John mentioned several areas that are ripe for further exploration and investment including adaptive learning, automatic diagnosis, improved large scale assessment tools, increased understanding of the effectiveness of social media/crowd sourcing, and identification of the source of submitted work.
Dave McClure, Jeff Clavier and Geoff Lewis at Grow 2012
Here are my notes from the Grow 2012 Conference in Vancouver last week. It was one of the best conferences I have attended with top calibre presentations and amazing people at the networking events.
Great companies can be found outside the valley. But it is hard. Takes luck and sacrifice. Debbie loves serendipity even if curated through events. You need to be proactive and hunt. Never give up. Share your ideas with the world and challenge yourself. Think bigger and change the world!
If you missed my notes from Day 1 check out my post from earlier this week.
Sheridan Jones – Kinect for Windows
Kinect is the fastest selling consumer device in the world in the first 60 days. What would happen if they released Kinect for windows? Key usage scenarios are therapy, healthcare, retail and training
I wanted to share my rough notes from the conference for those who weren’t able to attend or for those who attended and want a refresher. There were two tracks at the event – Inspiration and Execution. I primarily spent my time in the Inspiration track.
Now is an awesome time to start a business. It is now cool to be an entrepreneur. Her favorite incubator program is Startup Chile to spread startup fever like a flu. Yet Chris is still worried. We might be doing something that is bad for entrepreneurship. It is hard work to build a business. Long hours, little sleep, etc. Even with all of these resources it is still really hard.
“Building an app is not building a business.”
“Winning a business plan competition is not building a business.”
Entrepreneurs create companies built to last. Building the company itself is the area of value. So do something that matters. Build a business worthy of your time and the sacrifices you are making. Build something of sustaining value
Winner of startup stage pitches
Winner of the elevator pitches
Winner of the teens’ pick
Winner of the grandmothers’ pick
Founder Fuel prize
Winner of the $50,000 Convertible Note
Openera and XYZ Interactive were finalists for the big prize!
I was reading Christine’s blog post about getting plugged into the startup community. Her article was focused on Silicon Valley but I encourage anyone in the local startup community to read it as many of her points are applicable to any community. Based on her article, I wanted to add some of my tips for people in Kitchener-Waterloo who are interested in getting plugged into the local startup community.
Building on the public announcement of NextUp Labs in February, I am going to be sharing a lot more content about the lessons learned working with so many startups. I have a new post on NextupLabs today outlining our pivot and the rationale behind the changes. I can’t say that we are done pivoting but it hopefully provides some insight into the concept of the model and some of its flaws to date.
NextUp Labs helps people turn their ideas into great businesses.
For the past three months, I have been speaking with entrepreneurs all over North America who were looking for advice about their mobile and consumer web start-ups/businesses. These are smart, talented people with great ideas. However, many of them had a common problem. They were missing a key skill that was holding them back from the next level of success. For some it was a technical expert that could help build a more robust prototype, for others it was someone with business development and financing knowledge to compliment a technical team.
I am very excited to announce that I’ll be leading the VeloCity program at the University of Waterloo in the new year. After leaving RIM three months ago, I immersed myself in the local startup community. I believe that Kitchener-Waterloo can be the hub for innovation in mobile technology in Canada (if not North America) and I wanted to help in any way possible. As Director of the VeloCity program, I have an opportunity work with an established team to help students and alumni create successful companies. On top of that, I can give back to the university that contributed so much to my success.