10 Rules for Web Startups vs. “Learning by Mistake”

Most of this year I’ve been following a Software Development methodology called “Learning by Mistake” or more commonly known as “Doh!”.

 

Therefore it is with great joy that I read Blogger co-founder Evan Williams’ article: “Ten Rules for Web Startups”

 

I can gladly say that I’ve been following (most) these rules without ever having learnt them at varsity (or at church for that matter). However, I must admit that most of these rules didn’t quite come naturally…

 

We’ve had many heated discussions about “#1: Be Narrow”. We see the potential for Skyrove providing IPTV, VoIP, free Internet etc. And maybe one day we will, but for now, we’re gonna focus on one thing, and that’s providing a solution where there currently is none.

 

#2: Be Different – “There are lots of people thinking about – and probably working on – the same thing you are. And one of them is Google. Deal with it. How? …”(read the article to see how!)

 

Almost every time I tell someone about Skyrove I hear someone say: “But what if Google stole your idea and put 200 programmers on that problem tomorrow? You’d be screwed, wouldn’t you?” I wonder if Brin & Page were asked the same question regarding Microsoft when they started Google.

 

My favourites:

 

#5: Be User-Centric – “User experience is everything. It always has been, but it’s still undervalued and under-invested in. If you don’t know user-centered design, study it (check). Hire people who know it(check). Obsess over it (check). Live and breathe it (check).”

 

#6: Be Self-Centered – “Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world (check). Be a user of your own product (check). Hire people who are users of your product (check). Make it better based on your own desires (check).

 

Okay, so what am I still doing wrong? Definitely #10: Be Balanced. I did go hiking in the Cedarberg this weekend, but it’s the exception to the rule… “What is a startup without bleary-eyed, junk-food-fueled, balls-to-the-wall days and sleepless, caffeine-fueled, relationship-stressing nights? Answer?: A lot more enjoyable place to work.”

I think with that said I’m going to spend some time with my family now!

Meet Joey – Skyrove Movie at Enablis Expos??

We presented at the Enablis Expos?? last Thursday evening. The format of the evening was 7 entrepreneurs with 7 minutes each. It was our first chance to present Skyrove on a “stage”. It gave us the opportunity to showcase Skyrove a bit and also to practise our presentation skills for an upcoming “Elevator Pitch” at a Cape Town VC.

From my past experiences I knew only one thing: I hate PowerPoint presentations! We were scheduled to present last, and I anticipated that it would be very hard to get people’s attention!

With only a week to prepare, I got hold of a friend whose brother is a prodigy when it comes to doing animations and short films. I drew a very rough storyboard and Adrian went home and did the drawings, animations and sound effects in 5 days of non-stop, no-sleep work!

It still needs a voice-over before we can put it on our website, but it worked like a charm for our presentation and we were swarmed with queries about Skyrove!

Click here to see the presentation (with my own, amateur voice-over). It’s a short PowerPoint presentation (I couldn’t escape it entirely) with the movie on the last slide.

I followed VentureBlog’s “The Dos and Don’ts of Presenting at DEMO” religiously. Particularly the first point: “DEMO is all about demonstrating your product”. Of the 7 entrepreneurs who presented I think i only understood what 2 of them were actually doing. Many people were telling the audience how much money they made last year or who their biggest customers were.

You only have 7 minutes, so let your product shine!

Who Wants To Be A Gazillionaire?

Originally published at http://www.yeahfi.com/2005/11/who-wants-to-be-gazillionaire.html2 years ago, while still a computer science student at the University of Cape Town, I dreamt up the most bizarre, ridiculous, insanely huge idea! Let’s create a worldwide network of Wi-Fi hotspots! Not by setting up the infrastructure myself, but rather by getting folks around the world to set up their own Wi-Fi hotspots, all linked through a single system.I soon realized that I needed some way to motivate people to buy Wi-Fi infrastructure and share their internet connection with others. The free Wi-Fi sharing model was my original idea, and I recently saw Wibiki.com launch with a similar concept. But I felt that the best way to get someone to set up their own hotspot was by making it ridiculously simple to set up and for the hotspot owner to start earning money straight away.About a year ago I finally got round to writing a business plan with the help of a mate studying Business Science, Allister. We wrote it for an innovation competition at our university, but didn’t win any prize! We did spend countless hours on doing market research and realized that the dream was worth pursuing. We set up shop after graduating, initially earning an income through doing all sorts of IT & marketing odd jobs. We raised our first capital from an Angel Investor in the US, Don Levy of SkyWi Inc. (Thanks Don!). We started the actual product development of Skyrove in May 2005. Currently, we’re set for launching our first commercial beta testing hotspot at a small hotel in December. (And in the meantime our business plan has actually won a competition! See www.enablis.org/challenge/results)So why am I blogging all of this? Because I hope that in some way I could be of assistance to other entrepreneurs. I can’t remember whether it’s the 1st or 2nd year of doing a business that’s supposed to be the hardest, but I’ve definitely learnt a lot of things this year that I wish I knew beforehand. About marketing, venture capital, negotiations, keeping customers happy, setting up entities in different countries, shareholders agreements, types of shares, trademarking etc. I’m no expert in any one of these fields, but I’ve found that when talking to old hands that they’ve often forgotten how intimidating doing all of these “simple” things could be to the young entrepreneur! So feel free to post a comment here with any questions while it’s still fresh in my mind and while you’ve got a great idea and, like me, you need all the help you can get to become the next gazillionaire!