Too Much Due Diligence

feedburner-logo-350

I’m currently evaluating a 2 (maybe 3) exciting opportunities to start a new business venture in Australia. 

I decided that I would objectively evaluate these opportunities, as if I were a venture capital investor. I.e. don’t just go on gut, but spend a few weeks doing some decent “Due Diligence” on each of the ideas.

Of course, there’s a risk of over analyzing, especially once you have a bit of experience starting up businesses and you’ve faced plenty of customers saying “No!” to you and your amazing products! 

So it was refreshing to read Fred Wilson’s post on A VC about how he missed a great opportunity because of Too Much Due Diligence! 

In particular, he called up some of the major publishers to ask if they would use FeedBurner for their RSS feeds. They all said “No!”, as it would mean a 3rd party would have access to their analytics. Because of this customer feedback, Fred passed on investing in that round. Then this happened: 

About six months later I ran into Dick at an industry conference. We decided to grab lunch together and during lunch he said to me “you know those dozen publishers you called?” I said “yes, what about them?” He said “every single one of them is on Feedburner now.” 

Fred was still able to invest in FeedBurner, but at a 50% premium. In 2007, FeedBurner was acquired by Google for $100 million!  

So what did I learn from this lesson? First, trust your gut. I was using Feedburner and knew it was a very useful service. I felt that others would see that too. They did, but it took some time. Second, I learned that a service can get traction with the little guys and in time, the big guys will come along. 

From http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2013/05/you-can-do-too-much-due-diligence.html  (Audio version: http://soundcloud.com/avcfm/you-can-do-too-much-due

My new employer, Compare Courses, gets a small mention!

On the Shoestring blog: 

The newest startup coworking space to launch in Sydney this week will be Tank Stream Labs. Located right in the heart of the CBD, TS Labs will house some of Australia’s coolest startups with a lot of buzz around them at the moment. AirtaskerJoe ButtonRoom.us and Compare Courses are just some of the new ventures occupants of the labs will be rubbing shoulders with.

Responsive Design for Mobile Sites

We decided to go with Responsive for Skyrove’s WiFi Hotspot Portal pages for the following reasons: 

 

1. Many, many different screen sizes to cater for
2. We had a very small amount of layout changes and resizing to do (images didn’t even need to be resized)
3. It was definitely going to be more hassle to manage a separate site
4. We were inspired by the Responsive design of Trello.com (check it out by signing up and simply resizing your browser window)

 

Importantly, at the same time, we took the approach of designing for “Mobile First”. Design would be done for the best mobile experience and only then would the design be adopted for the desktop! (Obviously, as it was responsive, we would already have a working desktop version, albeit not optimized for the larger res)

 

Keep in mind, that all our users did pretty much the same thing: Login if registered already, Register if not, purchase credits, or login with a roaming partner account (Skype, Boingo, etc). We only had about 3 or 4 pages to worry about.

 

 

Google has a graphic that summarizes the Pros and Cons nicely:

120710_GoMo_Responsive_Table-image-2

Mate of the Week: Sprint.ly

It’s not every day I rave about a Software product or web app. Well, okay, I’ve raved before about Balsamiq Mockups, Evernote, Highrise and a few others… 

But it’s only the really good ones that get my attention. And Sprint.ly is a good one. 

Basically, Sprint.ly is web app for software developers, product managers and other stakeholders to prioritize and manage the development process for features, tasks, defects (bugs) and tests. 

Nothing new there… you can also look at JIRA, PivotalTracker, TargetProcess and many others. The difference is that Sprint.ly does it (a) right and (b) beautifully. 

It integrates well with email (JIRA doesn’t), provides a Kanban style dashboard with easy click & drag (PivotalTracker doesn’t), and automatically updates stories/items whenever developers commit to Github. 

Its ease-of-use is miles ahead of the pack, which is a crucial factor when you need to convince other team members to change systems. 

If you have a distributed software team and you’re struggling to keep up to date with what everyone is working on, Sprint.ly may just be your new best friend. 

sprintly_dashboard

 

What if money was no object?

 When I was 5, I wanted to be an astronaut. By the time I was 6, I wanted to be a pilot.

When I was 18, I still wanted to be a pilot, but I went to study medicine instead because A) The money looked good and B) I could get into med school.

I convinced myself that I could become a “flying doctor”, thus satisfying my itch to take to the skies. After 3 years of med school I quit. It was one of the scariest things I had to do. Largely, because quitting is humiliating and I have an almost unhealthy habit of persevering. Which is why I didn’t quit it after the 1st year, when I had already lost interest.

I don’t think spending 3 years of my life studying medicine was a waste, and I did learn some valuable things about the human body, but mostly I learnt some valuable lessons about life. I always had an interest in computers & electronics, but growing up I always thought of this interest as a “hobby”, something I would do in my spare time while I “worked” doing something else.

After med school, I took a year out doing various things and was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to go back to university to study electronics and computer science at UCT. Purely because I wanted to learn about it. I didn’t even think about making money from it. In the back of my mind I knew I would find a way to do what I love (building technology) and get paid for it. I’m by no means a billionaire, but it’s worked out okay so far 🙂

Earlier this year, I quit running Skyrove, and I had to start looking again. Do I want to continue doing what I’m doing or find a new career? I looked at all the fulfilling things I did in the last 8 years and realised that some of my most enjoyable moments were in teaching, educating and mentoring young technology entrepreneurs. I have an intense interest in education and my passion for technology has not wavered. I’m doing what I love (first) and I get paid for it (second). The video below is magic. You need to watch it and think about it and dream about it and make sure your kids do so as well. Share it!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siu6JYqOZ0g?wmode=transparent]

Blink Tower’s Prize Winning Open Education Video

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtnwAgu4KIw?wmode=transparent]

In 2010 I co-founded Blink Tower with Adrian Burger and Elodie Kleynhans to make amazing animated explainer videos. 

I knew from my involvement with Cape Town startups that there were many great technologies and products that were not getting the attention, or the customers, they deserved. 

Technology is the greatest democratizing force in modern history, so helping tech companies explain their products is something very close to my heart. 

Of course, the greatest democratizing force throughout all the ages is education. 

So when you combine technology and education, I get really excited!

Earlier this year Blink Tower entered the Creative Commons “Why Open Education Matters” Video competition to help explain to the public at large and lawmakers in particular how technology can help provide free and better education resources to teachers and students. The competition was sponsored by Creative Commons, the US Department of Education, the Miro Community and Open Society Foundations. Judges included major Hollywood directors & actors, the head of the Mozilla Foundation and more! 

Blink Tower created the brilliant video above and beat out 60 other great competitors to win the 1st prize! 

From Silicon Cape to Silicon Beach

I’ll be leaving South Africa in early August to seek new adventures.

Although I have several gripes with South Africa, in particular with how corruption is affecting all levels of life, I’ve also learnt that I thrive in difficult environments where I can make a significant impact. So in short, although I won’t simply “shaddap and emigrate” about these gripes, they aren’t the main reason for going into entrepreneurial, as opposed to political, exile right now.
 
Ultimately, I’m keen on a new adventure. I have a young family and find myself becoming more and more comfortable with life in Cape Town. But I’ve also had plenty of exposure to technology industries in the last few years, through travelling to places such as Korea, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Cambridge(UK) and Silicon Valley. These places have left me with a sense that “there’s more out there” and a deep-rooted feeling of Wanderlust. From a career point-of-view, I have to go and swim in a bigger pond!
 
I could have picked any of the above locales to start a new adventure, but visa-wise, Australia was the simplest as I already have permanent residence. Despite the cliches, I also happen to really like Australia, especially for its friendliness to entrepreneurs and small business.

 

I’m not sure yet what I will be doing once I get there! I have some startup ideas and may also look to join one of the several tech companies or VC firms in Sydney.

 

Right now, all i have is a one-way ticket and faith in the universe!

 

Henk

Small Business? Throw out your file server and get Dropbox for Teams.

A few weeks ago one of the companies I work with had a file server dramatically crash after years of faithful service.??The crash cost two days of engineering time to set up a new server from scratch and restore files from backups. Even before the crash, it would take engineering time to add new users and set permissions. The permissions were never really done properly and many folders were accessible simply by using a shared username & password that made the rounds.??

There were also occasional issues with files being overwritten with older versions and work needing to be redone!??

Running their own "cheap" in-house server was actually getting expensive and introducing huge amounts of risk. Some of the employees at the company started using their personal Dropbox accounts for handling mission critical files such as accounting records. This had the benefit of giving Revision Control up to one year and rollbacks in case of files getting corrupted. Folders could also be shared, but, the file ownership was by nature "personal". If an employee left the company it would create security problems.??

Luckily, DropBox recently lauched Dropbox for Teams. It allows centralized management of users & files, unlimited revisions and huge amounts of storage.??

Although it's a Cloud Storage Service, your files are synchronized across all your devices, thus meaning fast, local access at all times without the need of an internet connection.??

At first, I thought the price came in a bit steep at $795 per year for 5 users, or $13.25 per user per month. You could buy a half-decent Ubuntu server for $795, but the cost of setting it up properly, maintaining it, security and lost productivity quickly adds up to thousands of dollars. Professional companies in Cape Town charge in the region of $500 a month for basic server monitoring & maintenance and callout fees of $100 per hour.??

I'd say it's a no brainer: Throw out the file server and get Dropbox for Teams.

(If you don't yet know Dropbox, get a free personal account)??