What Does Being A ‘Startup Founder’ Mean to Me?

Lemonade Stand 50 Cents Each Qiqi Lourdie June 24, 20111
By: Steven DepoloCC BY 2.0

 

Over the last few months that I’ve been building my startup (ServiceChat – a platform to help businesses have better conversations with their customers on Twitter) – this topic has been my constant companion. I am continuously discovering what it means to me to be a founder.  There is no job description, no employee manual to tell you what to do or not do and actually no other experience to compare it to.

When I think back to all the jobs I’ve had – postman, video-tab-remover-guy, programmer, consulting coach, ‘startup founder’ is, by far, the hardest, most unrelenting, supremely challenging work I have ever done.  It is also, without a shadow of a doubt, the most satisfying endeavor I have ever undertaken.

I have distilled my current feelings about being a startup founder and this is what I think it means so far, for me at least:

Incredibly hard work, emotionally exhausting

When I took my indefinite sabbatical from my really lucrative and pretty fulfilling job of being a consultant agile coach, I knew enough of the startup world to know it was pretty hard work. I knew also it is unglamorous work that demands you do what you know and often what you don’t, to make progress. Often for very little or no pay!

I easily put in sixty hours or more a week, work weekends and unsociable hours (the sky at 3am is beautiful!). All this whilst trying to be a half decent husband to a lovely wife and an attentive dad to four lovely people. Every spare minute I have is devoted to ServiceChat – building it, finding customers, crafting experiments to find customers, talking to customers, learning how to talk to customers, designing, developing , redesigning, strategizing, financializing (hey, that’s my word!). You name it, I do it because I’m a founder and it is what needs to be done.

And when I’m not working on my startup – I’m thinking about working on my startup!

Every success, every failure, every hope dashed, every dream realised is felt 100% by the founder. Praise does come, so does criticism – mostly from myself!
In any given day I go through the entire spectrum of emotions – fear, delight, sadness, anger and love. And that is just before lunch!

By the end of the day, I am not only physically tired, I’m also emotionally drained.

Requires focus, demands discipline

By nature, I’m easily distracted. This startup experience has shown me that starting is easy for me, I approach all new ideas with deep passion, huge excitement but I mostly suck at execution.
This is itself is great learning, because I now know what I need to improve on or buy in. Given that I’m building ServiceChat on a small budget, buying in an ace executioner is not really an option right now and besides, I need to get better at focusing and the discipline to focus.

Over the next few posts, I will share how I try and sustain my focus and train my discipline. Finding a focus is important because you bring all that you are to the challenge. You are present, some call it bringing your ‘A’ game, whatever you call it, you need it to be effective.  What has helped me hugely is creating a routine that I can stick to and form a habit around. The discipline to stick to it becomes easier as it becomes habitual.

Without focus, time will pass and nothing would have been done. I would be no closer to my vision, remaining ignorant of the learning I need to more forward.

And time is money – whether you are spending it or not!  ServiceChat is self funded, I moved to Spain (from England via Ireland) to extend my runway for a few more months, so every moment I am distracted, is cold hard cash that is burning away, inches of runway being lost to Father Time. But that is another story.

Deeply satisfying, hugely liberating

Being a founder is so deeply satisfying, I cannot find the words to articulate it as deeply as I feel it. Sure there are risks – it might not be viable, customers might not emerge from all the experiments. Finding those risks, facing up to them reaffirms my courage and encourages me to square up to the next scary thing. What a brilliant feeling!

Sure, there are dark undiscovered jungles in my map, big question marks about ‘what next? , ‘what if?’ and ‘how bad is it?’ . But discovering them, finding ways to answer the questions, learning what problems my startup could help solve and solving them are all satisfying things, at least for the curious mind.

Whether my startup succeeds as a sustainable business or not, I have learnt what professional liberation truly means. The freedom to learn and to explore. The freedom to take risks safely and to adjust the direction I take based on what I discover, the freedom to fail without the harsh judgements and condemnation of most traditional jobs.

As a founder, it will be damn near impossible for me to work ‘for’ someone else and be subject to their rules of how I work, when I work, what I do and how I do it. A wild bird is hard to cage, but an imprisoned bird that has experienced the freedom to soar unrestrained is almost impossible to re-imprison.

Feeling part of  something

What I continue to love about being in the startup community is that there is one – and it is rich in learning and support.  As a developer for nearly twenty years, I am used to the open source community, where ideas are freely shared and welcomed and I feel the same with the startup communities I have participated in.

I especially love the LeanStartup movement. Eric Ries (and to a large extent others like Steve Blank and Alex Osterwalder) has provided a manual that we can learn from and a common language that immediately connects us. Around it has grown a beautiful ecosystem to be part of, full of meetups, mashups, startup weekends, hackathons and so many community activities to help the starry eyed dreamers. They do help and support, but ultimately, as a founder, you have to go back and build your vision.  As a startup founder, I feel part of something revolutionary, almost like we are redefining the future of work as something driven by passion and is deeply humanised.

What does being a startup founder mean to other founders?

I was really interested to hear what other founders thought, so I asked around and here a few responses from my twitter shout out:

Hass Chapman (@hasschapman) from @TORCH_sh  –  “A very steep learning curve. Daily tests of commitment. Sacrifice. But also; Achievement. Pride. Enthusiasm.” 

Marc Cooper (@auxbuss) from fndout.com –  “freedom, destiny, change I want to see, daily confronting daemons, sacrifice, awesome. Not for everyone.”

Enovia Bedford (@accessoryremix) from mixieManagement.com –  Being start-up founder allows me to improve systems of the past and produce similiar products in a sustainable way.”

What does being a startup founder mean to you?

It does not matter whether you are contemplating starting a startup or just starting up or whether you are a tried and tested founder, we each bring a unique perspective to this gig and I would love to hear and share what you think?

Do you find it exhausting?
What are the sacrifices you are making to be a startup founder?
What are you learning?
Are you enjoying it?

Comment here, on the FounderSync forums or holler at me on @mhsutton. I also share my daily startup experiences on my personal blog at http://mhsutton.me

Keep dreaming, keep scheming!

Lessons from why my startup failed: Know your mind.

I ceased work on ServiceChat – the startup that I have been working on for six months. It might not seem that long to you, but to me it is a very long time of illusions and self discovery.

My learning from why ServiceChat didn’t go where I had ambitions for it to go will continue to emerge over time, but one thing that pops straight out is that I didn’t know my own my mind. Let me explain?

Too many sources of information

We are in an age of startup frenzy. All the cool kids are in startups and it is an exciting time that is all the more exaggerated by the media feeding on the spectacular valuations and fortunes. Politicians rest the recovery from recession on startups and entrepreneurs, kids are encouraged to code from a young age and be the next Zuckerberg and dreamy eyed youth are cluing on to the fact that the barriers to realise their ambitions are lower than at any other time in the history of business – well at least for tech startups anyway.

There is such a rich ecosystem for startups – blogs, books, incubators , accelerators, coaches, advisers, mentors and so much more – maybe too rich. The reality is that almost everyone in this ecosystem is a startup themselves. They are selling something – their idea, their learning and some times their services. So you are their customer – of sorts – and their messages can be interpreted to make you think their way is better or your goals are the wrong ones. With so many opinions competing for your attention, it is easy to get distracted.

I got sucked in. I bought and read the books,  I read the blogs and heard expert after expert tell you how to do it – or how not to do it. Everyone means well – absolutely – and there is a wealth of anecdotal sense in what they say. But in a blog or a book, you read what was written whereas the learning you might need is in what was unwritten. In any case, as much as you recognise the symptoms they talk about, they are not talking about your particular condition in its entirety. I still needed to know my own mind.

But there is no recipe for growing a successful startup. There are general ingredients – test your idea, continuously validate and others. The exciting bit is that you get to decide what you are cooking and what the recipe should be.

Fail on your own terms

My trouble was I was seeking my mind in the words of others. That took a huge amount of focus away from what I was supposed to be doing – finding customers and trying to find market/product fit. It was also emotionally wrecking, constantly second guessing myself when yet another blog implied to do the opposite of that the previous book advocated. Was I following the *exact* process or was I doing what the book said? Occasionally my rational mind would chime in and say:

‘Screw them, they don’t have to find next month’s rent, you do – you have to do what you have to do to build this thing!’.

But I would mute it. Failure is hard to accept. But it can be easier to deal with if you understand why you failed and you learn from it. Failing on your own terms is perhaps the best you can have. In my case, one of the reasons I failed was not knowing my own mind.

My Learning

I’m not blaming anyone or anything – I don’t believe in blame.

I do believe in behaviors being more or less effective towards a goal. My learning here is that focusing on a process or a body of other people’s experiences to build my own startup was not an effective way for me to achieve my goal of a successful and viable startup business. The next time – and there will be a next time – I won’t do the same thing.

I will have my plan and I’ll be comfortable with my plan. I’ll formulate it from my own experiences and instincts. I may run it past advisers or check for obviously stupid aspects of it with books or blogs or other sources of information.  I may otherwise revise it but ultimately I will do it because it makes sense in my mind.

I encourage you to completely disregard this post. It was my learning and my experience and it absolutely may not apply to you. Know your mind.


Featured Image By: McKay SavageCC BY 2.0

August 3: I Failed. Do, Learn, Adapt and Repeat Differently.

By: fhwrdhCC BY 2.0

 

I am mothballing my ServiceChat startup experiment.

After six months, I have to admit to myself that ServiceChat has no legs.  People who I thought should be interested are not and actually trying to find people interested is proven too difficult for my abilities. The lack of interest is itself great feedback – if you struggle to find 10 customers how impossible will it be to find 100? So as it stands, I don’t have a marketable product, nor even one I can get customers to use. So I’m done with it.

My enduring philosophy in life is failing fast – not only because it costs less financially but also because it costs less emotionally. I want to fail fast because it means I can get to the next thing sooner – and with the learning I make from each ‘failed’ idea – I increase the probability of future success.

Here is my check in:

  • Sad that ServiceChat is not going any where and that I am mothballing it. Nothing ever truly dies. But for now – learn, adapt, repeat.
  • Sad that I have unanswered questions – for example why could I not get people interested, what was truly incorrect about my choice of customer segments.
  • Glad that I now know a lot more where my strengths are and I can better make decisions about how to address those areas I suck at.
  • Glad that I am much clearer about what my passion is. Without this, I will fail on any startup before I even begin. I really didn’t know this before. Now I know that all the ideas I care the most about are about harnessing diversity and connecting people so they can be better informed, make better decisions and generally be happier and more joyful.
  • Glad that I learned that I need to experiment more about what idea I want to build a startup business around. For this I need to take a fundamentally different approach (more lab like and less startup like).
  • I’m grateful for all the help, concern and love I’ve had this last 6 months.

I’m out of ServiceChat. I’m in with life.

Improve On

  1. Do more research about competitors, partners and the problem.
  2. Get MVPs out faster. Find more creative ways to test the idea out – without necessarily coding a damn thing!
  3. Understand the marketing channels from day 1 – it is by far the most important thing and the riskiest one for me. I assumed that good ideas would naturally float and become viral – they don’t.
  4. Fail faster than 6 months. Ideally 6 weeks.

What Next?

  • ServiceChat was based on monetising ChittyChat for business. ChittyChat as a free tool was mildly successful with absolutely no marketing. I will work to reinstate it with the enhancements I made whilst focusing on ServiceChat.
  • I see  a need for a more usable answer to public group chats on Twitter using hashtags. The current solutions are crap. The tech that drives much of ServiceChat can help me build something for me to use twitter hashtag chats better. I will experiment with this.
  • Bizbuzz is providing interesting insights into how people connect with business and the deep lack of consumers connecting with each other. This is an exciting space to explore – I will continue to mine this for insight and blog about what I discover.

July 18: A Mixed Bag

By: crabchickCC BY 2.0

Not sure what to make of this week. It’s a bit like being in  the Tom Hanks movie ‘The Terminal’. I’m stuck but actually while I’m in this state of suspension there are really interesting things happening, but mostly I’m still stuck. Unlike Tom Hanks, my becoming unstuck is in my hands, I just don’t know how or I’m currently too scared to try – perhaps a bit of both. The former I can learn and the latter I will outgrow in time and by taking small risks.

Here is my check in:

  • Glad that my Spanish language exchange is really going well.  Duolingo is great, but it is no substitute for actually getting into really interesting conversations with a native speaker.
  • Sad that I will be away from my family for 5 weeks while go do some coaching work.
  • Glad that there are Spanish language meetups where I’ll be, so I can keep up
  • Mad that I have not cracked this sales thing. I think I need to get a mentor/coach. That will be my task today – understand what I want help with!
  • Glad that I will have 5 weeks of doing something else primarily and some focused time in a different location to put into overcoming what is currently got me stuck.
  • I’m grateful for being able to reflect on things, sometimes too deeply – but that is a small price to pay for being able to reflect and learn.

I’m confused and stuck and in.

Improve On…

  • Completing blog posts I have started
  • Being more patient with this journey. Overnight successes take a long time to make.

Today

  • Blog. I’m trying to do 3 a day (this one, a personal one and one for ServiceChat about customer service).
  • Talk to more customers
  • Continue with the promo work for Twumps and BizBuzz. Not quite 20 hits/day but getting there (easier on Bizbuzz than Twumps).

The Trello board

My_ONE_Place___Trello

 

There are many things I could do, do something or do nothing, but whatever I do will be deliberate.

July 12: Traction not tractors

By: D. MillerCC BY 2.0

Traction is vital, getting early customers to commit to using what I’m offering is very important.  Both are vital and important for my finances and startup growth, sure – but mostly for my sanity.

I’m a maker and an artist.  I make the art that is in my head.  Many of the things I make are because I had a problem and I expressed a way to solve them.  When I bring them to the market (as ineptly as I do) and expect some meaningful response, I am investing emotional energy into that. I care that I get a response – much more than the nature of that response.  I can handle praise and rejection but much less so, apathy.

So my new strategy of trying to be found by prospective customers is off to a slow start, but a start nonetheless.  Here is my check in:

  • Mad that I am really struggling to keep my schedule on track, my options for being flexible are limited when I start late and end later.  If I start on time (9.30) , I am actually far more flexible to do other stuff (like going to the beach!) because I would have made some progress.
  • Glad that I can changed most things to get back to routine – this is a really valuable thing about working for myself.
  • Glad I had another idea and my technique for welcoming them and giving them a slot to explore them is successful at keeping me focused on finishing
  • I’m grateful for having different onion skins to other people and having mine not constrain me from being myself.

I’m in (onion skins and all).

Improve On…

Being a better marketeer – better meaning braver, more authentic, more dedicated, better organised. Avoid the schmoltz.

Being a better researcher –  everything – my potential customers, competitors , collaborators.

 

Today

The trello board says it all.  basically as much of the stuff I have on there as possible. Mostly blogs.  But absolutely must…

Write ServiceChat blog post on ‘I am the greatest customer service expert in the world’.

Do some promotion work on Twumps and ServiceChat and get at least 20 unique visitors to each today.

 

The Trello board…

My_ONE_Place___Trello

 

Ask yourself if you are doing everything* you can to be successful

* – whilst remaining congruent with your values, fair to those you love and kind to yourself

July 9 – Back away from the code, slowly.

By: PascalCC BY 2.0

 

Every passing day re-affirms my fear.  I have to back away from the code, close the IDE – quit doing what I love doing and start doing the other thing.
You know – the other thing, the hitting-the-phone, sell-your-vision, learn-the-problems, discover-your-customers, dine-with-rejection-and-unreturned-emails thing, you know Customer Development!

Now, I have a world of love for Eric Ries, Ash Maurya, Steve Blank and the other luminaries of the startup world.  But they really could have done a better job of communicating how bloody tough it is to get to talk to customers, to handle the silence and the find the courage to carry on until you find the data you need (some might argue that the lack of feedback is plenty feedback – that is a different story).

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of 30 minutes of conversation with Kevin DeWalt, a really awesome and interesting guy with plenty of experience of creating companies and helping startups.  He graciously offers 30 mins of free help to founders and startups via his site. I’ll blog more about that on a later post.  Anyway, Kevin was really pragmatic and his view was really similar to @saintsal’s (from a couple of weeks ago). I have to spend most of my time out of the building, pounding the phones, the emails, knocking on doors (virtual and otherwise) and really get to meet prospects, so I can learn.

The last couple of weeks have presented some opportunities that I fully intend on exploring. So , what is my strategy?

I won’t be chasing customers.  I tried that and they weren’t interested in talking to me. My new strategy is to help them find me – well at least this is my strategy for the next 3 weeks.
This means interviews, blogs and asking powerful questions about how all the businesses I am coming across do customer service.  My intention is that these questions will attract the right people.
So it’s not so much ‘build it and they will come’, but more ‘ask it and the right people will answer’.

With this in mind, here is my check in.

  • Glad I have a plan, being lost is no fun when you got somewhere to go.
  • Glad there are people like Kevin DeWalt, Flavio Martins, @saintsal and Ian Golding who are open and invite you to seek their collaboration. Of course it is mutually beneficial – but their openness to connect is amazing.
  • Really mad that I’m succumbing to carbs – the sugary kind.
  • I’m grateful for the ability to reflect on my thoughts and the brilliance of others.

I’m in.

Improve On…

Consistent daily Spanish practice.

Testing my code.  Recently I have been doing lots of test-free hacking.

Today

Write this blog.

Write insights blog.

Plan my interview series.

 

The Trello board…

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 17.54.39

 

I strive to do more with less, everyday.

July 8 – Working hard, differently

By: Jeremiah “GrayBeard” RichardsCC BY 2.0

 

 

My last post was about 2 weeks ago and you might have wondered where I disappeared to. Well, I’ll tell you.

I was feeling very disheartened about the lack of traction with ServiceChat. So I took some time away from ServiceChat – maintaining focus when you are down is hard, but it is precisely when you need it the most.  This time was to try and get some perspective.

This time off  was mostly spent building this and exploring alliances with leading customer service evangelists like Ian Golding and Flavio Martins (both of whom are graciously offered to write about bizbuzz and ServiceChat).

So here is my check in:

  • Glad I took some time out to think about whether ServiceChat is still what I should be doing. Right now, it is.
  • Glad I built Twumps as outlet for my disheartenment, it was fun and completely different.
  • Glad that I am discovering passionate people in the customer services/experience space.
  • Glad that my spanish one-to-one conversations are getting better and I am also being useful to my partner in his journey to learn english.
  • Glad an option to replenish my funding is getting stronger by the day.
  • Mad I have such a reaction to insect bites that has laid me low for today.
  • I’m grateful for the universe that conspires to help me be successful.

I’m  in.

Improve On…

Keeping carbs out of my diet – especially the ones covered in sugar.

Today

Write this blog.

Start an insights blog post

Do some duolingo -I’m getting pretty consistent with this.

 

The Trello board…(more or less unchanged)

My_ONE_Place___Trello

 

Giving up is the last thing you want to do.

June 26 – Disheartened

By: Tom PurvesCC BY 2.0

I’m sitting here not really wanting to do anything else but code. I know it’s wrong – I’ve built something I passionately believe is valuable but not getting to even talk to the people I believe it is valuable for is deeply disheartening.
It doesn’t mean ServiceChat isn’t valuable (I honestly don’t have enough data to answer that). It just means I suck at knocking on doors.

So here is my check in:

  • Mad that my reach outs to the individuals in companies, that I have identified have a need and a hunch that they give a damn, has not provided the access I was hoping for. Both those hypotheses remain unresolved.
  • Sad that I’m facing this whole thing alone.  I have advisers, family and friends but no one really in the space with me. I am resistant to going out and finding a co-founder, much rather they found me.
  • Glad that this emotion is strong and empowering – in a weird way – it is sparking a survival instinct in me.
  • Mad that my spanish conversational meetup (intercambio) was so difficult, it seems the more I know (vocabulary and rules of structure) the less I am able to apply.  Rules as binds, who knew!
  • Mad I feel so mad.
  • I’m grateful for perspective, without it I would think my problems were the most important in the world. They are not. I have options.

I’m still in.

Improve On…

Getting back to my routine – I seem to fall off it when I get emotionally weird, yet ironically it is what gives me a way back to form.
Being courageous and picking up the phone to call people and arrange conversations. Enough hiding behind emails!

Today

Start my ‘insights’ series on the ServiceChat blog – where I share what the data from bizbuzz is telling me (and has told me).

Get back on track with Duolingo – I’ve decided to focus on this as vs split my time between it and Rosetta Stone (which is good also, but not as effective for me).

Blog, blog, blog.

 

The Trello board…(more or less unchanged)

Screenshot_20_06_2013_14_22

 

What does it all mean, really? 

An Experiment for Good.

By: PeteCC BY 2.0

 

This weekend I’m taking a break from ServiceChat.

I’ll hang out with my family and go to some friends on Saturday for a BBQ and on Sunday, we’ll head to Salobreña for our first San Juan celebration (no , I don’t really know what it is either!).

This weekend also, I want to try a little experiment, an experiment for good – well, at least start it off.  It is a lovely juxtaposition between my dream and an idea for a game that I have kept putting off.

The Dream

All through my career I’ve met people who have said things like ‘give X away!? why – I’m not a philanthropist’ or ‘why give it when you can sell it’. I’ve quietly listened and argued with that thinking internally.

I am a philanthropist, there I said it.  It’s not a dirty word (at least not how I interprete it). I don’t have much money, nor even much free time.  But I do have creativity, innovation, curiosity and skills and I can/will and do give those and their various products freely to those who can benefit from it.

When I dream about my future, it always involves a few businesses that are generating incomes sure, but also joy.  The money they generate is doing something wonderful in the world, not simply going to pay for expensive, unnecessary stuff.  I’m delighted that I don’t have to wait long to start doing this – I support a few charities but mostly use Kiva to do microlending.  I find microlending to be one of the most respectful and empowering ideas of our age (if you aren’t already doing micro-lending, I encourage you to check it out, you don’t need very much to start and the joy you generate far outweighs whatever limited risk of losing money there is).

The Idea

It’s called Twumps and it’s a game. If  you ever played trading game cards or something like Top Trumps – a stats comparison game based around themed cards, you’ll love what I want to make.
Plus you don’t even have to wait very long to experience it.

The Experiment

Here is what I want to discover:

Can I launch a revenue generating thing that pretty much runs itself and use that to perpetually and increasingly fund the change I want to see in the world?

So, I want to build something (Twumps) that people can play and enjoy and possibly either make donations to or pay something for (this will emerge) and/or generate advertising from and can I extend that by making it continuously and totally fund some good in the world.

How

I want this experiment to be done as transparently as possible. Why?  Well, why not?

Prior to its release, I’ll open a new @kiva account for Twumps  and make it’s transactions public.  Initially I will make all  revenue payable to Kiva directly  (from donations or advertising). If this experiment succeeds, I may deduct enough to cover operating costs (pretty much just the hosting) to keep it running smoothly and pass everything else to @Kiva.  All those costs will also be entirely transparent.

Who knows, this might encourage other entrepreneurs to consider this as a business model – only one in which they do not personally benefit financially but one that they can leave a living trust for good work in the World. Now wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?

What Next?

Stay tuned, I shall be asking for help.
Very soon I shall need some UI and graphic design help (I’m great at functionality but suck at making things look wow!) and later I shall need players and feedback and later still I shall need things yet unknown!

It’ll be fun.

ps. Please share this.

June 20 – Mikey’s back!

By: Elliott BrownCC BY 2.0

The last 13 days

Q: Does a daily blog have to be done every day?
A: Not when it’s @mhsutton’s blog – obviously.

So much has happened in the last 13 days, I don’t really know where to start. I’ve been away because I’ve been a little discouraged with the progress of ServiceChat (no, I haven’t been in rehab – just nose down trying to move it forward!) – So I took a break from writing and the routine, to focus 100% of my time on completing my customer discovery experiments. It was an ineffective move, what may have been more useful might have been to talk to my @saintsal sooner and continue with my routine but with differently prioritised work.  Most things suffered in this hiatus – I ended up being able to do less pushups for example!

So here is my check in:

  • Glad that I spoke with @saintsal – who very kindly listened to my challenges and offered his honest appraisal based on what I communicated. Sal was gracious but honest – I have been coding an awful lot with real focus on business building and validation. I knew this, but it was hard to accept from myself.
  • Glad that my funding strategy is sorted. I’m taking a consulting gig in August that will help me fund the next 7 months from 6 weeks work. Ha, the joys of living a lean life.
  • Sad that whilst I’m doing the language study, the practical experience is not really happening. I feel less capable of speaking Spanish now than I did in January!
  • Glad that my intercambio is starting on Monday – an hour talking in Spanish, hopefully twice a week.
  • Sad to hear of the sudden death of James Gandolfini – who played Tony Soprano on the Sopranos. That show was a large part of my rehabilitation during my divorce.
  • Sad/mad that my collaboration with FounderSync fizzled out after one blog, it was actually none existent. A thoroughly poor set up. Chalk it up to experience, I guess.
  • Glad I got to talk with @scottcrowther about ServiceChat and he was lovely and kind enough to share more than 20 ideas for improvement and growth with me (including moving back to the midlands!)
  • Glad I feel more engaged and more present.
  • I’m grateful for saints who pop up with truth and grace.

I’m good and getting better. The future is less dark and almost entirely my own making. I’m  in.

Improve On…

Blogging consistently – this and other non-coding things are the highest priority items I have to do now. I basically need to drum up interest in what ServiceChat does. BizBuzz was part of that effort and now that I have gifted it to the public to search , I would like to see more interest in how businesses engage their customers on Twitter.

Today

Start my ‘insights’ series on the ServiceChat blog – where I share what the data from bizbuzz is telling me (and has told me).  The first is a summary description of the types of support behaviours I have observed and I’ll try and evangelise with best groups for the topic on LinkedIn.
Reach out to Huffington post and explore how to become a huffblogger.
Reach out to my top 5 ideal customers and get a dialogue going about using ServiceChat
Blog, blog, blog.

 

The Trello board…

Screenshot_20_06_2013_14_22

 

Seek beyond what you know. It is dangerous. Most things worth anything are.

June 7 – Dizzy with pivots.

By: ChadicaCC BY 2.0

Yesterday(and the previous 2 days)

The last few days have been like driving in a tunnel, with occasional pauses to check the map. Sometimes where you want to is actually a bloody long way away!

All this grind has yielded a bunch of exciting potential pivots – bizbuzz as a data visualisation tool for businesses and opportunities to use it to encourage business to explore ServiceChat.  All this is rather cryptic, I know, as they become clearer , I’ll share more.

So here is my check in:

  • Sad that I’m not getting the level of end-customer conversations as I want.  I feel that this is vital validation I am missing. Plod on.
  • Sad that my consistency with language study is dropping. Sad that even though I attend at the scheduled time, I’m not present.
  • Glad that both my advisors were excited about the work I had done to find valuable customers. Their insights about other potential uses of the tech is hugely encouraging.
  • Glad I have decided that ServiceChat does not really support a freemium model and making plans to change this.
  • Glad I decided to go to the beach with my family yesterday, taking a break help reinvigorate me and revitalise my relationships. More memory making.
  • Delighted that I was accepted to blog for  FounderSync , it will be the bulk of my startup experiences.
  • Glad I blogged about one of my favorite poems: ‘A Dog Has Died’
  • I’m grateful for what I don’t know.  It is the foundation of my curiosity.

I’ve got a stonking cold, but I’m  in.

Improve On…

Being present in my scheduled activity   

Today

Complete a spike into making bizbuzz more of a public tool.
Work on a biz model canvas for bizbuzz, to explore how it might work as a pivot.
Talk to more of the end customers that I am discovering for ServiceChat

 

The Trello board…(a slight expanded version)

Screenshot_07_06_2013_12_59

 

Remember your limits. Seek to extend them, but remember them.

June 03 – Plod on dear boy, plod on.

By: Jeremy StarkCC BY 2.0

 

Yesterday

I’m finally resigned to the realisation that I won’t be an overnight sensation ;-).  At this point, the core of my strategy is plodding on – persevere through the mud that lies between me and triumph (or at least the next mountain!) and have fun in all that squelchy goodness!

So here is my check in:

  • Glad I had a wonderful weekend with my family. Their energy reinvigorates me when I need it the most.
  • Glad I added averages to bizbuzz, makes interesting dimension to the per customer numbers. There are businesses out there apologising an average of 10 times a day on twitter. Most offer no real alternative to their traditional channels for people to get real help for the things they apologise for. Perfect ServiceChat customers!
  • Delighted that just after I moaned about customers not choosing to talk about their experiences, I noticed 3 replies agreeing to my invitation to have a conversation.  Yay!
  • Glad that using ServiceChat as the platform to have those conversations shed some light on some usability issues.
  • Mad that despite feeling more toned, stronger, fitter – the scales are not budging.
  • Glad that I spent  a few hours over the weekend fixing them and voila, chat notification is in-place and working well.  Some new learning about pub/sub tech was gained. Awesome.

    Screenshot_03_06_2013_10_48
    Simple notifications
  • Glad the I applied to be a guest blogger on FounderSync , I hope they say ‘Yes’.
  • I’m grateful for water. We take it for granted, but it is singularly the most valuable thing we have on our Earth and we would be extinct within months without it. I start my day drinking 2 glasses of it and instantly my brain is calmed. Do yourself a favour, drink more of it and help to make it available to more people.

I’m muddy and I’m  in.

Improve On…

Keeping my inbox < 10 (I did inbox zero, < 10 is more challenging!)

Take more walks. Pinos del Valle is truly beautiful.

 

Today

More customer chatting, more warm intro requests (2/3 of my last ones came up trumps).  I have 15 pretty good leads.
This experiment (how many warm intros can I get from my current network via Linked In) is showing that my current network is really not as diverse as I thought it was.  Mostly agile, tech people!  Time for LinkedIn inMails.

I feel a real need to blog one of 3 titles – ‘I’m mad about Youth Unemployment’, ‘Real Men Pee Standing Up’ or ‘Enough about Zappos already’.  If you have a strong preference for any of these, ping me and I’ll that one.

 

The Trello board…

Screenshot_03_06_2013_10_48

Do what you love and never apologise for it.

 

May 31 – Talking to Customers is Hard

By: Geraint RowlandCC BY 2.0

Yesterday

So I’m trying really hard to chat with some people about the problem I’m trying to solve.

My approach is to talk to my prospective customers’ customers – the ones that have the enquiry/frustration/need they want addressing. It should be easy, right? It would appear not so.

What could be easier – I know who they are and roughly what their articulated enquiry is (that is, what they said) and I can often deduce what their need is (thank you NVC!). But to validate with them what may have helped (hopefully the service I am offering) is proving to be very difficult. Simply because they are not responding to how I am currently approaching them.
Although it’s long and complicated and not really the subject of this post.  You might think that people would want to be part of a solution to their own frustrations – but, alas, no!

I will try something different and persevere, this is important!

So here is my check in:

  • Glad I started trying to talk to customers. Living the 80/20 rule, sending out lots of offers to have a conversation>
  • Mad I’m not getting the responses I expect. So maybe I need to revise how I make the offer and/or review my expectations.
  • Sad that how businesses treat engage with their customers (especially in tough economic conditions) is still under-appreciated. 
  • Glad that I am back on track with Spanish and my exercises.
  • Glad I improved on working late. I went to bed at 11 last night vs 2am the night before.  More work is not necessarily better.
  • I’m grateful for friends in the same startup space as me (albeit at different stages) – grateful for their comradeship and willingness to help talk things through.

I’m  in.

Improve On…

How I make my offers.

How well I keep to the fasting program

 

Today

I will continue (trying) to talk to some customers’ customers to day. I have a different approach.  Really thankful to David Harvey (@david_harvey) for helping me think it through despite him being very busy with @Vyclone (which BTW, is totally awesome tech – check it out : http://vyclone.com).

Today I also need to get on with the rest of the warm intros I need to make.

Although my anger has dissipated a little I still want to blog. So a post on ‘Youth Unemployment’ is imminent today – but only after I have some customer conversations.

 

The Trello board…

Screenshot_30_05_2013_11_41
No, your eyes do not deceive you, I have not updated my board. Sloppy? You bet. Honest?? Absolutely!

It is OK to get mad. 

But only for a while.
Then you should get smart

and then you win.

May 30 – It’s Been Emotional

By: DeeAshleyCC BY 2.0

Yesterday

Watching the data stream in and seeing the emotions and needs that generated it has itself been really emotional.

Screenshot_30_05_2013_11_02

On one hand, frustration that so many people who use certain businesses are dissatisfied and go unheard.  On the other, I am also glad that they choose to express that need (albeit with some angry words).
I’m fully into the acquire customer funnel, a conversation with my adviser on Tuesday emboldened my strategy and helped to renew my energies.

My check-in:

  • Glad I had a great conversation with Paul, my adviser, on my strategy for researching and acquiring customers.  He checked out bizbuzz and was impressed with the concept (there may be a potential pivot there).
  • Sad the almost all my contacts are techies – I need to get more professional diversity into my network.
  • Mad at so much today : youth unemployment, apathetic businesses that squander the promise of social media, stupid politicians. I have to blog something or else I might scream and drink wine…hang on!
  • Glad that I am really into my customer acquisition funnel with good data that will inform my approach and pitching.
  • I’m grateful for data. There is so much of it, most of it noisy, but with the right intentions and nurture, beauty can be coaxed. (WTF! – I’m waxing lyrical about data – someone smack me with a wet fish)
  • I’m grateful that NVC has enabled me to see deeper into this data and react differently with it. More empathically for all concerned.

I’m  empirically in.

Improve On…

Keep to the schedule.

Make a little time for my distractions.

Self restraint. Less long hours into the early hours

 

Today

My funnel includes talking to my potential customers’ customers.  Those who expressed a need (albeit it through angry words and criticism). I want to discover what they feel might have made a difference.  Did they have the conversation they deserved?  What could have happened differently for them? So, today those conversations continue.

Also I have 20 businesses on my list to find warm introductions to.  Great data to use in LinkedIn. I found five that I am already connected to and I will be sending intro requests to them.

 

The Trello board… 

Screenshot_30_05_2013_11_41

May 28 – Data is Fascinating

By: Dan BrickleyCC BY 2.0

Yesterday

I think I’m back in my stride!

Having got bizbuzz online, the data is flowing straight out of Twitter, of businesses that have the problem ServiceChat is designed to solve.  I’m getting the metrics to use in the conversation with these prospective customers.
It is providing amazing clarity and insight into the problems and I have learnt so much about the a worrying approach to corporate use of Twitter and in my opinion it is all wrong!!!  Businesses like Morrisons, Waitrose etc in the UK are missing huge opportunities in this space. Many use auto-responders (and I bet they sit in their boardrooms patting themselves on the backs for having a coherent social media strategy – please!!)

Wake up and smell the coffee, social media is not like anything you had before, trying to corral it into your traditional channels is going to cost you big time. Why are CIOs and CMOs not all over this?

Anyway – rant over…here is my check in (it is all glad!!)

  • Glad my data feed is online, 300+ prospects. Now, I’m the bottleneck.
  • Glad I decided against carpet-mailing my LinkedIn contacts , I now have targets and with a little effort I can narrow down the 20% who can get me to the decision makers in the businesses I want to speak to.
    Sometimes a hammer is not the only tool!
  • Glad the brainwave training stuff is working, I’m feeling less mentally fatigued, more alert and I think, quicker too.  I suspect fasting and exercise are also helping.
  • I’m grateful for Ruby on Rails.  I’ve been coding for nearly 20 years and it has never been easier to quickly make a beautiful  working version of something you imagined.  It is such a rich and giving ecosystem, that encourages me to give back to. So watch out for a Twitter reach gem, a beta marker gem.  They are all on my list.

I’m  in.

Improve On…

Keep to the schedule.

Increase automated code coverage on stuff that started as a hack.

Today

Screenshot_28_05_2013_13_15

 

My data reveals that, as of right now, there are 418 prospects from 766 unhappy customers, my strategy is to focus on the customers with most number of unhappy customers.

Today the major push is to have a conversation with a good cross-section of them, by the end of the week I want to have spoken/chatted with at least 20% of the customers of each of the top 5 target business in my data set.

 

The Trello board… is unchanged!

 

Be yourself, everyone else is busy.