Some Guys' Advice on Boot-Straps
A great book to read if you’re ever in the process of starting something up is The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. I’ve read this from cover to cover a few times and it is a really good, matter-of-fact reference for brand-new, battle-harden or battle-scarred entrepreneurs alike.
Most of Guy’s advice centers on the idea of Boot Strapping. The definition of that is broad if you try to consider every aspect, but primarily you’re: “managing the business for cash flow, not 'paper' profits, growth, market share or branding.” Not that these aren’t worthwhile aspirations, but they will come in time.
Two things resonate for Koda:
1) ship, test, iterate: get your product to market and learn everything you can. Be responsive, agile and open to what the market is saying. The risk here is a tarnished image. I’ve seen this before for a product that had an amazing future, and a unparalleled growth trajectory, but the iterative/learning part of project wasn’t managed properly.
2) Buy off the shelf as much as possible: this is a double win. The reliability of products that great partners bring to a project supports your business and product. Then, because you’re not doing things that others can do, you can focus on 'your magic'. Even, then, are there aspects of your magic that other organizations can do 'better, faster or cheaper'?
Lean Startup theory is a slightly more complicated idea than boot-strapping: encompassing a Build-Measure-Learn cycle. Similar challenges – similar approach. Peter Thiel (Zero to One blog post) has some reservations about the idea of Lean Startups, but, I take a few lessons from the approach as I can see a few relevant experiences in my past. So, while I think that getting product to market quickly, with the idea of learning from your customers, and ‘pivoting’ once refinement is needed is admirable - so long as it done in the right context. For certain products and clients, I’d have to argue that ‘minimally viable’ is not adequate. Think corporate IT security for instance. To boot-strap or use lean startup theory to get that to market, you’d have to be clear about when the product is ready, carefully manage client expectations, risk-assess consequences, prepare your response plan, and resource the organization so that it is ready to react when needed.
Koda takes the view that its first big project will need that sort of approach.
I’m attending a Startup-Crawl this week as part of SouthBySouthWest (SXSW) – arguably the biggest thing that happens in Austin each year. I attended something similar about six months ago and, while there is plenty of free beer and pizza, there is also an over-abundance of enthusiastic, talented programmers, designers and engineering types. Koda is excited about interacting with this crowd, handing out a few business cards, and starting to grow the team.
I can’t really think of a better place to develop a software intensive product than in Austin, Texas - especially since Koda's software solutions are where its magic happens. Koda’s ideas are not the kind of ideas that can be developed fully in isolation, and we can't wait to work with you.
Atari – Game Over
In order to participate in SXSW’s free events Koda headed into Game Over Games to collect some guest passes. As you can guess – much reminiscing ensued – only halted by a timely phone call reminding me that I needed to be somewhere else. Beaming and nostalgic, I followed up on a documentary that the store owner recommended to me. Atari: Game Over is about what happened to Atari in the early 80’s.
The main message for me was how easy it is for a single product, event or occurrence to be blamed for the demised of a huge and complicated corporate organism in an equally huge and rapidly changing industry. The game ET and its designer are often blamed for Atari's demise, and that’s really a long way from the truth. In a lot of ways he achieved a miracle: delivering a ground breaking product in a period of 5 weeks. Some people complained that it was too hard – I think there’s a chance he was ahead of his time...
Anyway, thanks for sticking with me through another lengthy and wordy post. I’d love to hear more about your experiences, so please like, share, follow and we look forward to comments.
Until next time, KODA