Vonage Visual Voice Mail

When someone calls and leaves me a message, Vonage tries to transcribe it… and then emails it to me. Here’s one I got today:

Hello this message is for Justin Benson, this is leave it out I’ve been on the eighth seminar from putting shelves in the school. I just called to remind your appointment for today at 145. I’ll do your home 212, 3B Star rolls of how the height, 2123 at least I will know how the heights. Please call me at xxx-xxx and this is for your birthday Michelle, it’s Sharon blood in her urine testing. Okay thank you. bye bye

Internet Explorer Now Has Less Than 10% Browser Share on Pluggio

I never thought I would see the day that Internet Explorer had less than a 10% browser share for any web property I built.

I assumed it wouldn’t be possible for the other browsers to to topple such a large market share.

I was wrong.

Be Nice Online

CiviliNation’s mission is to foster an online culture where individuals can fully engage and contribute without fear or threat of abuse.

I am no stranger to this issue and created my “I’m A Real Person” page specifically to deal with this.

I encourage you to check out CiviliNation and support the cause if you feel inclined. It’s one of the few internet causes that can actually have an effect because it is trying to change the internet – not the real world.

Introducing The Startup Guild

Start Small, Get Big – No Investment Required

I wrote Entreporn, The Fallacy That Wastes Your Life out of personal frustration at how the funded route and swinging for the fences has failed me.

When I posted I had no idea the amount of interest it would generate. Viewed over 50,000 times, I received a flood of emails from people supporting the main thesis and calling for action.

The massive interest in the post served to solidify in my mind that there is need for one (or more) systems that can facilitate many thousands of entrepreneurs to “start small, get big” without the requirement to chase limited VC funding or incubator placements.

My idea is to create a system called The Startup Guild that is somewhat like a distributed and virtual version of YCombinator. The Startup Guild would use game mechanics to help track and match up participants into self supporting mastermind groups. As an analogy, if YCombinator were client-server, the Startup Guild would be a torrent tracker.

The main premise of the guild would be to help entrepreneurs build their first profitable business via the unfunded route of bootstrapping, however there would be nothing about the guild to exclude participants from seeking funding or placement at an incubator.

Problems The Guild Would Try To Solve

  • How can I build a start-up with no investment?
  • How can I meet like minded entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off?
  • How can I keep motivated and be held accountable?
  • How can I find a business partner?
  • How can I build a startup if I’m not based in Silicon Valley?

The Startup Guild – Potential Components

news.startupguild.net – A reddit style link rating & comment system dedicated to articles related to “no-investment, start small, get big”

blog.startupguild.net – A “guest post” blog with articles from people who have had success with “start small, get big” approach

toolkit.startupguild.net – A toolkit with information & resources about “start small, get big”

tracker.startupguild.net – A system to publicly track entrepreneurs progress and match up mastermind groups

In my mind the key to making a distributed human network like this become successful would be to facilitate the creation of self supporting micro-groups. Mastermind groups.

The entrepreneur tracker would use game mechanics to match up mastermind groups and ensure that each group had a spread of experience. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a group to consist of 1 person making $100k/month and 6 others just starting out. I had in mind the idea of each person within the system having a current status badge. Using game mechanics the system could also encourage competition between mastermind groups and individual entrepreneurs.

Here is a very rough example of what I’m talking about:

  • Apprentice – Just starting out (A1)
  • Novice – Have 100 registered users (N1)
  • Mentor Level 1 – Already earning $1000/month (ML1)
  • Mentor Level 2 – Already earning $5000/month (Ml2)

The tracker would match up a group like: A1, A1, A1, N1, N1, ML1 – The group might then be called “The Big Lebowski” and be tracked against performance. Think baseball league.

Get Involved

If you would like to follow the progress of the Startup Guild as it pops into existence sign-up to this mailing list.

If you would like to help build the tracker or curate the toolkit please send me your ideas, passion level, commitment level & experience.

StartupGuild now exists and has over 500 members. You can join here.

Swinging For The Fences

After the Entreporn controversy, I was mildly insulted by the readers that took my words to mean “be a micro-entrepreneur and have no ambition”.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is I’ve “swung for the fences” all my life.

My arrogance always lead me to believe I was too good for anything smaller.

I’ve tried to build a venture backed Google/Facebook/Groupon 4 times in my career.

  • All Channels, a human powered search engine (2000)
  • NanoFlirt, a real world meets virtual world dating system (2006)
  • Woyano, Mahalo meets wikipedia meets digital content marketplace  (2007)
  • MashAPI, a cloud based programming language combined with metered transport layer (2009)

During the ride I also built an open source PHP database layer that is the backbone of WordPress, and prior to my startup career I spent 5 years trying to be a world famous rock star, with burning passion to be as big as the Smashing Pumpkins.

Repeatedly “swinging for the fences” has been the most costly entrepreneurial mistake I’ve ever made.

It wasted huge amounts of my life and delayed my ability to be a self sustaining businessman. I was so focused on big exits, and grand ideas, that I never learned the fundamentals of building a profitable business.

If I had been less big headed, and the very first thing I had done was to built a sensible micro business instead of – “swinging for the fences” – I would have had a better chance of fulfilling all my entrepreneurial goals.

  • I would have had a more rounded understanding of “business”
  • I would have been financially free sooner (and able to pursue my larger high risk ventures)
  • I would have proven my business chops and been more likely to get funding
  • I would have retained more control of any deals I tried to initiate

My delusions of grandeur, mixed with Entreporn’s promise of glory, kept me on that 0.001% path.

Of course that’s my story. You may be one of the 0.001% who “swings for the fences” and gets it right first time.

If that’s your story, more power to you.

But don’t, for one second, think that I don’t have the intention of swinging for the fences.

Bootstrappers’ Kickstarter Kit – No Investment Required

A lot of people have responded to my article about the merits of building a lifestyle business looking for answers on how to get started.

Here’s a hastily compiled list of resources to help you get started on your journey:

Entreporn, The Fallacy That Wastes Your Life

Entreporn, a term brilliantly coined by Amy Hoy holds us back from our true potential.

It works to the advantage of almost every player in our industry that we “believe” in chasing the next big thing. They need us to keep chasing it. In the truest sense – the next big thing – is a carrot on a stick that keeps us occupied and keeps them in business.

I wish I could point the finger at one specific company, person, or party and say – it’s “their” fault – but there is no conspiracy here. It simply “is” because each player (VC, corporation, media) has become so good at optimizing their part – that the system as a whole keeps us distracted and chasing after a shimmer in the dessert .

It behooves the likes of Techcrunch, Time magazine and 60 Minutes that we care about Mark Zuckerberg’s outlier story because that’s how they sell advertising. It works out for VC’s that we keep chasing investment because that’s how they make their daily bread. It’s awesome for corporations that we chase very-unlikely-to-succeed break free strategies because then we don’t leave our job.

What they don’t publicize, and what they scoff at, is the concept of the “lifestyle business”. You’re lead to believe that it’s a waste of time, and in fact the category was recently derided by a VC talking to Mike Arrington as “dipshit companies”.

But here’s the truth.

If every developer was to focus on the very achievable goal of building a lifestyle/micro business – the entire house of cards would crumble.

And they know it.

The absolute truth is that each and every one of us can build a business that can support us. We don’t need to build a million dollar business to survive. We just need a regular paycheck. Just like the paycheck that we already get working for someone else, except it’s a paycheck we pay ourselves.

If you build a micro business it means you’re your own boss, you make your own rules, you live life on your own terms.

If you genuinely have the spirit of an entrepreneur inside of you, it’s perfectly possible to build a $10k/month webapp business that can set you free.

But even better, once you have the knowledge that comes along with building a succesful $10k/month business, you also possess the exact same knowledge that it takes to build a $100k/month business.

The chances of building a Google, YouTube or Facebook and scaling to the millions of users required to be “considered” for VC investment are vanishingly small. We’re talking in the region of 0.001%.

However the chances of building a $10k/month webapp business is pretty high. In truth, there is no reason to fail – other than failing to learn from your mistakes.

Imagine if we all did that. We would be free.


A lot of people have emailed me asking how to get started with this, so I’ve quickly put together the Bootstrappers’ Kickstarter Kit – No Investment Required

1 to 1000 in PHP With No Conditionals or Loops

Inspired by this post (a puzzle challenge asking if you could think of a way to print from 1-1000 in C++ with no conditionals or loops)

I wondered if I could think of a hack to do it in PHP… here’s my hack!

   $i = ++$_GET['i'];
   $go[1000] = 'http://google.com?';
   header("Location: {$go[$i]}/?i=$i");

It’s a PHP script (index.php) running from the root of a server with warnings switched off.

As an added bonus you need to watch http live headers to see the “print” out 😉

(Note: It’ won’t work in most modern browsers as they tend to have a limit of 20 redirects. Meh. That’s just a technicality.)


PHP Coders 42% Nicer Than Ruby Coders, Java Coders The Meanest

Quick disclaimer: This is meant to be tongue in cheek :)

For the past six months I’ve been using my webapp Pluggio to grow my Twitter following based on the this strategy here.

A key component is to enter hashtags relating to the type of people I want as my followers.  Pluggio uses this data to make friend suggestions based on who Tweets those terms. I’ve been searching on hashtags like #css, #html, #php, #ruby, etc. because I want a tech following.

Pluggio has been keeping track of stats. It tells me who I followed and who was kind enough to follow me back (based on hashtag).

Using this data-set if we say that Apple Fanboys have a niceness factor of 100% (they followed back the most) then we can see that PHP coders are a whopping 42% nicer than Ruby coders. Horrible stingy Java coders are more than 50% meaner than Apple fan boys.

Hashtag I followed Followed back % Followed Back Niceness Factor
#apple 481 80 16.6% 100%
#api 568 89 15.7% 94%
#php 244 36 14.8% 89%
#html5 852 116 13.6% 82%
#firefox 2007 268 13.4% 80%
#css 463 60 13.0% 78%
#ror 382 49 12.8% 77%
#javascript 411 51 12.4% 75%
#android 1944 224 11.5% 69%
#perl 316 35 11.1% 67%
#rails 547 59 10.8% 65%
#stackoverflow 431 44 10.2% 61%
#cakephp 603 60 10.0% 60%
#ruby 509 50 9.8% 59%
#java 306 24 7.8% 47%

So, next time you’re in a bar and ask someone what they do.

If they reply “I’m a Java coder”.

Just remember, be wary.

Be verrrry wary.

Of course another way of looking at it is that Java & Ruby coders are just more discerning 😉


This is a test of Pluggio’s Automated RSS -> Twitter Posting Feature

I added this new post to my blog to make sure that Pluggio auto posts it to Twitter.

For more information watch this video: http://pluggio.com/videos/feed_automation