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.
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.
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.
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
Quick disclaimer: This is meant to be tongue in cheek
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|
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 😉
The idea is to keep zero messages in your inbox as often as possible.
My approach is somewhat different. In fact the exact opposite. I haven’t moved a message out of my inbox (other than spam) for about 15 years.
I had the same approach pre-Gmail. I was so happy when Gmail arrived that I could import my entire inbox from Outlook into it.
I now have over 30,000 messages in my inbox and I love it.
The pile of messages is so impossibly large it has the exact same effect as inbox zero. It’s impossible to see the wood for the trees. It’s just one very large Forrest.
I think of it like a big white screen with 30,000 white pixles on it. Pure zen.
Over the years I’ve carefully developed 100’s of Gmail filters that auto label incoming email with big bright primary color labels. I don’t even need to read subjects to get a general sense of what’s going on.
Instead of an inbox I use ‘bold’. I know if anything is ‘bold’ I haven’t dealt with yet. When I see something bold I click into it and deal with it (or apply the .todo label).
Many of my Gmail filters auto mark messages as unread when they come in (ie un-bold them). Things like recurring saas billing emails, ebay notifications etc. Because they are un-bold I ignore them. They take no time out of my day. But it’s nice to have a record, just in case.
In many ways I now have the same relationship with my inbox as I do with svn or git commit logs.
The upsides I get from this approach are:
- Same low stress level as inbox zero because I’ve “let go”
- Complete peace of mind that my information is safe and backed up
- Instantly search 15 years worth of MY information, correspondance, recipts & contacts
- Minimal email management due to 100’s of inbox filters with auto tagging. No need to archive etc.
- Ability to scan recent few days to a week to get a sense of what’s been going on (like looking at svn log)
- Easy to track todo list
I’m happy to say my inbox will always grow and grow. I have no intention of declaring inbox bankruptcy.
Of course I’m sure I’m not the only one. I bet plenty of other people do it!
Do you have an Infinity Inbox? If so how many messages? How old?
Let us know in the comments below!
When I launched my webapp Pluggio last year there was a cargo-cult meme doing the rounds…
“You should charge From Day 1”
…that meme is still doing the rounds today (Jan 2011).
If you’re about to launch your web app let me tell you don’t do that!
I made the lucky mistake with Pluggio of not charging from day one. Not because I didn’t want to – but because I didn’t have the payment stuff setup and I was too lazy to do it before launch.
Lucky for me, instead, I made it very easy to signup for free and explained that I would be charging in a few months, but for now it’s 100% free. So signup! Play while you can! Get value out of it! (before it costs anything).
Free Testers & Focus Group
As a result a lot more people signed up because they felt like they were getting a deal.
This approach enabled me to have 200-300 users a day for the first few months using the software. I didn’t realize at the time but that was an awesome advantage. People were reporting bugs and making suggestions via Get Satisfaction left right and center. (Make sure to put your Get Satisfaction link at the top of every page)
So, for two months, I worked like crazy fixing all the bugs and adding as many features as I could for those free users. Because it was free people were very forgiving and supportive of the work I was doing.
Then after two months of free – I turned the site paid.
Note: I gave all testers one year free paid account as a thank you.
Better Product. More Money.
Due to having so many people testing it out, the site was massively better than it could have been if I had a pay-wall from at the beginning. Subsequently Pluggio retention rates of paid users are thorugh the roof – with the average paid user sticking around for six to nine months.
In my opinion, you won’t make real money on your product until it’s rounded out and bug free.
By opening the flood gates for the first two months of existence, keeping it free, making it super easy for people to report bugs – you will get a rounded out bug free product, wayyyy faster than if you had any kind of pay-wall.
End result. Better product. Happier users. More money.
Plans & Pricing Page? No way!
I would especially suggest not having any kind of Plans & Pricing page that committed to price points or plan limits. Yes have a plans and pricing page, but just say “coming in a few months, for now everything is 100% free”. If you put any kind of real plans and pricing it hurts you because it makes it way more likely for people not to test your product.
This turned out to be hugely helpful for me with Pluggio because then I could review the stats and see exactly how to create my small, medium & large plans. I could define triggers for each plan based on what people were actually doing rather than just guessing.
Disclaimer: As always there is no one truth, so if you have any counter (or supporting) examples please feel free to comment below.
Something that non-entrepreneurs rarely understand is “The Madness”. It’s the obsession that fills our every waking thought. Like 28 days later “The Madness” is an all consuming rage.
It comes into our life just after THAT Eureka moment. The one when we realize we’ve stumbled upon an idea so big that we KNOW it will make us unimaginably wealthy. This idea will bring us respect. We will be hallowed as the new Gates, Brin, Page or Zuckerberg.
When “The Madness” sets in, romantic candle light dinners break down. As our loved one looks us in the eye and whispers sweet nothings, we try to hide the fact that we’re thinking about scaling Couch DB on the Amazon cloud.
Then start the late nights as we obsessively code our new baby into existence. Along with the distance between us and the rest of the world. Later and later to bed we go, until two weeks into “The Madness” our hours are topsy-turvy. We’re sleeping from 4AM -> 10AM. Living off Coke and Starbucks.
There’s only one way out of “The Madness”.
We have to think our idea through from every possible angle. We have to imagine every tiny twist of it. We have to gorge on it until we are full. We have to become disgusted and completely bored with our idea.
Then, and only then, can we come back to reality. To our friends, and to our partners.
Such is “The Madness”.
The great thing about spending Halloween with your friends and family is that they make jack-o-lantern based on your head.
The artist of this pumpkin also created Alphabet Anarchy
There’s a new phenomenon taking hold. This is the era of the “Tiny Software Company”.
Indi-developers are are starting their own “mom-and-pop” software companies all over the world.
And they’re leaving work. And they’re making a full time living.
Peldi started a million dollar industry with one simple Adobe air app. Patrick Mckenzie is making a full time living from his ridiculously nich app Bingo Card Creator. I’ve been pulling in $1000/month for the past year with Pluggio. Taylor Norish makes a great living from PrintFriendly. Pete Michaud became financially free at 25. The list goes on.
So what this all amounts to is…
“If you’re a software developer with an idea… GET OFF YOUR ASS and MAKE IT HAPPEN! There’s never been a better time! ;)”
(p.s. Post links to your projects in the comments below)