Don’t you think Japanese humor is over the top in this case? British will never make anything like this: a busty model milking a cow. Well, that is not the point of this post.
The point is: How did I even get to the page? Well, I needed to kill 10 minutes, but then I wasted 30…
I don’t know how many times it happend to me, have that occurred to you?
I wrote a quick piece about “what people like”, did not know it became quite popular. That got me thinking: now we know what people like, which is vitamin, it’s good to have. What is pain killer that people can’t live without?
Yes, what do people NEED?
I needed to kill 10 minutes
I needed a laugh
when was the last time you said to yourself: I need to this otherwise I am going to go crazy! ???
As an entrepreneur, we need to (here we go…) think like this to stay “agitated” (yes) for this type of signal to stay unattached to bad ideas. I can tell a few stories when I went ahead built something beautiful but no one need.
Life is too short to keep building shit no one needs.
So, what do people need? Following are some clues.
People need to eat (when hungry, so food service)
People need SEX (so bars, parties, dating site, porn sites)
People need to be inspired and look smart (so we have something to look forward to, so publisher business, wired, New Yorker, NYTimes, self development seminars, Ted Talks)
People need friends (or we become lonely, facebook, Sosh, text messages, hangout, malls, doloris park, beer garden, people watching)
People need to pay bills (credit card, paypal, bitCoin, write check, square)
People need money (so goes job hunting sites, coupon business, gift card, groupon, make money and save money)
When an entrenepuer is set to create a solution, it’s good idea to think if our ideas appeals to the need of most people, or just a niche. If that is a niche, we better have a lot of contacts within that niches, know that niches really well, otherwise, it maybe better to go after needs most people want.
I was building a fitness related business, then I suddenly I saw this group of rather poorly dressed, overweight people walking by me, pushing trollers (with baby in it), chat up random stuff. It hit me: they will never be the customers of an unknown fitness business sites, but they buy food, clothes, clip coupon, wear shoes, take bus, take photos, go on vacation…
If I don’t have a niche knowledge for that population, I am immediately at the disvantage. Well you can argue that you only want certain type of customers, my point is bigger reach, so you have greater chance to reach more of your customers. These guys could have friends who like to go to gyms, buy healthy food, right?
So, I want to a bit more specific about needs:
Most people need shoes.
Most people need to take transportation or drive to travel from A to B.
Most people need to buy clothes.
Most people need to go out.
Most people need to stay connected to friends.
Most people need to watch movies, online or at theatre.
Most people need to listen to music
Most people need health.
Most people need to fill good.
Most people need attention, some sort.
Students need to go to classes.
Students need to save money.
Students need to take tests.
Gym goers need fitness.
Personal trainers needs to find passive income to avoid burn out.
Musicians need to make money to do music.
Chefs need to cook good food.
Engaged couples need to plan for wedding.
UX designers need to create story board.
Entrepreneurs need to validate market before building shit.
Employees need to perform.
Employers need to hire good employees.
Public transportation needs to be on time.
Hikers need to tent.
Snowboarders need good snowboard, lift tickets, equipments.
Teacher needs to teach well.
Lawyers need to win lawsuits.
Programmers need to be improve their skills level.
Small businesses need to get more sales.
Brands need to let people know about them.
Senior citizens need care.
Car owners need car insurance.
Twitter needs place to store ever growing tweets.
Amazon needs you to buy from them, repeatedly.
Everyone needs love.
Everyone needs water.
Everyone needs food.
Everyone needs health.
Everyone needs clothes.
Everyone needs sun.
To give you a little detail: I’m actually taking a 3 months coaching course with AppSumo founder Noah Kegan who was running around bugging many wantreprenuers including me 6 years ago to join his “startup conference thing”, back then he was just a kid fired by “the man” at Facebook (trust me, it’s not such a bad thing when you are fired as the 30th employee at facebook). In this 6 years he has started two companies, most recent one is AppSumo and he is now worth north of some crazy amount of many gazillion dollars:) Being a man sometime means to realize our own limitation. So I went to him this time around to get advice. Guess what, the first thing chief Sumo asked me is: send an email like the following script and ask your 5 good friends for $1 before we do anything else: I was like? You want me do what?…
Long story short: I did send to 5 good friends. And I want to take this to another level so I’m posting this thing here on my own blog, and it will probably get some retweet, sharing what not. If you don’t know me, but want to invest $1, please do tell me your name, a little bit about you. I will make sure list you as the investor on this blog and tell Noah about it. Seriously.
The following is the email script:
So I am starting a business and need $1 from you.
Why would you do this (invest $1 in me)?
Your investment will give me some serious confidence to kick some ass and start a business I have always wanted to. I am reaching out to you because you have supported me before, and I could definitely use the small support again. After all, it’s only $1 dollar.
If you’re cool with that, then please PayPal it to grantkuo at gmail.com.
Thanks for everything.
This is definitely not spam, and I am definitely not crazy. To prove that, this is my Chinese name: 郭健
Most bigger technology companies separate product team from development team, even lot of product people transitioned into product role after being developer for a long time.
For an early stage technology project, assigning product ownership to one person whose main focus is product design, makes a difference. Among most of web/mobile startups, technology is common denominator and commodity. What really sets winners apart is the product design with unique value proposition, plus effective go-to-market execution.
A product connecting people physically in real world should not only have standalone product people, also separate guy focusing on go-to-market plan. Airbnb is a perfect example. How they executed their successful go-to-market plan creatively was 2nd to none. It’s obviously the result of having someone think about it all the time.
What are your experiences? I’d love to hear it.
Yes, the job opportunities are promising.
No I don’t think you should spend time learning how to code, because it will sure turn into waste of time if you see yourself fit the following “bill”.
1. You never liked solving puzzles. You don’t remember (ever once) you attempted on any puzzle problems.
2. You have never been a top student in any fields even when you tried really hard.
3. You attended a programming class in college and never really got interested in it.
4. You want to make better salary by finding a programming job.
5. You don’t like “making” things. You might like to “make things happen”, but never get your hands dirty actually make things.
6. You think “girls who code” is cool and want to be part of “movement”
Nowadays, Technology has made learning so much easier, my favorite sites like codecademy.com, and countless video class sites make it so much easier to learn from anywhere. That creates a false impression that it will take just a few weeks or months for anyone to become a solid programmer.
If above 1 to 6 fits your profile, the likely outcome is you spend a few weeks “coding”, create a few “web pages”, get a few “badges” and feel good about your “coding skill”.
No, that doesn’t make you a programmer, won’t find you a job, u can’t pass tough interview questions a real solid engineers will throw at you.
And if you spend a lot money on those courses, you will likely not see any ROI materialized anytime soon.
If you really think becoming a programmer is the “best career opportunity” , think again. On the contrary, if you are curious, want to exercise your brain a little more and started learning programming and actually enjoying it, can’t wait to get back on it when you are NOT doing it, you have hope.
The basic rule of thumb for a career success has never changed, even when technology created so much hype and false movement. The rule of thumb is always: your success depends on the value you create for the society. There is no shortcut.
Not being good on programming doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in your career attempt. I think the real question to ask ourselves is:
- what do I really enjoy doing?
- what have I done that “wowed” people in the past.
Finding these dots and connecting them are our best answer to become Happy and Successful
After reading an article on Techcrunch on “why I declined to an offer to work at Instagram”, I kept thinking how crazy difficult it is for any small technology startups to hire talented engineers, and how entrepreneur can improve their odds of hiring capable engineers.
For a good engineer who is looking for career change, the decision process is like gambling as well. Even when you get in a top startup like Quora, you still could do much better. The problem is, how do you know?
The engineer in that article missed out on square and instagram while he is having a piece of Quora.
The truth is, you never know for sure. There is a good saying on stock trading strategy:”you are not making money if you are not leaving money on the table”. What it means is you have to take profit, and potentially let go the bigger gain, which is associated with higher risk, which in turn could wipe out your earlier gain if you don’t take profit and leave more “potential” profit on the table.
That Quora engineer is at peace with his decision, good for him.
On the other hand, what are the odds for an entrepreneur to strike it like square and Instagram did? Imagine if startups founded by twitter and facebook cofounderer can’t “have” a solid engineer, what are the odds of some no name startups founded by no name entrepreneur?
It does sound a bit dismal.
Through more trials and fails, engineering candidates are getting better on “guessing” which startups may have better future and hence, better payout to them. In fact, the rule of thumb is still pretty straightforward:
go with still-early-stage startups building useful products that people really want in a huge market.
With this criteria, it’s getting a bit less dismal and more promising for us no name entrepreneur building some no name startup: all startups are held up to that one golden standard. Heck, even Instagram’s founders were some no name entrepreneurs 2 years ago. If we entrepreneur can increase our odds of success by deliberately designing for success, instead of plain gut feeling or catching hot trend, we have better odds of having great engineer talents join us.
Following is just a few examples of ‘deliberately building for success” in the consumer web market:
1. Build something making the world prettier. example: Instagram
2. Build something making learning more fun and creating results for users. example: codecademy.com
3. Build something making travel more fun and facilitate social interactions: zimride, airbnb
4. Build something making social meeting suck less:doodle.com
5. Build something making average Joe an expert “anything”: storify.com makes us a compelling story telling “journalist”; airtime makes us host our own show.
I say complete, you say comprehensive. Either way, let’s have a look at all the startups in the “sharing economy”, which has a newly minted term “collaborative consumption”.
1. threadflip.com: peer to peer buying/selling women’s fashion stuff, started by a few causes.org alumni.
2. netcycler.com: let you swap old things for items you really want, in europe only
3. minuteBox.com: a social marketplace for real-time advice that helps users to buy and sell expert advice via multi-media chat on multiple social platforms
4. MaestroMarket.com: is a talent marketplace where you can find and connect with influential and exceptionally skilled people
5. theamazings.com: supports retirees to package their passions or skills into activities to share with the rest of the world
Classic sharing sites
gumroad.com: airbnb for selling stuff you make/have
Skillshare.com: airbnb for teaching
localharvest.org: nearby community supported agriculture farms (CSAs), offering the public farm “shares”, usually in the form of boxes of vegetables.
Any airbnb for nannies?
Scienceexchange.com: airbnb for scientific research, it allows scientists to outsource elements of their lab work (fact: phds outsize faculty positions by a factor of 10)
Getaround.com, relayride.com, spride.com, whipcar.com: airbnb for personal vehicle rental
uber.com: airbnb for taxi service
Taskrabbit.com, Exec (iphone app), airbnb for errand hirings
rover.com; Dogvacay.com, airbnb for dogs lovers/owners
spinlister.com, airbnb for bike lovers
publicbikes.com, airbnb for bikes
42floors.com, airbnb for office space
YourMechanic, upcoming service, airbnb for car repairing
zimride.com, airbnb for ride share
snapgoods.com: airbnb for stuff u want to borrow or rent
loosecubes.com: airbnb for office space
shareddesks.net: airbnb for working space
eventup.com: airbnb for event venues
shorttermhousing.com: airbnb for short term vacation housing (sounds more like high end copy cat of airbnb)
fun2rent.com: airbnb for vehicle rental (cars, bikes, boats etc.)
thredup.com: airbnb for like-new cloth rental, I heard they started with baby cloth rental.
uk.zopa.com: peer to peer microlending
toolspinner.com: an airbnb for tools
rentstuff.com: an airbnb for “stuff” rental
neighborgoods.net: airbnb for your stuff rental with your friends
us.zilok.com: rent anything online
snapgoods.com: snap up stuff as it sounds like
rentalic.com: peer to peer rent anything
Travel seems to be filled with airbnb types:
tripping.com: kayak for airbnb style traveling
Gidsy.com is the biggest “activities organized by real people” site.
guidehop.com: airbnb for local tour/activity guide, associated with ex-NFL star Darren Goodson
carnaryhop.com: airbnb for travel hop, associated with Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg
uniiverse.com: sharing real world activities
vayable.com: one of the first “airbnb for travel experiences” that I knew of.
bartercard.com: cashless exchange among people
So is parking space sharing
Parkme (mobile app) (cofounded by William Clay “Bill” Ford Jr., the great-grandson of Henry Ford (and Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company)
Parkingwhiz.com (old school, launched in 2006)
Ride sharing has ton of interesting entries, Quora has in depth detail on this
wheelz.com: on campus car sharing with hardware gear, it’s started from Stanford campus in 2011; it’s similar to getaround but more niche play. They just got $14 million funding.
European ride share sites:
covoiturage.fr (french site, pretty big traffic)
crashpadder.com, airbnb competitor in UK, just acquired by airbnb
Wimdu.com, airbnb copycat in europe
Airizu.com, Chinese copycat partially produced by wimdu guys
Trustcloud.com tries to “consolidate” your sharing credit in one place to make your reputation mobile across the web. Great idea.
We already know the importance of focus when it comes to the core of startup: a clear vision, a useful product.
You might have heard MVP (minimum viable product) of lean startup. You probably have learnt that the focus on a niche as a first time founder is often the best bet for us (Joel Gascoigne from buffer app has a great article on this; You may even heard the notion of “reman profitability”, or “latte profitability”.
All of the above asks first time founders for one thing: vision focus.
Assume you have this vision focus. What next: how to let people know you are out there ready to serve?
This is where hustle to get your super user, hustle to get your customer comes in. I blogged about “startup hustle 101″ last month, as I am getting closer to soft launch my startup, I have learnt a lot from drinking my own kool-aid. To sum it up, it comes down to following:
1. Customers, customers, customers: Be very clear about who your potential customers are.
This sounds stupidly simple. But it’s not. If you find yourself being busy with going to lots of social events trying to bring “exposure” to your startup, think again: are these events where my potential customers (not just user) will be at? Next time you are thinking about shedding $250 to a pitch conference as a “founder”, think again. Are you actually focus on your customers? Jame altucher (@jaltucher) wrote about “how to survive your first year as an entrepreneur”, he repeatedly put “getting customers” as absolute number one priority, ahead of getting investor, hiring additional help.
2. Drink your own kool-aid: but how?
I am still at pre-launch, so I am only speaking to what I have learnt in this process of hustling to my target customers:
1) Find the voice of your potential customer, and start building relationship.
Take fitwow as an example, we are a platform focusing on bringing professional trainers to people to reach their fitness goals. Our customer? Trainer, and people with a fitness goal. Instead of thinking about, planning to go to that $250 worth of pitch conference pitching at ton of aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, engineers, designers, etc. I have been identifying the “leading potential customers”(or super audience). How? Remember Google alert? I set up dozens Google alerts for keyword such as “personal trainer”, “yoga instructor”, Google alerts bring me the actual people behind those voices. All I need to do is to comp through those passionate people.
2) Be smart about approaching the right audience: find power user.
Once you have an ever growing list of faces behind those voices, single out those with active blog, ebook with regular following, they don’t have to be TV star, celebrity, because honestly, if they are too big already, they probably won’t have time for you, it’s the economy of scale. Why do you need to find these super audience? Although this is my first real attempt at startup, I do have a few good friends with very successful ventures behind them. One thing I repetitively heard is “power user”. At the trial launch stage, quality is better than quantity. Let’s say I identified a personal trainer expert with a regular following: hundreds of beginner personal trainers who look up to him to get ideas and inspirations. By building relationship with this leading expert, I have better chance to get him talk to his followers about my product (given it’s a good product). As Clara Shih said in her awesome, practical and visionary book facebook era (at young age of 29, she is already appointed on board of advisors for Starbucks Corp): when a user logins with facebook account, they come with 150 friends; Similarly, when a super trainer mentions me, there are hundreds, sometime thousands of trainers will jump on the wagon. All of sudden, I am right in front of not just hundreds of “friends”, but hundreds of potential customers who might benefit from my product.
3) Find relevant, credible, power users, again.
I noticed an interesting aspect: I wrote this “startup hustle 101 for geeks” on Dec. 18, I tweeted once, and put on hacker news, got some visitors, but only a 2 retweets, 0 facebook likes. Today Jan. 3, 2012, I noticed there were 6 facebook likes, and 25 retweets! What happend? I dug a little deeper and found out @founding (founder institute) retweeted my article on Dec. 28, all 25 tweets came between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3. Wow! That is the power of relevance and creditable sources. Founder institute has 16k+ followers who are very willing to share startup related ideas. That is why!
As you can see, first time founder must learn to hustle with a laser sharp focus. Only this way, we can bring our laser sharp focused product to the right audience.
As good things tend to follow attentive minds, you will get your recognition.
I admit, it’s not easy to be a bootstrap entrepreneur: we want our product to be as perfect as possible, but our resource is so limited we can’t afford to keep spending to make it perfect. We are also unproven, we have never really done it. With so many incubators/angels/mentors/advisors out there, it’s so hard not to simply ask for help.
But the truth is, no one really knows how market/people will react to our products. Take my startup fitwow.com for example, I was honestly a little embarrassed when I launched it (beta) on Aug. 30, 2011. I am no professional designers/developers and I did all that to bring fitwow.com to the world. I was extremely nervous about people’s reaction to it: would it be really hard for people to use? Will people laugh at me for getting a site out there before it’s polished? Would my audience even remotely find it useful? Should I launch it to bay area (where I live) first before rolling out? And what does “roll out” really mean?
37signals people (rework) said that constraints are resource. Is it?
Because of I am bootstrapping and living on my savings and airbnb guest (don’t laugh), I have to get fitwow.com out to the market, I can’t wait, waiting is suicide. I need it proves to me that it will work, or not within a few months. I need a sign.
So I “rolled out” the site, only adding a few cities in bay area, thinking it’s important to “curate” my user base, although I am not exactly sure what that means.
Fitwow.com lets people post their fitness goals and we send their leads to local trainers so they can meet for offline training to achieve those fitness goals.
Our first real post was from west palm beach, a 20 years old college girl who wants “tone up and looks amazing”.
West palm beach, where is it? That was my first question…….It’s in Florida! I thought it was in Southern California.
Then a lady from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania posted a goal to do squad well;
Then a guy from SF (yes my town) wants to spend a lot money on personal training;
Then a girl from Arlington Virginia wants to lose 20 pounds, followed by a friend of hers wanting to lose 15;
Then two girls from Palo Alto want to find trainer to train both of them in their back yard….
List goes on and on.
I have to scramble to add the new cities in the backend to catch up, and find trainers to bid for their projects…
If I didn’t rush fitwow.com out of the door, if I have a lot of venture money, I would have waited to make the product “better” without really knowing what people would do in real world.
So, thanks, 37signals, thanks rework. Constraints are resources. Let’s get your product to the market first before anything, let’s execute it in real world!
Entrepreneurs who give it all to change the world are bold, upbeat, relentless, most of the time. But, sometime, panic moment , the thought of “what if it does not work out” does hit us. It’s the vulnerability side of us. Many things could lead us to think like that, such as others’ comment, project’s status, or maybe even the stock market. It hit me this morning at 2am. I was debugging, testing and speaking to my developer. I am aiming at beta launch within a week, but the site’s UI/visual design problems became more and more visible as it is closer to the deadline. I kept hearing two voices in my head: one being “it’s ok, just launch as is and tell everyone we are improving and this is only beta”, the other being “holy shit, this looks ugly, no one will ever use this shit.”
I went to bed with these scary thoughts, and woke up in the morning only to find the debt ceiling nonsense kept dragging down stock market and my otherwise upbeat portfolio with 15%-profit-in-three-month since I started trading was hit hard and saw profits almost entirely wiped out.
The doubts about the future that consists of uncertainties about my startup and “do I have to sell my stock portfolio” hit hard this morning. It does not help that I am an entrepreneur working from home alone and no one to talk to when it hit.
What would U do? The following is what I am trying:
1. Focus on my startup project: do not let noise such as stock market gets in my head. Focusing can also give me clear pictures about the problems, hence focusing on solutions. Stock wise: as long as your portfolio is solid, do not panic, let it sit and value will show when market calms.
2. Think about the reason I work on my startup project: before the down moment hits, I have full confidence in what I do, I believe in it. Where is that belief? I have to find that back. I find reading my own mission statement, viewing site like mixergy, think about those guys who work on their startup with just 10k to 50k investment from YC, think about exactly how airbnb got started, the difficulties they met, the multiple launches they had, the creativity they showed facing uncertainty. Thinking about all these makes me believe I can do this and I will win.
3. Take a deep breath and take a relaxing walk outside, see real people on the street, hear people talk, smile.
4. Be fearless, be bold, do not be afraid
5. Nourish myself with knowledge: spend 1 to 2 hours a day to watch Techcrunch’s interview show (short), and other leading blogs such as allthingsD, I particularly value listening to what very smart people have to say in the interviews, I can gain tremendous knowledge. Secondly, learn a little new technology 1 hour a day. It makes me feel I am growing. Knowledge will in turn help me to become more fearless (calculated), bold and visionary, which is critical to someone like us who runs our own startups.
I am feeling better already!