The secret sauce of an entrepreneur

9 02 2010

The week after I posted my simple business plan, I was workin’ it.  I did everything I could to make at least one sales call per day to keep the momentum going.  I always found that after that first call I found energy and motivation to make a few more.  It’s always getting started that’s the hard part.

And so I’ve been thinking about what makes a good entrepreneur.  And one quality I keep coming back to is determination.  Or to better phrase it, “pigheaded discipline and determination“.

This means making non-negotiable disciplines truly non-negotiable, and relentlessly pursuing my business goals every day, whether I feel like it or not.

Add a dash of passion and focus, stir it up with some momentum, and I believe you’ve got the secret sauce of an entrepreneur.

Of course, the sauce isn’t the meal — you have to actually have an idea too 🙂  Anything missing from this secret recipe?

Apologies, goal setting, and triathlons

4 10 2009

I feel the need to apologize to both of my faithful readers for the lack of “startup-related” posts the last month or so.  My original intent when I signed up to be a book review blogger was to write some insightful posts on how the book related to entrepreneurship and fit with my journey, but blogging is hard work!

Anyway, I wanted to write a brief post to break up the mass of book reviews that have and will continue to deface the front page of this blog…

My triathlon

I haven’t blogged about it here, but over the past few months I’ve been training for a triathlon.  I actually completed the race last weekend (my first ever race of any sort), and the whole journey taught me quite a bit about goal setting.

First, I was amazed at how much more motivation and focus I gained from actually signing up for the race.  Never mind the fact that I had been training for three months — once I mailed in my registration form, suddenly everything I did was going to impact my performance on race day.

I thought about my nutrition, my training, my downtime, my sleep in a whole new way.  All of my energy could be focused on one goal, and it was powerful.

It also helped to have a specific day that I was training toward and approaching.  It gave all of my workouts much more meaning, knowing that I was doing something to improve my time.

I’ve thought about applying this to my next development sprint with ClimbPoint, though at the moment I’m lacking motivation.  I guess I need an inciting incident (the equivalent of a race registration form) to get me started, to move me to identify and start pursuing my next goal.

Which reminds me again how great A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is.  Go buy it and read it if you haven’t yet.  It’s a quick read.

Wisdom applied to starting up

3 08 2009

As I write this, I am right in the middle — man am I ever in the middle — of a huge push to release the next version of ClimbPoint, which will blow people away and remove all sorts of reasons people have had not to shell out the cash for the product (pie in the sky rah rah pitch courtesy of the FogBugz 7 vision statement).

Last month I decided that I would apply a little wisdom in releasing the new version (Dicey at Best) by August 15.  I’ve been reading Proverbs lately, and that’s one source of my idea for a development sprint (also inspired by fellow entrepreneur Tim Haughton).

Proverbs 14:23 – All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

I’ve also been inspired by the ideas of Earl Nightengale in Lead the Field, where he talks about reward being in proportion to a person’s service to others.  So in laying out the features I’d include in the next version I’ve picked the ones that I think will serve the greatest number of potential customers (kind of a no-brainer, huh?).

Anyway, in completing my development sprint I’m focusing on just two keys for success:

Work every day

Every day I’m aiming for only 30 minutes of focused work.  On most days I’ll end up working for a few hours, but none of that can happen without those first 30 minutes.  I find 30 minutes manageable, especially on those days when I feel swamped with other responsibilities.  I picked up this idea from Neil Fiore’s excellent book The Now  Habit.

Focus on starting

So my one goal each day is to start at least once.  I find that if I can keep my momentum moving forward, I’ll tend to use my mental free time to think about problems that are holding me up.  I also try to “leave a little in the tank” each day by stopping before I feel I’m stuck and by making a note of the very next thing I need to do when I come back to the project.  This tactic has really helped draw me toward work rather than repel me from it, so thanks to Twyla Tharp and The Creative Habit for that one.

Those are the two main keys, but there are many other ideas that I’ve gleaned from the books mentioned above.  I highly recommend all of them, especially Lead the Field.

An LLC is born…

4 03 2009

Early on the morning of January 16 I became the proud parent of a brand new LLC.  Spurred on by a couple more sales early in the month, I decided to take the plunge and register ClimbPoint, LLC with the State of Indiana.

Once I decided to move on it, the entire process was seamless and done in less than a day — who knew you could register a business in Indiana online?  My next steps are to register for an employer identification number and complete a BT-1 form so I can charge tax on in-state sales.

Throughout the entire process, NOLO’s Quick LLC has been a great resource.  And for those who aren’t as interested in learning the ins and outs of an LLC, NOLO offers an LLC Maker that promises to get the job done faster.

So for those who have wondered what I’ve been up to this winter (and it’s been a long winter), forming an LLC was at the top of the list, right below traveling to India for a friend’s wedding.

For now it’s back to working on the next couple versions of ClimbPoint, which will definitely be out in time for the CWA Summit in Boulder.

One year of starting up

16 10 2008

Back on October 16, 2007 I set up shop here at AnotherStartup and began my journey toward a product launch.  Truthfully, I had been considering commercialization (and blogging about it) for over a year, but the creation of this blog was a milestone in that it marked the official beginning of my Masters project at Purdue.

So it’s been a year since I began to commercialize ClimbPoint in earnest, and it’s been fun watching my ideas grow into realities.  Here’s a look at what’s happened over the past year…

A few stats

My three most popular posts have been on crafting an effective elevator pitch, designing a decent logo, and finding icons for Windows applications.

I’ve also watched traffic to the blog increase steadily over the past year, and at this point I’m very close to breaking 300 page views per month.  The last time I checked I also had 10-12 people who subscribe to the site feed or receive email updates.  So the blog is still relatively small, but I expect that it will continue to grow steadily.


Above: page views per month since October 2007.

Major milestones

There have been a number of major milestones over the past year, which are summarized below.  To this point the full release of ClimbPoint this past August was the biggest one, but I think the October announcement will eclipse that.

It’s hard for me to keep the big announcement for October under wraps, but I think it’s substantial enough to warrant a separate post.  Stay tuned 🙂

To summarize, it’s been a great ride so far.  There have been many ups and downs, but I’ve been able to move forward at a fairly steady pace.  I continue to question my motives for starting up, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.  I do know that I enjoy creating useful, mistake-proof software, and it’s always rewarding to hear positive feedback.

Learning the Art of the Start: Recap

13 10 2008

Note: this post is long overdue, and is sort of a warm-up for posts later this month.  In fact, this Thursday is the first birthday of AnotherStartup.

A while back I created a series of posts on The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki.  Each post below correlates with one of five sections in Guy’s book.  I’ve hit a few of the high points, but I recommend you buy the book or check out the video below if these pique your interest.

Reading and applying Guy’s ideas has been immensely helpful for me, and I still have a lot to learn about the art of starting — especially when it comes to connecting with customers and making sales (part four).

For those who aren’t quite ready to read the entire book, Tomas from The Closet Entrepreneur clued me in to a 40 minute talk on the Art of the Start given by Guy himself.  Guy is a great speaker, and the video below is a worthy summary of his book.

Spotlight on another startup

20 07 2008

Those interested in startups and watching micro ISVs get off the ground might enjoy a peek at the Agile Micro ISV blog (also linked in the sidebar). Tim Haughton, the author, is currently in an all out sprint to release and begin selling his document management software by the end of this month.

His decisions about a product name and logo were made in the span of a few days, and it’s been fun to reflect on my own approach and lessons learned while making some of those same decisions. I don’t have time at the moment to summarize his process and compare it with mine, but that’s something I’d like to do in the near future.

I’m also reminded of how motivating short development sprints like that can be, so I’m thinking of following along with a little sprint of my own. ClimbPoint 0.7 is pretty much ready to go, but there are some small details I need to take care of, namely testing — I can’t stand the thought of sending a half-baked product out the door.

Anyway, Tim’s blog is an interesting read…as for the sprint, I think for the moment I’ll continue on my “slow and steady” pace 🙂

Market-driven product development

15 06 2008

Over the past six weeks I’ve done more to connect with potential customers and understand the market needs than ever, and it’s beginning to pay dividends in my motivation for product development.

My re-entry into the world of climbing wall management began last month with a trip to Boulder, Colorado for the second annual Climbing Wall Summit. It was there that I began to recognize the growing desire for climbing gym management software. As one conference participant put it, “there is a national unspoken need in our industry for someone to do this [software] right.”

As part of my effort to understand that need I’ve begun following a few climbing blogs, news sites, and forums (see the climbing news in the sidebar). Even the Climbing Wall Association recently opened up an online forum, which I’m hoping will be a valuable resource in connecting with others in the climbing community. The CWA is also planning to form a committee on the development of climbing wall management software, and I’ve thrown my name in the hat as a potential member of that committee.

In addition to establishing connections with potential customers and gaining exposure to real market needs, these sorts of interactions have helped make what I’m doing relevant. As a software developer it can be easy to become isolated from the users of the software and the market it serves. When that happens for me I tend to lose a little motivation, so I’m beginning to see the need for balance between product development and connecting with the market.

As a result of this renewed connection with the industry I’ve begun working on the next version of ClimbPoint, which I’ll document over on the ClimbPoint blog. Included in version 0.7 are a few features requested by my beta testers, and down the road I plan to take action on some suggestions I received while at the Summit.

Even with the launch of ClimbPoint I’m still learning a lot about starting up. I’ll continue to blog here about entrepreneurship and starting an ISV, but product-related news and information will be posted on the ClimbPoint blog.

Learning the Art of the Start – Part 5

7 05 2008

This is the last in a series of posts on The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. Part one was on “why you’re starting”, Part two covered “describing what you do”, Part three was on “getting cash and getting going”, and Part four covered “connecting with customers and making sales.”

Do what’s right

The last section of The Art of the Start is appropriately titled “Obligation”, if for no other reason than I feel somewhat obligated to write this post to finish out the series. While the first four sections of the book describe the keys to starting a venture, the fifth unveils a principle for long term success.

To me this section seems to relate strongly to the first section, where Guy raises the question about doing something meaningful (I believe the question was, Do you want to make meaning?). According to Guy, doing the right thing and helping others who can’t repay you (a.k.a. being a mensch) should be in the DNA of any venture.

I suppose, however, that this will vary for each person depending on their “end game”, or what they want to accomplish with their life. For some it will be raking in a lot of money, for others it will be the recognition and fame that come with success, and still others will be driven by the desire to help society.

Guy does a good job touching this nerve with an exercise toward the end of the chapter.

It is the end of your life. Write down the three things you want people to remember about you:

The things I think of when I ponder this question have little to do with climbing wall management software, or even software in general — so we’ll see how that bodes for the future success of ClimbPoint. If nothing else I think this chapter is included to encourage the entrepreneur not to lose sight of the big picture, and to “keep the main thing the main thing.”

Learning the Art of the Start – Part 4

17 04 2008

This is the fourth in a series of posts on The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. Part one was on “why you’re starting”, Part two covered “describing what you do”, and Part three was on “getting cash and getting going.” Look for the final installment this time next week.

Proliferation: Connect with customers and start selling

Of all the sections of The Art of the Start, this one on partnering, branding, and selling seemed to connect most with where I’m at (or where I’ll be next) in the startup process. I could create a post about each chapter in this section, but I think for now I’ll stick to the art of branding, which according to Guy requires

“creating something contagious that infects people with enthusiasm, making it easy for them to try it, asking them for help in spreading the word, and building a community around it.”

I like the use of the word contagious in Guy’s description here. At this point, while ClimbPoint has been effective in infecting its users with good vibes and enthusiasm, it hasn’t been contagious: it’s hard to catch, and hard to spread.

Making a product easy to catch

So my first task in branding is making ClimbPoint easy to catch by offering a free trial and the ability to painlessly purchase the full version online. To this point I’ve gone back and forth on what to charge for the software, but I now feel more comfortable going with the lower of two numbers I’ve been kicking around. Guy contends that “a reasonable price that fosters the creation of a brand can produce large returns later.”

I’ll probably sit down one last time with the product pricing primer from Eric Sink on the Business of Software and just pick a number.

Making it easy to spread

Once people have your product, there are lots of ways to help their enthusiasm for the product spread to others. Among them:

  • Ask them for help in getting the word out, and give them tools to do it
  • Build a community around your users…if they like it they’ll invite others to join
  • Exude humanness as a company (feature customer stories, give to a cause). This helps people connect
  • Find and lower the barriers to adoption
  • Make it easy for people to leave if they choose. They’ll respect you for that and be more willing to recommend the product to others

I took a lot of notes on this section and am looking forward to putting them into action soon. The chapter on partnering with other individuals and businesses may come into play in a couple weeks when I attend the CWA Summit, and I plan to begin “rainmaking” (bringing in sales, according to Guy) after I return from the conference.

But let me end with a brief call to action for myself. I’m good at analyzing and planning, and I like to read about startups in their early days…but frankly, I haven’t found too many startups who are blogging about their experiences. I believe it’s because they decided to…

Stop talking, start doing (yeah from the IBM commercial)

So enough with the ideating already! 🙂 I’m not going to post here again until I have 1. a logo or 2. a website, or both.