Sunday, 26 September 2010

MatchFounders: a launch48 company

So, you are a business guy with a dream, looking for a savvy techie to turn your dream into reality


You are a rockstar developer, looking for a business guru to take your idea to market.

Both of you are looking for somebody hard-working, willing to commit and sharing your values and passions.

They say that looking for co-founders is like a marriage, so how do you find your perfect match?

Match Founders will match your skills, values and passions against other people that also match your needs.

A bit of explanation...

Launch48 has begun, and this time around I'm running a team.

We're building a match-making service to help co-founders find each other, called MatchFounders.

We've got a blog on posterous: MatchFounders and are working on our initial web demo. Stick around to find out what happens...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

To stealth, or not to stealth

I've been working on a new startup with two other founders that I found at launch48 last year. I've already mentioned launch48 on this blog, but I haven't yet mentioned my startup... That's because we've been keeping it quiet until recently... when we had a kind of "trial launch" at the previous launch48 weekend (in June).

Now, based on my reading on the matter (see links at bottom), I don't believe that "stealth mode" is actually a good way to go about building a web business. I think the reality is that if you've got a good idea, not only will it not instantly be stolen from you, but you'll have to cram it down people's throats before they take any notice...

But you see, I have two business partners. One of which is a strong believer in protecting your IP - and the other wanted to make peace between us... so we compromised and kept a lid on our idea until the trial launch.

Now, we're fairly new to the game, and we think there's a good idea in our startup, but it's no iPhone. It's not something people are screaming for and they aren't going to start beating path to our door immediately. Because of this, I was never afraid of people "stealing our idea" - because, to be honest, it just isn't sexy enough. When I explain it to people they go "oh, ok, cool I can see that... did you think about doing Y?" I've never seen a gleam of greed in their eye, followed by hasty notes scribbled down... and I never expected that this would happen.

So in my opinion, I don't see a big reason to keep it quiet.

Instead, I think it's important to get exposure to your idea as early as possible from people Out There in the Real World... that way you immediately get to see whether people think your idea is actually worth spending eight months of your life on... or not. This is simply my own reasoning behind Seth Godin's Ship it philosophy.

Stealth mode redux has some interesting case studies on which "startups" do and don't need to stay quiet about the product they have in production.

What I see most clearly is that stealth mode is mainly useful for companies that are large and already have a big audience... or who have enough funding to keep them going while they beaver away in secret on a product until it's perfect... ie companies that aren't actually startups.

The problem is that real startups - the tiny, self-funded groups of new founders - can't afford to be in stealth mode for very long - for the very simple reason that they do not have enough capital for long periods of development.

I'm not talking about people that slowly hack away doing a few hours every week while working a day job... I mean real "cash flow positive from day one" startups, rather than ones that require such extended self-funding.

Such things need to start gaining revenue asap, and the only way to do that is to attract customers... and the only way to do that is to tell everybody about them!

In the interest of balance, of course, there's a great post pointing out that releasing early is not always Good - which covers some of the reasons why *not* to release early... and they're all very fair points. But I'd argue that all of them point to a new variant of Einstein's famous "make it as simple as possible, but not too simple" ie:

"Release as early as possible, but not too early"


After having read The small man builds cages for everyone on The art of non-conformity, I'm convinced that NDAs and other stealth-measures are a cage-building habit.


Links on stealth-mode being bad, or the philosophy of "release early, release often":
Startup lessons learned
The Cathedral and the Bazaar

More links on stealth mode:
why choosing to go into stealth mode could be the kiss of death for your startup
Does Being In Stealth Mode Damage Your Business?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Single sign-out using ruby-cas... Not!

We considered this... right up until the point where I read that you were advised to disable forgery-protection.

It's easy enough to send a message to the rubyCAS server to invalidate a given ticket - but mostly users only authenticate with rubyCAS once, and from then on deal only with a given client-application. Killing rubyCAS's ticket only comes into play when a user tries to re-authenticate with the rubyCAS server.

I don't have a good solution to this one...

This is one article in a series on Rails single-sign-on with rubyCAS

Friday, 10 September 2010

Signup: Ask the right question

The sign-up process is much more than just the form that gets a potential customer's details. The majority of the sign-up process actually takes place inside the customer's head. A customer will sign up - even using a crappy signup form as long as they're actually motivated to buy your product... not that you should make a crappy signup form - because that also just puts hurdles in the way of an otherwise motivated potential customer.

This awesome presentation explains how you can design your signup process to get customers motivated and rearing to go on your site. It points out where the friction is in the process, where they usually fall out of the sales funnel, and the ways to change your way of thinking about your site: to provide ample opportunities for a confused or skeptical customer to change their minds. It also picks out the pain-points for the sign-up process - giving some great examples of how to get out of their way and let them get on with paying you money straight away... always a good thing.

I only wish I'd seen the original talk, but the slides themselves speak the story clearly and are well worth a few minutes of paging through.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

gotchas: gem cleanup

Note to future self: do not type "gem cleanup"... reinstalling rails v 2.3.4, 2.3.5, 2.3.8... etc

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Launch a startup in 48 hours!

Launch 48 teams up business-gurus and techies, where the aim is to pitch, plan and launch a viable web-product in the following 48 hour period. It's 48 hours of hard-slog startup-founding that is guaranteed to leave you buzzing (honest)

I've been twice now, and just signed up for a third time. It may sound a little crazy... but it is an awesome experience, and I confess I'm now addicted.

If you can make it to the conference (on the Friday) they also line up a set of speakers from some of the best IT companies in the world (google, paypal, et al), along with VC, successful IT businessmen and other assorted useful types to give a talk about how you can turn your idea into reality.

and it works too. Several of the startups have gone on to become successful online businesses... of course some don't but I can honestly say I've learnt a lot in the process. I even met my co-founders there, so I can attest to the benefit of working with people to see if you can work with them...

Early bird tickets are on sale for the next one (the 25th Sep)... so I hope to see you there :)

PS: just to make it clear - I'm not affiliated with launch48 in any way except for having gone along to it (twice now) and found it to be awesome!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Rails 3.0 is Done!

As you've probably already heard, Rails 3.0 is done, no longer just a beta, it's out there and beginning to be used. Go look at all the goodies we've got lined up!