So what criteria do you go for? I’ve been racking my brain over the last 24 hours (and I forgot my notebook which didn’t help).Going back to the eHarmony way of doing things. There’s a ton of spade work already done over many years before they even got to doing any software. Remember the founder of eHarmony, Neil Clarke Warren, was a marriage counsellor many years previous.I keep going back to eHarmony as it’s the one system I’ve read about time and time again when it came to analytics and data mining. It uses 261 bits of information and refines that in to its 29 core criteria working on a like for like match basically.So I’m looking for 5000 business partners/CEO’s/entrepreneurs who are will to answer a lot of questions at the start. Good research if nothing else.5000 * 261 = 1,305,000 bits of information.Meyers Briggs profiles… data, it’s all there. Just need to do something with it.
So much for the quiet long weekend. I got into a fairly long Twitter conversation with Nichola Bates (@growsalesonline), Chris McCabe (@maxer08), Jackie McGonigle (@whatsonni), Lyra McKee (@LyraMcKee) and Mary McKenna (@MMaryMcKenna) about something that really makes me tick… data!Well I was looking at the data angle of it I’m pretty sure the rest were looking from another angle. It was triggered by a blog post that Mary did a few days ago about having two pros of having two heads at the helm of the business (you can read it here). The question then was raised, how do you find the perfect match of a business partner?There are some sites out there like LinkedIn and Collab.ie which do provide a start but nothing that could actually predict anything. The key to all of this are two simple things: rules and knowledge.eHarmony works in the same way. The questionnaire when you sign up is the key bit, it’s the data gathering that figures who you are and what you are prepared to put up with. The next key is figuring out what you are actually looking for.The following is an actual advert (why they listed on Gumtree I’ll never know but there you are, each to their own and all that).We are an angling retailer based in manchester. We are a new breed of retailer, with a great USP. We have a vision for future growth and are now looking to grow the business.We are looking for a partner/Investor/Mentor. Preferably someone who has an interest in angling. The ideal person is someone who would like to take an hands on approach. Experience in the retail trade and IT.We have been trading since June 2009, much work has already been done.We have a website already up and running, ecommerce site, 200+ Customers.Business name, brand name and trademarks have already been registered with IPO.This is a great opportunity for the right person.Ingoing is 10K.Quick return is predicted and all targets are seen as highly achievable.So the jump out points:
- Hands on investor in sales/IT
- Min invest of 10K
- Likes angling (call it active interest in the investment)
- Based in North West of England
- Early stage startup
- Retail experience
You could network your brains out for six months getting to every event you could, shaking loads of hands, doing lots of meetings and it could all come to nothing. Or you could go the eHarmony way plough all your wants and needs into the system and let the site whittle the list of eligible partners down for you. That filters the wheat from the chaff. Then it’s a case of meeting them all (pink carnation and a newspaper job) and doing the rest from there.Obviously a system like this is only as good as the data it has from potential plenty-of-fish-in-the-sea business partners.Weekends off, who needs them?
I suppose everyone has “a book”, it might be a journal or a word document. It’s the place where everything goes into. For me I have an A4 sketch book, it’s coffee stained and a bit bashed around the edges, not great to look at it but it contains every note about Datasentiment’s development from day 1 (and the previous four months from that). I started this book during unemployment, it was a horrible time as well. On the positive side this was the time I started meeting likeminded people in the startup arena, ones who I will keep in contact with wherever I am on the planet.
It’s got screen shots, market research, quotes, everything that got planned and binned, everything that got planned and implemented. Rough business plans, projections, customer segmentation, buying patterns, phone numbers, interested customers. It’s got SQL statements, recency/frequency/value calculations…. I’m sure you get the idea.
Most things I’ve been involved with never start at the computer, it starts with pen and paper. It forces me to start with a bunch of notes and ideas and refine them into something usable that I can produce. Every month I revisit the black book (today is my scheduled day) and I’ll go over notes from 12 months ago and see if there’s anything I’ve missed. Oddly enough things that I’ve put on the back burner (but are in the book) are now starting to emerge into something usable again. It didn’t go in the direction I’d originally planned but it’s good to see it’s not wasted. This book makes sure I don’t forget.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the weekend (a dangerous move according to some near and dear to me). Though I’ve been thinking beyond anything online and more into the retail realm.
Now I walk through Derry everyday and look at the amount of commercial property that lies empty. I’m not the only one either, Mark Nagurski did an excellent post on the very same subject. I’m looking from another angle.Commercial landlords desperately and urgently need to rethink their strategies on how they lease out their property. The idea right now is not to give big long leases but attractive short ones. Micro shops and pop up shops are the perfect way to occupy empty space. The idea of pop up shops aren’t new but if you want to have a go at starting up in retail now is a good time to start planning for the Christmas, ahem, rush.If I were a landlord I’d rather have a place occupied for a shorter period of time than lying empty. So how about shorter lease times.6 months?3 months?2 months?4 weeks?1 week?2 days?1 day?All doable in my eyes.With a good dollop of marketing (announce the sale to your user base on Facebook, Twitter and uVoucher to increase awareness). Nothing beats being out on the street and mixing with potential customers.1. Pick something you can sellThe last thing you want is stock at the end of the sale so you want to pick items that you’ve got a good chance of shifting. Sounds simple but I’ve seen this sink some companies over the years.2. Creative thinking on the rent.Easier with some landlords than others I’m sure (I’ve never tried). Can you negotiate for free? Offer a percentage of the revenue you make in your venture. Free free free, whatever you can get for the least amount. And only have the premises for the time you really need it. November through to December 24th, don’t forget an online presence if you can (e-commerce would be better but only if you can really complete the orders).3. Your brand is everythingJust because it’s a short lease shop doesn’t mean that your brand should suffer. Without going mad with the money try and get some creative design thing going. You can find some really cheap printing deals (or even Vistaprint for the ubercheap) to get flyers and all that stuff done.4. Know your costsRent and staff are the big numbers. The minimum wage is rising to £5.93 (£237.20 a week) in October this year. Goes without saying really but it’s so easy to end up running at a loss. A better strategy would be not to pay anyone and run it yourself.There’s a large amount of #JFDI in there I know and it will require some creative thinking from a few parties. At the end of the day it’s all attainable we just need some creative minds to embrace it. Who’s first?
It seems hard to believe that on the 27th May it will be one year to the day when the Datasentiment seed was really sewn. On that day with my Nokia E51 in hand I showed a really crude mock up of an app. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for.So, 12 months later, what can I say.1. It takes longer that you want it to.Annoyingly so, I’m an impatient type at the best of times but this was difficult. Looking back though it’s happened at the right time.2. The plan WILL changeDS then and DS are two totally different things. The USP is a killer but it took about sixty phone calls and three mock ups to get there. Only after Barcamp Derry did things really take shape and every line of code up until that point was scrapped.It was the best thing that could have happened.3. You will get answers but only IF YOU ASK!The world will not come to you, you have to go to it. Six months of the year was network, network and network. Lots of good came from it, I met an awful amount of really nice, helpful good people. You know who you are. Yeah I met some arses too but you’ll always get that. The skill is figuring out who the tyre kickers are.4. Brand “you” counts.How you project yourself, your passion (an overused word in startup land) and your conduct will either work for you or kill you off. Ultimately it’s your choice.
Just a quick heads up, there’s a new website for self employed, small business and startups called Smeople. Founded by Rob Marr it’s there to bring like minded entreprenuer type folk together to share and help each other on. Sounds like a plan, just wish it existed twelve months ago.Anyway, the site is www.smeople.com and it’s free to join.
This isn’t just a Northern Ireland thing, it seems to be a connected Great Britain mentality. No one wants to see you succeed. More than that no one wants you to make a comfortable fortune either.I don’t hear very often, “well I hope you make f**king millions from it”, it’s normally, “well if you make enough to pay yourself a wage”. Like that’s good enough. By the way there’s nothing to stop you in the plan for making a wage from your idea first and then continuing on to the making a fortune bit. It’s just the idea of stopping because you can scrape the bills.Don’t be scared to dream, don’t be scared to aim high (I was like this at the start). Don’t be scared to argue and fight your corner for what YOU want, not what everyone else thinks you want.There’s a ton of great startups in Northern Ireland but I think a lot of the problem to growth stems from the mentality of others telling people “you won’t make it”, “you’ll not make that amount of money” or “what background do you have…..”.If you have an idea then #JFDIMary McKenna wrote in her blog recently:In his research & interviews with 150+ notable African Americans, these are the 4 things that consistently make some people far more successful than most of us:1. They dream big2. They never listen to advice from friends & critics telling them the reasons why their idea will fail; they go with their own inner belief every time3. They dedicate themselves to lifelong learning (see slide on the photo above re what happens to you if you don’t!)4. They simply refuse to accept failure.Food for thought indeed – I hope many of you see some of the above in yourselves.
The Twitter stories about when they’ll turn profit is starting to ring hollow. At this rate it may never turn profit (perhaps it should have sold out to Facebook when it had the chance). At the start Biz and Evan didn’t have to really worry about the cost of living at the time.So to all out there with startups, especially my good friends in Belfast. It’s about profit, money in the bank. It’s not about Invest NI giving you between £5,000 and £75,000 to just get you started and then see where it goes (chances are you’ll be back within the year asking for more). When the money is someone else’s then your outlook changes.Last year was pretty much hell and a startup came out of that desperation to actually make some money. Unemployment though does some very nasty things to your head and you have to be very careful not to sell your soul just to get the minimum. By taking some risks that were uncharacteristic of me (public speaking, organising events, getting my big fat arse and DOING something) the doors opened, not with money but with network and opportunity.If you open the door then there’s someone waiting at the other side, sometimes.Startups are businesses but some start without know really what business is, to be honest it’s simple.“Business is a very specific, limited activity, whose defining purpose is maximising owner value over the long term by selling goods or services. Accordingly business is not an association to promote social welfare, spiritual fulfillment or full employment; such organisations are legitimate, but they are not businesses” Elaine Sternberg – Just Business – Business Ethics In ActionWe seem to have got caught up in the way of worrying about the money later in the hope that someone else will come and invest. It’s okay to take investor money with the evidence that what you have is going to work and hopefully return the money. If you are good at programming then you don’t need the money, just the dedication to get up early do #JFDI (just f*cking do it).Please don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with taking investor money as long as you have a VERY defined plan on how you are going to spend it. I do remember the story of the 1998 startup who got $8M and spent $4M on a sliding roof cos it looked cool. Guess what, they didn’t last long.
Very cheap in fact. Obviously there’s the Google/Bing/(Name your other favourite search engine here).When it comes to knowledge for Datasentiment I had a bit of a head start from 2002 when I worked for a data mining company. I learned an awful lot about things not to do to your employees, how bad some Phd coder’s Java can be and watching reams and reams of data from a well know supermarket that couldn’t compete with the clubcard.For those who met me last year when I was talking about free tables the like on the phone, well the next three months were an unfocused blur and the months between October and March have been the most rewarding, productive and exciting times.Any gaps in knowledge were basically filled with the books below:
One of those books was listed on Amazon at £0.00, yup it was in their warehouse and they wanted rid of it, all I had to do was pay the postage. The majority of these books were below five pence and all of them have domain knowledge that I couldn’t easily find on Google. Tesco certainly don’t give their clubcard secrets away.
There’s no excuse for “I don’t know” because i) The knowledge is out there and ii) there’s probably a dozen people who’ve asked the same question.
Post-It notes came in handy for my copy of Rework when it landed.
In the final throws of the launch product being ready it’s been all (my) hands on deck, so here’s today’s schedule.6.00am – Coffee and fire up the laptop.8.00 am – Get myself looking presentable (I think there should be a book called, “Dressing Gown Entrepreneurs”)9.00a m – Car into tyre centre, made some calls to launch customers.10.00 am – Back to the house, code a little more.11.25 am – Head over to Portrush.12.00 pm – Encamp in Ground in Portrush, coffee is excellent and the cinnamon swirly thing is going down a treat. More work done…1.20 pm – Head back to Coleraine, sit in the car park and do some more work in the car.1.40 pm – Sainsbury’s car park, more of the same.3.00 pm – Back at the house where my daughter and I play Super Mario Bros on the Wii5.00 pm – Downtime…….6.00 pm – Family time making dinner.7.00 pm – My world stops for TV Burp, makes me honk with laughter which I am not ashamed about. I need this programme… :)8.00 pm – An evening of on and off development work, managed to get an awful lot done.If you have a full time job and am working on a startup then the evening and weekend route is the way you’ll probably go. It’s not easy, even more so if you do have a family. The main thing to remember is that it is achievable. Good luck.