After watching the CNBC interview with Jack Dorsey and his demo of Square for the iPhone. Well I have a couple of concerns. In theory I love it but we are essentially at the start of the adoption curve, chasm, call it what you will. The demo looks pretty slick except for one vital bit of information. The signature.In the demo we see the interviewer sign her transaction for $3.00. All well and good until you picture this senario. I have Square on my iPhone and I find a purse on the floor, pick it up and swipe any cards I find. I actually have to have the authority signing, just a signature of some form (X marks the spot will do). The SMS/Email receipt will go to the signing authority but the transaction has been authorised (in my eyes). There’s no verification of the three digit security code so it won’t fly in the UK until that’s resolved. Finally is there a limit on the upper amount of a transaction, the website suggests “$0 to $60 in under 10 seconds” but that’s no definitive answer.Also, where are the scan details stored? Externally over SSL or on a SQLite database? I can envisage Square hacks coming out to query any saved data on card info.Like I said at Barcamp Derry in October. Paypal was not originally designed as a web payment system, it was to prove the concept of one shot cryptography between two Palm Pilots. It never made it as a Palm Pilot system for the simple reason that no one was prepared to use it. As much as I love the concept I can’t see it flying as the wave of public concern will be too great.I’ll keep an eye on this one.
There are just days when you have to go it alone. For those who don’t know I’m bootstrapping a company from scratch. I thought it might be a good idea to chip in some blog posts along the now that I can talk about some of these things.Since my last job finished at the end of June I’ve been wondering the best way to take things forward. Ask anyone who really knows me and I can have a list of ideas that are ready to be coded. The most interesting thing for me is that this is first start up where I’ve been asking a lot of opinion of the product I’m doing (it’s still in stealth, there’s only a chosen few who know). So here we go, the bold pointed things to keep in mind.Writing it down on a one pager – It’s vitally important to write down on one page what your product is going to do, who the target market(s) are and what the total size of the market is. From there you’ve got focus and what you think it’s all worth. Ignore this step at your peril.Blag, steal, borrow and blag again – If you design, get a good back end coder. If you code then get a designer. This also goes for business advice. Some of the people I hold in high regard are willing to chip in and keep me on the right path. Finally, don’t forget a polite thank you goes a long way. Crap code is fine – Product first, coding refactoring later. There’s no point going over the finer detail of SCRUM or Agile methods if it’s not generating revenue. Market share or revenue? – In the initial stages it’s all about generating revenue (especially if you are a service company). If you’re hellbent on creating a brand or a world changing-everyone-has-to-have-this iPhone app then market share is your aim.What time do you realistically have? – If you are already working then it’s extra hours. I know some that are up at 5am and work through ’til 9am. I know some who do the late shift. There are times I do both and within time I suffer for it. Also, if you have family they will only put up with your Branson like enthusiasm for so long.Learn to do a basic cash flow forecast – Yeah it’s boring but I bet if I asked you now you wouldn’t have a notion what your costs are for the next 12 months. A simple spreadsheet is fine. There are a loads of good cashflow templates out there on the internet.Get an advisory board of people you trust – Ultra important this one. I have three people that I bounce stuff off in various parts of the world. I also have a number of industry contacts who I bounce ideas off. I have one friend who I can just cyberly puke on when I’m having a bad day (and they with me if needed). Don’t over do the networking while you are developing the idea – Any networking event the obvious question is, “what do you do?”. When you are just about to beta test fair enough. From day dot without a single jot of code, forget it. You could be using your time on better things. One thing I’ve noticed over the last five months is that there are an awful lot of people who can talk the talk but when you really press them…. you pretty much know it will come to nothing.Some of the above I actually covered in my talk at Barcamp Derry in October but they still ring true whatever the time of year.
Techcrunch brought Yowza (Yes, the startup with Greg who is in Heroes) into my field of view a few weeks ago, in fact on the same week I was thinking about what I’d possibly do if I owned an iPhone, a Mac and the SDK.Mobile shopping coupons, save on paper and all that. Perfect, I’ll get an iPod Touch… Then I was beat to it. This happens all the time, coded up a UK version of Ideeli and GiltGroupe type sites and on the day I was going to pick up the phone and start talking I was shown the full page advert for Brand Alley and immediately stopped. There’s been a bunch of others, the most comfort I can gleen from all this is (as put to me by a Silicon Valley veteran), “well at least you are thinking the same as the big guys”. There’s no Yowza in the UK, but it won’t be far off. There’s a possible avenue of looking at another platform (J2ME perhaps) and going down that route. All things are possible it’s just getting the merchants to sign up and the everyday public to download the app in the first place.
I’ve hit a real big junction at the moment. It’s a whacking great T junction of a decision that I have to make. It all boils down to mobile apps. With OpenCoffeeDerry approaching this Thursday I’m giving lots of ideas a lot of thought. I missed BarcampBelfast yesterday, but I was recovering from photographing a wedding the day before. Anyway, I digress….One of the reasons that the iPhone and iPod Touch work so well isn’t really down to the hardware, it’s down to Apple’s way of working in terms of the App Store. You can to sell on the App Store then you have to register as a developer (at $99) then write your app and get it approved. So there’s already a level of commitment to producing a good app. If it ain’t good it don’t get in (you on the guest list, sir?). Over to J2ME…. hmm I’m struggling with this one. If I look at something like Getjar.com there’s a lack of clear layout, that’s more to design than anything else. My next problem is finding what I want and for my device… urgh this is getting messy. Give me the App Store for J2ME PLEASE! More to the point, are there actually any really good I-can’t-live-without-this apps in J2ME for mobile devices? Sounds like I’m talking myself out of this one. On the opposite side of the coin: first of all buy either an iPhone or iPod Touch (which is going to cost me anything from £165 – £350 depending on what I get), learn Objective C, get a Mac so I can get the SDK (call that another £800), the economics are starting to work against me. So for my £1100 I need to make sure that I’m going to get enough downloads and marketing clout so the downloads happen. Perhaps I should just build a good J2ME App Store.