[I found the last presentation at the Velocity kickoff event very insightful. I will be posting some notes on this soon.]
Omar Ismail, ProductWiki co-founder and CTO, presented tips for starting a business(?). Here are some of the notes I took.
Time is finite, so to have time for your business, you need to make sacrifices somewhere:
- Quitting TV is a must, following shows just eats up way too much time. Taking 6 hours to finish a season of Big Bang Theory could have been spent on an entire prototype for your business.
- Quit Movies; I’m willing to watch less movies, but not quit…
- Drinking; OK, can’t quit that.
- Skip classes; great time saver here.
- Anything that is cut is time that can be spent on your business
He sounded alot like my mom when mentioning a lot of these things, and she is always right. When you watch a movie, you aren’t wasting just the 2-3 hours watching the movie, you’re actually wasting closer to 5-6 hours which is almost an entire day without the eating time. This is due to time spent preparing to go out, meeting up with everyone (there’s always late people, like me), getting there, buying tickets, getting seats, screwing around, then getting back. Similarly, when you go drinking, you’re actually wasting close to 24 hours since the morning/afternoon after will usually be useless.
This has been said so many times, but it’s because it’s easy to lose focus of this criteria. You try to get ideas that will impress people from the idea itself when it should actually be the execution that stands out. Having a complicated idea will usually both deter people from using such a product and be difficult to implement (higher costs with lower returns). So, to make this point easier to satisfy, two additional points were made:
- Keep it focused (satisfying a single need)
- It’s fine to copy/steal other people’s ideas
Pretty much everything has already been done now, it’s just a matter of doing it better, making it more focused and presenting it to people in such a way to encourage them to use it instead of a competing product.
Actually another thing my mom always tells me is don’t try to do everything perfectly and Omar mentioned this point as well. It’s all about cutting corners, getting things working quickly rather than perfectly. He mentioned that it’s better to release early and get feedback from users than to spend a considerable amount of time perfecting a product. Chances are, the feature that is taking too much time to perfect is something that will only be used by 5% of users.
Tools. Using the right tools is indispensable, and careful research into this can save countless hours. Instead of coding up your own libraries, a considerable amount of time can be saved by researching and using a public library that is already written and actively maintained.
- Momentum is key
- Keep a micro perspective of your work
Coding is about momentum. This is where the sum of it’s parts is less than the whole. Coding 3 sessions of 2 hours each will NOT be as effective as coding for 6 hours straight. Alot of development is about digging through information, and taking a break simply breaks your concentration and makes you lose your momentum.
Keeping a micro perspective while working allows you to do things that would otherwise not be possible. Thinking too much just gets in the way sometimes. If you keep a micro view, you don’t care whether something can or can’t be done, you just do it.
For startups, a small founding team was recommended. Omar argued for working with people close to you as in your siblings or parents. I would argue that genuine people are the kind of people that will be able to produce the spark needed for a business. These people are the kind of people who are predictable in the sense that they are consistent with who they are, but they are unpredictable in the creativity of their work.
Treat co-founding members with respect. A point one of the previous speakers made is that silence is disrespectful. This applies not only in work, but also in life. If you have a problem, say it. Doing otherwise is disrespectful and nobody gains anything.