Thursday 29 July 2010

The pros and cons of crowds

Mike and I decided to get a logo.  We realised that without one we couldn’t create sales collateral and that would hold us back.  Mike found a site called 99designs.  It’s a crowd-sourcing website that allows you to submit your design requirements and ‘prize’, and then individual designers submit their designs to win.

We submitted the requirement with a prize of $310, and we sat back and waited.  To our amazement, we quickly got designs to look at, and we thought they looked good.  We liked a blue design, gave it a star rating, and made requests for some changes.  This was a mistake.  By making it known that we liked a design, the other designers started to mimic the colour and style of the design we said we liked.  Before we knew it, all of the designs were turning blue. To stop this we asked for different colours and styles, but the designers simply followed our comments and didn’t innovate.

We wanted to get control again, so we went through each design and rated them against the four words we wanted the logo to communicate; modern, technology, secure, professional.  After we had rated each design we had a ‘winner’.

Neither of us was absolutely certain about our choice, so we thought we would ask the twittersphere to help.  We created a questionnaire on wufoo and sent it off to the twitter community.

Over 200 people viewed the survey and 17 people were kind enough to complete it.  From the feedback we received we knew the logo was no good.  It made us realise that just because we have personal tastes, doesn’t make us qualified to design a logo.  We needed a professional to understand us, know the context of our choices, and then design a logo iteratively by working with us.

We’ve learnt a valuable lesson about the power of the crowd.  It provides broad and varied perspectives and innovative suggestions and support.  It’s a perfect starting point when you need to make a decision.  However, when you need depth of thought and focus, the crowd can’t replace a small, close team that understands and learns through the process, together.

Excitement levels: OMG full time development from Monday!

A special thank you to @Davery1979, @fiftydigital, @mashupash, @specialad (and those who didn’t leave your names) for completing our questionnaire.  Your input has saved us from making a really, really poor decision.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Preparation is the key to success (at least when cooking Chinese food)

The problem with working for yourself and at home is that there is a continual sense of guilt that you should be doing something else.  Remember when you were at college and you knew you had an essay to write but were at the pub or doing the food shop at low-cost, well it feels a little like that.

I’ve been in this position before, and I knew that as soon as we started the company, there would be an unspoken pressure that anything other than writing the software would be a bad use of time.  That’s all well and good, but this is a team of three people, and before we all start working with our heads down, we need to have a plan, and we need to make sure that we’re all working as effectively as we can.

In my last company, we never made those preparations, the product was being developed and we had to attempt to create a working structure and a plan as we went along.  Not this time.  This time we’ve created a “start” date; 1st August 2010.  That’s the official, birthday of the new company.  All the time up until then is preparation, and all the preparation is about making sure the team of people will be as effective as possible from the start.  Here are some of the things we’ve been working on this week in preparation:

How we communicate with each other (see my other blog)
Setting up our hosting provider, security and systems
Choosing and setting up a CRM, mail etc 
Establishing a task list and priorities
Sourcing a logo designer (really time consuming)
Incorporation forms and banking services
Writing a new software framework (it’s called “Flow” and it’s cool)

I know that if we had tried to start building the software before we’d done these things, then all of them would have been really stressful because they would have felt like they were taking time away from the product. Equally, we know you can’t prepare forever, and we‘re all looking forward to when we do start the product proper.

Excitement levels: Rising

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Business: Art or science?

Hi, I’m Mark (far right in the pic) and the other two are my business partner, Mike (left) and my trusty tech guru, Roger (middle).  We’re embarking on a new company venture.  We’re going to write some software, sell some software, make people happy, and then sell the company.  Sounds easy.  It sounds even easier when I tell you I’ve just finished seven years at; a company I helped to start, where we wrote some software, sold some software, made (some) people happy, and then sold the company (twice).

If the job of creating new companies is more a science than an art, then it would seem pretty safe to assume that, having done it once, I should find it easier to do it again.  Mind you, if it’s more an art than a science, maybe the mix of people, timing and choices were just right at and I have no way of using that to replicate it.

In this blog, I’ll be recording the events as the weeks unfold and explaining the choices we make.  I intend to make choices based on logic and experience and see where that takes us.  Along the way, I’ll be hoping to put the full force of my management philosophy into action, and you can read more about that specifically at

So, deep breath, and here goes.