Sick Start-up Syndrome

While managing DSX Labs for the past year, I have come across a variety tech start-ups in South Florida, mainly because we were running tech start-up pitch events in Boca Raton at The Greenhouse.

They range from 1 guy with just an idea to 3 people with a full blown app or website. They can have 100 years of combined experience or none at all.  We had a few 15 to 17 year olds interested in starting their own tech company.  There have been 1 or 2 where the entrepreneurs were in their 70s

Out of the 100 start-ups we met with, there were common patterns you could immediately identify.  These patterns can be success related or potential failure related. I call them patterns because they appear over and over again.  This is a generalization. I am being specific about a start-up.  And you know that generalizations could be wrong.  So this is just opinion.

Here are my list of start-up syndromes you need to look out for.  It’s like looking at your body in the mirror.  Some symptoms are obvious, some are not.

No Strategic Advantage
I have run into this myself.  You get going in some specific tech start-up direction.  You have a product.  You have built out some serious code!  Yet, you or you and your partners can not come up with a strategic advantage vs. a competitor.  Face it, you are building a commodity product at this point!

How To Fix: If it is early on, you can pivot or change something slightly that makes you competitive.  But pivoting will take some serious pain and some capital.  It may not be possible. You have to have a compelling reason or value proposition for customers.  Find it immediately.  Sometimes it is right in front of you and you are ignoring it.

Tech Svengali Has Taken Over The Show
This I have seen many times.  The actual business owners have been mesmerized and persuaded by some tech guy to let him make all the decisions. Yet, either he or she is not really all that he says he is or really has no clue what the market wants.  The tech Svengali may actually have their best interest at heart for you. But they are not you!

How To Fix: Sadly enough, if this has gone on too far it could be the death of the start-up.  Start-up owners need to be in charge of their ventures and give it direction.  The solution is often to let him go and if it is too late, it could be time to shut down the operation.

Money Looking For A Place To Spend It!
Sometimes in some rare cases, there is a partner or a person with a boatload of personal wealth looking to hit the next one out of the park.  They are looking at Facebook and saying “hey I can do that!”  But they are forgetting one thing; they don’t know anything about tech, or their knowledge is cloudy because they themselves are not the demographic they are serving.  So they spend like crazy, hire tons of people and find themselves in a pickle.

How To Fix: My recommendation to these want to be billionaires is stop being the owner and start being the investor when you have the capital. There are a good 20 ventures in south Florida right now that could use $50k and have a great start-up that needs capital.  Instead of spending $300k on your “idea” (which is just an idea) become the investor and invest in 6 start-up ventures. At least then you will have 6 lottery tickets and not 1.

One Feature Does Not Make A Solution
I have had a bunch of start-ups come to me with a concept that is simply a smaller piece of a larger puzzle.  For instance, I have heard of a few improvements to dating businesses.  So the start-up concept is a small piece of what dating sites do, and can’t really be a product unto itself.  Or another good example is a site that just does nice 3D products for sale.

How To Fix: Typically I would recommend that the start-up goes back and rethinks the whole idea.  Just a small part of something bigger is not enough.  One way to fix this is to pivot into being a B2B software provider. So instead of selling 3D products yourself, your start-up provides the technology for other e-commerce companies. Different market, but then you can focus on a narrow feature you offer!

Nobody Is In Charge
A single person building a start-up without a partner or team is an issue. What is a bigger issue is a group of founders with nobody actually in charge.  When they ask you, the consultant, to be in charge and be the decision-maker, you know they have bigger issues than you can really deal with in one session.

How To Fix: One of the partners has to be the CEO.  There has to be an ultimate decision-maker.  If you can’t make that decision, then maybe the start-up should end now.

Can’t Describe What You Do
I have had this problem myself several times.  It is a common problem. Why does this happen?  My answer to why it happens to me is if you spend a year or longer on a start-up you start to lose you way (and you mind) and you end up changing the business around,  You get lost as to what you ultimate do. This is especially true if you are pivoting or evolving to something else. And we are always evolving. What is your service and can you describe it?  If not, you have to recognize the problem and fix it.

How To Fix: Best to meet to mentors and advisers and figure this out.  I had a great question asked of me recently about my start-up. That question was “What Was The Aha Moment?”  At that moment I went back in time and thought carefully about that moment. This is the moment when you first had the idea.  Sometimes that moment describes the problem you are solving and ultimately putting together a solution statement solves that problem.

That’s it for now.  I could add a hundred of these items to this blog, but I am publishing anyway.  Maybe there will be a part II.

Have a great day!

Daddy are you going to get an upgrade?

The first time I realized that the english language was going be changed by tablet and computer technology like never before, was when my 3 year old, at the time, announced at the park that he wanted to go to the “Next Level”. I pointed at the other side of the park and asked “Is that the Next Level over there?”  His answer was yes.  Next, we got into an argument and I told him no about something.  Can’t remember what it was.  He announced that mommy was check and daddy is an X.

We immediately knew this was from letting him play on an iPad. We had let him play learning games on his iPad 1.  He had taken the little forms and methods of using play and learning games and applied it to us.  It sounded funny, and we all had a laugh. It had less to do with computer games destroying his mind, but rather the computer systems or iPad had given him comparative tools to explain things in ways that we had not heard before.

Fast forward 2 years later and there seems to be a lot of these words that he uses at times.  The big one we hear from him and his older brother is Glitch. They announce when the game is stuck or broken or dies that there is a Glitch.  It is when they take this out of the tech world and say something like my arm has a Glitch.  You have to wonder what is going on inside their brains.

The other word they seem to apply to everything is upgrade.  Daddy are you going to get an upgrade?  This would be in reference to getting me fixed up at the doctor or maybe a nicer meal at a restaurant. The other work they use a lot is Hack.  Are you going to hack it daddy?  This means that we are going to use some secretive method to do it, whatever it is.  They have picked up on the series Life Hacks.

I guess the English language is changing before our eyes and these words are going to be more and more common.  It is not that they are not incorrect, its that they tech world is coming to the non-tech world.  The application of the words make sense, but it is like the robot learning about the world. These kids brought up on tablets are like little computers learning the world and applying what they know to it.

 

Published My Second Book About Start-ups

This morning, February 23, 2015, I published my second book entitled “How To Give An Elevator Pitch For Tech Start-Ups“.  The book was self-published through CreateSpace.com, an Amazon.com company.

This book comes from my experience running tech start-up pitch events over the past year at DSXlabs.com at The Greenhouse in Boca Raton.

If you are interested in buying a copy, it is as simple as going to Amazon.com and searching for “Gudema”, my last name.  You will see both my first book and my second book to be purchased together.

Contact me if you are trying to publish a book and need any guidance to the CreateSpace.com process.

Starting In The Front-End vs. Back-End Web Development

Having been around a lot of website & app development for the past 15 years, I see two major ways to pursue a web or app solution.

You can either approach it from the front or the back.  This just means that either the project starts with design (the front) or it starts with code and database development (the back).

Let’s just say the front-end design approach is more suited to success these days in creating a web or mobile app.  It has more of an agile (not the method, but really agile) way about it. If you are going to develop a software app, showing customers what you are going to first develop, then develop it, makes total sense.  This is all my opinion though.  When I hear that a company is going to develop all the back-end tech first and then figure out how the app will be approached from a customer perspective, I get a little nervous.  The front-end generally dictates the back-end.  But, once again, there are a lot of perspectives on this.  If we were developing 50 years ago, and were using a mainframe, we would have to build the back-end first, because there was virtually no front-end.

However, in todays environment, the largest of applications require some sort of front-end design sooner than later (preferably upfront).  I will give some great examples of success at the end of this article.

In modern web dev apps I generally see a front-side approach.  That does not mean that the back-side is not a way to develop.  It would really depend on the type of project.  It can turn to a situation where the front and back meet in the middle. That Middle approach may be a happy medium.  The Middle approach to me is just the second stage of the Front-End.

Back-End Approach

If the project is completely not dependent on customer user interface design or known business model constraints then back-end makes sense.  A good example would be developing an API.  An API (Application Programming Interface) is a way computers connection and pass information around.  So without any serious user interface, an API generally has no front-end.  But even with an API, I prefer a front-end approach, because sometimes it take a front-end to understand how the API needs to work. Another example would be a database solution that has no user interface.  Let’s face it, if there is a User Interface somewhere involved, even an administration screen, the front-end approach makes total sense.

Front-End Approach

The Front-End approach is relatively straight forward.  One tech team I work with typically will design as many screens as possible in advance, so they have identified all the necessary back-end programming needed.  Once the company or client has agreed to all these designs, they move on to an HTML/CSS version.  At the same time, they typically will start to do some of the heavy lifting back-end parts of the project.  This depends on the sophistication and complexity of the application.  So the Front-End approach ends up meeting the app code in the middle.  It’s a necessity.

The Iterative Approach

During project development, software development companies find stuff that needs to be added or fixed.  I always refer to this as the plumber who needs to open up the wall to find out what needs to be done.  No project is exactly the same as the design.  There are always slight changes, typically made by the product owner/manager. These are the fixes you could not think of initially or bugs that come into the process by mistake or because of an unexpected sequence of events (stuff you could not foretell).

After the first version of a live software project, also called a Beta or an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), there is the next version.  Typically these next versions and changes don’t always start from the Front-End, unless there is a redesign.  The next set of changes go through the same set of processes again and again.

The Final Point

Well, let’s just say that Back-End driven development is good for certain types of projects.  Let’s just say that it can lead to a major problem if the project is consumer/customer facing or consumer oriented, especially if the Back-End driven project was not developed with real customers in mind.  If the customers enter the process later, it may still be ok, especially if there is a budget to redevelop the entire project (front-end design) from scratch.  Most start-ups and divisions of companies don’t have the luxury of being like a government project.  There are many reasons why software projects fail or have to be redeveloped from the beginning.  In order to make sure this does not happen, starting with the Front-End method of development can help seriously reduce this problem.

Remember to buy my book.  Just click this link and it will take you to Amazon.com, where you can purchase Thinking Like A Start-Up.

Publishing Your Own Book For Free (For Real This Time)

This morning I published my book Thinking Like A Start-Up!  It is available in paperback form for $19.95 before a discount and for the Kindle for $9.95.  The book is about 214 pages and has a lot of thoughts about start-ups.  It is meant for start-ups but also corporate IT and product management professionals.   You can click this link to go buy my book on Amazon.com.  I promote you to do it.  I also promote you to write up a bang up review and give me 5 stars on Amazon.com.  Now if you are my relative or a good friend, this is a given.  If you are just by chance reading my blog because you randomly found it, then please read my book and give it whatever review you want.  I am just happy you have heard about my book.

I think it is a pretty good book.  You can beg to differ.  Does matter much to me.  Most important to me is getting a few sales and getting the book out there!

On October 21, 2014 I wrote a blog article about how to publish your own book for free.  In that article I mentioned a website called Createspace.com, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com, where you can publish your book. I have heard of a dozen of these sites out there, but if you are going to do it, Amazon.com sounds pretty good to me.   This article will show how I went ahead with publishing my book, despite a bunch of negatives.  And at this point, my Amazon.com book is now available, as of this morning, and I actually saw 5 sales in the royalty report.  I am actually making $67.25!  I am ecstatic.

When They Say Something Is Free, You Know There Is Always A Catch!

What I did notice along the way is you can pay for expertise and services.  I just decided to skip these add-ons.  Createspace.com has a service where they will make a cover for you for, for example.  They have paid services where they will edit your book, carry out design services, publicize and market your book and various other services.  I would believe these services are excellent.  But I was determined to publish my book for free!

The Negatives

I would say the biggest negative is my book is pretty plain and simple.  If you look at comparable books, they have nicer covers.  The other books have cooler graphics.  They probably have much better, nicely edited writing.  I did my own editing and proofing.  So it may be ugly in parts. But the biggest issue I ran into is I did not pay for Kindle conversion services.  So, when I looked over what happened in moving over the documents to the Kindle version is the book is pretty unreadable.  This was mainly because I did not put in the time to do the Kindle conversion properly myself.  I just took the print version in a word .doc form and jammed it into the Amazon Kindle site.   I also realized late in the process that I probably should have printed the book under my corporate name, not my name personally.  So, you will notice when you buy my book, I, Dan Gudema, is the publisher.  This may seem a little unprofessional.

You Pay For Professionalism

Another issue I ran into is I decided late in the game to add these quotes and quips to each chapter. When I showed this to my cartoonist friend, he wanted to create graphics for the book.  A week later, I called him and he confirmed that it would take him at least a month or 2 to create these graphics.  Even he said, well why don’t you just publish you book today and we will add the graphics later on. Sorry about that.  My first version of Thinking Like A Start-Up will not be that nice…. but there is always going to be a nicer edition 2 out.  Finally, another weird issue I found out about at the last minute is Createspace.com will not publish your ebook or Kindle version.  I had to go to http://Kdp.amazon.com and it almost felt I like was starting over with the process, which did not make a lot of sense to me.  I may be adding another article covering exactly step by step what to do with the Kindle version, because it was a bit rough, and what came out of it was rough.  So, if you can afford it, pay a publisher to do it right.  If you are cheap like me, then do it yourself!

What I Learned From This Experience?

Well, first off it has come to the point where anybody can create a book and do it for free.  My point in this blog article is I just feel sometimes you just have to stop talking and do something.  I needed closure.  I realize there may be a spelling issue here or there.  I also realized there may be some run-on sentences, sentence structure problems or wording issues. There are definitely some minor glitches in the book.  but you know, that’s life when you are self-publishing.  The point is, sometimes you just need to go for it, whatever it is and find out what happens.

Publishing Disintermediation

As far as the overall view here. What I am seeing is the removal of the middle man.  If we can all publish books on what we want to pontificate on, and we are able to get people to actually buy our stuff, we are seriously removing the agent and publisher from the process.  Now, in my case Amazon.com is taking a hefty fee, like 55% of the sale, but who cares, I was able to publish my book!

Dr. Frankenstein The Writer

So, I experimented and made $67.25.  Not sure if I will make a dime more.  At least I am hoping to double that, as long as family and relatives feel obligated to buy my book. I also put 100 names of family, friends and colleagues that I acknowledge in the book (to get them to buy the book)!  This is a silly practice, but maybe it will get me an additional 3 sales.  I would like my publishing experiment to be a money making venture.  However, for now that will have to wait.  I am about 75% complete with my next mini book, which is going to be the first in a series on the tools that tech start-ups to get started, get presentable to investors and generally figure things out.

 

 

How To Migrate A Massive WordPress Site

A client of mine called me and told me their WordPress website was growing too big for the server it was on, even though it was a VPS, that the WordPress site was going offline periodically.  They asked me if I could help them migrate this gigantic site.

When I refer to gigantic and WordPress in the same sentence, to me that simply means that instead of megabytes of data in the database they are dealing with gigabytes of data in the database.  And instead of thousands of files, there are let’s say hundreds of thousands of files.

Small Biz Now Has Enterprise Level Issues

Luckily I have dealt with both the small and large servers over the years.  The real question has always been, can WordPress handle this high volume of DB and File issues.  Well, it can, but the issues have to be thought out and a problem like this turns from dealing with minor WordPress hick-ups to corporate-level Unix issues.

Why They Had To Migrate

Their server was just not able to handle what they were doing in terms of server speed, hard drive space, etc.  And this was causing the website to be unmanageable.  So, it was time to migrate. However, this was not your run of the mill WordPress migration.  It had all kinds of potential problems associated with it, like thousands of uploaded files, hundreds of thousands of records in some tables.

Why My Normal Tools Won’t Work

For instance, the database was too big to download using PHPMyAdmin.  Not that this is a big deal, it’s just if you have been a WordPress person for the last 5 to 10 years like me, you may not have all the tools in the tool chest to deal with this. I typically use a desktop ftp program to do this stuff, but not for this size. Using local ftp clients means downloading to your Mac or PC. It is not recommended at this level. For instance, if you are not on a fast enough download client, you are screwed…

The Tools

The reason I am writing this blog entry is so I can grab all those tools again in the following order in order to do this kind of migration again.

Here Are The Steps I took:

  1. Sized out the proper new server for the client. (My preference is StormOnDemand by Liquid Web, WHM/Cpanel cloud)
  2. Had the client buy the new server and handed over to me the login credentials.
  3. Received all the login credentials I need from the original server.
  4. Created a new website in WHM/Cpanel, generating a new IP.
  5. Created a temporary domain name for the new site and pointed the DNS to the IP.
  6. Created a Database Name, Database User in CPanel with the same name as the old DB Name and User.
  7. From the Shell command line (I use putty.exe) I used the tar command to zip up all the files beneath public_html.
  8. From the Shell command line I ran a mysqldump of the old database, creating a command line .sql file.
  9. From the Shell command line I ran FTP as new account name (not root) on new server and Put the tar file (like files.tar.gz) onto the new server.  (it was in the multigigs)
  10. From the Shell command line I ran FTP and Put the .sql file onto the new server. (it was over a gig)
  11. On the new server from the shell I unzipped the tar file.  Remember to position this right above where you want it to land.
  12. On the new server I switched over to root user (su root) to be able to import mysql.
  13. On the new server from the shell I ran a mysql import command which updated the database.
  14. Finally, while in test mode, there were two lines wp_options which need to point to the right domain.
  15. Make sure all the previous plugins are activated.
  16. We tested the new site with the temp domain name.
  17. Once we were ready, we switch the old IP at the DNS record to the new IP.
  18. Final thing is to rename the site name from the temp domain name to the actual domain name.
  19. Everything went relative smoothly and the site migrated.

That is all the actions I took, now here are the commands I used specifically:

he tar command to zip up the files to a .gz from right above the public_html directory:

The tar command to unzip the files from a .gz right above the new public_html directory:

The FTP commands I used to connect from Linux server to Linux Server:

The mysql command I used to dump the entire mysql database at the command line on the old server:

The mysql command I used import the entire mysql database at the command line on the new server:

Conclusion

Hopefully if you are reading this, you will use this to reduce the amount of time I took looking around the web for the right commands to do this. You may have to look up those other websites, because each of these commands have dozens of options. For instance, if you need to move more than one file at a time, using FTP, you would have to use mput and not put. So, keep up the good work. I hopefully will use this guide for myself next time.

How To Run A Successful Tech Start-up/Networking Pitch Event

After 10 years of attending events by Gold Coast Venture Capital, the EDC, The Funding Post, MIT, eMerge Americas, SFIMA, SFTA, New Tech Community, Miami Innovation Fund and probably 5 or 6 other groups in South Florida, I decided we would run our own tech pitch event here at @dsxlabs in The Greenhouse in Boca Raton.   We ran the first event on Wednesday, October 15th. I heard it was a great success from the attendees.  We are running a follow up event on Wednesday, November 19th at 6pm at The Greenhouse.  To learn more click here.

Would I Pitch?

I am definitely not new at giving pitches to raise capital myself.  I have proven to be quite average.  But I keep on trying.  I have given about 4 pitches this year alone for my own start-up.  What I was trying to do with this event is to make sure the attendees get what they need from the event, the best I could help them.

More About Pitches

I am trying to classify these pitch events in his blog article. I attended 2 FundingPost.com events this year.  They are good at what they do and really serve the venture and angel community and not the entrepreneur community well.

Most of these funding events are centered around a successful entrepreneur, an Angel Investor speaking or a Venture Capitalist speaking or a panel or a combination of both.  And typically 75% of the event revolves around these speakers and panels.  These types of events are good.  I have been to quite a few and learned a bunch of stuff.   Some allow for pitches after the event, some don’t.  Some charge, some don’t. They are all different.

Problem for all the entrepreneurs with these typical events is they don’t really get the exposure they need and usually there is not enough time at the end for the entrepreneur to make the contacts with potential investors that is needed. What people don’t understand is trust is probably the number one issue when investors look at tech start=ups.  Will this tech start-up survive and can this guy, gal do the job?

What Is A Tech Start-up Pitch?

By pitch, I mean a person gets up and sells their concept to a crowd, which could have a bunch of investors, angels, etc.  So we have established pitching for seed capital, for instance, requires getting up and saying what you do, the market, how you are going to market, how much capital you need, etc.

What Is The Difference Between Pitch Types?

There are 3 types of pitches.

A Pitch Deck Pitch

There is the old standard Pitch Deck presentation.  It would typically be a 10-30 page powerpoint presentation.  There are a few alternatives out there like Prezi and Google Presentations.  At this time I would highly recommend against both those alternatives.  Prezi is a terrific app, but it is a bit of black hole in terms of your time and it can be distracting to viewers if not done well.  Google presentations may have gotten better but last time I tried it, it was just useless.  Plus you need a screen and hardware to run a pitch deck presentation.  This is an old school way of pitching now.

A 3 Minute Elevator Pitch.

In 3 minutes you need to cover 5 core areas for most investors to peak their interest.  They are what is it?  what’s your business model? what is your market size? how you get to market?  and what do you need and why are you pitching?  Not easy to cover in 180 seconds.  That is the pitch I prefer though for investors to get a sense of what you do and your capability to explain it.

A 1 Minute Pitch

I did one of these at a recent FundingPost.com event in Miami.  For about 50% of the people pitching it just turns into a disaster.  At the event I attended where I pitched 2 entrepreneurs never got past saying hello. They were totally not where they should have been at the 30 seconds/half time. It is virtually impossible to get  your points across in this manner, so I don’t recommend running a 1 minute pitch.  It is a waste of time.

My Philosophy

We are focused on running events which help entrepreneurs, by giving them time to pitch and giving them the time they need to network with potential investors, advisors, co-founders, tech partners, business partners and other resources.  So, we spend a little bit of time on letting companies pitch, have no or little speaking (that’s what other events do) and we let people mingle using CEO Space techniques.

So, when are we doing the next one.

We just announced our 2nd tech start-up pitch event and networking on Wednesday, November 19th at The Greenhouse run by @DSXLabs and The BRIC (Boca Raton Innovation Center). I am starting to search for the 10 companies that will pitch.  At the first event about 1/3 got their pitch on track.  2/3 were lost.  A few did not use our format to answer those specific questions or got nervous.  It truly is nerve-racking to get up in front of an audience, especially your peers.  So I understand the nerves.  That is why I recommend to people pitching to have a piece of paper in front of them that keeps them on track if they lose their mind when they talk in public, like me!

If you are interested in attending or pitching at our next event then keep an eye on both our EventBrite and Meetup Group.  The best thing for you to do is join our Meetup Group, see below:

Boca Raton Tech Start-ups Meetup

Boca Raton, FL
86 Members

This is a group for Boca Raton and the vicinity entrepreneurs interested in web and mobile applications who have a tech start-up, or are interested in how to create a viable t…

Next Meetup

Attend Free Tech Start-up Pitch Event on Wednesday, November…

Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014, 6:00 PM
33 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

We also have a separate EventBrite listing:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dsx-labsthe-bric-tech-2nd-start-up-pitch-event-nov-19th-tickets-13965576415

 

Publishing Your Own Book For Free

40 years ago publishing a book was not always about how famous you are.  Today if you are famous, that generally equates to book sales. It used to be about the quality of the writing. I am still an avid reader and I aspired as a kid to be a writer.

In those days the only way you published a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, was sending in your print manuscript to a publisher.  I specifically would buy the Writer’s Guide, which still exists, but alas I never completed my stories, my books or anything that resembled a book.  I did, however, write two screenplays, which I have actually never sent off.  Still insecure and thinking I am not good enough to publish, I really never completed this journey.

A Perchance Meeting

About a month ago I ran into a publisher and asked him about how I would go about publishing a book based on my blogs.  It would cover most of the same subjects, but would be nicer, clearer, and directed at a specific audience.  He told me that typically it would cost me around $2,000 to put everything together to publish my book.  This did not sound good to me.  I am either too cheap, or more importantly, I don’t think I would actually make more than $2,000, so forget about that.  This would require selling 100 books.  Not a chance in hell.

However, he did direct me to a website called CreateSpace.com .  I started by creating an account on CreateSpace.com.  What I have noticed so far is you can spend about $2,000, but you can also go as far as you can with CreateSpace.com without spending a dime.  You just have to do your own work to get it done.

I started the publishing process, I am still waiting to see if there is a place that will require me to enter my credit card.  Has not happened so far.  I could be wrong.  I am trying to publishing without spending any money, and that is what this blog article is about.

Step 1  – Create An Account

I went to CreateSpace.com and created an account for myself. Very simply and easy to do.  No charge required.  CreateSpace.com assigns you a member ID.  You can log off and log back in easily.  Just mentioning because I am looking for any gotchas.

Step 2 – Create Your Book or Project

Second I clicked “Add A Project”.  They ask you if it is a book, a video, dvd, etc.   I said a book.  I entered the name Website Feature Discovery.  That’s my temporary name.  I added a subtitle. They ask a few other questions like if is a series, the author name and edition.  Nothing to complicated so far.  They then generate an ISBN Number for you in order to publish the book.  I realized, wait, I haven’t had to enter my credit card yet.  So as far as I know it is still going to not cost anything.

Step 3 – Trim and Word Template

You choose your book size.  The most common size is 6″ by 9″.  You can change that book size.  You can download a word document that is formatted exactly how your book will appear.  You can use this to create in Word the final book manuscript that is used to print the book.  Finally, there is a book cost calculator you can click to help you figure out how much the book will cost.

Step 4 – Interior

Ok, this was the first page where there was an optional cost of creating something more than a cream page color.  If you accept the common settings on the interior, it is still free.  If you want something special design services, fonts, etc, that starts at $199.  I clicked Skip That!

Step 5 – Cover

They have two free options and one paid option.  For free you can use their cover generator or upload a PDF file to spec with your cover (I am assuming color).  For $399 you can pay for design services.  I tried out their book cover generator and it seems like it works.  Have not yet spent the time finishing up using it, but is seems like it works…

Step 6 – Complete Setup

This is where you review the interior, cover and book options.  Once you have completed the set up, it is time to start building your manuscript.

They give you an estimate of how much it will cost to publish your book.  For instance my book is 130 pages and 6″ by 9″.  It comes down to about $2.50 per book.  They also cover how much royalty you will be making if you sell on Amazon, Kindle, in dollars, euros and pounds where your book will be available.  If I sold my book for $16.95, I would receive about $8 royalty per book.

So the royalty situation is not great, but at least it’s something, considering I have not put up a dime, just my time.  Hey that rhymes.

Lastly, once I publish my book, which I am calling “Thinking Start-ups”, will post that here!

 

 

 

 

 

DSX Labs & Finding Tech Community Space in Boca Raton

We Need An Office

Over the past 12 weeks I co-lead a group of tech community members in Boca Raton to develop a new tech shared space called DSX Labs, located inside The Greenhouse building at 5301 North Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida.  We moved into our space in July and next week, September will be our 2 month anniversary. We will be having an opening event on October 15th, 2014.

My Understanding Of Spaces

A tech space movement has been going on for several years around the country, including here in Florida, but Boca Raton has had it’s challenges and most recently it’s successes in these kinds of spaces. There are really several classifications of these kinds of tech spaces between co-working, incubator or accelerator.  The first most basic tech space is called co-working, which is a bunch of people who pay for a desk, couch or working at a tables typically.  This is not the same thing as executive suites, mostly because executives suites usually have all the people in offices, while co-working is meant to be collaborative and it costs a lot less than an office.  The second space, an incubator, in our area, tends to be associated with a non-profit or university.  The basics are the companies pay for office space and they tend to get some help from the incubator on direction, pitches, etc.  The accelerator, which came from Y-combinator and eventually Tech Stars is a specific curriculum combined with space, and often the owners put up some capital, so they are actually investors as well as mentors.

The  Next Question Is Why?

A lot of us, working independently, have tried to work at home, Starbucks or the libraries.  We need to be more professional with clients that are developing serious web and mobile applications for instance  There is a limit to how many times you can meet with clients at Starbucks and Panera Bread.  I have been working out of the house for the past 6 months.  Just imagine when my 4 year came running into a conference call and yelled “I have to go Potty!” There is a tech community in South Florida, and specifically in Boca Raton, worth interacting with.  These are the guys you want to be around and you meet up with, hopefully learn from and hopefully get some business or job with.  We had some fun at Caffeine Spaces last year, which was the real deal for tech community and shared space, but even within that space we had some issues with getting conference room time, finding space to be professional within.  It was great at the time though.  I am sure there are a dozen other reasons why we need an office.  Probably the top one is getting stuff done for me.

Evolving Space

So, I had set out about 5 months ago to look over a bunch of office spaces within Boca Raton.  Some were down the street, some were over at the beach, some were on route 1. But like the three little piggies, some were too big, some were too expensive and some were just right.  It is not an easy proposition to find space for technology companies in Boca Raton, though by my estimate there are something like 300+ IT related corporations within the city/town and probably about 50 or so techie  or web related start-ups.  And there has to be another 2,000 work at home techies in this area as well. I say techie loosely because I am considering SEO, online marketing and other web related firms as somewhat techie for these purposes. The question is how many work from home…

We can complain all we want about the fact that half the Boca Raton commercial real estate is empty, mainly because building owners want to rent spaces at no less than 5k square feet and no less than $20 a square foot to 40,000 square foot tenants.  And why not?  That is some serious rent.  The fact that most of the smaller spaces are either very expensive or dark and dank is another issue.  Expensive to a start-up is more than $500 a month rent.  And Boca Raton was not built for that. Unlike Delray Beach, West Palm and the City of Miami, Boca Raton does not have an big old downtown with run down buildings we can easily cut up and move into.  Boca Raton is really a suburban sprawl, evolving into a city still.  If you would consider Mizner Park a city… well you get the point.

Tech Ground Zero

So, it happened that one of the buildings I stepped into had already been creating a tech hub for the past 2 years called The Greenhouse. The Greenhouse, run by the Mark Wigder Companies, refurbed The Greenhouse and increased the building occupancy with many tech companies.  We did a deal and shortly after both DSX Labs and The Bric were located in the building.

DSX Labs

So what is DSX Labs?  It is not exactly a traditional tech shared co-working space, nor is it an incubator or accelerator the way they define those types of spaces.  For those of us who are consulting or driving business to technologists, especially high-end social networks and membership sites and mobile apps, this is a space to come and learn and cooperate with us.  We do welcome tech community members to visit us and for any other shared technology space in Boca Raton we welcome them to reciprocate, meaning if we have an event or space, you can come and use our space, as long as we can come and use yours.  We will have some limited space for paid tech start-ups to get an office, limited space for shared tech people, and satellite offices of tech related companies.  Though we have to select you to be in our space.   We are still working on the website for DSXLabs.com.  It will not be available for at least a few more days.  Hopefully we will get in the space and let everybody know where we are and what we can do for you.

 

Do Less, Do It Well, Get Paid

As we are homing in on the final features of Krowde, our new software platform, it occurred to me that doing one thing well as opposed to doing many things not so well makes more and more sense.  We need to do less!  We need to do that one thing we are doing quite well, and we need to prove our business model.  So this is the statement as to where we are at today.  It is not that clear still.

Krowde is a mobile platform for retail business to communicate with their customers.

Explaining Is The Challenge

That said, I have struggled with the most fundamental part of the start-up business process, which is explaining what we are building in one sentence.  That is a real problem.  It is enough of a problem that one of my mentors told me outright if you can’t explain what you got in one sentence then you probably have nothing and should consider quitting now!   While I do agree with him, I am also challenging myself to fix this problem.   And I know I can do it because I am a writer. I also ask mentors and friends to help me solve this problem. They just have to keep patient as I ask them to listen to me, while I ramble on about this stuff.

What Does This Have To Do With Do Less, Do It Well, Get Paid.

Well, what happens to guys like me is we get all excited by the technology.  We love this feature and that feature and this extension and that plugin thing.  Yes, there are a ton of cool things we could do with what we are doing!  Some of that is the endless possibilities of a web app.  But, the fact is that we need to reverse course, choose a micro niche market at first, reduce all our features to the bare minimum and then find out if customers are willing to pay for it.

How Does This Impact What We Do

So as we hammer down to the basic MVP (Minimum Viable Product), we are shedding features that can wait.  We are skipping systems and solutions that are not necessary now.  We are focused on just about getting to market and not all the things we could be doing. So the sentence about what we do; it do needs to be succinct and clear!  That is a challenge when we love to think about the possibilities of the future.  But the future is a long way off.

Get Cold To Tech

I just have one thing I want right now and that is both a working version and 10 customers testing it out.  Thinking is ok, but it all goes on the like to have list.