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.

 

Learning Failing Fast The Hard Way

What Is Failing Fast?

Simply put, failing fast means you find out right away that your idea, concept, new product is a dud, so you can either stop what you are doing or make some serious corrections.  But failing really means failing, and it generally means giving up earlier in the process.  It’s a good thing, and something like 90% of tech companies I run into ignore.   Tech guys hold fast to their concept way beyond when it was time to give up.  I know, I am one of these guys.

Start-ups Need To Fail Faster

Deep into Brad Feld’s book “Do More Faster”, there is a short chapter on failing fast for start-ups.  What his writer, because it was written by other entrepreneurs, is saying is find out right away if the product or service you are creating is going to make it or not make it financially.  Trust me, this is a definite area I have completely failed at, and I have followed around other people’s failing ideas like a pig stuck in the mud.  A lot of this is because of a lack of experience.  All that corporate experience I have gained over the years do not count, because what you need for a start-up is not what you need for a corporate gig.

Failing Even Bigger And Slower

But I think failing fast is not just a concept for start-ups.  In most big companies they have made failing slow an art form.  To be 80% more efficient corporations should stop wasting their time with concepts that failing earlier.  If they did this, billions would be saved.  In fact, entire industries have disappeared because corporations were pursuing failing concept for years.  It keeps lots of employed, but it is oh so annoying. I was talking with somebody today about a large tech company acquiring a small tech company recently.  What typically happens next is complete paralysis.  It’s like a big corporate giant eats the small company and then anything that resembles change become nearly impossible or so institutional that nobody wants to fail at anything.  So how can you fail fast in that situation.

Smaller Means Nimbler

So this is where small start-ups have an advantage.  Before blowing millions or billions, a small tech start-up can take a few small actions to end the hypocrisy and stupidity early on.  They can create a prototype or barely working product and find out from customers if they are going to pay, use it or whatever they need to prove the market works.  Even that may have the unintended consequence of telling the entrepreneur to go ahead with a product or service, when they should have just failed right there.  Let’s say you interviewed the wrong people who told you the wrong information.  Well, you still have a chance to fail early, just not as early.

Misread Market Size

Now that I know better, it is best to start with market size, not product or even customer to determine if you should stop now and fail fast. Let’s say you have created a great service that a few people love, and while you are not making any money, you know you are doing good for the world and helping people.  I will give you an imaginary service, like a mobile app which gives men advice on what to do for the women in their lives and when to do it, like “buying flowers on a friday gets a 60% approval rating from women vs. Thursday”.  Ok, cool app, mobile app, even runs and works and all that jazz.  But then will people pay for it and how many.  Sudden you add it up, wow, if I collect that 50 cents from the 1,000,000 potential real customers, and only .0001 pay, then wow I will have made $5000 on this venture in total.  Well, just fail now!  It may have been cool, but trust me I have been involved with a not so profitable business for many years with no exit strategy and it sucks.

Quit, But Don’t Always Quit

I am not saying that you should quit your venture right now, I am just saying stop taking years to figure out that there is no money to be made and that you are wasting years of  your life.  You should just try to figure this out early on.  You need to know what the total market opportunity is.  In high-tech I now say when they use the words “Billions” I don’t like it.  I want to hear the words “Hundreds of Billions” or “Trillions” as far as market size.  Sometimes there are many reasons to stay in a business and see it through, but if you see a problem with your concept or your idea and the market does not make sense, then stop now and move on to something which can make you money and make a living.

 

Dealing with Feature Overload in Web Product Management

Simplify, Simplify Again, and Simplify a 3rd time

Having come into contact with at least 20 different websites and start-ups over the past 2 months, plus having to manage all the features in our new start-up Krowde, I am starting to see the light on the words “Simplify, Simply Again, and Simply a 3rd time”.  Back when we were at Caffeine Spaces in Boca Raton, someone wrote this on the dry erase board.  It has a lot of meaning to me and can be applied to so many aspects of building out a website or mobile app from design, functionality, marketing, architecture and other aspects of these tech start ups.  I am focused on product management in this context.  (but I could write another article on any of those disciplines)

Feature Junkie

It has a lot of meaning to me because I am a feature junkie. Everytime I come up with a new product or concept, I can think of  a million cool features.  This is what we do as creative people and when you combine that with a technologist, more specifically a web developer, you can have a thousand little features that are cool and different and meant to change the world, even a world within a world.  But overall, what you are doing with complexity sometimes, is really showing off your ego.    We all want to show off what we can do, how smart we are, and we are, but not always in business.  Trust me, it’s my downfall.  In web product management too many features and quite often the wrong features can be the death of a product or at least delay it indefinitely before it goes live.

What’s The Delay And I Want It All Now!

Now, if you think about it, how can you produce all these features when your time is limited.  That is not the real question.  The real question is what features are really needed first, and what features can’t wait.  I can’t really expound on the features in Krowde that I am talking about, but I can come up with an imaginary app that I probably will never create.  Let’s call it Park Finder, and let’s say it was being built for iOS and Android.

Anyway,  you have spec’d out the mobile app.  You have come up with a dozen great features from a map with icons, a search of that map, a link to that park’s page, a listing and a small profile per park, the ability to share that Park with your friends instantly via Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, an ability to talk about that park, an ability to upload pictures about that park for others to see, rate that park, a list of parks by ratings, park contact info, park office instant chat.  Wait a second!  Park office instant chat.  That needs to go into the list of “Would Like” stuff.  And that is the issue.  In fact, that list has a lot of cool stuff, but ultimately his park finder app could actually be live and working with just 3 features, a search, a map and a link to the website for that park.  All the other park finder features sound so good in your head and they are, but the customers don’t know what they don’t know.

Customers Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

I like saying this line and it has come back in many conversations, because it is really important and tied to the simplification concept.   The second issue with product complexity occurs in the mind of the technology founder.  Sometimes they think that more is better.  They think that the value increases with number and breadth of features.  But it is not exactly the same for the customer or customers.  Customers don’t always think the same or use the same features.  When only 5 out of 1000 users used that feature, then of course it was not very important.  Also, from a development standpoint, what about getting the thing finished and out to the market.  That is what is important.

Timing

Getting the Park app out into the market, with limited features is the best way to do it.  It is what Fried says in Rework, Brad Feld says in his blog and it makes common sense.  If you want to get your product out there and in the market, only include at first the core features, the features that make your product usable.  It will not fail because it does not have all the final pieces and bells and whistles you envision.  It may be that the park finder app may have been well received and done very well with only these basic features.  You have the time to add new features after that.  Add your sharing, commenting, rating and other features later on.  It is painful, but worth it and the difference in your app making or not making it to market.

What Can I Live Without?

In the end people are the problem, because even I have fallen into the “I want it all” trap.  And then I was the problem. You think you can have it all, but sometimes more doesn’t necessarily sell your product.  Sometimes less does.  Sometimes doing a small thing well is more critical than anything.  There are products and services that are bigger, feature rich, etc, but they are not for the small boot strapped start-up.  There is a cost associated with more, and sometimes those features never amount to anything or any usage.  The people you can’t always control, because they may be in charge and have the purse strings.  But at least you understand yourself what the issues are, and can say to yourself, what can I live without?

Jonah Berger’s Contagious Is Just That

Last month I wrote a blog article about how I adopted the e-reader app on my phone pretty late in the game and have actually read a few books, which is a complete conundrum in my current situation, where I find little personal time for much of anything.  So, getting myself back into reading a complete book whether it’s a novel or in my case a business or self-help book has been a complete challenge.  This all started when I forced myself to read ReWork by Jason Fried.  And since then I have read Venture Deals by Brad Feld and 10% Happier by Dan Harris.  But this past week I finally finished up Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, and quite frankly I have not read a book like this in a few years.  I have recommended Contagious to a dozen people developing a strategy for marketing their new Internet start-up.  The last time I had read a book like this was “Don’t Make Me Think“.  For years I moved and carried Don’t Make Me Think because it had so much practical value information in it you could put to use immediately.  If you have read it, you know why.

Why Is Contagious So Sharable?

Contagious explains very succinctly why people share stuff.  It uses example after example of why people pass on a Tweet or Youtube Video or why they suddenly desire a Mars Bar during the Mars Rover landing.  It puts together an understanding of human motivation that gives marketers a path towards making something big happen with a small ad budget.  It does not say how to do it, but what makes sense and what will work (if you can accomplish the task).

So, like Jonah Berger implies in his book, Contagious is a book of practical value when trying to figure out a way, particularly a guerrilla marketing approach to promoting something.    And some of the information in the book I have already shared probably with about 30 people over the past 30 days.  I guess I am a bit of a cheerleader when something is quite revealing like this book.  For instance, the book really gives a theoretical understanding of online sharing, what many business people know exists, understand the value, but don’t really understand the reasons why things are shared.  And not understanding the reasons and how Social Currency really works, many companies will miss the boat on this concept.  Berger gets to the heart of why a specific campaign works, why something is shared and how to change and improve upon something you want shared.

Propaganda

Years ago in high school we had a short class on propaganda and all the reasons why and how it works.  I think I covered this again in my MBA marketing class.  It is the standard, easy to understand, concepts like Joining The Bandwagon, or creating subliminal messaging.  It’s your typical autocratic, fascist government techniques, quite often applied in marketing.  It’s that Mad Men kind of stuff that we know exists in every ad, and we just take it for granted.  That is the world of advertising that is relatively straight forward, though having a class or two will give you an idea of the basic propaganda techniques so you too can become Jim Jones.  What Berger has explained in his book is that long before there was the Internet, Email, Twitter, Facebook and any other way we can share, buzz, text, update status, and contribute there were underlying principals a few marketers figured out (mostly by accident).  The concepts of sharing are end results marketers want, but to create that viral spark really requires sophistication that I could only guess at.  Some people got lucky over the years and he shows many examples in the book of what works and what did not work.

Sharing Is Actually Old School

So, what I finally realized as I finished reading this book is that the sharing principals Berger has written about are concepts that have been around since the dawn of man.  Humans have always told stories and always shared, but obviously not online at first.  We would share a story about something amazing with our friends.  We could talk in person, call on the phone, even write a physical letter.  This is nothing new, just when you put it in context with online sharing, it becomes more of a science, especially when, in Contagious, they do real research on things like why articles are the most emailed articles on The New York Times.  The results are quite surprising, though completely logical.

The Physiological

I am not going to spoil it and give you the complete Cliff Notes of Contagious, you need to go and read it yourself if you are in online marketing or interested in marketing.  What I found the most interesting aspect of Berger’s studies is that there was a physical or what he calls a physiological change in people who share things.  They are most compelled when they get goose bumps (my description) or feel a physical change based on what they have heard, and are compelled to share something.  It can be awe, laughter, crying or something like this.  This physical piece is critical to finding an answer to why people share.  Let me know if you read this book and if you have any thoughts about it.

 

 

 

How I Joined The e-Reader Bandwagon

Even though I keep up with a lot of technology and innovation going on, I had been in the dust bin of tech history when it came to e-Readers.  This just means I have/had no clue to what is going on, why or how it all worked.  I remember when the Kindle and the Nook appeared on the market, and I remember they were originally hardware that had migrated to software.  That was it.

Early Reader Goes Bust

Now, coming from a habitual childhood reading obsession,  you would think I would have picked up on the e-Reader revolution.  I mean it is true in England the libraries are being shut down!  I used to read 3 novels a week in high school, mostly science fiction, a bunch of magazines, and whatever I could get my hands on.  We had the New York Times delivered daily.  During my MBA years I often read the Wall Street Journal delivered to my home and even subscribed to the Harvard Business Review.  It was like $20 a copy 20 years ago.  Even in my early years while working at the phone company I would read, mainly for my MBA, tons and tons of magazines and books.  Later on, when I met my wife, she was an avid reader as well, we collected a massive amount of hard covers and paperbacks, magazines.

Newspapers End For Me

But alas, about 1999 I stopped ordering a newspaper.  So did a lot of you too, right?  I think about 2006 we tried the local Sun-Sentinel, because it was like $10 bucks for the entire year.  That bad boy piled up all around us. I will never get a newspaper delivered again.   Because I was evolving into a programmer around 1999, I really did not want to put my eyes on the computer after hours.  And then finally the nail in the coffin was having kids.  That time of finding a moment with a book alone became so rare, that I hardly would read one book a year.  I was mentally dead and I knew it!  In fact, the only reading I was doing in the past years was the guide in Japanese Suduko puzzle books.  When I say Suduko, I mean Nikoli, hand delivered from Japan.

Rework by Friedman Get’s Me Started in eBooks

I had been carrying around Jason Friedman’s “physical” book called Rework, the second book on start-ups he had written, and maybe I had started to read the first 4 chapters.  I probably read and reread those chapters like 3 times.  I never seemed to get through the book, nor could I remember where I had left the book.  Between work, kids, and everything else going on, the physical book Rework was not going to be read.  I was determined to read it though.  So that is the first real eBook I was determined to find a way to read online or on my mobile.  So, first thing I realized (I know I am late the game on this stuff, but apparently so is most of the world) is that if I could put it on my smartphone I would probably be able to find a way to read it.

iPads and Samsung Tab 3

You probably are saying to yourself, if you had 2 ipads and 2 Samsung Tab 3 tablets in our house, then how did I miss the whole eReader bandwagon.  Well, first off the two little boys we have at home would instantly grab any tablet we had in our hands and run off with it, and I was not exactly in a position to say no.  Then, like in a lot of families, the iPads started to get broken.  One broke and we got it fixed at the Apple store.  Then the second one broke and it could not be fixed (iPad v1).  So we ended up getting the boys their own Samsung Tab 3 tablets, each with special unbreakable covers.  I have a Galaxy SII, which is an antiquated smartphone.  Trust me, my nice LG and Galaxy 4 were both dropped in a fishtank.  But even when I had them I was not into eReading.  I was still traumatized by my years of programming and fear of staring at a computer.  At least that is one answer why I strayed from reading in general.

Rework Goes Digital

So at some point, somebody in my household, I won’t say who, finally said to me, hey you want an eBook, I can get them pirated at (whatever-whatever) site.  I was like, really, you can get me an eBook I want.  And she did.  I was able to put Rework on my Android phone and use UB Reader, which I believe came with my Android device, and life was good.  I set the font to 20+ point, so I practically would not need my reading glasses and went at it.  I found that turning the page with my thumb, skimming this zoomed in version, to be very doable.  It was the first time I went and fully read a whole book in years.  Trust me, I purchased 200 books in the past 15 years, I just hardly ever read them.  So once I had finished Rework, I went back to that special person and asked her if she could get me book x, book y, and book z.  In fact, she was able to get me a lot of the books I wanted to read, and books that I did not ever think of reading.

Travel, Live, Read

On the road you find eReading to be quite useful.  I rarely travel for business, but now when I do I know to load up on my smartphone.  So, what I am telling most of you (any one of you) who read my blog, is eReading is not just better than a physical book, it is the physical book with a ton of features you don’t get when reading a real book.  I am able to grab a section of a book, a quote, copy it and send it off to my colleagues with my comments.  I am able to bookmark digitally.  I am able to read a book on my smartphone, pop it down from my Dropbox and plop it on iPad or Samsung Tab 3 and continue reading there.  On UB Reader for instance, I am able to not just read this format called .epub books, but I am reading .pdf format as well. Suddenly I was able to get back into reading novels, self-help, magazines ( I got a copy of national geographic on my smartphone).  I was able to reconnect and start reading again.

The Non-Reading Future Ahead Of Us

I am hearing more and more that the future for younger and younger people is less reading.  I was believing this, but now that I have become an eReader myself, I think that this is not necessarily what will happen.  I think access and speed of reading may actually increase.  What is happening is you can digitally get any book from the past or present within seconds, and that has created an opportunity for those who want to read more to be able to get and read what they want, wherever they are.  So if you have not yet tried an eBook, give it a try, and like me you may have rediscovered reading.