Week 2 for my weekly podcast just uploaded and I’m talking this week about creating good problems. Some highlights:
- If you don’t have the resources or product, still sell it! Vaporware is a good problem to have
- Solve problems you have today not tomorrow.
- Don’t create new problems (usually costs) by trying to prevent other ones
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I took some inspiration from Joel Gascoigne and have decided to create a weekly podcast (he does it daily). I absolutely am obsessed with SoundCloud right now and they make it very easy to record and upload directly from your computer. So here it is…my first podcast.
Entrepreneurial fears – launching, humility and failing
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I’ve been noticing a lot of comments on enterprise technology on Hacker News and elsewhere about it’s old, boring, and very easy to disrupt. I’d just like to clear the air about a few things.
First, the challenges of providing solutions to the enterprise business organizations are no different than the challenges any good business to consumer start-ups face. A couple of those being:
- What on earth is that the business actually want? How do we define? How long will it take? How much does it cost?
- Budgets, budgets, and budgets
- Security – the single greatest barrier to getting ANYTHING done technically in almost any environment. Imagine dealing with oAuth, but times 100.
- What interfaces are supported and connect to each other (Facebook’s API broken again??)
As probably most people would point out, no IT department can afford to house a development team with the likes of development talent at say Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. First, it’s not economically feasible. Second, it would be nearly impossible to attract that level of talent. Third, it’s not a reproducible process that can happen at every company.
So while we hear the massive failures about IT projects everyday, I would argue this is statistically (percentage wise) no different to millions of failing start-ups who don’t make it. This is another reason why many people choose to just use standardized (or “vanilla”) software and then customize it to suite specific business needs.
To take this a step further, I sometimes argue that any good project manager in enterprise IT consulting has the ability to be an entrepreneur. Therefore (like any good market), those that do have the capability to do so are more likely to leave IT consulting and start their own business. Thus reducing a large supply of good project managers.
I feel like I defend enterprise IT, and the reality is I’m not. I think we can do much in enterprise technology, but this requires a massive shift in thinking. Something we are still years away from.
I love the hammer and nail analogy. Why? Because it’s so easy for people to understand what the purpose and role of a tool is. Sounds trivial, but I think it’s very hard for humans to separate the utility of the hammer, the carpenter and how these translate into the utility of the output of their work. It’s way too often we correlate the output of the tool simply with the features of the tool. The technology sector is rampart with this type of thinking. There are literrally
millions billions of dollars spent every year on technology tools that we, as customers, believe are the sole reasons we either fail or achieve to “build our dream house”. Have we forgotten the importance and weight of the carpenter’s role?
Let’s say you decide one day you want to build a table. This table is going to be made using wood, nails and a hammer. All things being equal, let’s say you build this table with hammer A that has a utility of 10. You build a second table with hammer B and it has a utility of 15. You, the carpenter, have now created two tables, table A and table B, respective to their hammers. The tables are identical, but the utility is different. Now let’s say your utility as a carpenter is 5 (we’ll call this carpenter ‘ME’). The value of the tables is now: Table A – 50 and Table B – 75. Now, my carpenter friend (we’ll call this carpenter ’FR’) has a utility of 4 and he builds the same tables using the same respective hammers. He now has two tables at the following values: Table A – 40 and Table B – 60. So we can build a simple comparative matrix now. Table B built by FR has a higher utility than Table A built by ME but it was built by a less skilled carpenter! We therefore logically assume the hammer is the key driver for the overall utility, not because it has a higher multiplier, but because we believe we have better ability over assessing what the utility of the hammer is. We then therefore place much more importance on it.
There is so much discussion about our tools being broken and I believe that statistically it’s the carpenter that is affecting the overall output. Unfortunately it’s much easier for us as humans to draw the simple conclusion – the tool is broken, update my tool. Thus the hammer industry, or rather the technology tool industry, will continually go through cycles. New companies will be created year after year promising the dream house because you bought their shiny new hammer. I don’t doubt the necessity for these shiny new hammers, but I question how much weight we as humans put on them in order to create our dream house. Find a way for me to find a better carpenter, or fix the carpenter, and I’ll have my dream house…or maybe my dream table.
Today during lunchtime after a little midday run, I hopped in the shower at the office. I noticed there was a soap bottle with the label “Men’s Soap” and it got me thinking: What the hell is the difference between Men’s Soap and Women’s Soap? Well technically nothing really. Sure they might have done some studies that the smell is more appealing to men, but let’s look at this purely from a problem and solution perspective. I’m dirty and I need an agent to make myself clean – that agent is soap and water. If a woman was in the same situation she would come to the same exact conclusion. So why call it Men’s Soap? Because it’s much harder to sell something a horizontal product than it is a vertical product. Joel Spolsky talks about this as they begin to launch their “team coordination system” Trello. This also translate really well into the database market as well.
We live in age full of way too many damn choices. The paradox of choice inhibits our lives every day and the only way companies can quickly succeed is to make the choice as applicable to the person as possible. That being said, the long term success of selling “just soap” can significantly outweigh trying to create “Men’s Soap”, but selling “Men’s Soap” is substantially much easier.
P.S. – This also reminds me of the suggestion I gave someone recently on a HN thread: Ask HN: Lifehacker mentioned my app & traffic boosted. How to keep momentum? Where I told the OP to create use case examples for creating demand.