I’m a lousy entrepreneur. That means I’ve fail a lot and redo a lot. In the last post, I listed a bunch of myths, plus a rule, that make entrepreneurship harder than it needs to be. This one is about my weakest weakness.
Every team needs a sales person. I’m okay giving a presentation, but not great. People distract me. If they interrupt, I easily forget to keep moving the presentation along.
And I’m too bright for my own good. I’ll be giving a presentation and someone will ask a question. The answer springs up in my imagination like a long, winding road. I don’t know how much to tell them. And there are some interesting sites along the road. I’ll squint a little bit as I sift through what to say. People easily mistake that for looking confused or concerned.
Salespeople lie. Usually not in a bad way. They gloss over the unnecessary details, smudging the truth a bit, finishing the pitch. Of course there are more details, but they’re not appropriate in a sales meeting. My brain chases after details like a Labrador Retriever chases squirrels.
I’ve learned is that contractors need to be micromanaged if the task isn’t extremely simple. If the slightest detail isn’t specified, they’ll make something up or fake it. And every small task should end in a new test passing. Otherwise they’ll think it’s done when it’s not.
Have you heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect? This is where incompetent people will over-estimate their competence. They understand something, so they assume they understand what’s needed. There’s a corollary: “…high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.” I made that mistake managing others. I assumed they understood what I told them and that they understood the spec I wrote.
A lousy entrepreneur is who’s available
Maybe, with enough time, I can get PeopleCount off the ground with no funding and no committed help. It’s almost demo-able right now. One part is missing but I may be able to get a company to give me some software for free for the first half year. (Fingers crossed.)
But my brain keeps screaming: You shouldn’t be doing this alone! It’d be great to have a team of 4- someone doing sales, marketing, presentations and networking, someone designing the web pages, and a political science person helping with the content. Meanwhile, I work on the back-end and generate the vision to drive us all.
But for now, it’s all me… Plus I’ve got taxes to do and am looking for full-time work to calm my wife and son… Oh, and I need to finish the book. I’m sure there’s more. This is who’s accountable for transforming politics.
Please help. In 30 seconds, for no money, please put your email address on my announcement list. If you want to make my day, and strike a blow for America having a government that’s accountable to the people, make a donation, too.
PS: The next post will be more upbeat…
An entrepreneur is often very different from an inventor. Lots of people assume that: If someone has a good idea for a product or service, they’ll be able to build it. It’s not true.
Myth: A good inventor can be a successful entrepreneur
People assume that if you have “a great idea,” you can be successful.” It’s not true at all.
What’s true is that investors look for a good idea and either some kind of success already or the team has had success in the past. There are a million things that need to be done decently and some of them need to be done well. Rarely does a team of two even succeed. Pretty much the only time a single person succeeds is if they’re expanding a consulting business that already has a customer.
Entrepreneurs are similar. Unless you’re already a buddy of theirs, they assume the project isn’t worth doing unless you have everything but their part covered and they get a salary. They don’t say, “How about I come on board tentatively and help you put together the team.”
Myth: There’s a large, nurturing entrepreneur-support community
This isn’t true either. There is a entrepreneurial-team support community. But I haven’t found any help in forming a team.
I went to a few events, but found no support. There are people to talk to, but they’re mostly either busy or looking for something in a particular industry. Plus they’re all listening for standard businesses.
My guess is that the only way to find a team to do something new is to work on it either at a college or with buddies right after college. And you have to launch and prove it before any investors will be interested.
There is a large entrepreneurial community. And they have books and tutorials galore. But none seem to address the problems I’m having…
Myth: Everyone can network
Everyone assumes that social interaction isn’t a problem. I’m pretty normal socially, but not completely so. I’m fine when I start working with people at a job. But with meetings I’m not so good. I’ve been pretty nervous recently when I’ve pitched. I’m super-focused on the product and it takes a lot of work to switch back to the person I’m talking to.
And I can easily pause and have a flurry of thoughts go through my mind. The first risk is that I’ll lose track of what I was saying. The second is that I’ll think I said something that I really just thought. That can be confusing to the audience.
Unfortunate: Entrepreneurs shouldn’t act desperate
Occasionally I’m desperate. I can shake it off and realize it’s just the brain again, generating nerve-wracking scenarios. But it comes up at times. And everyone says not to show that at a meeting.
It’s unfortunate because it means I need to lie, or cover up. It turns out I’m actually accountable for being confident. (It’s not fair!)
Myth: If you can’t, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur
This is a big one. Really, if you can’t, you just think you can’t. I couldn’t do most of the things I’ve done. And it shows in the extra time it took and the failures I’ve had. But each time I managed to find a way around them.
But it’s an uphill battle. Please support me. In 30 seconds, for no money, please put your email address on my announcement list. If you want to make my day, and strike a blow for America having a government that’s accountable to the people, make a donation, too.
I’m publishing my daily progress. You’re welcome to check up on me… Blogging makes the site easier to find and helps me feel connected. And I’m looking for a job – (J) means I applied for a job and (B) means I published a blog post, (d) is a draft. Next:
- Implement new default settings for content (then view all in web UI)
- Split graph into per-answer graph.
- Add data so graphs are interesting
- (Publish a November newsletter)
- ?? Maybe I should ask people on LinkedIn for references?
Th 11/17: Phone interview.
W 11/16: Emails today, and some content (BB)
T 11/15: Fixed display! Worked on content. Created transcript for a video.
M 11/14: Interviewed. Mostly passed…
S 11/13: My son helped me straighten out my todo list (B)
T 11/8: Election, sigh…
F 11/4: Wow- 12 days without an
Th11/3: (J) Began newsletter… (Last entry till the 16th…)
W 11/2: New content is displaying in browser, a few errors remain (J)
T 11/1: Much of it’s working, fixed the json writer at 1am…
M 10/31: It’s coming together- need to write a json writer, too (bb)
S 10/30: Struggling to finish a blog post…
S 10/29: I thought I was on track to finishing, but need to use a new json parser.
F 10/28: (b)
Th10/27: Did some of it, maybe most, but bugs remain
W 10/26: Finish fixing syntax of json files containing draft content. -done (bbb,JJJJJ)
T 10/25: Gave a presentation to my Representative!
PS: I’m looking for a job to avoid taking too much from my meagre retirement savings.
Today is Tuesday, Oct 25, 2016. I gave a presentation to my congresswoman today around noon. (Apologies for the length. This is 1700 words- 3.4x normal…)
Last Thursday, the appointment had came through.I talked to a friend- he was excited for me. I spent the day trying to outline the talk, but kept writing things and realizing it was too much.
Friday I focused on trying to finish a demo. The web pages need a bit of work, and the content needs a lot. I had forgotten how much work goes into good questions. And sometimes I start looking up information about the issues and that can take a long time. When I did this a few years ago, a volunteer helped me. That was before I learned that corporations weren’t allowed to use volunteers. And now my family is too nervous about money to let me pay someone minimum wage, so I’m on my own…
Saturday I spent most of the day finishing an application for a fellowship and possibly an investment. I had read all through the website and didn’t find the dates, except that the application was due on Monday. Finally, at the end of the application, it said that the final selection was in June. That’s probably too late, but I sent it off anyway.
It’s a 2-year fellowship and they give $80,000. It didn’t say, but it sounded like per year. They said if there are 2 founders, they give $90,000. I was puzzled why they’d give more for two people. Also at the end of the application I saw where it said the amount is for two years, so it’s $40,000/year for one person (and $22,500 per year for each of two people.) That’s real money, but not enough to save me from needing a job… But the possibility of an investment is still there.
Luckily, Sunday my friend called back. He was horrified that I didn’t have the slides yet. With him listening, I was able to do a high-level outline. Then I prepped some food for dinner. I did more for an hour, then decided to spend just an hour on the demo. Big mistake. Suddenly the afternoon was over. He called. I had made a little progress. With him on the phone, I did most of the rest in about ten minutes. I shared the slides with him over Skype screen-share, and he trimmed them way down. It was so much better!
We talked again Monday morning and I outlined the changes I wanted to make. They took a while. I took a break which ended up being two hours. I couldn’t decide between 3 changes. When he called in the evening, it still wasn’t done. But with him on the phone, I finished most of it.
Tuesday morning he called and I gave him the presentation again. It needed a few changes, but those would be enough. He had heard some new things in the presentation and was even more enthusiastic about my success. We hung up and I finished the changes. I printed them while I showered and dressed. I got ready to leave, but they weren’t printed! My wife helped me to fix the printer, but we couldn’t. I saved the slides to pdf and put them on my website.
Presentation: I got to her office early, at 12:35 for the 1:00 appointment. I’d only have 30 minutes. The receptionist gracefully printed the slides for me. The congresswoman came back from lunch early and we started at 12:47.
I put the slides on the table: Creating Accountability in Politics
She was interested. A few times she talked about her experience, the huge efforts that she and her staff went to to be accountable. She reads over 300 messages from constituents every day. Other members of Congress are amazed. I presented a full model of accountability- the relationship between a boss and an employee. Then showed what that might look like for voters and a representative. Then showed how PeopleCount makes it easy. And then how it adds pressure to make it happen, and rewards when it does, and even makes it easier to replace an incumbent in an election. Mainly, it’ll ensure that Congress passes widely desired legislation, like overturning Citizens United and passing anti-corruption and anti-gerrymandering legislation.
She liked it! We talked till 1:30. She’s intrigued and supportive. Members of Congress are not allowed to endorse a product, but she’s almost willing to make some connections for me. Almost. She thinks I need to have to at least show it works on a small scale. Sigh…
To me, that’s just wrong. It’s the standard answer. It’s “best practice” for investors. Standard answers and best practices support the world we have. They support startups of teams in college, or young adults living in a garage, or serial entrepreneurs funding their new business themselves or with their flush connections. Best practices kept PeopleCount from being successful for the last four years. They ensured that Obama would regret Congress not being less divisive, as he said in his last State of the Union address.
She’s much more respectful of protocol than I am. She respects the people she’d introduce me to and wants to give them something more substantial. That’s normal.
Then I think of Obama, with big regrets that he couldn’t make Congress more productive and less divisive. If someone had a way to fix this he’d want to hear about it early. He’d find a way to support it. Especially if it’s odds of succeeding without support were small. (If I had had support 4 years ago, Citizens United would have been overturned by now, anti-corruption legislation and anti-gerrymandering legislation would have been passed, too.)
I sort of hated it at the end when she gave me encouragement. It’s certainly nice that she liked it. But without action, it doesn’t help at all. I don’t think encouragement even helps my attitude. I took a minute just now and did a bit of introspection. I think my brain thinks it makes the people giving the encouragement feel better. “I can’t donate, but I’ll pray for you.” I think my brain resents that. Plus the pretense that they’re doing enough.
I just saw- my brain thinks only I am making a decent effort at this. She’s working her butt off reading 300 letters a month atop a full schedule and huge workload and my brain thinks it’s not enough. Maybe I can blame that pettiness on listening to Trump too much. But it’s good to see- I’ll let that go…
My son is after me to apply to jobs. He worries even more than my wife. If I go back to work, I’m not going to be able to work on PeopleCount much. And I’m going to hate it. Every hour, in the back of my mind will be regret. Maybe even resentment. I can let that go, but it takes effort and my productivity is diminished, making working more stressful…
To me, the real reason to go back to work is small-mindedness. It’s the belief that “we need money. and it’s bad to borrow against the house, because PeopleCount won’t work.” It’s self-defeating…
The problem is, and has been, that I’ve needed help to get to launch. I could use about $50k to hire someone to help me finish and manage the workload. I could really use about $130k for the next 6 months. $50k (at least) for me, $30k for software contractors. And that’s without marketing costs… Even better would be to have a real partner. I keep trying to do it without sufficient resources…
Back in the car, I called my friend. He was mostly pleased. He took her side, launching into a “best practices” rant. Of course she has a valid point of view. But it could have turned out differently. And it still might. My congresswoman now has a new possibility for politics that works. There’s no knowing who she’ll talk to or what she’ll think of to say. And I can still write to her. Maybe I should even add a new slide…
And I thanked him. Profusely. I’ve always know that I shouldn’t be doing this alone. Except when I’m working on software or problem-solving, I work much better when I’m interacting with someone. But a partner continues to elude me… This time, he kept reaching out and it was enough.
And then my friend asked to borrow my car. He has his own start-up that hasn’t gotten off the ground. They have a team, but no demo yet. And they’re broke- credit cards maxed out. At the beginning of this month he expected to start living in his car, and then a friend donated the rent. Today the CEO’s car just broke down. My friend doesn’t want to lend his car because he might have to live in it soon…
My ritual before sleep is a bit of meditation. So many little bits of panic and fear, resentment and regret, blame and accusations, even shame and hopelessness, Feelings of being alone, abandoned, wishing life were over. Sadness at people’s inability to see, and my inability to paint a picture that works, or make enough progress. I let them all rise up. It’s okay. You’re just a brain, computing. The results of all that thinking and fearing are just thoughts, conclusions, guesses, fears. All those calculations are accurate, based on what you know. I accept them as the thoughts they are. You’re doing fine. You sent me all your messages, you’ve done you’re job. I’ll take responsibility for the rest.
It quiets down. And the truth is that we’re still eating and still healthy.
And we’re creating a life worth living. We’re even giving humanity the ability to design its own future. Not just the politicians or the scientists or the wealthy technocrats, but all of humanity, together. What did Helen Keller say?
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
Life goes on. Possibilities abound. Sometimes I think possibilities are so numerous because people are so blind to them, so brainwashed by what they know. The latter seems true, but even if more people were open-minded, possibilities are infinite…
I could use some help. So periodically I reach out to new people. Here’s a letter I wrote recently.
Dear hopefully-kindred spirit,
I’m 59, I earned math and computer science degrees from Stanford decades ago. I have a home, a wife, 2 sons and a dog. I’ve been a software engineer. It has been a decent life, good in many ways, but with many struggles. About a decade into my career I discovered that it was great for my works to make a difference in people’s lives. Since the turn of the century, I’ve been increasingly bothered about politics and the state of the world.
A few years ago, I took an interesting one-year course looking at life newly. I knew I was resigned about most of the problems in the world, but didn’t realize till then that my resignation wasn’t really by choice. And I saw that it made me unable to make a difference. It was especially obvious in politics. So I gave up my resignation and, just as an exercise, took a fresh look at politics.
We have exactly the results in politics our political system allows
After a few months of looking in new ways, doing research and trying to participate was that we have exactly the results that our political system allows. Whether it’s small government, a balanced budget, fairer taxes, an end to corruption or concerted action on climate change, our current system favors the way things currently are. And our thinking reacts to the current system and mainly strengthens it.
Of course, this is sort of obvious and makes sense. Politics has no rules in it except the many we give it. On the one hand, it’s not a natural phenomena. On the other, like ants organize, human tendencies have led us to organize as we have- mainly in hierarchies. A bit of disruption was added with the move to democracy, but mostly we drifted back to hierarchies. The president is at the head of a hierarchy. Each member of Congress is at the head of their staff, and as a representative is also the leader of their district or state.
Our ways of organizing and communicating don’t support Democracy
Similarly, each party is organized in a hierarchy. Each campaign is. Each special interest group. And for all these, the communication is mainly top-down.
Democracy isn’t top-down. It’s bottom up. Yet, except for the brief communication of voting, we have no bottom-up communication.
In politics, what do we want?
I have two questions. First, what do we want in politics? I listed a few results above, like a balanced budget or fair taxes. But what do we want in the nature of politics that will allow for that?
There are lots of ideas- democracy, representation, fairness, transparency, justice, and more. When I looked, what I saw is that we have a hierarchy of power with our representatives as leaders. Though they need voters to vote for them, there’s no other facet of accountability. So they’re our leaders much more than they are our public servants.
Since they’re not accountable to us, we can’t be responsible for what they do, for how they govern. In short, we don’t self govern.
And when I looked at this more and more, I saw that a system that supports accountability could deliver breathtaking results. Plus it could be added without changing a law.
The reason for my letter- shall we talk?
I haven’t been able to create it on my own. I simply lack the funding, the network, and probably the communication skills. Hence this letter. (And I apologize for it being so long…)
Would you be interested in helping create a new possibility for America, and humanity? If so, please contact me. You can email to me using my first name, here @PeopleCount.org. And if you just want to be notified when, someday, we finally go live, please add your email address to our announcement list.
The US is inching closer to a representative, accountable democracy. But it’s still a secret. Only a few of us know… This is about my trials and tribulations.
After 4 years of not finding any cofounders, I found one. Then he bailed.
Two months later, a guy contacted me on FounderDating and proposed to build my site. I said I couldn’t afford it. He convinced me to talk to him. It sounded much more affordable than not building it! It costs me as much to live as 3-5 people in India working full time…
In mid-December we planned to launch in March, almost doubling the 9-week schedule he provided. That was before he took 3 weeks to reach the 2-week mark. But really it was only half-way to the 2-week mark. And then after about 5 weeks, we had solidly reached the 2-week mark for the first half of the product.
Apparently he expected to just throw something together and it’d be good enough. He didn’t really want to understand what was required. And, despite what I asked him for, he expected to use whatever technology his people knew how to use. He was put out when I insisted we at least discuss it. He then asked for the second payment to start coding. That was not quite fully out of the realm of reasonable, so I paid him. I thought maybe I’d just get less than I bargained for. But then he disappeared. It took me 2 weeks to give up on him fully. He didn’t even have the courtesy to say he quit.
He didn’t want to be honest, either with me or himself. I wasn’t rude, or mean, I just wanted honesty, and he couldn’t face it. It was a painful failure. He took the money and ran. When I have time, I’ll pursue him in small claims court.
Post-Failure: Group Two
It took three weeks to find people, put a better spec together and get bids and check references. Of the eight groups, 6 submitted bids. I couldn’t afford the best one (I thought.) The references of the one we chose were outstanding. Group Two started in March.
Group Two was better. They wanted to start with a better spec and new story boards. It took time. And communication wasn’t too good. They work midnight to 8am… It made me write better specs, though (some of them they even followed!)
And one friend said he’d review their code, and I found a technically sophisticated woman to manage them, just as they began coding. But then she went silent! It turns out she fell ill or injured. I tried to keep in touch, but she never got back in touch with me. I don’t know what happened.
At least my friend would review their code. But then he got very busy at his new job. So I was doing all sorts of stuff and trying to manage Group Two at the same time. And managing isn’t a strong-suit of mine… It was stressful.
They were producing very slowly and weren’t communicating well. I started talking to one of the other groups- let’s call them Group C. And I informed Group Two. A couple days later, Two had made enormous progress! So I said goodbye to C and worked with Two.
But when I found time to test it more, it seemed shoddy. So I made time and dug under the covers, just as they claimed to be finishing the second software milestone. They were only about half way there, if you counted the details. And they had done things their own way, instead of using the algorithms I had designed and coded. Failure.
I tried to talk with them about the code. They sugar coated the story, ignored the details and asked for more time and money. Failure.
Post Failure: Group C
I began talking to C again, and on a Friday paid them a bit to start getting the code to Beta. They promised they’d charge me nothing to assess the code and would help get it to Beta quickly, maybe even by the next weekend! I ended the relationship with Group Two. At least they had worked honestly. And their failings were in line with normal humans- mainly poor communication. It was my fault, too. But there were lots of times when I asked them for status and didn’t hear back for days.
Sunday night I hadn’t heard from C- a bad sign. Monday night they said they couldn’t start till Wednesday, which they’d spend assessing the code- ouch! The engineer again promised he wouldn’t start charging until he was really coding. Friday he gave me a proposal to rewrite the code with a better framework. It would take $10k and 12 weeks. Ouch. It was reasonable. But when I read about the framework, there was a weak point. I asked them about that, and proposed a way to work around it. I didn’t hear back. Tuesday the project manager said the engineer was going to be working on a different project. He said he’d give me back half the money. I gave him lots of reasons to give me all of it back, but said I would accept half. He changed not a line of code and I didn’t hear from him again. Failure.
Post Failure- Group 4
Then Group 4 began. They had been late in the bidding, so didn’t seem very interested, but they came highly recommended. But now I’ve hired them and they seem to be working well. We were talking every night and every morning. Then they went silent for 2 days. I held my breath. The PM got in touch with the engineer and made apologies. The lead engineer bit off more than he could chew. He was trying to make progress and at every moment just needed a bit more time. Finally he made progress. Yesterday morning we had a long chat and he promised, again, to always be in communication. We’re human, it happens.
Of the three projects he had bitten off, one didn’t work, so I’ve taken that one. A second was too messy. The third he made progress on, then handed to someone else to finish while he went back to the second. He made progress today and checked some code in, but it needs more work. Meanwhile, I made progress on the third, some charts, but I can’t finish it. I’ll look for someone more proficient to help.
Late, Poor, but Committed
So, we were supposed to be launching in March. Now I’m hoping for June. More congressional primaries have come and gone. California’s primary is June 7th. I’m hoping we’ll be up by then, but it won’t be in time to make a difference.
I’m a good back-end software engineer, but I can’t build a website. I’ve fixed a lot of their code, but it has been painful. I’ve stopped almost everything to help the current development team (one engineer, a UI designer/formatter, and one tester.)
At every step of the way, the challenges are huge. They are beyond me. Every step of the way I’ve had to grow, and there’s no letup in sight. In various ways I’m in a fair amount of pain and insecurity. But it turns out, that’s what’s required. There’s only failure until there’s success. And success rarely comes of its own. It has to be created.
President Obama said his key regret was not healing the divisions in Washington. There’s still time. PeopleCount can help. If we make politicians accountable, the divisions will subside.
In a few months, it will be great if he helps us get the word out. So I wrote him a letter and posted it on whitehouse.gov/contact. There’s no “political reform” subject, so I chose “civil rights” (the right for politics to be civil…):
Dear President Obama,
I need your help. And you need mine.
I’m gambling that if I write you enough, someone on your staff will give up their cynicism and alert you that there’s something you should see.
I’ve founded PeopleCount.org. I’ve given up two years of income and borrowed against my house to work on this. And in the next few months, it’ll come to fruition. But without your help, it might fail.
I have a way to transform Congress to be truly accountable to the American people. It’ll end the partisanship, the gridlock.
America doesn’t even know what political accountability is. One of the basic causes of our political problems is that we think it happens in elections. It doesn’t.
For years we had a bit of accountability because many politicians thought it did. But it doesn’t. So many of them “wised up” and no longer represent the people.
But if we had a system that fostered true accountability, everythign would change.
But don’t believe me. Talk with me.
Please, talk with me. Help make politicians accountable. This will heal the divisiveness in Washington.
Of course, there was no response. And I’m too busy to write every day. I tried again on March 7th.
You, too, can help us. Please add your name to our email list, so we can contact you when we launch this Spring.
In the last post I began talking about the key areas where we need to execute. Our product strategy is solid. Our marketing is a challenge and software development will be critical, but we have expert help with those.
The biggest challenge: Sales
Sales is probably our biggest challenge. This involves pitching to political and special interest groups and selling to politicians.
Selling to groups has a number of challenges. They are all busy and they all have full schedules and well-developed plans that don’t (yet) involve PeopleCount. Some have policies of not working with outside groups in the fashion we’re asking. Some have narrow self-definitions that they partner for certain things so our only chance is to work with their partners. Some are simply narrow-minded. One thinks their actions are sufficient. Another thinks one has to have a real movement. The guy I spoke with doesn’t see that partnering with movements can be a substitute.
Selling to politicians has a different set of challenges. The five that I spoke to love what we’re offering. But reaching them is a pain. They rarely answer emails or the phone.
And most politicians don’t even offer their contact information, except a form on a website which they don’t answer. It’s going to be hard to reach them if they don’t answer written requests and there’s no phone number.
The biggest sales challenge is that I’m not cut out for sales. Partly I’m new at this. And partly I have a ton of other stuff on my plate. Every emergency delays sales.
Timing is key. I wish I had committed to build 9 months ago when there was time before the election… But wishful thinking is a waste of time.
Finances is a huge challenge. I’ve spent my savings mainly supporting my home and family while I work on this. And now I’ve borrowed against my home to give us a minimal budget. I’ve asked about twenty wealthy people and they’ve refused to even have a conversation about it. I’ve sent emails to dozens more and there have been almost no replies. That hurts.
So on the one hand, we have a lot of challenges. On the other, the possibility of success remains, and the payoff for humanity is huge. The moral imperative remains.
Is it possible to fix democracy? Absolutely. And, we might fail to overcome all the challenges. Your support could make all the difference.
Please add your name to our announcement list. And while you’re there, you’re welcome to donate a few dollars. Or more!
In the last post, I identified the four scenarios in which PeopleCount can fail. In this one, I’ll tell you about the last one, how we might fail to execute.
One way to look at this is to list the major areas where we need to execute:
- Software development
- Product design
The one thing I don’t list here is product strategy. We have a winning product strategy. We have a real solution for politics. It solves the pain points for both citizens and politicians and it’ll be rewarding to use.
Marketing is key. 95% of people I’ve talked with argue at first. 80% are convinced in the ensuing conversation. That means our messaging must either avoid provoking an argument in the citizen’s mind and/or convince them the possibility is worth a try. We’ll also need videos and animation, plus all sorts of things that can go viral, and these cost money which we have little of.
But 6 weeks ago I found an experienced marketing guy who was eager to join me! So we’re in good hands. Still, he has a huge challenge on his hands.
Software development is key. We hired a development company which was horrible. They were late and ended up stealing our money (I’ll skip the details.) We then had to spend weeks looking for a new firm, starting over yesterday. We’re in danger of not launching early enough before the June primaries. And of course, this strains our finances.
This past month I found an excellent computer scientist to help. I still have to help communicate the design, but she’ll do excellently at helping manage the external team and solving any problems that arise. Plus we’ll use a cloud provider that will manage the cloud for us, so our operations are in good hands.
Product design is always key. The way a startup should work is to test the product with real audiences. We don’t have time for that. So we’ve studied the competition and improved upon their important failings. Our strategy includes building in some resilience to design errors and then fixing them asap, but it’s difficult to know if it’ll be enough. We also have some ground-breaking features planned, if we can survive long enough past the minimal version we’ll launch with long enough to build them and roll them out.
Scaling is key. Everyone says that in our niche it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Actually, there are two. The first is that people won’t use the site unless other people are on the site. New paradigms require word-of-mouth reputation and safety-in-numbers. The second is that politicians will only want to use the site if there are voters on the site and voters will only come if there are politicians on the site. Our plans to bootstrap the site with users are solid and it looks like we’ll have decent traction, but that leaves more work to be done to get good traction. And we’re aiming for excellent.
And that requires sales. In the next post I’ll finish this, discussing Sales, Timing and Finances.