In the hours in the day I have to program recently, I’ve been writing Python / Django. And man do I miss my objective C / iOS.
So I’m gonna run a little experiment starting next wednesday May 15, 2013 by committing Wednesday evenings to hack on an iOS app for Zenlike and invite anyone looking to learn iOS programming to join me for some pair programming. ”Pair programming” … could mostly be me programming and describing what I’m doing.
That time … probably would be better spent hacking on the main service, learning more NLP, blogging, or any of the other “non-programming” tasks that I’m feeling myself increasingly occupied with starting Zenlike. But I love iOS, want to keep those skills sharp, have a few interesting ideas for Zenlike apps, and want to continue to meet awesome smart people in Edmonton and San Francisco.
So … if you’re from Edmonton or SF and looking to learn a little iOS … ping me on twitter @dquail and we’ll plan to meet up at a coffee shop / Startup Edmonton or other for one of these Wednesday nights. You don’t need much … but a bit of programming experience would probably be wise.
* Edit – Lawyers will probably force me to get you to sign some silly doc re: ownership of code to prevent potential weirdness.
By some definition, my techvibes guest post “Why you should choose Canada over the valley” went viral 2 days ago. Less than 24 hours after it was live, it was their 4th most viewed article of the year, and currently has 10X more shares than any other article within the last 2 weeks. It was trending on hackernews front page all day. Usually at around #5. All in all, a very successful post which drove engagement and dialog.
I’ll share some specific data on what those type of numbers “meant” in terms of conversions, as well as some other side effects of the article, but I really want to take the opportunity to emphasize that this is a good example of never knowing if something *will work* until you actually try it.
I’d talked to a few people about the topic of “false positives in the valley” before, and mentioned writing a blog post about it. I’d usually get fairly mixed responses about it’s potential. The night I submitted it I almost backed out, thinking it wasn’t engaging. I wanted to incorporate a couple startup genome studies from my good friends at startup compass.
Turns out that blogs are a lot like product. In a lot of ways, I suppose they ARE product. Talking is a great, collect as much data possible, run tests to validate assumptions. But regardless of how much you’ve talked to others, and tested assumptions, you don’t truly know if you’re onto something until it’s seen in the context of real consumption by real users.
Wow. It’s been a year and 2 days since I announced I was leaving Yousendit. Time apparently flies when you’re hacking for fun, travelling, playing ultimate frisbee, and spending time with your amazing family.
But in the new year I started to amp up the energy on a new startup idea. Like anything, it’s been a roller coaster, but it’s trending upwards, and I’m becoming more and more excited about the opportunity most every day.
Today is an extra super awesome day as Tim Fletcher has joined me as a cofounder. An awesome product focused entrepreneur and developer; and perhaps more than anything an awesome human being.
We want to be the type of company that’s fast as hell at iterating towards product market fit. Until we achieve that … we have nothing. So a guy like Tim, able to understand the customer, able to build product, and able to get it in the hands of users to test (“test” not to find bugs, but to test assumptions). is gonna accelerate us iterating until we nail it.
That said, we’re continuing to round out the team. I’m not sure you can ever have too many of these types of people – product focused builders who take a ton of pride in their work, who work really hard, and are great human beings.
Yet another opportunity to plug my favorite speech and piece of incredibly simple advise in the history of incredibly simple advice. ”If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen … I’m telling you … amazing things will happen.”
* Note – There’s obviously categories of applications that only make sense on mobile (Yelp), just as there’s some that only make sense on web (zendesk). I’m clearly not talking about that category of application.
Recently, there’s been a bunch of discussion about mobile first vs. web first. Some of my favorites are from Fred Wilson here and from Vibhu Norby here. But I think all of these articles are missing 2 really simple factors in deciding.
1. Forget mobile first. Screw web first. How about “product market fit first”?
Product market fit … not the platform … is ALL that matters. Until you have that, you’ve got nothing. And “nothing” looks the same on mobile as it does on the web.
So really, the question when viewed in that light, is “what platform (mobile, web, desktop) will get you to product market fit fastest?“
The common sentiment is that apple’s review process and timing is a bane. And even if you develop on Android, you need users to install updates to test native changes. So a lot of people are arguing for web based on that. I disagree though. I think it all depends on the ability of your team to iterate and execute FAST. Although it’s rare, some teams/developers are much faster building on mobile than they are on web. I’m one of them. For those teams, mobile is probably the way to go. No, you can’t test multiple variants daily, but the review process isn’t THAT long. I’ve typically had updates accepted after 2 to 3 days.
So I’d say, go with the platform you’re most competent in. It’s all about speed, and your ability to get to product market fit before running out of time. Once you’ve achieved product market fit, you’ll probably want both.
2. Keep in mind that mobile … and web … are just windows into the service that you’re building.
And if that service sucks … whether the window is mobile or web … you’ve got nothing. ”Mobile” isn’t a silver bullet, nor is “web” (or any other platform). They’re just windows into value that you’re providing the user. Spend more time thinking about what that value and pain is. Let THAT drive the platform choice, rather than letting the platform choice drive the value. Otherwise you’re a hammer looking for a nail.
Ultimately, if there’s value at the core, and pain that you’re solving, it’ll surface, through web OR mobile.
* A caveat
If I could summarize Mary Meeker’s slides from a few days ago into one line, it would be something to the effect of “Holy shit, mobile is growing at an unbelievably unbelievable rate.” So if you don’t go mobile first, you certainly have to be planning for mobile. In anything I’ve done, that’s meant mocking up UI and UX on mobile in parallel with any web first design and development. Doing that is good enough to make sure that anything you do will make sense on mobile.
I’ve been in full blow obsessive mode for a couple weeks now diving deep into a startup idea. Forgetting where I parked the car … driving 5 minutes towards downtown before realizing I was supposed to going southside … waking up at 5AM unable to fall back to sleep … without sounding too much like a blow hard … that’s been life.
So I thought I’d take the chance to articulate what the last 48 hours have been like. I think they’re typical of anyone starting a new tech company.
Sunday 4AM – Wake up, second guessing the domain we have registered. I’ve received mostly positive feedback … but a few negatives from people I have a lot of respect for. Also received mixed responses for the logo we had done on 99 designs. Damn.
6AM – Still laying in bed. I now have a list of 8 potential names written on the notes app of my glowing iPhone.
7AM – Lucy (my super awesome 2 year old) wakes up. Spend the next 2 hours acting like I’m her age.
9AM – Go for a workout with lucy. They have babysitting there. Fully intend on running. But I’m still obsessing about the name. Crack open my lap top and start looking for domain variants.
11AM – Have registered 10 different domains. Have grown a very unhealthy hatred for domain squatters and over priced international domain registars. Suddenly godaddy doesn’t look so evil.
11:30AM -> 2PM – Acting like a 2 year old again with Lucy.
2PM-4PM – Lucy’s napping. I’m emailing friends asking for feedback on domain names.
4PM – 8PM – More acting like a 2 year old. We go over to a friends house for dinner. I can’t help pitching them on the idea and getting feedback. A huge part of me always feels like a duche doing this. They say they love it, but I can tell they don’t really get it. Damn, I need to work on how I communicate the idea, and just listen to them express their problems instead of just “pitching” the idea.
8PM – 1:30AM – On my computer. Emails, catching up on hackernews and techcrunch for the day. More emails to Yen Lee, we’re planning a CTO follow on event to the one we had already. Have a 15 minute online chat with Dwayne about the importance of design. He’s dropping knowledge bombs again. Watching a Ng video about machine learning. His lectures are pretty awesome. Feeling pretty pumped about the new domain names I registered. Spend an hour looking at muulabo’s api documentation for natural language processing. Joined dribble,com. I read somewhere it’s where designers hang out. I want to learn more but after 30 minutes I’m sorta confused about it’s purpose. Damn. I didn’t write any code today. Bed time.
Monday 8AM – Wake up, playtime with Lucy
9:30 – Drive Lucy to daycare, pull up a chair at a coffeeshop. Start getting a bunch of responses about names. Most of which are ironically favoring the original name. Along with a lot of feedback, Josh Kerr points out that there might be a copyright concern. Damn. Spend about 30 minutes trying to figure out how the hell to figure that out. Stumble upon the US Patent and Trademark database. There’s nothing obviously conflicting with the name I’m happy with … but I still have a knot in my stomach thinking about evil Microsoft henchman.
11AM – an hour chat with Steve Wandler. Love that guy. General feedback on the idea. Talk a lot about SR&ED, IRAP, mitacs, incorporating in Canada vs. the US. He tells me I’d be crazy to not keep things simple and only incorporate in Canada. That’s what Kevin Swan told me too … I’m starting to believe it now.
12AM – Go for a 45 minute run.
1PM – 4PM – Respond to a request for legal advice re: immigrating to the US from Canada for your startup. My advice … talk to a lawyer. Responding to people that have been kind enough to respond to my “Which domains do you like best” email. I convince myself that I’m not harassing them … but rather giving the opportunity to shape a new company … even though I know I’m just harassing them. 20 minute call with a rep from IRAP. Looks promising. But damn, they need a business plan as a first step. This is going to be annoying. Spend 10 minutes writing an email to Rod summarizing my day so far. End up responding about 5 times to my own email … keep forgetting to mention things. Jennifer Turliuk points me out to a competitor in this space. I’m feeling embarrassed cause I haven’t heard of them. In the process of reading their techcrunch article I uncover 2 other competitors. Damn. But I convince myself that they’re not really going after the same pain. So we’re cool. If anything, this confirms the market. Although that’s one of the things I love telling myself whenever I see a competitor. I get that pit in my stomach again thinking about how hard it is to get distribution for consumer apps. The competitors I stumble upon have decent value props, but essentially 0 distribution.
4PM – 8PM – Pick up Lucy, her Wendy and I hang out all evening. Save for checking my email a couple times I’m completely offline. As a side note … I seriously recommend that anyone having a problem with “work / life balance” should have a kid. Wait … I don’t mean they should have a kid for the sake of establishing balance … I more mean that I don’t see how you can’t be balanced when you have a kid. I have 0 problems completely detaching myself from work when I have a 2 year old tugging on my coat sleeve.
8:30PM – now – A 15 minute call with Ethan Anderson turns into an hour call. Awesome to hear what he’s up to. This is the first time we’ve connected. Great feedback from him about the whole service provider space and some of the inherent challenges. Brainstorm a bit about our respective ideas. Awesome dude. Feeling a bit overwhelmed about the idea. Feels like there’s 3 very different types of products / pains we’re looking at. Is that a sign of a good idea or bad idea, or an early sign I lack focus? Damn. Think I’ll spend the rest of the night thinking about where the real pain is. Notice my square reader came in the mail. Reminds me I really need to start coding again tomorrow. Think about looking into a business plan for the sake of IRAP … but decide I need to blog about my day. Voila.
I’ve been a fan of the paleo diet for a while. Tonight, I’ve started another paleo challenge. Anyone catching me breaking the paleo rules between now and Christmas wins themselves $100. I allow myself the following affordances to the rules: coffee, an occasional social glass of wine.
For those unfamiliar, with the paleo diet, you essentially eat what presumably those in the paleolithic era would – lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Refined foods, sugar, dairy, and grains, are a big no-no. The “science” behind the diet states that we haven’t been able to evolve to digest these non-paleo foods.
According to S. Boyd Eaton, “we are the heirs of inherited characteristics accrued over millions of years; the vast majority of our biochemistry and physiology are tuned to life conditions that existed before the advent of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Genetically our bodies are virtually the same as they were at the end of the Paleolithic era some 20,000 years ago.”
That said, I’m a fan of this diet, not because of the quoted science. It’s a bit wonky. I’m a fan because if forms the basis of what any good diet has:
1. Simple rules: They don’t get any easier than “eat only vegetables, lean meats, and fruit”
2. A diet consisting of mostly vegetables, lean meats, and fruit. It’s really hard to eat unhealthy just eating that.
In Omnivores Dilemna, Michael Pollan boils “healthy eating” down to 3 very simple rules: “Eat food, mostly vegetables, not too much.” The key point in this is “Food.” Food isn’t highly refined and preserved food. Food is what you find on the perimeter of a grocery store. Food goes bad in a week (or less) if you leave it out. That’s how “food” should behave. This line of thinking absolutely resonates with me and my paleo diet leaning thoughts