Monthly Archives: February 2010

Building a Chevy


I think it’s a pretty intuitive and natural idea to start small. My first real boss used to say: first build a Chevy, then build a Cadillac.

We are still firmly in pre-alpha era, building our Chevy, but during the first couple of rounds of discussion there were may be 50-100 tempting features that just sneaked onto the product backlog. Writing them down then was perfectly fine, as long as we didn’t also try to cram them all into alpha (or even beta).

I think the key has been finding the minimum subset of functionality that could be demoed to other people not familiar with the idea. This subset is probably half of what you think it should be, and it takes a certain objectivity and discipline to throw out all the bells and whistles. We settled on getting the basic flow of the application and a few main screens in place. The main requirement was to capture the idea , and not even try to build a prototype (that’s beta). This would be all there is in scope for alpha, and that would be locked until after we show it to a few people. So far we managed to stick to the plan pretty well.

The rule is “once we get the first round of feedback, we can unlock the scope”. And then it’s iterate, iterate, iterate.


Getting your first convert

I am a skeptic by nature. I seek and find flaws in people logic and arguments. I know this about myself and I fight to keep the criticism on the constructive side. I don’t think there are ever antisocial or egocentric undertones to it, but I can be arrogant and self-righteous when defending my point of view. Nobody is perfect.

When my future co-founder came calling with the original concept and idea, I immediately went to work trying to shred it apart. Not overtly, of course, but more by running through different scenarios in my head. Surprisingly, and this doesn’t happen too often, I was convinced fairly quickly. This was before we started doing research on the competitors, but that’s another story.

In any case, it won me over. There was just this personal belief that a) people needed this, and b) that it could be done easily and cheaply. That’s not a pre-requisite for startup success, mind you, but it was already something I was willing to invest my time in, and more importantly something I would be eager to use once it’s built.

If things didn’t work out, at least we’d still have the system all to ourselves. I think that’s one of the advantages of building something for consumers vs. building something for the enterprise. You can always be your own focus group and your own customer. Yes, the risks for bias are also high, but at least you know if something doesn’t feel right at the gut level it probably isn’t.

It felt right.

Hello world!

I decided to start a blog about my experience trying to conceive of, build, launch and succeed with a consumer internet service.  I imagine there are myriads of blogs of this nature on the internet, and I assure you this one won’t be much different.

It will be personal and opinionated.  It will be about startups and technology. And I will try to tell a story about our ups and downs that is at least interesting.  If it becomes a sort of warning to others, so be it.  But I would be especially pleased if it lets you avoid our mistakes.  For me, it’s just a way of documenting the daily  goings on.

Finally, I am not on a mission to forewarn or share fundamental insights that I’ve accumulated over decades of entrepreneurship.  I don’t have them. This blog is about the events that happen as they happen.

Don’t expect well-researched articles about the industry. These consume a lot of time. I’ll gladly leave this work to the experts, and I will refer to them when necessary.

My opinions are my own.  When I say “our”, I mean the team that is working together to build this service.  At the moment, we are two co-founders including myself.  As this blog evolves I will gradually reveal more about who we are and what we are trying to achieve.