You’ve heard the story about burning the boats right? Legend has it that the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes told his 600 men to ‘Burn the boats’ when they arrived in Mexico in 1519. He wanted to ensure his men had no option but to succeed in plundering the riches of the Aztec empire.
Here’s the thing – Hernan was kind of like Google or Apple with an incredible amount of resources at his disposal. And us? Well, we are not Hernan. We are probably living a comfortable existence in a developed country. We would probably not die for startup success. We, in the modern world should probably be smart enough to ignore this advice.
Personally, I’ve had a lot of startups, more than ten. I’ve also had a lot of projects. The large majority have failed in financially. I’ve had two startups in which I succeeded in selling the business. I never burned the boats once. I always had some boats hidden away under the bushes by the shore for a quick and painless escape. Once I even joined another army (went back into a corporate role). I always had some form of investment to fall back on, safety cash, shares and housing. I even continued to make passive investments while I was bootstrapping my startups. And it is this reason alone I could keep on playing the game. I could keep going back into another startup and try again. I’ve got friends and colleagues who went all in, and now have very little to fall back on. Sure, we all approach things in different ways, but for me startups are an infinite game that I want to keep playing, therefore, I always keep a few boats by the shore.
Our environment shapes our behavior. Inspiring places create inspirational events, and with that in mind I’ve booked an Incredible location for Startup School Melbourne. The uber groovy Lindrum Hotel. Where the coffee and ambiance are both inspirational. Click on the image to check out the photos I took while checking it out.
At the event we’ll have Barrista style coffee (Lattes, Cappucino, espresso) all day – none of this McDonalds style pot of black muck. As well as great food from the restaurant. Even I’m looking forward to it. It’s also a nice space for a drink after and maybe a game of billiards together.
Pieter Peach sent me this email yesterday. He’s just a great bloke who thinks about others. In doing so he shared some valuable insights he took from a web 2.0 conference. It was such a succinct and insightful email that I thought I’d share it here verbatim. Enjoy & digest. Steve Sammartino
Just came across an email I sent to myself from a session in W2.0NY last year. Straightforward stuff, but a good reminder for me, thought I’d pass it along.
“Sitting here listening to a great speaker on developing next gen web 2.0 apps, will email stuff as I I hear it.
Requisites for successful 2.0 service
1. Network effect
2. Collective intelligence
3. Lightweight business models
4. Longtail (maybe)
5. Encourage unintended uses
6. Platform vs application
7. End of the software release cycle
8. Rich user experiences
9. Innovation in assembly
Race to dominate remaining data classes.
Its hard to compete with those who have a head start in developing the network effect in a particular data class. “
I recently heard an interview with the Drummer from band Midnight Oil, Rob Hurst. He was asked how he felt about a particular record which made it to number 1 on the US charts. His response was this:
‘We were too busy touring, putting on shows to follow the bands progress.”
It sounded as though serving the fans they already had was more important than gaining new ones. And guess what happens when we do that? Our reputation grows and more fans arrive, they find us because we are delivering something special to those who already appreciate what we are doing.
The formula for success is to continue to focus on delivering good stuff to those who already believe in you. To improve our delivery to them. Just like Midnight Oil was continuing to perfect the live performance of it’s songs. They weren’t worrying if their songs were good enough, they weren’t focused on external feedback from sources like sales revenue or chart positions. They ignored all feedback, except that from existing fans (customers). They didn’t get caught in the feedback trap.
So what are the feedback traps of the modern entrepreneur?
– Website traffic
– Google analytics
– Facebook friends
– Twitter follows
– AC Nielsen data
– Market share statistics
– (Insert feedback mechanism here)
These tools can be useful, but they also tempt us to change tack. They tempt us into believing we are strategically wrong, because the feedback is so instant. Where as the benefits of our strategy is never so instant. Strategy takes time to work, it takes belief and patience, more over it takes ‘the real feedback’ cycle to spread before we can truly know if we have something. And the real feedback cycle is what our current customers have to say, and if they spread the word.
Startups out there – don’t fall into the feedback trap.
Great – there’s like a zillion iphone app developers waiting for your business right here, and here and here.
So write the brief for the app you want and can’t find, contact the developers and get it made. Get your itunes account up, choose a cheap ‘low barrier’ price, like a ‘dollar’ or so and sell that puppy. Remember it’s better to sell a $1 iphone app a lot of times than a a $5 or $10 one no times at all.
This micro-entrepreneurs opportunity is as simple as they come. Global distribution with an engaged audience – rare indeed. A classic ‘trend hijack’.