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Project #Startup10 : Learning to build your own business

, 29 Feb 2012 CPOL
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A primer on my background, and also a few pointers to the things that inspire and motivate me; I hope they might inspire you too...

Note: this is the first post of an upcoming series; be sure to come back for later posts...

Introduction

I love reading about startups, lean product development, software practices etc... After spending over a decade studying a plaethora of subjects, I decided to finally put my money where my mouth is: this year I am going to put the theory in practice, and start up 10 new (or not so new, but different) business ideas, hence the tag #Startup10.

In the first post of this series I will give you a primer on my background, and also a few pointers to the things that inspire and motivate me; I hope they might inspire you too...

The **drumroll** "Big Idea" about a decade ago

The first thing I decided to build when I decided to quit my day job about a decade ago, was a single software product that would allow me to apply it to all kind of different problem domains, it required me to setup the database, and do little or no extra custom development. Little did I know that the software part was the least important of all...

Even though I did manage to sell a few user licenses at 1.5K, the product never really hit the market bigtime; here is why: I did not have a clue who my target audience was, so I had no idea how to market the product.

While the product in itself was not that bad, it was obvious that it was not going to allow me to make a living out of it, so I opted for the path most ICT-people opt:  freelance consultancy...

So one could say that this was actually my first startup attempt....

Enter 10 years later.... Project #Startup10

Over the years and multiple consultancy jobs later, my understanding evolved (even after building my first product, check this post from 2004), and I found out that modelling software around behavior instead of data usually results in way better software.

However, this fact is not as important as one would think... My biggest failure at the time, was building a product without even knowing what my target audience was and how I would market it ...

After 10 years of reading about startups and business, I decided to verify whether all my newly acquired knowledge made any sense, so two months ago (Januari 2012) I decided to take a few months off before getting back to consultancy, get a few startups up and running, and continuing on the next ones while doing some freelance consultancy on the side(I am for rent by the way)....

I am now two months in, the two sites are up and fully functional, and we are ready to launch the first two onto the Belgian market (more in later posts):

  • http://Blommekes.be : Order flowers online in a few clicks and make your mrs. happy (after you blew some of your points).
  • http://Dampen.be : Smoking without tar and nicotine
I will discuss these two in detail in later posts in these series, but for now I can tell that I really hated and enjoyed setting them up. I know the description of both might sound a little bland, but I honestly think we might actually have a chance here...
In case you want to place an order; please do. The only thing that's on our todo list now, is marketing the sites and generating some volume, which I will blog about later on.

This blog post was going to mention something about inspiration and motivation ?

Actually, there are a few relevant posts that inspired me for Project #Startup10; without further ado, here are some of my favorite articles/posts:

The difference between a failure and a mistake - Seth Godin

This was the short blurb that actually triggered me to get started with the project #StartUp10. Seth is stating in this post that one can try and do stuff, and as long as you are learning from it the outcome is not all that important. The most important thing, is that you learn from your failure and avoid making a mistake...

Failure is part of the learning process iteration: have an idea, implement the absolute minimum, measure and evolve from there... Do not be afraid of failure !!

That is why I set up #Startup10: instead of putting all my money in one basket, I assume most (if not all) my startup attempts will fail, but I hope I will learn something during the process.

1.0 is the loneliest number - Matt Mullenweg

This is an essay where Matt describes what it is like when you build a product; there is one absolutely fabulous quote in there that I mention to everyone:

if you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long.

This makes a lot of sense, but is hard to follow; most people have big plans, but as long as you do not have paying customers your project is worthless; get money out of it ASAP. Most of my ambitious projects die of feature creep... So now I start small...

Young & stupid: How I Made 2.5 Million - Andrew Fashion

Another great post, this time by someone who has been "entrepreneur"- ing ever since the 6th grade... I would like to suggest you to read the whole Young & Stupid series, as they are a really interesting read... Somehow this blog post series was one of the first ones that actually convinced me great things can be achieved when you put your mind to it, but it also clarified that one should take nothing for granted, i.e. easy come = easy go...

The $300 Million Button - UIE.COM - Jared M. Spool

This is one great article about how there might be a lot of opportunity by *really* thinking things through. By making the login process optional when ordering a basket - "I am not here to build a relationship" -, the sales increased by $3,000,000 / year.

That is actually one of the reasons we started with http://Blommekes.b : people are not here to browse all different kind of flowers and configure a pleathora of options, they just want to order some to make the Mrs. happy, so we made this as convenient as we possibly could: pick your flower, type the message for the attached card and the adress, and just pay; nothing more, nothing less. (We applied the same principle to http://dampen.be as well).

Getting Real - 37 Signals

This is a full E-book (also availble as a paperback) that describes exactly how the lean approach might work in software. It is a great read, and it is incredible this is a free book. Read it and learn; there is a tremendous amount of value in there...

Conclusion

These links are only an excerpt, but they should get you started... As time progresses I might add some extra links, but for now this will have to suffice...

In the next post, I will talk about how one gets ideas for a startup. Please note that the #Startup10 Project is a work in progress, so I might actually fall flat on my face and fail miserably. But hey, at least I will have these posts to fall back to, so I can avoid making mistakes...

If you are active in a startup, or this article somehow inspires you, let me know in the comments.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Tom Janssens
Founder Core bvba
Belgium Belgium
Tom Janssens, owner of Core, a software and consultancy company.
Father of two sons named Quinten & Matisse, and married to a beautiful woman named Liesbeth.
 
Blog: http://tojans.me
Github: http://github.com/ToJans
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ToJans
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomjanssens

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