On a hot summer day on the beach, my cousin came up with the idea for a new product. It wasn’t a life altering product but it did, after considerable investigation, have the ability to make one part of life a little better. Colder beer.
So we started BottleCamo and after more than a month of research into the various crowdfunding platforms, decided to move forward with Fundable over Kickstarter. One of the various reasons was after working with the Kickstarter platform, it became very apparent that they were much more interested in supporting ‘creative’ campaigns like movies, books and art projects. I can say this because we were originally declined based on the product already existing, which it clearly doesn’t, so they obviously didn’t even look at the project.
Being that they just declined it, this lead us to believe that they weren’t really interested in product based projects and because they’re doing so well, they are in a position to decline valid potential participants. This was later confirmed through an industry insider.
Despite the fact that I was able to get Kickstarter to re-open our campaign to re-review, we decided that a more business and product friendly platform would be a better fit. We landed shortly thereafter at Fundable and as of the minute I write this, the campaign has been live for almost exactly 24 hours and we’re a small fraction under 30% to our goal. Pretty happy with that decision!
On a side note, one of the fascinating things that I’ve noticed thus far is that backers are consistently going for larger volume rewards, with particular interest in the ‘limited edition’ products. Over 40% of the backers have opted for special edition rewards, which I would have never guessed.
More to come as the campaign progresses…
I’ve obviously been rather outspoken regarding my feelings about networking, as indicated in my recent Forbes article, and I fully intend to continue. With that said, I wanted to provide an example of how making myself uncomfortable and then following up, making myself uncomfortable again, then following up, took me from a casual restaurant bar on a Sunday to a new friendship and afternoon strategy session in the board room of a $350,000,000 tech giant, with the CEO.
On a Sunday evening while having dinner with my parents, who just happened to be in town from Arizona, we were sitting at the bar of a great local restaurant. As we were eating, a guy walked in and handed the bartender a bottle of wine and they chatted like they were friends (we’ll call him John). I’m pretty involved in wine but I didn’t recognize the label. I overheard John mention that this was their first release (first year they actually bottled and sold the wine to the public) so I asked the simple question, “where is it from?”. We started into a very basic but friendly exchange regarding his winery, their production volumes and methods. After a minute or two of idle chat, I briefly explained that I was working on a wine company, gave him my 10 second overview, solicited a business card and mentioned that we should get together sometime to talk about wine (something we were both very obviously interested in), to which he agreed. Very important note; common ground was found. I wasn’t just asking some random guy to have dinner with me, that would be weird. You absolutely must find common ground.
The next day, not the next week, I sent John a follow-up email to say that it was great to meet him and that we should find a date/time to get together for some vino and learn more about each others businesses. At the end of the very short email, I suggested 2 possible dates. This is important because it eliminates the back and forth of “I can go during this week but not that” and puts the other person to a decision, yes or no. If they’re not interested in meeting up and talking business, no big deal. What do you have to lose? The good news is that we agreed on a date/time and made it happen.
Within a few weeks we had dinner and, well, 2 bottles of wine and were both in agreement that we’d do what we could to help one another in business, with nothing solidified. It just so happens that his 2 business partners in the winery are highly successful tech giants. My new business is a tech company, focused around wine. Luck? From there we’ve remained friends and stayed in touch.
A month later my wife and I were attending the Manhattan Wine Auction and were able to get a couple extra tickets for John, his wife and a few friends. One of the friends was his business partner in the winery and also the CEO of a major IT consulting company that does hundreds of millions in revenues annually. At the event I had the chance to chat with the CEO and he already knew that I was building a mobile wine application (thanks John). We didn’t talk business for more than 30 seconds but it was long enough for me to repeat the same process; I said, “I’d love to learn about your business and talk tech” and he responded, “sounds good”. And that was that, very simple. I was able to get his email from John and reached out to follow-up the next day, thanked him for coming to the wine auction and proposed firm dates on getting together to “talk tech”. He responded, directed me to his assistant and we put a date on the books.
A week later I was sitting with him in the board room at their corporate headquarters talking about his great company, their business philosophies, new products and ultimately PiCK (my newest company). We had almost a 2 hour strategy session and pulled apart numerous assumptions that I had made regarding the business and revenue models for PiCK, resulting in my altering a number of paths in a much more clear and simple direction. And guess what; he’s already thinking of other people to connect me to that could be of help as I progress. What kind of network do you think he has?!
I present this short story as an example of some of the pretty amazing things that can transpire as a result of creating a network by making yourself uncomfortable and properly following up. Without pushing your own limits and making substantial and concerted effort, you will not have a network that will provide you with the necessary and unbelievably helpful resources that, as an entrepreneur, you’ll come to rely on.
There is a major difference between the corporate and the entrepreneurial solution engines. Being that you’re reading this, we can safely assume this isn’t a real shocker. The corporation tends to look at problems and take them to meetings for review, debate, deliberation and analysis, and the entrepreneur takes the problems head on and creates an immediate solution while working to mitigate any potential unintended consequences. It is in fact these unintended consequence that likely created the problem in the first place.
The difficulty with unintended consequences is that they’re well…unintended. So how do you make some sort of valiant attempt to mitigate these unknown risks?
1. Stop and think outside the box.
You have to understand that it’s not the problems that you see that will ruin you, it’s the problems that you don’t. So stop, slow down your mind, and think of every potential negative that could come from the proposed solution and include all involved parties, their families and co-workers, and maybe even pets. They could be effected too. So when I say “stop and think outside the box”, I mean WAY outside the box.
2. Be reasonable.
Most people are reasonable, except of course the raging lunatics on the “OrangeCounty Housewives”, those people are nuts (it’s my wife that watches it, I swear!). Otherwise, put yourself in the shoes of the people who are potentially effected by your solution. Is your solution going to make their lives easier or harder? Is it going to cost them time or money? Then stop and refer back to point number 1 to make sure that you’ve thought of ALL potential consequences for your decision.
3. Remain flexible.
As anyone that has ever written a business plan would agree, the exact second you go to execute, the plan completely changes and your ideas seemingly fly out of the window with your sweet new visor. You have to remain flexible to the fact that there isn’t a playbook and nothing is set in stone. If it can go wrong, it will and you need to be able to adjust to the changed environment.
Let me start by saying that I’m not superstitious, far from it. I’m a scientist by education and a very straight forward, matter of fact guy.
Just last weekend, while at a 1920’s themed birthday party, I grabbed a fortune cookie off of the top of the pile and this is what I found, which immediately made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as if I had been struck by lightning…
This fortune makes absolutely no sense and is, quite obviously, grammatically incorrect. Unless of course you own a company called pick. Oddly enough, I’m currently launching a wine based tech company called “PiCK“…a sign from the higher powers?!
- Fortune Cookie Wisdom (beautifulrecoverytoday.wordpress.com)
There are only a handful of scenarios in the history of the U.S. that truly changed the way capital works: the Great Depression, Savings and Loan collapse in the ’80s, and the recent “great recession“, to name a few. This latest financial catastrophe has reminded the world that you cannot throw your cash in a hole and expect a money tree to grow. From the standpoint of the startup, this means that we can no longer take an unproven idea and expect to find investors lining up with offers of hundreds of thousands of dollars to help build something to test. You have to be more proactive now.
What’s beautiful about this so-called “problem” is that technology has advanced to a stage that, when combined with some simple principles, allows us to create functional products, with users, in order to prove and test the model before we go and seek substantial funding. One of the most important principles revolves around the idea of a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. An MVP is something that is the absolute bare minimum of your grandiose idea that will allow you to get users, buyers, clients, etc. to see how they interact with your product. The goal is to spend as little as humanly possible in order to begin getting user feedback (which may not come directly from the user, but from an embedded ‘analytic’ function) so that you can iterate, or change, your product/process as needed to make it better. A great book titled “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries is a must read regarding the basics of the MVP.
There are numerous resources that exist to help you with your MVP. For example; if you intend to create a mobile app, try POP: Prototyping on Paper. POP will allow you to manually draw out your vision, with pen and paper, then upload images of the drawings and add functional buttons that link to other pages and features. In a very simple few steps, you can create the basic look and feel of your app as you click through to various pages and interfaces. With the back-end skeleton frame work complete, you will be much more able to get the front end programmed to your MVP vision.
After you have launched your MVP and have some users and data, then you use that extremely valuable information to seek funding. You’ve now mitigated some of the risk to potential investors and proven the basics of the business model, the result of which is that you will get more investment while giving up less equity.
- The MVP (youngambition.net)
- Minimum Viable Product: A Guide (leanstartupmanila.wordpress.com)
- Look for Minimum Viable Testing (jlottosen.wordpress.com)
- Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your Minimum Viable Segment (venturebeat.com)
I’ve recently embarked on a new startup journey that revolves around one of my true passions…wine. PiCK is a solution to the high levels of confusion that currently exist when a consumer (like you and I) walk into a wine store and have an outrageously difficult time finding and buying quality wine. If you’re buying a bottle because you like the label, sorry, it’s not quality wine. PiCK is a mobile guide that connects highly useful individual bottle information to the inventory that’s actually inside the wine store. With PiCK, the user can search for the best wines in the store based on their wine and price preferences and can even ‘PiCK Wine With Food’ (i.e. I’m having chicken, spending $13, what are the best wines/values in the store that match?)
With PiCK, we will disrupt the stagnant interaction between the consumer and retailer while driving the consumer to enter the independent wine retailer by incentivizing them with knowledge. Follow our progress at PiCK-Wine.com and PiCKWine.me
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
– Charles Darwin