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Big changes coming

I have a brand new site design up and running at WPEngine. I’m about to change DNS settings for patrickfoley.com to point to the new site, and then I have a big announcement to make … so if you see this in your RSS reader but don’t see the new site by Thursday morning, please send me an email at pf@patrickfoley.com to let me know. Thanks!

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Picture by Plauto Da Silva

It’s a new gymnastics season! Gus’s first meet was last weekend, and he did great – 2nd All Around for Level 5 JrB (full scores). As I always tell him, I’m more proud of the work he put in than the results – if you do the work, the results will come. After last season, he bumped up to 11 hours of practice per week! That’s 5 hours more than last year, and he’s embraced it. He loves the sport – he spins on his mushroom at home constantly, often while watching videos of gymnastics champions.

This year, I’m trying to streamline my video production process, so I’m not assembling everything into one video. Instead, I’m uploading each event separately. So here you go:

As a bonus, one of the other dads, Plauto Da Silva (his son, Patrick, is a wonderful level 6 gymnast) took some incredible photos. When those are back up, I’ll send a link.

Tribbon time

Hey there – Jody and I launched Tribbon last week, and most of my non-family blogging is going to happen in that context. You can read all about my latest learning (read: failing and continuing) in my launch post.

Bob and I had a true luminary on our podcast this week – Steve Blank, the founder of the principles of Customer Development. I was a little star struck! Prof. Blank is one of the most important entrepreneurial thinkers of our time … I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to speak with him.

While reviewing his first book and talking with him, I came up with a summary of the most important lesson for a software developer like me who wants to be an entrepreneur – focus on WHO, not WHAT.

I just had dinner with some other programmer/entrepreneur friends, and I saw the same impulse in them … it’s so exciting to focus on the product – the WHAT – that it’s hard to focus on the customer – the WHO. It’s not enough to build a cool product. You have to be able to find the person who will buy it. It’s all about the WHO.

The real pleasure of getting to meet my heroes like Steve Blank is just getting the sense of who they are as people. My impression of Steve Blank is that he is very kind. He really cares about helping entrepreneurs learn and succeed.

I hope you listen to the show. It’s one of my favorites that we’ve done. Also be sure to buy Prof. Blank’s just released book, The Startup Owner’s Manual.

Bob and I released Show #133 of the Startup Success Podcast yesterday, featuring an interview with Sailesh Ramasray of BizFusion, a full-featured accounting system for small businesses.

My favorite insight from the interview is that most businesses should internationalize but do so by taking advantage of English as a common language. It’s not that difficult to add new markets, so you should probably look into it.

Sailesh’s approach to BizFusion reminds me somewhat of Michael Sliwinski’s approach to Nozbe. I’m going to have to figure out how to describe what makes them similar to me <stroking chin> …

How geeky

I’m going to be heading down to South By Southwest in a couple of weeks, and I am stoked … I’m even going to be taking the Startup Bus!

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to miss one of my son’s gymnastics meets. He has ten this year, so making 90% is a decent percentage, but the fact is I HATE missing this.

As I mentioned not too long ago, most problems can be solved with a specific amount of money, and this is such a problem. I could

  • Fly back from the conference for the meet, rent a car (it’s in Detroit) and fly back to the conference. Cost – about $1,200 and it  would cause me to miss 20% of the conference, which is a problem for work.
  • Teach my wife how to use the Flip video camera and have her record everything for me. Cost – nothing.
  • Teach my wife how to set up a laptop with a good video camera and stream the event to me live via Skype. Cost – almost nothing (I might have to borrow a mifi). The real problem here is that I would be expecting my wife to handle A/V issues that I normally handle myself. That’s not going to happen
  • Buy my wife a tablet with a built in video camera so that she can stream the event to me live via Skype. Cost – $300-1000 depending on which tablet I get.
    • I could get a “Windows 8” ready x64 tablet, but that would wind up being a toy for me
    • I could buy Paula an iPad or Android tablet (like the 7” Samsung) – that latter option is pretty tempting
  • I could borrow a tablet. Cost – $0 (plus some sort of favor in return, I suppose)

I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do at this point. Seeing the video would be cool, but I really want to stream it live.

Next step: checking out the wifi quality at the venue …

Bad ideas

The most common obstacle (excuse?) I hear for someone not creating a startup is, “I don’t have a good idea.” Well … so what? Maybe you should work on a bad idea instead.

Jason Cohen suggests your idea probably is bad, even if you think it’s good – but hey, you have to start somewhere, so you should probably go ahead and pursue it.

I’m beginning to think that it’s better to pursue an idea that you KNOW is bad than to pursue nothing at all. After all, if the goal of Lean Startup is to validate that your idea is good, couldn’t there also be value in validating that your idea is bad? There is a certain amount of learning how to measure that goes into creating a startup these days, and you can learn a lot by proving that your idea doesn’t meet the measurement thresholds you required for a success (most importantly, that revenue > costs). In some ways, your emotional skepticism about your bad idea will help you learn more about the process – it will help you stay objective. I suppose there’s always the possibility that your idea turns out to be good, but it’s more likely that you’ll spot a good idea right next to your bad idea.

If you have no idea at all, then just pick a space you like and start exploring. I’m interested in scheduling, email productivity, educational phone apps, “personal relationship management,” and a lot of other spaces. Pick a space at that scope, then talk to friends about possible ideas. Just pick the first specific idea that comes to mind. Do some basic customer development by talking to customers in that space or follow the process that Rob Walling recommends for a more self-serve product. The process itself should open your mind to more ideas – and as you evaluate them, one of them is bound to be a good one.