Passion in a Startup – A Double Edged Sword

The Wall Street Journal is one of the few newspapers that I still give the time of day but I still stay mostly in their business and tech sections. Yesterday they posted an article that really nailed it about how an entrepreneur’s passion can destroy a startup. The title is a little click baity for my tastes but passion and startups are definitely hot buttons of mine.

Key points out of the article:
Passion is what drives most startups but it can blind you to the gaping issues.

Issues that you need to pay attention include (but not exclusive to) the following areas in no particular order:

  • sales experience
  • marketing experience
  • technical experience
  • business experience
  • industry knowledge
  • network of folks
  • family life
  • and much much more

Reality is that we get excited about an idea and want to run with it but without a full team that keeps their eye on all of the various issues, you’re doomed to fail.

If, on the other hand, you’ve got a diverse team with a range of skill sets who are working on the project together and helping cover each other’s weaknesses, you’ve got a much better chance.

One of the big things that a lot of startups forget though is family life. There’s the old adage, “An entrepreneur is someone who works 16 hours a day for himself to avoid working for someone else.” This means that family can easily fall off the side when you are deep into it. Long after you’re startup has been gone (success or failure), your family is going to be there for you. Make sure that you spend some time with them and are sensitive to their needs as well.

The two things that really stood out to me as far as data points in the article:

  • 52% of founders are replaced by their third round of funding.
  • 78% of experienced founders would either wait longer to get funding or bootstrap themselves the whole way.

Both of these data points hit me as a lot of times my advice to startups is to wait on taking investment and these two give me a little ammo as to why that’s sound advice. I always ask startups two questions when it comes to investment:

  1. do you have a clear plan as to how you’ll spend every penny?
  2. Are you 100% sure that the potential investor is on board with your vision and bought in for the long haul?

If you’re just taking money from anyone with a checkbook, that’s a recipe for failure.

In short, make sure that your passion, while an amazing thing and the driving force behind any successful startup, is not blinding you to the potential train wrecks.

I built a Cigar Box Guitar…

When I build the next one, I’ll do a fuller write-up but I wanted to get these pictures and video up.
Cigar Box Guitar
I built a Cigar Box Guitar. My friend Joe Rames had built one and I thought it was cool and then I saw some while in London that just looked amazing. I loved the idea and decided to build my own.

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I started with a 1×2 piece of poplar wood and started trimming it down. The head needed to be back far enough to make some tension on the nut (the piece at the top that the wires run over).

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And then I needed to carve out the bottom of the neck because I wanted to make a through neck and that required carving it down to let the cigar box close. This was a little tough as I didn’t have power tools and did it by hand with a saw and a chisel.

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Then I pieced glued on the bits for inside the box so that it was nice and sturdy. I probably need to redo this at some point because it’s about an 1/8 of an inch short of the bottom of the box and so is not quite touching and stable. But it works for now.

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The tuning pegs were the first “guitar” part that I bought. Almost everything else was from home depot, radio shack and my local cigar shop. Figuring out where to mount these was harder than it should be. My next one is likely going to be headless with the pegs inside the box so that it’s a much more compact design.

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Then I carved out the cigar box for the neck to fit in. Next time the neck will likely go all the way through the cigar box and out the other side but for this first one, the neck goes through and stops just inside the other wall.

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Then I installed the 1/4 inch jack for the pickup and built my own pickup out of a piezo buzzer. That was fun and it works great (watch the video)… The next step was building the amp itself.

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Yeah – the guitar looks good. :) but I actually had a lot of work left to do at this point. I don’t have good pictures of putting the frets in. However, that wasn’t as hard as I was afraid it would be. I found an online template maker where you enter in the measurements of your guitar and it’ll print a template for where your frets should be.

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I decided at this point to build my own amp as well. I have an amp but it’s big, heavy and doesn’t travel well. Oh, and it’s not in a cigar box… :)

 

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It’s a slightly different shape than the other cigar box but I think it looks class. I’ll likely switch out the green light for a red one in the near future but at the moment I like the green as well.

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This was actually the first circuit I’ve ever soldered so that was a learning curve as well. Reality is that now that I’ve done it, I’m not sure what I was so scared of all those years. I started with design for a Cracker Box amp and modified it to have an on/off, the little LED and a few other little bits and bobs.

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And there you have it – finished product. I’m pretty proud of it. Now to learn to play it…

New job for Josh

I’m very excited to announce that I’m on the brand new Enterprise Architect team in the Developer Experiences (DX)team (rebranded from DPE).

This means that I’m no longer the go to guy for Internet Explorer dev relations stuff, for that make sure that you reach out to @IEDevChat for anything you need related to Internet Explorer. There’s a great team in place that are based directly on the engineering team that are taking over the work that I was doing there.

So the new team is a deeply technical and and focused on delivering solution that customers will use. We’ll be finding issues in the wild that really need some help and solutions and working on helping our customers develop open source solutions in those spaces. It’s going to let me go really deep into technology and still work with customers.

This is really an exciting new position and a growing space. I’m employee number 3 on a team that’s growing quickly and could be 50 people by the end of next year. If you’re interested in talking about the team more, feel free to reach out to me either through the comments or on twitter

Good day at Build

This was a good day. I’m at the //BUILD conference in San Francisco. Handful of really good things happened today.

One, I got to catch most of the keynote today and there were some really good surprises even for me in there.

  • Windows/Windows Phone is free for devices with screen smaller than 9”. I’m loving this. It greatly enhances our reach and all of the sudden it doesn’t matter that we’re buying Nokia to other device makers because they are getting the same price we’re giving Nokia…
  • Great new enhancements to Windows Phone. I’m not blown away by Cortana but it’s interesting. I’m LOVING the new notification center and all the little fit and finish with WP 8.1 and with IE11 on WP.
  • Great story around the “universal runtime” stuff unifying all the platforms development story. I think this is awesome and makes live much better for anyone trying to develop on any of our platforms.
  • Awesome store enhancements such as the being able to buy on WP and it just works on Windows as well and the like…
  • and a couple more things that are escaping me now. What was your favorite?

Two, I now have a CEO who stood on stage and fielded architecture questions about how to build a cloud solution. YES!!! This was awesome.

Three, I got to meet a ton of great folks and catch up with even more. Too many to name because I know I’d forget some. Leave a comment if we connected. :)

Four, I got to speak this year. This is actually the first tier one MS event I’ve ever spoken at. It went really well. I’ll link the video when it gets posted to Channel9.

I got to help launch the beta of http://status.modern.ie. This is a great site that will keep you up to date on Internet Explorer’s roadmap of features.

Perception verses Reality

One of my first mentors, Denny Williford, told me a story. Over the years, I’ve retold this story dozens of times and I’m sure that some of the details have changed over time but here’s my current version. :)

The management for an expensive high rise apartment complex had an issue. Their tenants who lived in the upper and most expensive floors were complaining that the elevator was “just too slow”.

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File –> New –> Presentation: A Review

File->New->Presentation Book Cover Check the end of this post for a discount on Simon Guest’s book File->New->Presentation.

I recently gave a talk on presenting at CodemashCodemash. I blogged about that talk at “Lessons from a Grizzled SpeakerLessons from a Grizzled Speaker”. In asking for tips from from my friends, I found out that one of the best presenters that I’ve had the pleasure to watch multiple times, Simon Guest (the only man ever allowed to sign into the Microsoft network as guest), had written a book on presenting called File –> New –> Presentation.

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