The Art of Never Finishing Things & My Cure for It

For the past couple of months, I’ve had the chance to travel the world while taking time off from work in order to focus on improving my physical health. Now that I’ve met the goals I set out to achieve before departing on my journey through Europe and Asia, I can’t wait to jump right back into what I love doing the most, building things.

Since 5 months in the world of tech is like a decade in the brick and mortar world, I figured that the best way for me to catch on things is to build small projects that meet current tech trends and my own interests at the same time.

Like with anything we do, there’s always an underlying reason for everything that doesn’t seem that obvious at first.

In this case it’s mainly having a challenge that is short and diverse enough to start a habit of actually shipping side projects to the outside world.

You might ask, why is that so important to me.

In the past couple of years whenever I had some extra time I always worked on smaller projects that at the time always seemed like the next big thing.

The funny thing is… some of them actually were.

So why am I not a millionaire by now you might ask?

Well, the main difference ,I think, between having a good idea and actually sweeping the market of its feet is: shipping it & getting initial traction. The follow through & grind comes as second fiddle in comparison.

Here’s a couple of examples of projects that I’ve built & shipped but didn’t get anywhere since I’ve lacked some fundamental knowledge on customer development and getting traction:

TribeReminder (1/14) vs Bond (6/14)

StoopShop (02/13) vs CrateJoy (10/13)

PrimalSupply (5/13) vs Epic Provisions (6/10)

So, as you can see some of them worked out (for those that persevered), some were total flops and in the end the main difference between those two is having the ability to quickly reach some level of initial traction that allowed them to go further.

This of course is a theme that I’ve noticed while working with startups in Silicon Valley or with clients at a large digital agency in New York City.

Lessons learned from those  projects or from my own endeavors could fill a book if I really sat down and started writing.

However since I’m not necessarily a good writer I would usually send my more curious clients a copy of a couple of books I believed  showed them the “right way of doing things”, those included “The Lean Startup“, “Rework” or “XXX”.

The problem with those however is, that people get too hung up on specific examples or applications of a given framework.

That’s why nowadays I try to break down everything into a repeatable process and leave the actual implementation flexible.

Now, what I mean by that, is that each successful business can be broken down to Product / People / Process. Something I’ve picked up from Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of CampingWorld.

So, as long as you have a good product that meets the market need, a team of good people behind it and a repeatable process for each aspect of the business, be it product development, marketing or bookkeeping, you have a very high chance of doing really well in the market.

The products I want to build in this challenge fall into common categories (e-book, script, productized service, web app) which for the most part should follow an already well-defined process, starting from idea to actually having something I can share with others.

In order not to get bored, plus feel the pressure of a deadline, I’ll try my best to start and finish each project in the timespan of a two weeks.

Since some of these categories are related to markets I have no experience with, I’ll be inviting experts in those fields to advise along the way.

 

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P.S

Those that either saw the patterns or want to know more about the inspiration behind this project, should check out:

StairStep Approach by Rob Walling

24 Hour Challenge by Nathan Barry

MegaMaker by Justin Jackson

 

 

 

Visa Run to Myanmar – Video Saturdays is Back!

As many of you might know, I’m currently on the road.

With the main focus of  getting in better psychical/mental shape and building couple profitable side projects along the way.

In the mean time I’ve been trying to shoot as many videos/photos as possible to document my journey a bit, which most of us naturally tend to do when on vacation.

But what happens to them afterwards? Most likely they sit somewhere in the deep confines of our hard drives/phones, never to see the light of day again.

Looking my hard drive, I have +400GB of videos I shot over the past 3 years, all un-edited and waiting to discovered again.

So since I finally have a little more time on my hands then when I lived in NYC, I’m bringing Video Saturdays back to life!

Check out the first edit below:

Oh yeah, I’ll try to keep these pretty consistent so if you want to get an update when I post the next one, drop your email below.

Why You should Start a Business on Top of a Marketplace

Business is Business, software or psychical goods.

No matter if you’re selling software, a house cleaning service or beef jerky there are three things you look at: product, price and who you sell it to.

In most cases we rely on what we already know how to do or make based on previous experience.

What people are willing to pay is easy to determine since for most businesses there’s already competition out there. If there isn’t any competition then most likely it’s a bad sign of no demand in the market.

There’s always an exception to the rule, but taking that path can be can ten fold more difficult.

We can define a customer in many ways, but lets stick to basics and point out:

  • Who? (age, gender, occupation, education, interests, income level)
  • Where? (where are they located)
  • When? (when do they want it)
  • What? (what do they want)
  • Why? (why do they want it)

Ok, knowing what we’re selling, to whom and for how much takes care of the basics. Now let’s tackle the hard part: How do I let them know that I have what they need.

Marketing & Distribution.

In the early days of running a business, generating revenue and making sure you have positive cash flow is key.

A healthy balance should be at 10 percent time spent on improving the product or service versus 90 percent on marketing and testing different distribution channels

There’s a million and one ways to approach marketing and with the amount of easily accessible information on the internet I won’t get into the details.

Often enough people forget about leveraging existing pockets of demand.

So, what’s this magical place, where people ready to buy are looking for what I’m selling?

All I’ll say is that it’s been around for centuries and hiding in plain site.

Enter the Marketplace.

If you’re my age or older, then you most likely remember going to the local market as kid. Usually on a Sunday morning with your parents to pick up fresh vegetables, eggs or just listen to the shopkeepers haggle over prices.

The local farmers market is definitely still around, but due to the ever growing need for more convenience, we mostly shop at WholeFoods or Shoprite, get it delivered via services like Instacart or simply just stick to eating out.

By definition, a marketplace connects buyers with sellers and takes a fee for facilitating that.

In the digital age, such marketplaces exist for almost any vertical you can imagine:

  • Don’t have enough things on your phone? – App Store by Apple
  • Looking for handmade or vintage clothing? – Etsy
  • Want to learn how to write code? – Udemy
  • Kitchen sink isn’t draining properly? – AngiesList

Most of the above-mentioned examples feature some level of vetting before you’re allowed to join and once you do, your life depends on positive customer feedback. Usually reflected as reviews, star ratings or a numerical score.

That’s also the exact reason why people tend to favor marketplaces. Taking the least amount of risk while spending money is what in the end drives the marketplace economy.

Of course this breeds cut-throat competition, since your product, design, customer service have to be constantly improving, in order to stay in the game.

Brick & Mortar analogies for days

Lets look at it from a perspective of opening a local burger joint.

If you wanted to open your own standalone restaurant, besides it being a really bad idea (I suggest reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain), you’re looking at insurance, rent, renovation, equipment, food costs, licenses, staffing, decor, deliveries, repairs, cleaning and a laundry list of another hundred or so items before you even get to the most important part. Getting customers in the door.

Now let’s say, I could offer you a way to cut your monthly expenses in half and guarantee a decent amount of foot traffic. Oh yeah, did I mention they’re already hungry and looking to sink their teeth into some good food.

Sound like a great deal, right?

Well, here’s the catch: the place I have in mind wouldn’t allow you to be the only burger joint around (negotiable). Also building your own brand would be somewhat harder than if you owned the place.

However, you’d have a much higher chance of succeeding in the short term and if all goes well, through building a loyal customer base and positive cash flow to one day owning your own space.

Still interested?

Great!

I’m sure that the various weekend food markets such as: Smorgasburg, Berwick Street Market would be a great place to start.

If you’re in a place that doesn’t have something along those lines, I’m sure there’s a Food Court or Strip Mall somewhere near. Sure, that’s a less glamorous option but we’re in business to make money and turn a profit, not look cool.

Maximize your chances for Success

If this is your first time around the block and you want to improve your chances of succeeding, then I think that joining a marketplace is the way to go.

You’ll have to most likely give up a nice chunk of your revenue and deal with the existing limitations of the platform.

One way or the other you have to start somewhere and why not do it in a place takes care of the hard part for you.

 

Until next time. Peace out.

Wes

Thanks to Théo Blochet & Walter Haas for the help in reviewing the draft of this post.

Product Management 101 – Resources & Links

Recently I had the honor of being invited for the second time with my ex-coworker to give a talk to a class of iOS developers from the Access Code program on what exactly is Product Management and does it work in an agency enviroment.

As much as we could cover within the two hour workshop, it always seems like there’s so much more to learn and for that reason I wanted to share some additional materials and links to resources for those that would want to dig a little deeper.

Now I’m sure many of my industry friends would point to other more technical and focused resources that dissect a PM job down to the nitty gritty and breakdown each individual process.

However if you want to check out some of the things that influenced me the most and gave me a better perspective on how to be a better Product Manager, below there’s the Top 7 resources I recommend exploring:

“What is good product management” from Giff Constable

The Inside Intercom Blog

Lean Startup Methodology by Eric Ries

Product People Podcast with Justin Jackson

Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Let my People go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman