Thursday, February 23, 2017

Shadrak White

Shadrak White was in my entrepreneurship class recently. He is the founder of a company called Cloud Power He has an interesting perspective on the world of entrepreneurship.  He has run the gamut on the different sides of the entrepreneurship life. he has founded a yard care business, the stereotypical first company that every one uses as an example for the basics of the entrepreneurship life. He has had a company fail. He has also had spats with his co-founders. And right now he has a company that is starting to become wildly successful.

He has learned a lot in his life while pursuing the entrepreneurship life. Chief amongst them is following his spider senses, and how to be a financial hawk.

His spider senses example was about how he had had a n inkling in the back of his head about people. He wanted us to know that if you feel uncomfortable with working with someone, you should trust your gut. You have to remember that no matter what your motivation for your company (money, lifestyle, making a difference in the world) you are represented by this company so you have to align yourself morally with your partners.

Additionally as a founder it is always most important that you are looking to continue financing your company. Beyond building the product or marketing or  selling, you should be ensuring you have the capital to continue operation. And that is where I have found a somewhat big turnoff of this lifestyle. I do feel that finance is important and I would love to get rich from a company, but I enjoy that creative aspects of my industry. that is why I am currently pursuing a job at a consulting firm. I want to be creative and I worry that being a founder or CEO or president would take away form that. I need to find a way to preserve my desires or else I will find myself burning out and unable to put the key in the ignition to go to work.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Thoughts on Brian Forth and his company, SiteCrafting

Brian Forth is an entrepreneur who has successfully run his company, SiteCrafting, for twenty years. That means he survived the dot com bust and apparently survived it with aplomb. His presentation to my entrepreneurship class resonated with me because he has been through the gamut of the entrepreneur life. Obviously after twenty years and a fancy new office he must be doing well. But even in success the entrepreneur lifestyle remains a rollercoaster.

While listening to Brian I learned that quite a bit about how as a company you have to change gears to make sure that you turn to take advantage of the prevailing winds. But at the same time you have to continue to foster a relationship with your crew. Over the summer SiteCrafting was taking to a new ideology of using an agile methodology for tracking productivity of the devs. According to Brian this led to conflicts and finger pointing. It was bad. He values his employees and has carefully cultivated a family like culture with his people and this new ideology was destroying and defiling that culture. You could tell while he was in our class that he just seemed exhausted. But they are recovering despite the fact that he thought that the conflicts SiteCrafting was facing were of the type that could destroy a company.

This impressed upon me the importance of culture in a company.l You want to surround yourself with people who have the same values as you and fostering the right culture will ensure that those people are the right people.  Culture also has to be organic though. You cannot force a culture onto people you can only influence. And you can tell when you are messing that up because neither you or your employees or your partners will be happy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Erik Hanberg: Author and Entrepreneur

In my entrepreneurship class I recently got to here a presentation from a man named Erik Hanberg. He help run a successful business with his wife and is apparently a fairly successful author. The thing that most impressed me though was how he had the foresight to hop on the ebook bandwagon early, and also that he saw enough potential their that he created a huge plan that would allow him to live off of his writing at a point in the future. I feel the big early lesson in I"m getting from my class is that a plan is absolutely necessary to a successful business. Having an idea is cool and people may like you idea but an idea doesn't pay the bills. Unless your incredibly lucky a single book isn't going to let you retire. You have to look at to look at the future and figure out what it is that you have to do get to what you see there.

Erik has been tracking the money earned by him and his wife and it was a fascinating graph to see. You can see downward trends and areas that might be dubbed a "failure" but it has a very strong upward trend overall. This is prime evidence supporting the idea that it takes time and many steps to achieve a stable and balanced business. Whether that is with an empire of literature or a technology startup, they all require a plan and a (painful) amount of patience.

Monday, January 16, 2017

So what would I do if I HAD to form a startup?

There are several options that I'd consider if spontaneously the only career option I had available to me was to form a startup. Luckily I have played around with several ideas in the past and then poked holes in those ideas. For the sake of this blog post I'm going to try and avoid pointing out flaws as I see them because I have a feeling my own self criticism of these ideas may be holding me back. But with out further ado lets look at number one...

1. VR/AR Home Theaters

Everyone loves going to the movies but they hate the strangers who are sitting right next to them. They're always on their phone, they're talking or, quite possibly the worst thing they could do, they chew their popcorn with their mouths open. My idea is is to leverage the new VR and AR technologies to create a virtual theatre in your home. VR and AR is quickly becoming more affordable as companies begin to dive into development of these products which perhaps can allow for these virtual theaters to subvert the home theatre market by undercutting costs.

2. VR/AR Pay per View

This idea expands upon my previous home theatre idea. What if go beyond just a home theatre. Instead perhaps you are having a viewing party for the next big UFC fight. Everyone does their VR headsets and then suddenly its as if your whole party is right their in their own private box ringside. Or instead of a fight you have a private box at Pacific Northwest Ballet or even on Broadway. We would be leveraging the Pay per View model that cable companies have been using for such a long time and e would stream these events live. This way all of you can finally see Hamilton without traveling to the East Coast.

3. Augmented Reality Board Games

I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft was already doing this, but one of my favorite games on PC is called Tabletop simulator. Its not really a game in the traditional sense, but what it allows you to Play your DnD or Cards Against Humanity in a virtual world on your computer screen with your friends. Lets take that a step further and actually play these games physically but in a virtual environment. The end goal in my mind is to be playing Wizard Chess like Harry, Ron and Hermione did in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What do I want out of this class....

When I signed up for an entrepreneurship class I wasn't really sure what to expect. Being a computer science major I have spent inordinate amounts of time taking very technical classes. I've had ideas pop through my had at times but i really have no idea what  I would do with those ideas. So what I'm looking for is an idea of what the other side of my industry looks like. What does it take to make it on my own and what do I have to do if I decide I want to run with my own ideas?

I feel this class will allow me to get my head out of the bubble that so many software developers get themselves int. There is a cap in this industry and once you hit that cap it goes downhill.  It is my responsibility to go out and ensure that I continue to grow and being able to see the different aspects of my industry will allow me to do that.

I'm not going into this class expecting to be a genius in business and immediately start my own company, I have aspects of my life that take priority over that for now. But having the knowledge that if I don't like how my career is turning out I have some skills I can use to change it is a comforting idea. Which is a strange concept because becoming a entrepreneur is probably one of the more fiscally dangerous things you can do in your life.