So I left Microsoft on March 14 to start Notice Technologies. We've had some early successes and some early struggles. Nothing out of the ordinary. Here are 12 observations about the birth of Notice Technologies and my return to the startup world.
- one person respond to an e-mail or phone call in a timely manner. Thank you Bill Vlandis. You're a helluva guy. But his e-mail was pretty much instantaneous. You see, folks can't possibly respond to an entrepreneur's needs fast enough.
- two ex-co-workers at Microsoft beg me to write a scathing blog post about my time at Microsoft and all the things that are wrong there. Sorry, I won't bite. But I will expand on my "Entrepreneur's Guide to Microsoft" presentation here shortly though, and I will probably deliver a good/bad/ugly semi-rant at some point when/if things slow down.
- three extremely greed people who have already asked for equity at the mere hint of helping out. I'm not talking about critical needs either -- I'm talking about really unimportant details that would be nice to fix, but aren't critical. While I could use some help here or there, the last thing on my mind is handing out equity like Halloween candy. You want to piss off an entrepreneur? Go greedy from the outset and attack the equity pie. How about just offering a little help and trusting people you know that they'll hook you up? Seriously. It says alot about a candidate/friend/colleague/acquaintance that it would come up almost immediately. Como se dice "red flag?"
- conversations with four attorneys out of four who aren't exactly speaking my language when I say "I'm an unfunded startup and I need some help." Maybe my expectations are too high -- most attorneys aren't exactly entrepreneurial. One of my mentors told me that I'd be shocked at my legal bills. So far, that expectation has unfortunately been met.
- five companies who have already found me on Crunchbase or some other site, asking if they can "help" me with something. "Help" means "sell" for you newbies out there. I don't even have funding yet. Does someone see a briefcase of cash that I don't see? Am I wearing a big "kick me" sign? You know what? Slow your roll. I'll call you. Every time your call dramatically reduces your chances that I'll work with your company.
- six new business opportunities that have popped up in just over two weeks. Some with promising partners... some greenfield opportunities that people have yet to uncover. There are soooooooooo many social app opportunities yet resources are so tight. Focus, focus, focus. Unless, of course, it's a better business decision to focus somewhere else!!!
- seven totally unexpected business issues that I didn't anticipate. Sure you hear stories about how the visionary entrepreneur attacks a new business, creates a new market, solves a customer need. But what you don't hear about are the operational details, the little things that turn a promising morning into a day where you are running in place. The act of managing all the details while being the visionary, the fundraiser, the customer advocate, the salesman, the product manager, the PR spokesman/spokeswoman, and the HR department to name a few... let's just say it's invigorating.
- eight times in 17 days when I have had the support of my loving wife. Having a supportive significant other is critical -- to manage the difficult decisions, the ups & downs, the complications involved with leaving a lucrative job. It means a lot to me even though the pressure really isn't even on us yet. My wife is a keeper!
- nine feature additions that we have added to our application after repeatedly going through how users will take advantage of our application. I probably don't have to tell anyone who reads this blog that software development and usability are complicated concepts. They are particularly complicated when you are building apps for broad use by a large market of consumers. You really need to think through how people will use things, where they will choke and gag, and how you can simplify what you need people to do. I'm 99% sure we'll miss the mark with our first application, but we are going through this process as thoughtfully as we can.
- ten great features that simply have to slip to v2. Unless, of course, user acceptance/beta testing (yes that is a single concept for a startup) reveals that our app is terrible, needs another feature or five, or doesn't quite meet the needs of our users.
- which brings me to the eleven beta testers we've signed up... and the number keeps growing. When you do something like this, you really do come to appreciate the help of friends who take time out of their busy schedules to help you when it would be very easy for them to just ignore you. If this all ends well, they are all getting an invite to the throwdown. :-)
- and finally, twelve hours a day... every day. I have probably put 80-90 hrs. a week into this since starting. Granted, it's a lot of "hurry up & wait," but it's a heckuva lot of fun. My partner and CTO, Bobby, is probably pulling even longer hours than I am.
But it is fun. The work couldn't possibly be more fulfilling. And I wouldn't trade it for anything right now.