Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Startupville: Reading list

Books I recommend:

Start small stay small  - How to build a realistic software business.  
Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition design - Value prop, and business is king. This book is a must read.  Be sure to by the print book as it's full of pictures and diagrams. 
V is for vulnerable - A cute book on the attitude you need to survive as an entrepreneur.  
Lean startup - The book that kicked off how to run a startup
Traction - A treatise on customer aquistion strategies or how to get traction.

Books I'm reading now:

Zero to one - In progress looks great. 


In progress
Paul Graham - Paul is the founder of y-combinator and his writings defined the startup industry.
Brad Feld - One of the other best loves VC's. Often talks about funding, very interesting.
We don't sell saddles here - A treatise from the founder of Slack.

Commonly recommended books I could not finish:

Startup Owners Manual - Steve Blank - Steve is a smart guy (Mentor of Lean Startup Guy) and arguably the inventor of customer development,. However, I find his writing and this book meandering. I wanted to read this book but could not finish.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Soft Skills: How to communicate effectively

To be successful, you must communicate your ideas. The heart of communication is a story which must be written. Emma Coats wrote stories for Pixar, and tweeted a series of “story basics”. Most of these are applicable to communicating, and I’m posting them here to remind myself how to communicate better.

What do you want to say?

  • Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  • Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  • What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

How you want to say it?

  • You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
  • Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  • Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  • Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  •  Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

How do you stay motivated as a writer?

  • Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  • Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  • When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. The material to get you unstuck often shows up.
  • No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  • You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, it testing not optimizing.

How to become a better writer:

  • Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize to use it.
  • Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What positive computing approach are you taking in your designs?

The positive computing book lays out a simple model for the approach your designs can be taking, I summarize it here:

Approach Description Example
None Happiness ignored Most applications today - no attempt to make users happy
Passive (reactive) As issues are found which effect happiness, features are redesigned Comment systems allowing anonymous comments. As anonymous comments filled with negativity, comment systems evolved to allow enforcing a user identity, and to block "bad" users. [TBD: Get a better example]
Active Augmenting existing features to make users happier Bing home page - displaying beautiful images that makes users happy.
Deliberate The goal of the feature is user happiness exclusively Happify- a tool to train users ot be happier

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Measuring In the moment happiness (InMoHap) with moodles (Mu)

This post is in progress to help me flesh out my progress -- feedback please! 

TL;DR:  Moodles, abbreviated Mu, is a measure of in the moment  happiness" (InMoHap), which is extremely helpful when exploring positive computing. 

The case for moodles. 

The goal of positive computing is to make users happier, which means we need to measure happiness to tell if users are happier.   The current methods to measure happiness have limitations (details on request) , so we'll define a new ideal unit for in the moment happiness (InMoHap)  called the moodle, abbreviated Mu.

The properties of the Mu is it can be objectively measured at any moment of time with minimal  user interruption.    For example, just as a fit bit can transparently count your steps through the day, a Moodle-O-Meter can measure your InMoHap throughout the day.

Examples of using moodles. 
To get a good understanding of InMoHap and moodles the following graphs show some typical events through the day -- I'll flesh the below out with InMoHap graphs

Example #1: going through your day and getting triggered when you get a nasty gram from your Ex wife

Example #2: going through a normally grinding day

Example #3: Getting a surprise love letter from your partner.

The things that make InMoHap confusing: 
Even though moodles are a step up from our current measures, they have a few confusing properties:

First, the relationship between moodles and satisfaction is complicated (details on request).  For example, you might spend an entire vacation doing nothing but being drunk, this may high moodles, but does not improve satisfaction.

Second, moodles are the measure of an experience at a point in time.   The moodles a situation produces for the experiencing self, may be different from the moodles as experienced by the remembering self.

For example, imagine today at 5pm Bob is running and in pain, having a low Mu.  Tomorrow when Bob remembers the run as a great experience and remembering the experience of running he has a high moodle count.

Approximating Moodles with existing tools and measures
Sadly, moodles don't yet exist. However we have some ability to measure happiness which I'll describe here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

StartupVille: Testing vs Optimizing

TL;DR - Optimizing, is figuring out how to do make a result better.  Testing is checking if something is so good it doesn’t need to be optimized, or so bad you're better off doing something different.

Founders spend a significant portion of their time comparing alternative to see which is better and why. For example how to make a landing page more appealing, or what price they should set for a product. This process is incredibly important and called optimizing.

Optimizing is often expensive so before you start optimizing, test to see if something has so little traction it's not worth starting to optimize, or has so much traction there's no need to optimize.

For example, imagine you have a customer acquisition cost (CAC) budget of 5$ and you run some search ads and get a 0% click through rate.  In that case, instead of trying to optimize search ads, you are probably better off trying a different channel like social network  ads.  Now, imagine when you try social network ads you find your CAC is only 2$, in that case, you can skip optimizing completely as you’ve already achieved your goals.

A few final thoughts on the topic:
• Testing is essentially optimizing relative to the null hypothesis
• A side effect of optimizing rigorously is you describe why a change is important.
• You can always optimize after testing, in fact if it's important you certainly will.
• If it's trivial to do some optimizing while testing, go for it.

Soft Skills: How to suck less

Do you want to suck less? I do, here is some great advice from Jeff Atwood:

1) Embrace the suck - you'll keep sucking until you don't.
2) Do it in public - that way you can get feedback and learn how to suck less faster
3) Pick stuff that matters - the more important it is, the more motivation you have, and feedback you'll get.

This blog is a great example!

Positive Computing: Technology making us happier

TL; DR: Positive Computing is understanding how computing can make normal people happier.

Psychology started life as a science dedicated to helping people reduce mental illness.  Recently some psychologists wondered how their craft could help normal people be happier.  This new branch of psychology is called positive physiology.

Similarly computing started life dedicated to making people be more productive.  Many early computer engineers expected the increase in productivity to increase happiness. But, while productivity soared, happiness remained flat.   Recently some computer engineers wondered how their craft could help normal people be happier.  This new branch of computing is called positive computing.

Positive computing is a brand new field, and I look forward to investing in it heavily.  If you want to go deep into positive computing, there are some resources below:

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Typeform: Surveys and data gathering

As an entrepreneur, figuring out what your customers need is your top priority. When you have lots of customers, surveys are a great way of doing this.

If you're doing surveys I strongly recommend typeform. It's simple to setup, and produces beautiful ux on phones and desktops for data gathering. 

When you're thinking of using typeform, don't limit yourself to surveys. For example, I use typeform for sign up forms.  This saved me several hours of initial development, and even more hours when I made changes to my sign up process. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Startupville: Would you tell a single dad he needs a mom for his kid?

If you would, I've got news for you, he already knows, and what you said was futile.

Just as the single father already knows his child would benefit from a Mom and telling him won't help, it's not helpful to tell a founder he needs a partner.

Like a single father, a Solopreneur knows the benefits of a partner are huge, but is wary of settling on the wrong partner.

Having a partner who wouldn't cherish their baby through thick and thin, is far worse then going through the same think and thin alone.

Startupville: The three founders - Hustlers, Hackers and Hookers

To run a startup you need three personas represented by your founders:Hustlers, Hackers and Hookers.

The hustler is the founder who can breaks down doors, she unlocks segments, captures funding, she's makes sure the startup engine never stalls for lack of leads or funding.

The hacker is the founder who builds it. She is a McGyver and can build anything quickly. When there's a technical problem she can get it duct taped and bubbled gummed back up in giffy to keep the technical side of the business running.

The hooker is the least known of the founder personas, but possibly the most valuable. His job is to love the customers. He listens to the customers emphatically and deeply understands what customer need,  even when the customer can't describe it.  This founder figures what should be built within the constrains of the business model and technology.

Often startups don't have dedicated people for each of these roles, but the personas need to covered by the founders to achieve success.