Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

User Experience Design

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

I just got finished reading this article about user experience design and what should and shouldn’t be the claims of someone who does user experience design. It’s a fascinating read for anyone that is working to design webpages.

When I tell people that I work on websites for a living, it’s regularly followed with some referral to someone who wants a website created. It always makes me laugh a little inside. I really don’t like doing websites for other people. I’ve occasionally done them, but they’re definitely the exception and not the rule. What’s funny is that most people don’t realize the different ways to make money on the internet.

So, yes, I am a web designer and I do create websites, but I mostly like to create my own websites. Why? That sounds like a good future post. I’ll save it for then. Although, one aspect of that answer has to do with user experience design.

To create a usable website it’s not a one time shot. Unfortunately, far too many people make this mistake. The key to building a usable website and one that becomes very popular is to constantly be building, modifying, tweaking, adding, improving, etc etc etc the website. Plus, all of these changes and additions are done as you fanatically evaluate the results of the changes you made.

Notice the use of the terms fanatic and constant. If I’m working on someone else’s website, it’s MUCH MUCH harder to be fanatic about their project and constantly changing what needs to be changed. However, I’m in love with my own projects and so the hours just pass and I barely realize where they’ve gone. This passion and love of the work is what makes for a great user experience design.

That’s not to say that there aren’t other people that can work on other people’s projects and enjoy it. There are people out there. However, the best user experience designers are the ones that are completely passionate about a project. If there’s no passion, you might as well go outsource a freelance web designer on eLance to create you a website. They’re great (and inexpensive) at creating websites, but it takes real passion to create a meaningful user experience.

Internet Entrepreneurship in Las Vegas

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I first moved to Las Vegas a little over 5 years ago. I’d heard good things about living in Las Vegas and to be honest I moved here to be close to family. Luckily family has moved away and so it’s just my wife and our family again and we like it that way. Although, that’s a topic of another blog post.

I must admit that I didn’t move to Las Vegas because I was an internet entrepreneur and Las Vegas is the perfect place to be an entrepreneur. Obviously, if i wanted to do that I would have just moved to Silicon Valley. Although, I’m not a fan of that area, so I’d probably move to the next best thing: Boston (and yes, I know there are a few other decent places as well). In fact, a couple years back I was really close to picking up my family and moving to Boston with a contest called YouBeTheVC to be a full time internet entrepreneur working the forever long hours in a very expensive place and wondering how exactly I was going to feed my family.

To be honest, it actually sounded really exciting to me. I’ve been to Boston a few times and LOVED it there. I hate the cost of everything, but I would have loved to be in that are and be part of what seems to be a much larger internet startup scene. Well, I didn’t win the contest (Thankfully since it turned out to be kind of a sham) and so I stayed in Las Vegas. Long story short, I kept building my blogs and learning about internet startup companies while I was in Las Vegas (you can see my full blog story at Word Camp Las Vegas in a couple weeks).

Now I’m working full time on the idea I was planning to build in Boston, Giving Sports Fundraising. However, I’m not in Boston, I’m in Las Vegas.

In the 5 years I’ve lived in Las Vegas, I’ve done quite a bit of networking. Let’s just say that I haven’t had many chances to associate with other internet entrepreneurs. I started thinking about this when I read Brad Feld’s blog post about creating a startup community in Boulder. It was cool to hear him talk about what’s happened in Boulder with internet startup companies. I wish that the same thing would happen in Las Vegas.

I’ve actually met quite a few entrepreneurs here in Las Vegas. Just not that many internet entrepreneurs. I wonder what could be done to change that. Especially since I really don’t have any immediate plans to leave Las Vegas. I never thought I’d admit it, but honestly my family and I are quite happy right here.

Lean Startups Tools and Services List

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I prefer to call myself a boot strapped entrepreneur, but the in vogue term these days is to call it a Lean Startup. I’m sure some people would love to debate the definition of the two terms, but I’ve never found debates around terminology very beneficial.

Call it what you may, I was interested to see this list of Lean Startup Tools and Services. I use a number of the services on the list, but it’s always great to learn about new services and tools that can be used. Not to mention ones I’d wanted to check out and never taken the time. DropBox is one of those services that I’ve wanted to check out. So, I’m going to go and do that now. If I like it, I’m sure you’ll hear more about it.

Google Apps – Boot Strap Email for Small Businesses

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Since I’m such a huge fan of boot strapping a business into fruition, I figured I should share some of the ways that I save myself spending hordes of money while still having amazing tools. One of those tools is Google Apps.

What most people don’t realize is that there is a Google Apps Standard and a Google Apps Premiere. Notice that I only linked to the Standard, because a boot strap internet startup company will never go for the Google Apps Premiere. Down the road as you grow you might want to consider it, but at first there’s no reason you shouldn’t be totally satisfied with the FREE Google Apps Standard edition.

Of course, Google tries a lot of different ways to kind of hide the Free Google Apps Standard edition and have you use the Google Apps premiere, but since you’re reading this blog you’ll know better. Although, I should say that as you grow, Google Apps Premiere is a great cost too, but that’s for much later.

So, why do I love Google Apps Standard (from now on known as Google Apps)? It’s basically Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, but all from your own custom domain. That’s right, when I email you from my @www.crashutah.com domain it’s all going through Google’s email servers for free. Trust me. There are no email applications that can compare with gmail. I’ll save why for another post, but it’s fantastic.

Add in the nice integrations with Google Calendar and Google Docs and it’s better than even implementing an Exchange server for your company. Plus, did you remember that it’s FREE (Exchange is far from free in case you didn’t know).

Sure, you can only have 50 users (which shouldn’t be a problem). Sure, you have ads around your email (as if that really matters, they’re not in your email. Sure, you’re limited to 7GB of email per user (which is a TON of email). Yep, all things that really don’t make much of a difference when you start a business.

I’m always amazed when someone from a pretty large business emails me from ksmith@cox.net. I mean really? How unprofessional is that? I’m sure they’re just afraid to setup a cool email like ksmith@yourdomain.com. Luckily, with Google Apps it’s Easy to setup and it’s free. Ok, it will cost you the $10 or so per year for the domain, but you’re going to have to pay that for your website anyway.

Not sold? Ok, then go and sign up for your .aol.com email account and see how much credibility you have with your customers;-)

Evaluating CRM Applications

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I’ve been slowly keeping my eyes open for a CRM package which I can use to keep track of all my contacts for Giving Sports and Giving Square. I’m really amazed at how quickly keeping track of sales contacts can get out of hand. Not to mention how easy it is to have the follow up with these contacts fall through the cracks.

Today I came across a blog post on the Google Apps blog about their App Marketplace being 6 months old now. In their list they included a link to a CRM application. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to look into the various CRM applications. Especially since I LOVE using Google Apps and do so for all of my domains. So, I was interested to see what CRM applications were out there that I could use with my existing Google Apps accounts. Not to mention potential integration with my emails, docs, etc.

So far I’ve narrowed my selection down to these 3 CRM Google Apps:
Insightly – Free to signup for the CRM. I’m still trying to figure out when they’re going to charge me.
Zoho CRM – Free CRM for 3 users
Applane CRM – Free CRM for 2 users

Have any of you used any of these applications? I’d love to hear people’s experiences with any of them. I’ll let you know which I decide to use and likely a writeup of my experience with it.

My Bootstrap Approach to Funding My Startup Company

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

I’ve been thinking about starting Giving Sports for a number of years. In fact, I’m sure that there were many many people that thought that I would never do it. Heck, there were times that I didn’t think I was ever going to do it. However, the previous timing was never right for me to start the startup. I’ll likely talk more about this later and why the timing is great now, but one key element to the timing is my ability to bootstrap my startup company.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting funding for Giving Sports. A number of investors have been talking to me and they invariably ask the question, “Do you need some money?

That’s such a hard question to answer. I actually hate when they ask it, but it’s a genius question. Of course, EVERYONE wants money. Of course, what the investor doesn’t tell you is the cost to be able to get their money. That’s right, there’s a price you have to pay to get the money.

Evaluating the cost to get an investment in your company against the benefit of cash is an impossible math. In fact, I’d say it’s more art than science. Plus, it seems like the advice I’ve gotten over and over from investors who would never invest in my company (wrong niche, too small, etc) is to wait as long as possible to take money.

This has kind of become the theme in my various networking opportunities with investors. That along with my reading of the fantastic book Rework by the founders of 37 Signals has really pushed me to bootstrap my startup company.

I guess I’m not a total bootstrapper. In fact, the in vogue term is to call me a lean startup company. The key is that I’ve been able to self fund my startup company on the back of my blog income. I’m sure many out there are thinking that there’s no way they could do that. I didn’t think that I could do it last year either. Turns out. I can and I am doing it!

Certainly I have to be careful how much time I spend on my blogs versus on my startup company. I can see how it can easily distract me. However, it’s like everything in life that just takes balance. Plus, I’ve been thinking lately about the time cost associated with chasing capital. Not to mention that I could end up spending what amounts to a part time job chasing capital and end up with NOTHING.

This is why it’s easy for me to justify the occasional need to focus on my blogs. It’s likely much less time than I would have spent fundraising. It’s something I love to do (which I’m guessing fundraising would not fulfill). Plus, I don’t have to give up any equity in the process.

Here’s a quick look at the options:

1. Work on my blogs similar to the amount of time I would have spent raising money. Make enough money to self fund my startup doing something I love. Keep 100% of the equity in the company.

2. Work on finding funding for my startup. Possibly find no one interested in investing. If I land a nice pile of cash I have to give up 15-50% of the company (depending on a lot of factors).

Seems like a pretty clear choice to me.

I should say that I’m not against going for funding either. At some point I could see funding as a viable option. Sometimes scaling needs the cash to really grow the company. However, for now I’m quite comfortable growing organically. Isn’t organic the in thing?