Dan Sweet

How I launched a lean startup for $8.17

I launched a startup today.

That might sound like a big statement, but it was really pretty easy. The whole thing took 3-4 hours of spare time on my iPhone and laptop while hanging around the house taking care of a 1 and a 3-year old. Total cost $8.17.

First, two helpful definitions of a startup:

Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup – “an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty”
Steve Blank‘s Customer Development – “search for a scalable, profitable business model”

This post by Steve Blank provides a step-by-step guide to launching a web startup and was very helpful. Tons of great links and pointers to tools. The most useful tool I found linked to in the article was the Lean Launch Lab. Stepping back a little, there is some classic work on business models by Alexander Osterwalder in his book Business Model Generation. The main premise is that you can lay out an entire end-to-end business model in nine small boxes on one sheet of paper. Layer Steve Blank’s Customer Development work on top of Alexander’s Business Model Canvas and you get what Steve Blank has been teaching in his entrepreneurship classes at Stanford and elsewhere – the Lean Launchpad.  Leanlaunchlab.com was built to turn this whole process into a simple to use web app. Watch the 1-minute video at the site to get the sense for how the process flows. I completed the entire Business Model Canvas on my iPhone while feeding a 1 and a 3-year old breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning. I switched over to a browser to write an initial hypothesis to test, design a test, establish some metrics and write a list of to-do’s to execute the test. A day later, I’ve got 5 of my 7 initial Tasks completed and have my first test underway.

My < 140 character elevator pitch is “Protect your stock portfolio and spot the best opportunities with meaningful real-time alerts.” I’ve got a basic landing page with email sign-up built at TradesthatMatter.com and I’ll be tweeting at @TTMAlerts .  The $8.17 was the domain registration fee at godaddy.com with a coupon from retailmenot.com.  Follow me on Twitter and sign up at the site to keep track of my progress.

Recent talk on data visualization, psychology, design principles

Simple Portfolio 2011: Update with 6 weeks to go

Since May 3, 2011:
DOW up 3.4%
S&P500 up 4.4%
Nasdaq up 10.0%

This portfolio has returned 17.0% since May 3, 2011. Given the Wall Street approach of measuring relative returns on a one year basis, I feel good about closing in on a 7-13% market beat.

Here is the current portfolio, purchased in May 2011, originally posted here:

AAPL 14% (Huge margins, huge revenue growth, tons of cash.)
GOOG 22% (“Less than free” looks likely to crush most competitors.)
GTU 23% (US policymakers will continue printing money = gold higher.)
FCX 20% (The developing world will continue developing.)
IBB 22% (All those smart scientists will eventually do something cool.)

Not sure what to think about the 29% hit my FCX position has taken. I still believe in the developing world continuing to develop but haven’t enjoyed the loss.

I bailed on the gold trade (GTU) at 1,815 Back in August of 2011 as it seemed a bit frothy. I avoided quite a bit of pain but that money has been sitting in cash since then. Good thing it is just my money so I’m allowed to do that.

Key lessons learned so far: Don’t overthink it. Once you make a good plan, let it work for you.

2012 Goals, review of 2011 goals

Last year I did a similar post imaginatively titled “2011 Goals, review of 2010 goals“.  Here it is again for 2012:

2012 Goals

End the year down  30+ pounds
Continue building my Python, SQL, R skills via side projects

Get “1” Rated
Meet quarterly with mentor(s)

These goals look almost identical to my 2011 goals for a reason.  I felt like I was working on the right things and just want to keep progressing.  I delivered on all of my work goals in 2011 while also making significant progress on several of the personal goals.  I’m looking to “go live” with some of my side project work in 2012.  I’ve bought the domain name datajuicing.com for this purpose as well.

“There are weeds over there too!” (Greener grass and all)

I spent some time a while back in a training for “managers of others”.  One component of the training involved salary planning as well as some commentary on motivating and retaining employees.  P&G spends a lot of money to recruit and hire its managers and would like to retain them for 30 years plus, as long as the performance is there.  Various scenarios were discussed that involved different combinations of work, location, role, rewards, management style that might deliver a positive experience for the employee.  Eventually though, we got to the “what do you do when someone says they are leaving” question.

The HR leader leading the training said that his basic approach is consistent and simple.  “There are weeds over there too!”  That is the bulk of the approach.  Help people process the fact that the things pissing them off here likely exist over there too.

As I think about my career it is easy to look at other industries or geographies and think life might be better there.  My favorite tool that I find useful to provide a reality check when I begin to think along those lines is Glassdoor.com.  If you haven’t used Glassdoor before, head on over and setup a free account.  Read employee verbatims of what they like and hate about their companies.  Read their “advice to senior management”.  See what they get paid, what their bonuses, profit sharing, etc is.  It is amazing how quickly the glow can come off of some glamorous sounding jobs when you read a half dozen reviews from people working in your function at the company that all complain about the same thing.  Whether it is nepotism, office politics, work-life balance, no raises, no career planning, terrible systems, an organizational prejudice against a certain function, an outsourcing trend, etc – WAY better to know that dynamic exists up front.

P&G has 127,000+ employees.  No matter how good of a screening job you do, there will still be some jerks in a group that big.  However, as Glassdoor demonstrates, we are now living in the age of transparency.  If organizations as a whole exhibit significant dysfunctions in their culture, people WILL find out.  I hear people (mostly from older generations) bemoan the new openness and public nature of the Internet.  I’m a big believer in the old adage that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”.  I think if you are a good person or a good company that generally does the right thing, you have nothing to fear from transparency and openness. Go check out Glassdoor.  Post a review of your company.  Go read some reviews from employees at companies you are envious of.  “Test drive” that greener grass from the safety of your couch.  Leave a comment below and let me know what you find that surprises you.