entrepreneurship, Mobile, Software, startup

Death to the Cult of Stealth Startups!

Let there be light!

You might already know of my bootstrapped startup Gauss – The People Magnet. What some of you might not know is that I teach entrepreneurial students at universities, young hopeful startups at NEXT, keynoting events and F500* corporates that as a startup entrepreneur you need to:

  • Talk to everybody about everything all of the time
  • Expose yourself and your ideas to as many people (your potential users and customers) as soon as possible
  • Acknowledge and understand that no smart person or company will ever copy you before you have a validated and proven business model

I have come to realize that it is about embarrassingly high time that I start practice what I preach. It’s about time to start eating my own dog food. I’m spontaneously throwing everything out there to see what happens when you shine as much light from as many sources as possible on your ideas and assumptions instead of having them worshipped inside the cult of the stealth startup. I don’t expect much and I have nothing to lose but my vanity, so here we go.

I hereby declare death to the cult of stealth startups and pledge and acknowledge that I will:

  1. Publish and solicit feedback as broadly as possible on any and all prototypes before writing a single line of code (e.g. as features described in text, click-dummies or paper wireframes)
  2. Be ready to face any and all critique in public in any form or way, the more and more brutally honest the better
  3. Risk the embarrassment of being ridiculed and failing spectacularly in public
  4. Risk having my ideas stolen by competitors
  5. Only exercise the option to stop sharing everything in public, if and only if, I have a validated product-market fit or when I have a validated business model

As of now, I’m going to publish all prototypes instead of following the cult of the stealth startup. I LOVE your feedback going forward and you can use this form (so you can remain anonymous) or feel free to leave comments on this post in public. Be brutally honest. I’m ready to take it! :)

Here’s a scrappy video walk-through (and in no way am I apologizing for the poor quality, because I also preach it is better to have something instead of nothing!):

And here are two click dummies for you to test on your iPhone for yourself (they should sort of work on Android too, though).

The main click-dummy with core concepts. (Try this first for basic concepts and tap Robert Scoble to test features as his profile is the only interactive one)

This next click dummy will show you what happens when you get a notification from Gauss. (BTW, profiles are inactive, not tap-able in this version)

Let me know what you think. Is this a great idea or worst ever? Should we all remain loyal followers of the dark cult of the stealth startup or is it about time to let the public sunshine in? I shared this post on HN so feel free to continue the discussion there too.

g2_grab

*Caveat: Obviously, if you’re inside a F500 corporation, sharing within your enterprise is assumed, not necessarily with the public. That would obviously open up a can of whoop-ass from your legal department. Enterprise is funny that way.

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Mobile, News

OneSec – An experiment in crowd funding

As some of you already know, I’m collaborating with a friend of mine on this little fun crowd funding summer project thing called OneSec.

So get out your credit cards and pledge now!

OneSec is an iPhone app that makes shooting & sharing good videos fun and easy by changing the format to one second shots. Less is more!

Check out our campaign on IndieGoGo for the full story.

We thought it would be an interesting experiment to test if crowd funding is a valid option to fund awesome high-quality iPhone apps. We’re iterating our campaign every day and sharing insights what’s working and what’s not. Stay tuned for more insights.

So head over to the campaign and pledge, pledge, pledge as much as you can spare and if you can’t or won’t pay us be sure click all the like and share buttons on the campaign page. That helps too!

Oh, and not to worry about Gauss. That one is still moving ahead at full speed. I’m just doing this as a fun little summer experiment as others have their well-deserved summer break.

 

OneSec screenshot 2

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Business Ideas, Mobile, Rants, Software

A mobile business idea – from 2003

A couple of months ago I met a new acquaintance that had some interesting business ideas. As luck would have it, they happened to correlate in part with some ancient ideas of my own and we instantly hit it off. Since then, a little voice in the back of my head has been telling me that I might have a record of the original brainstorming back in 2003. It’s not quite what we’re up to these days, but it is in many ways related. At least it was sort of the spore for me. More on that for a future post, perhaps.

Mobile Lineage

Lo’ behold: I actually managed to find the original IM chat log between me and a good friend sometime first half of 2003 after some searching of archived CD-ROMs [sic], translated in parts from Norwegian. It’s a fun time capsule if nothing more and it’s interesting to see how the assessments and predictions for mobile devices, services and business models we had back in 2003 relate to the mobile reality of 2010 – or not.

If you’re of an overly sensitive nature, be warned that this post contains colourful adult language. I would also state for the record that my references to Nipponese people and Nipponese culture are not meant to be derogatory, defamatory or otherwise insulting. Far from it. I find Japanese people and culture most fascinating and inspiring.

To all telcos that might find statements, opinions and ideas in this post derogatory, defamatory or otherwise insulting – well life just ain’t fair, is it?

My friend’s IM nickname has been changed to protect the guilty. He knows who he is and what he has done.  ;)

So with no further ado I’ll let it all hang out here in the open  for posterity. What can I say. We were angry young men of low moral fiber young and needed the money:

BlackTar says:
http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/business/technology/5987828.htm [link no longer active – nice argument for permalinks – and I was not able to find it on wayback machine. Anyway, I seem to remember the article was about some new dating and geolocation thingy]

BlackTar says:
new? no

BlackTar says:
I’ve had an idea about the perfect Japanese mobile phone along those lines for a long time.. .

BlackTar says:
it’s gotta happen sooner or later – would bee nice to cash in ourselves

Friend says:
I thought this was cool when I read about it back in the tamagotchi days

BlackTar says:
yeah, but think about the possibility to cash in real money on perv nipponese (and the rest of the world for that matters)

Friend says:
I think that would be pretty kick-ass, actually…

BlackTar says:
there once was this Japanese hightech product that would let you plot in sexual and partner preference and it would indicate when someone with the same gizmo and matching profile would be in your vicinity

BlackTar says:
it never took off

Friend says:
not necessarily for perv purposes

BlackTar says:
no, true – but it’s more fun if you think about perverted nipponese

BlackTar says:
well.. . my idea is to enable each and every mobile phone with the same capabilities

Friend says:
separate the crap, sort of

BlackTar says:
either with a Java app together with a server based solution

BlackTar says:
low threshold

BlackTar says:
or just the server solution

BlackTar says:
ref. NetCom Buddy [early Norwegian geolocation service that you could set up in a web interface to have it report by sms where your friends were, based on opt-in consent and triangulation]

BlackTar says:
you can already receive notifications about where your friends are

Friend says:
hmm.. it cannot work other than server side.. or else you need new hardware

BlackTar says:
true, but the interface could be Java

BlackTar says:
instead of sending sms – but sms is a proven business model by now

Friend says:
if it can’t run piggyback on the standard mobile server traffic

BlackTar says:
it is a prerequisite that it can

BlackTar says:
(must)

Friend says:
but you can like request a ‘proximity check’ from the server, anyway.

BlackTar says:
yeah, but you do it via SMS!!!

BlackTar says:
that’s the genious part!

BlackTar says:
you constantly need to BUY services!!

Friend says:
yeahyeah, of course.. just thinking out aloud here

BlackTar says:
I think this is ripe for bigggg bucks

Friend says:
piggybucks!

BlackTar says:
piggy, piggy can’t you see.. .

BlackTar says:
imagine you are about to go out for a night on the town – then you just set up what you are looking for today/tonight – either via sms or web – then you can request proximity checks via sms afterwards

BlackTar says:
I believe and think this is worth insane amounts of money

BlackTar says:
after all – the human sex drive is probably the most proven business model of them all

BlackTar says:
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/02/national/02INTE.html

BlackTar says:
wtf

Friend says:
Keep a lid on it!

BlackTar says:
riiiiiiiiiiiiight

BlackTar says:
how much does a patent cost?

Friend says:
the nipponese are probably working on this already.. better sleuth for some industrial espionage on the net

BlackTar says:
you are the only one I’ve told

BlackTar says:
no! I don’t think the nipponese even use sms

BlackTar says:
do they?

BlackTar says:
they probably have some sort of micropayment system

BlackTar says:
but.. . I picture this being just as big in the us of a

Friend says:
are they making money on devices or services or both.. sort of

BlackTar says:
both I think

BlackTar says:
they do have a completely different network

Friend says:
yeah well, usa have discovered sms and teletext only in the recent year or so

BlackTar says:
with 489587347598759 more features and bandwidth

Friend says:
hmm.. but they can’t launch a network just for this? .. probably radio

Friend says:
isn’t it only short distance that is of interest?

Friend says:
or

BlackTar says:
no, it could probably work on the nipponese network too

Friend says:
e.g. sitting at home checking out where the most likeminded are in the city at the moment

BlackTar says:
exactly

BlackTar says:
you can do this today with GSM

BlackTar says:
and probably with anything that sends and receives waves

Friend says:
yeah, with people you know…. ok I know how this can work

BlackTar says:
trinangulation between base stations

Friend says:
yeahyeah

BlackTar says:
it’s going to get much more fun when gps becomes a natural part of a mobile phone

Friend says:
but it can work exactly like the “where are my friends” thing

BlackTar says:
triangulation is even more accurate as of now, tho afaik

Friend says:
you don’t have to send any extra information between phone and central either

BlackTar says:
yeah! and one should also be able to do the “where are my friends” thing too

BlackTar says:
no, it only takes that you opt-in to allow your geolocation to be published

BlackTar says:
you’ll send a simple or advanced query to the server via SMS – it returns what it finds

Friend says:
because the numbers are categorized on the central [server] into interests you’ve been filling out over the internet.. and when one does a “my friends search” it does not search for the numbers you’ve added, but any number they’ve flagged prerequisites

Friend says:
the technology is already there

BlackTar says:
after a proprietary – a la google – sorting

BlackTar says:
there has to be some flexibility in handling the query such as you risk to never get a match [sic]

Friend says:
that you not? or? huh+

BlackTar says:
a lot of the success factor lays thus in the algorithm(s) for handling the matching of criteria

BlackTar says:
understandably you could make this hyper simple too

BlackTar says:
with if/else functions, booleans

Friend says:
hmm.. I don’t really see a problem with this.. you get % numbers on matches and it’s left to the user to decide if that’s good enough, sort of..

Friend says:
a fixed number of hits every time

BlackTar says:
% match is meaningless – ref websearch

Friend says:
hmmm….. can one buy oneself upwards on the lists?

BlackTar says:
hehe

Friend says:
el corrupto

BlackTar says:
that doesn’t work either ref websearch

BlackTar says:
but it’s clear that you have to specify degree of match you want when you request query per sms

BlackTar says:
hihi

BlackTar says:
so you have to send more than 1

BlackTar says:
and it is clear that you need heaps of parameters and features that you can adjust per sms

Friend says:
mo’ money

BlackTar says:
but just enough so that it becomes, stays functional

Friend says:
one can request info on hits

BlackTar says:
so, you see.. . it’s in actual fact the sane as Trepia – only smarter

BlackTar says:
regular people don’t understand hits

BlackTar says:
info on hits? more info, click hear plz

Friend says:
duh

BlackTar says:
tell me more about info on hits

Friend says:
Once you’re a member of the service you can enter personal info about yourself, this can be bought with sms, when MMS gets common you can have images/videos, whatever, too

BlackTar says:
yeah

BlackTar says:
yes

BlackTar says:
info on hit == profiles

BlackTar says:
brb

[snip, snip, snip. Lunch break and a funny digression about Cottage Cheese, Procter & Gamble, Amway and the Church of Satan. It happens, you know.]

BlackTar says:
what’s neat & sweet about the mobile service is that it is remarkably compatible with the multi level marketing [MLM] scheme!!!

BlackTar says:
you have a product (that in addition to be low cost – initial investment only) that people consume and come back to consume
– then you ‘franchise’ the system to agents below you (distribution companies, telcos, etc) who then resell the service to other subcontractors. We collect from every party from the bottom up!!

BlackTar says:
== daddy bigbucks

Friend says:
what’s the name of the friends search service thing from telenor?

BlackTar says:
no idea

BlackTar says:
[the service from] netcom is called ‘buddy’

[snip, snip, snip. A digression about SARS in China, ill friends and travel.]

Friend says:
http://telenormobil.no/mobilinfo/oversikt.jsp

Friend says:
#2

Friend says:
Pick-up tips?!!!! jesus

Friend says:
Jokes?!!! OMG

BlackTar says:
positioning

Friend says:
ho ho!

BlackTar says:
‘It costs NOK 0,0 per message that you receive.’

BlackTar says:
eh?

Friend says:
hmmm.. Whiskey Tango Foxrot ?!

Friend says:
ah.. you pay fixed

BlackTar says:
longitude and latitude?

BlackTar says:
how much does one pay fixed?

Friend says:
or?

Friend says:
no, then they would probably state it

Friend says:
‘The query is free but you have to pay for the answer.’

BlackTar says:
Probably an error

BlackTar says:
‘Get Bible verses directly to the mobile.
It costs NOK 3,0 per message that you receive.’

BlackTar says:
‘when do you want to be notified’

BlackTar says:
haha

BlackTar says:
http://telenormobil.no/mobilinfo/product/categories.jsp?maincategory=ENTERTAINMENT&category=CATEGORY0

BlackTar says:
fucking hell

Friend says:
what about a ‘get out of a meeting’ service? Order an incoming call in 20 mins. .. hoho you can use alarm clock wake up services for this

BlackTar says:
yupp

Friend says:
oops.. muyo importante, must go!

BlackTar says:
http://telenormobil.no/mobilinfo/product/product.jsp?productCode=BIORYTMER

Friend says:
hmmmmmm…..hmmmm…mhm…hmhmhm.hm……

BlackTar says:
kiss my.. .

BlackTar says:
“You will receive a total of two messages.
It costs NOK 5,- per received message.”

Friend says:
set sail for cock, assboat!

BlackTar says:
I too want to cash in on this NOW!!!

Friend says:
serialz straight to your mobile

BlackTar says:
gotta talk to [other friend].. . He knows some people who do bulk SMS server solutions

BlackTar says:
hihi

BlackTar says:
l/p pr0n craxx0r

BlackTar says:
abuse

BlackTar says:
send a message with the code ‘idiot’ and get an incoming call telling you off for being stupid enough to waste NOK 10,00 on the service

BlackTar says:
that would probably work too

Friend says:
hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… do you have a link to that ‘buddy’ thing?

BlackTar says:
http://www.netcom.no/

Friend says:
kinda wondering what kind of info you get back? your friend is situated at 4525 degrees north, 34 clicks west at sea level 341345?

BlackTar says:
in the street with number of the house

BlackTar says:
have tested

Friend says:
kool

BlackTar says:
http://mother.netcom.no/Forside/index.html

BlackTar says:
http://mother.netcom.no/Login/login_page.html?org=%2FBuddy%2Findex.html

Friend says:
if one does not find funding in a hurry, then it’s just to send a registered letter that explains the gig to telenor and netcom.. wait ca 1 year and then sue..

BlackTar says:
yup – file at lawyer and deposit box

BlackTar says:
stupid pages

BlackTar says:
ah! I got the buddy password right now

BlackTar says:
neat

BlackTar says:
can log in everywhere at netcom without being registered

Friend says:
yes, so get it theeeeeeeeeeeeeen

Friend says:
usually receives it immediately

BlackTar says:
yup

BlackTar says:
you got netcom?

Friend says:
yes

BlackTar says:
okidoki

Friend says:
hmmm… does it cost anything, come to think of it?

BlackTar says:
probably per received message

BlackTar says:
with MAP and stuff!!!

BlackTar says:
‘It is free to use Buddy from mother.no in August and September!’
Det er gratis å bruke Buddy fra mother.no i hele august og september!

BlackTar says:
[mobile phone number]?

Friend says:
yes

Friend says:
HELL! Why don’t I get a passsssssssssword

BlackTar says:
took 3 tries before I got one

BlackTar says:
search (reception) SMS WAP* and WEB
1 person NOK 3,00
Group 2-5 persons NOK 5,00
Group 6-10 persons NOK 8,00

Friend says:
I’m not fucking receiving one

Friend says:
maybe they canceled my subscription thingy?

Friend says:
haven’t tried to call lately…

BlackTar says:
wap & web per gprs.. . hmm whatwhat what

BlackTar says:
you need to invite people

BlackTar says:
so I’ll try to localize myself then

Friend says:
bah

[snip, snip, snip. Digression about HL2 screener, SMS gambling services, gen BS]

BlackTar says:
so

BlackTar says:
I’ve invited myself now

BlackTar says:
to netcom buddy

BlackTar says:
but now the html doesn’t work

BlackTar says:
damned shit

BlackTar says:
part of the secret about the sms thing is that it shouldn’t be as committing and explicit as the classifieds

BlackTar says:
so that you can remain anonymous but still create a feeling of excitement and adventure

BlackTar says:
so that most people possible would use it

Friend says:
yup.. the [Norwegian data storage supervision department] would probably like it too

BlackTar says:
BUT then you can of course choose to make it explicit by way of our anonymous sms chat system!

BlackTar says:
and that costs money ™ per message

Friend says:
the problem is to beef up the user numbers…..’

BlackTar says:
yes – the secret to that is to place the bar as low as possible

BlackTar says:
once they’re ‘in’ they’ll have a lot of features to burn away the money on

BlackTar says:
or they can stick with the simple features – which cost money still

BlackTar says:
it mustn’t cost too much either

Friend says:
join for free.. increase 10 cents per use until fixed price of NOK 3 or whatever

BlackTar says:
I think a fixed price per received message is the way to go

BlackTar says:
some services [features] are of course more expensive than others

Friend says:
important: finding out how the triangulation thing works with the telcos.. if it is at all possible to buy this service [from them]

BlackTar says:
it is – if they make money on it

BlackTar says:
think about it this way – we would be doing the least amount of work possible : 1. Own the rights 2. Manage the concept 3. Harvest money

BlackTar says:
the best bit is that the telcos would be responsible for the integration and technical parts themselves

BlackTar says:
we just want money per license and share per received sms – we are only going to invest in the concept

BlackTar says:
see the presentation on rebel.as

Friend says:
the technical part is there.. it just needs to be hooked up with the Whoremonger ™ sms services

BlackTar says:
yes, and that’s not our responsibility

BlackTar says:
that costs money

BlackTar says:
and those interested in making money on their networks should carry those costs

BlackTar says:
if we only make something that talk in standard tongue [made with open standards]

BlackTar says:
then the rest should be fine

BlackTar says:
I think the essence is to create a concept with a low bar for participation, and at the same time offer flexible and advanced features

Friend says:
hmmm.. the input part in itself … registering … criteria .. must work on mobile .. have to be pretty vague? preformatted multiple choice?

BlackTar says:
that’s of the essence

BlackTar says:
creating something that WORKS here

BlackTar says:
that concept must be thoroughly thought and worked out

BlackTar says:
where the already proven technology bits only gets included as independent elements one takes for granted

BlackTar says:
the concept is really just a combination of existing technologies and a proven business model – combined in a new way with a kickass ‘frontend’ (if you catch my drift) on top of it all

Friend says:
Indeed! I’m just a bit busy — must get things done in a hurry!

BlackTar says:
oki

BlackTar says:
me too – really – but can’t be bothered to work :-\

Friend says:
I’m attending a meeting soon and need to have stuff finished :=

Friend says:
“but can’t be bothered to work” so true so true . it’s boring

BlackTar says:
it’s eating me away

BlackTar says:
slowly

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