Author Archive

Vodafone NZ’s iPhone 3G plans – an exercise in profiteering

July 8, 2008

Sticking with my 2G, thanks!

Sticking with my 2G, thanks!

So I’ve been taunting James with this thing since last year, and we’ve both been vaguely interested in picking up the 3G model when it comes out this Friday, July 11 (early birthday presents perhaps!). The iPhone has its fair share of detractors, however coming from an iMate SP5 running Windows Mobile, this device is easily the most lovely, fun and engaging thing I’ve ever owned. I’m not saying it’s the best cellphone ever invented – to each their own for sure; but for me, this has everything I need to keep me going:

  • It syncs with Outlook – contacts, mail and calendars – through iTunes
  • Now all my mail accounts are on Gmail, and it easily gets those over the wire
  • Phonecalls with the supplied earphones are really comfortable
  • Text messages are fun and accessible
  • iTunes, camera, Google maps, Safari, iPod, etc etc
  • ..and I haven’t even tapped that much either, so I doubt I’ve scratched the potential of third-party apps

I could go on forever, but there’s no point. I ❤ my iPhone, but this post is not about the phone itself – Vodafone announced their iPhone plans an hour ago, and to my dismay, they’re pricier than expected. The Vodafone site is was currently inaccessible, but Geekzone has a running post on it.

Here’s the gist – you can get one for NZD199 (yay!) but you’ll be held to a 2-year contract at NZD250/month (zomg). This is the biggest plan, which gives you 600 minutes, 600 texts, and 1GB of data. The smallest plan will set you back $80/month for 120 minutes, 600 texts and 250MB of data. 250MB of data is probably equivalent to the size of some of my friends’ Facebook pages – you know who you are! Okay, perhaps not completely relevant as Facebook has an iPhone interface without all of that stuff – my point is (as if it wasn’t obvious enough), you’re not getting much for your money here in NZ.

Compare these plans to the ones offered by Rogers Wireless in Canada: the biggest plan is CAN115/month for 800 weekday minutes, 2GB of data, and 300 text messages. The smallest plan is CAN60/mo for 150 weekday minutes, 400MB of data, and 75 text messages.
Here’s the thing, see. Both plans offer unlimited evenings and weekends.

The Canadians are up in arms over these plans, and are considering boycotting the iPhone until prices come down. The Americans considered the original AT&T iPhone plans pretty pricey too. No, don’t look at them, they’ll break your heart.

Well, here in New Zealand, we’ll just be grateful that we have cellphones at all! Surely the luxury of being able to make a phone call when away from your landline is nothing short of sheer wizardry.

I guess I’ll be sticking to my trusty 1st-generation iPhone for now. I guess I can put up with its recessed headphone jack for a bit longer.

Update, 2.37pm: Kiwis have started a petition! Currently 276 signatures and counting. I don’t think I’ve seen the words ‘rip-off’ mentioned so many times on a page.


Secret Squirrels

July 8, 2008


One thing we’ve discovered amongst us is that we each have varying levels of paranoia around discussing the nature of our application with the wider community. Francois is on high alert; James is reasonably cautious; I have a propensity to flit around and tell all and sundry. Ask me nicely, and I might even give you our source code to date.

How cagey should one really be about their business idea? There are a couple of conventional schools of thought in this area: one is that the startup’s idea is not worth the paper it’s written on, and that execution is the key determinant in the success of the startup itself. Furthermore, while it’s tempting to think that an idea is completely unique, it probably isn’t. I place a lot of value in a team’s ability to not only pull it off in the initial stages, but to continue to innovate and provide a unique solution to a problem from a best approach possible.

The other school of thought of course, is the cynic’s standpoint: everyone’s out to get ahead, so keep your treasures close to your chest for as long as possible. Perhaps it takes one who’s been around the traps for a bit to fully appreciate this perspective, however I’d hate to be in this camp. I have faith in people.

I had a good chat to Bhavneet and Tim about this yesterday; both have been brewing ideas and wearing the entrepreneurial mindset for longer than I have. One obvious solution is to pick who you have your conversations with. I believe that having conversations about PocketSmith as we go forward is important from two perspectives:

  • It helps us continue validating the product in the market as we build it, before we launch. While we’ll conduct market research surveys over the coming weeks, it’s equally important to gauge initial reactions to the idea and take them on board as we ramp up to PocketSmith’s closed beta.
  • I think it’s important to start building a community of supporters who have expressed an interest and early affiliation with the product. Expressing thought leadership in a field is one thing, however one should never discount the wisdom that the community will bring to the table.

Dunedin’s a fantastic place to test this theory. The networks here are great: people are supportive and enthusiastic, and there is a enough diversity in entrepreneurial ventures and a healthy amount of respect for the range of different ideas in the community.

At some point soon I’ll write a bit more about what PocketSmith is, in order to provide the reader with some context. But one more point that illustrates why community support has been great.

Last Friday evening, I had beers with our friends at Enabling (they’ve got some great digs down at the old Wilson’s Distillery building), and the conversation circled around cashflow and financial management for individuals and small businesses. Their expertise extends to the enterprise level, and is a good blend of having strong development capacity as well as understanding business requirements when it comes to accounting software.

It was really good to connect with them and share some insights; I think they’re as excited as we are to see what becomes of the application. I took some thoughts away as well as an invitation to present a beta to them when we’re ready. Enabling might be becoming an adoptive big brother to PocketSmith!

I’d like to think that the presence of an idea in the mindshare of its community is in fact some protection of its own. Through greater transparency in the initial stages, the product should start to build its own identity and grow into its own skin.

James gets back from Auckland in a couple of hours. I wonder if I should greet him at the airport with a bunch of flowers and love-heart balloons.

The importance of getting the numbers right

June 26, 2008

…and I’m not even talking about market research, pricing, pre-money valuation or venture capital here. No, nothing quite as sophisticated as that. We’re starting up from scratch, and so we went in to establish a relationship with our new accountants at HLB Smeaton and Co. yesterday.

The World Bank ranks New Zealand as the number 2 country for ease of doing business, right behind Singapore. So the steps we’re taking are not revolutionary, really – a good number of New Zealanders know the processes of setting up a business and the tax and accounting implications that come with it like the back of their hand.

What does that phrase mean anyway? I can’t say I’m too familiar with the back of my hand, but whatever.

But we three are novices, despite having managed a publicly-traded company. After all, we had specialists – a highly capable financial administrator, gorgeous accountants and auditors, all paid to take care of the nitty-gritty. But now that we’re adopting a back-to-basics, grassroots-development, good ol’ can-do, Kiwi DIY approach to setting up our very own small business (never mind that Francois and I are dirty migrants) – we’re having to learn a bit about the administrative stuff.

And so it’s important that we get the numbers right. 

Especially when we consider the nature of the application we’re building *wink*

The press

June 24, 2008

Today we had our first encounter with the press, as I returned a phone call from Danielle at DScene, Dunedin’s new weekly paper. Not that we’ve been seeking press attention at such an early stage mind you, but I gathered from our conversation that she was writing an article about eMedia’s recent acquisition – this is the web development firm James, Francois and I came from. Given I was the firm’s exiting General Manager, she wanted to hear my thoughts on the next stage in the company’s life.

We also spoke briefly about this project, and with any luck, we might speak again once we have something a bit more concrete to demonstrate. Perhaps the timing was serendipitous after all.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly comfortable around the press given my limited experience in dealing with them. This will all have to change of course, especially if we’re keen on taking our product global. As a matter of fact, media-savviness was a part of the focus of the NZTE Escalator workshop I attended last week on web businesses (I’ve just discovered the presentation notes too).

The three of us here spent most of yesterday morning going over some of the conventional wisdom offered by the presenters. I particularly enjoyed Tim Norton’s story on how he took PlanHQ to TechCrunch40 last year – check him out on this video: so comfortable and articulate in front of the camera! And such a well-presented young man too! Why do I sound like an octogenarian all of a sudden?

It’s cold out, but I have my feet by the fire, a glass of Jameson 12 Year Old on the rocks and an evening of Rails ahead of me. Now, where did I leave my glasses?

…and we’re starting from scratch!

June 23, 2008

Which, after years of working within an organisation and pre-existing framework, makes for an interesting exercise. We three are eager to begin, however we’ll need to curb our enthusiasm for jumping right in somewhat, and pay attention to some of the more mundane details associated with starting up a company first: structure, accounts, a bit of forward planning, that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure we’ll find our feet soon enough and with any luck, determine some sort of routine that’ll provide us with some coherency.

So what are up to, exactly? 

We’ll bring more details to light over the next few weeks, but in short – we’re knuckling down and building an application. One that we believe fills a niche, and more importantly, one we believe in, and want to see used in our everyday lives (and with any luck, yours as well). 

Our development methodology will hopefully come to light (and be challenged) over time as well, but suffice to say:

  • we’re focused on solving one little problem at a time;
  • the market determines everything we do;
  • and so, we will respond to it (read:you), and iterate often
And if this isn’t quite mysterious enough, we also don’t have a name for our product quite yet – hence, codenameplannr. The one concrete lesson we’ve learned thus far is how difficult name selection actually is! But we’re determined to get going even if we have to remain nameless for the moment, but here’s hoping we get hit with a flash of inspiration sometime soon (if you have a name lying around that you’re not using, please toss it our way).
So. Day 1, no name, and no concrete details for you yet. Stay tuned!
I hope it snows tomorrow.