Posts Tagged ‘Secret Squirrels’

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.