Visual Studio Schemes / Styles

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

If you spend as much time as I do banging out code, you’ll want to consider using a different Visual Studio environment scheme.

  1. Pick out a scheme here http://studiostyl.es/schemes
  2. copy it to your “\Documents\Visual Studio 2010\Settings” folder
  3. In Visual Studio, choose Tools > Import and Export Settings
Categories: .Net Development

Your first Ruby on Rails Application

May 14, 2012 10 comments

The following is an example of how to create a simple ruby on rails application, on a Ubuntu development machine, push it to GitHub source control, and to Heroku for cloud hosting.


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Here is the build of tools on my virtual machine:

  • Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
  • Git v 1.7.9.5
  • Rails v 3.2.3
  • Sublime Text 2 Build 2195

Part 1
mkdir code
rails new app1
cd app1
rails g scaffold post title text:text
rake db:migrate

Part 2

subl Gemfile
[add the following to file]
group :production do
gem 'pg'
end
group :development, :test do
gem 'sqlite3'
end
gem install pg
bundle install
[create 'app1' repository at github.com]
git init
git add .
git commit -m "baseline"
git remote add origin git@github.com:stevenfowler/app1.git
git push -u origin master

Part 3

heroku create -s cedar
git push heroku master
heroku run rake db:migrate
heroku open

Is Your Day Started?

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

If you have not focused on what matters most have you really started your day?

  1. Exercise Your Body – you know you should. just do it.
  2. Review Emails – Only react to critical things for Customers/Employees/Partners.
  3. Twitter – Get involved with your community #tech #startups etc.
  4. Do Something for Someone Else – Reminds you it’s about helping others.
  5. Thank Someone – Reminds you about being helped by others.
  6. Learn Something New – Blogs: Fast CompanyCopybloggerFlowTechCrunchMashable
  7. Fail at Something – Leaning back and insuring success is easy.
Categories: Startups

What is Lean?

May 7, 2012 Leave a comment

The Lean Principal

The term “lean” has come back into vogue, but it’s been something that’s been around for a while. Lean was coined to describe Toyota’s business during the late 1980s by a research team headed by Jim Womack, Ph.D., at MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program.

Toyota logo

The principal of lean is to maximize value to the customer while minimizing waste. The use of customer is simply anyone that is seeking value for compensation. Waste is not allocating people, process, or technology as efferent as possible to produce/deliver this value. Value typically takes form as a product or service or what I call an offering.

Lean practice seeks to deliver more value with fewer resources than what you do today. More than just another “program”, it is core to your company’s ideology. The management of time, people, process, and technology (verticals) changes to an attention on the offerings (value streams) threw (horizontally) these resources (the verticals) to the customer.

Out of necessity I’ve applied lean principals since founding my first startup in 1998 and hope to share some of what I’ve learned.

The following sections will target lean for the purpose of a consumer web 2.0 SaaS offering, as it would be too lengthy to differentiate the nuances between service offerings, and even the application of lean for commercial software offerings.

Lean for Startups

Launching a consumer Web 2.0 SaaS startup is kind of like jumping out of a plane and building a parachute on the way down. The idea is to produce a MVP (minimum viable product) before you hit the ground. It does not have to be the best parachute in the world, it simply needs to keep you from death. Once you land on the ground relatively unharmed you can get back on the airplane and improve the parachute. Just remember that changes to your parachute the second time could kill you 😀

HC-130 jump

Your MVP is a strategy for market testing of a value proposition. You’re asking yourself – what is the minimum set of feature/functions your product or the minimum deliverable of your service can provide before there is no perceived value. I say ‘perceived’ because customers are often unaware of the true cost of production for the product they buy. Instead, they simply have an internal feeling for how much certain products/services are worth to them at that time. But I digress…

Research

Start by performing some due diligence to figure out whether you’re building an offering people actually want and whether it’s possible to acquire customers cost-effectively. I’ve listed several tools to help with this. I use google to gain insights into market trends and I then survey people. You can always ask questions of experts if you need a second opinion.

Find Collaborators

I’d love to tell you that you can ask questions of experts as if they were your co-founder, but you’ll need more time, talent, and money than what advisers can provide. The tools section lists  resources for finding a co-founder.

Pick a Brand

This day and age you need a good domain name. Use 5 short key words to find a domain that is unique, has .com available (unless .ly or .me is used), is easily to type and remember.  I particularly like to use this generator that allows you to see what is available.

As for your UI (User Interface) – stay with the Twitter Bootstrap or use jQuery UI. Most developers know these.

If you hare graphically inclined you can design your style guild with a free tool. For the rest of you just purchase a Logo Design software (I’m too cheap to pay for a designer for v1 of an idea)

After you’ve acquired your domain name, you’ll want to float your branded pre-beta parking page to collect emails. You can build out a full registration process later.

Get Building

You have this supper cool idea, you’ve done your research, you have collaborators, and even a brand! This is always a great feeling, but now your ready to build something.

Thought I’ve worked with the Microsoft stack for 20 years ( I drink the kool aid, but do not have a tatoo) for Fortune 500 enterprise scale solutions nothing beats Free Open Source tools for a bootstrap startup. If you developing a complex commercial product that relies on integration with other platforms you might have to consider saying with C#, or Java. I often advise people to go with what they already know, but here is an opportunity to apply the right tech to the right solution

I was able to pick up Ruby on Rails in 2 weeks and would have you consider doing the same.

This one is simple: Agile is lean development. Know it, use it.

Early Adopters

Early adopters improve the MVP in providing considerable and candid feedback to allow you to refine future releases. In exchange for being exposed to problems, and annoyances of early adoption the customer is often given attentive support and preferential pricing, terms, and conditions. This is more common for commercial software where the early adoption pool is small. The first few people to signup are the early adopters and might not know it. If your MVP goes viral, you’ll have to react quick (good problem to have).

Socialize

Use twitter, LinkedIn, Youtubefacebook page and others to socialize what you’re doing.

Watch Reaction

Google analytics are a good way to analyze who, when, where, and how people are using your product. The biggest thing missing though is why?

Rinse and Repeat

Dove shampoo


Categories: Startups

Atlanta Startup Weekend #atlsw

April 27, 2012 1 comment

Had a great time at Atlanta Startup Weekend 2012 that was hosted at the Atlanta Technology Development Center, a startup accelerator, located on the campus of Georgia Tech.

I’ve been gestating an idea for a while and even prepared a pitch for the event. The plan was listen the other 48 pitches and make a determination if there was a project I was interested in before stepping forward. I was able to find three that I could associate with and thus bagged my idea.

After the pitching was complete attendees were able to interview the idea holders and vote for which ideas they liked (interesting how for a weekend project most people are willing to work on something fun even if it is not viable… more on this in a bit).

Attendees were able to vote with three post-it-notes. You could vote for three ideas or give all your votes to one. I waited till the voting process was just about complete and cast two votes for one idea and one for another.

Ideas with 8 or more votes made it for the weekend. And attendees could self-select any team to work with.

As often found, most of the pitch submissions where from marketers and SME’s (subject matter experts) and thus used the brief time to determination how best to contribute. Part of that effort was talking to other participants interested in the joining the team. To some degree even recruited people to the team.

Ours was one of the first teams to complete and we dashed off to a room for brainstorming. I captured our thought in a mind mapping software (try www.mindmeister.com). It was difficult to not want to digress into topic applicable for a startup, but not for the exerciser of the weekends event. As the Product Management a ‘play-book’ was authored for the weekend and we broke for the night.

Here is what we did:

SME and BA Team

  • scope the requirements
  • develop the pitch
  • make the deck

The Back-End Team

  1. Created the source control project in bitbucket
  2. Created an account to host our solution on heroku
  3. Created the Ubuntu development Virtual Machine(some already had one)
    1. Rubly on Rails Framework
    2. Sublime Text editor
    3. monngoDB for the database
  4. Coded the MVC like crazy!

The Front-End Team

  1. Installed twitter bootstrap
  2. Create Logo
  3. Author style guild
  4. Developed page layouts for:
    1. Landing page
    2. About page
    3. Price page
    4. Contact page
    5. Sign-up page
    6. Login page

Day two was polishing the UI (User Interface), push to production, and working on the pitch.

The market viability and our execution landed us #2

Any local entrepreneur should check the ATDC calendar for upcoming events such as the Alpharetta meet-up.

The next great event is the TiE southeast event in Atlanta: http://atlanta.tie.org

Categories: Startups

Your idea is not ‘that’ important

April 23, 2012 3 comments

It is always a blessing when people approach me who have indicated an interest with wanting to collaborate. I always make an attempt to help other startup entrepreneurs whenever I can.

Recently I was speaking with a SME (subject matter expert) on the development of a SaaS solution to a common commercial industry problem that others where servicing with a thick client application (circa 1995). Being ripe for disruption we chatted for a bit. Though this individual had a strong background in their industry they were new to concepts such as customer and product development. Soon after our conversation I was asked to sign a one way NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement).

Here are my thoughts on startup ideas:

William Fielding Ogburn was  a statistician and an educator. Ogburn was well known for his theory of social change he offered in 1922 where he inventoried 148 examples of simultaneous meaningful discoveries (things that were truly innovative that separate people came up with at the same time) and formulated a theory that technology is the primary engine of progress.

I really like how Farkas Bolyai put it:

“When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

So if multiple people can independently invent the telephone, chances are your idea is not as unique as you think. We know this to be true because in our natural vocabulary we make statements “It’s like YXZ app, but for stay-at-home moms“. If you insist your idea is new get a patent.

great ideas = A great team, enhancing an existing idea(s), at a better time

Categories: Startups

FREE/Open Source Startup Resources

April 15, 2012 5 comments
Tools
The following are a list of tools that I have used in my own startup efforts.
Have a suggestion email me

 
Research your idea

Understand your competition

Get into the startup community

Find a Co-Founder

Co-Founder Advice

Legal Advice

Startup Accelerators

Customer and Product Development

Crowdfunding

Business Tools

Design Tools

Development Tools

Learn Stuff

Be Social

Updated 05.15.12 have a suggestion email me

 

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