Dan Olsen & Lean Product Playbook

Thanks

Thanks to Gail Giacobbe, am exposed to Dan Olsen’s work on Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback. The book is available here. It presents a clear framework.

Nuggets:

The process to achieve product-market fit

The builds the intuition for the lean product process. Do have the question of whether we start with underserved needs or target customer since customer portraits are fundamentally humans with needs to different degree. For instance, everyone has the need of transporting from one place to another but with different demand on the time needed to access the vehicle will result in “uber customer” and “customer who owns a private car”.

Market ( problem space ) vs Product (solution space )

【why, not start with the solution space 】here is an example from the book “when NASA was preparing to send astronauts into space, they knew that ballpoint pens would not work because they rely on gravity in order for the ink to flow. One of NASA’s contractors, Fisher Pen Company, decided to pursue a research and development program to create a pen that would work in the zero gravity of space. After spending $1 million of his own money, the company’s president, Paul Fisher, invented the Space Pen in 1965: a wonderful piece of technology that works great in zero gravity.”

【why start with the problem space】

“Faced with the same challenge, the Russian space agency equipped their astronauts with pencils. You can actually buy a “Russian space pen” (which is just a cleverly packaged red pencil). This story shows the risk of jumping into the solution space prematurely and the advantage of starting in the problem space.”

Human needs stay the same.

When new technology is developed, users/buyers segments adopt the new tech in the following way.

The top needs don’t matter if the bottom needs haven’t been met yet.

Persona Attributes:

  • Name
  • Representative photograph
  • Quote that conveys what they most care about
  • Job title
  • Demographics
  • Needs/goals
  • Relevant motivations and attitudes
  • Related tasks and behaviors
  • Frustrations/pain points with current solution Level of expertise/knowledge (in the relevant domain, e.g., level of computer savvy)
  • Product usage context/environment (e.g., laptop in a loud, busy office or tablet on the couch at home)
  • Technology adoption life cycle segment (for your product category) Any other salient attributes

e.g

How painful is the need ( problem ), how frequent it happens

need to identify the underserved needs: needs that aren’t yet filled.

GAP = importance — satisfaction

Opportunity Score = importance + MAX ( importance (pain intensity * how frequent the pain occurs) — satisfaction , 0 )

Opportunity Value Delivered = Importance * Satisfaction

Opportunity to Add Value = Imporatnce * ( 1- satisfaction )

Opportunity to Add Value to exsiting product = Importance * ( satisfaction-before minus satisfaction-after)

e.g

When should you hire a CFO?

Jason M. Lemkin recently posted a tweetstorm about his observation that most startups are bad at finance. As you’d expect from Jason, he didn’t try to sugarcoat things:

In a funny coincidence, one of our portfolio CEOs wrote me an email with the subject “Should we be hiring a CFO?” just one or two days before Jason unleashed his tweetstorm. It seems like while there’s been a lot of discussion in the SaaS community about the right time to bring on a VP of Sales or VP of Marketing (with the best advice coming from Jason himself¹), the finance department hasn’t attracted as much attention yet. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful for other founders if I publish my email reply to the CEO here:

Hi XXXXX,

A couple of thoughts:

1) I think a good CFO will:

– take everything in regards to bookkeeping, accounting, and tax off your shoulders
– be able to take further operational duties off your shoulders
– help you with financial modeling and budgeting (i.e. he/she will create the model/plan based on your input, adjust/fine-tune it based on your input, and will be able to create monthly actuals vs. budget and a rolling forecast).

2) I think a great CFO will, in addition to that:

– be a true “business partner“ (like a co-founder with the finance hat) who can act as a sparring partner for all kinds of business decisions, e.g. when it comes to assessing a partnering opportunity
– be focused on driving revenue, so he/she will help us generate more revenue e.g. by working on pricing
– ask the right „strategic“ questions (for example, I would expect him/her to independently challenge you in regards to the profitability of different customer segments)
– improve cash management (e.g. in regards to payment terms, accounts receivables, FX,…)
– fully own financial modeling/budgeting (obviously with input and guidance from you and others)
– own the data room for the next financing round and play an important role in the fundraising process
– have experience with M&A and various financing instruments

3) I think with the exception of M&A experience, all of these are skills/assets which, at XXXX’s stage, we should have in the not too distant future. When we’re at $5–10M in ARR or so, a great CFO might almost pay for him/herself by helping us tweak and optimize the business (in addition to freeing up your time).

Happy to talk to the candidate(s)!

I’m also adding Ola in case she has any additional input.

Best regards

Christoph

Let me also add what Ola, our Operating Partner, had to add:

Hi XXXXX,

I second everything Christoph mentioned. From my own experience of joining the finance department of a startup in year 10 with ca. EUR 500M in group revenue with 10+ subsidiaries where everything was still based mainly on Excel and a basic accounting software with huge amounts of manual work, where it was almost impossible to implement any technical project like ERP or CRM and tax audits were dragging out for ages and proved to be very challenging, I believe it is almost never too soon to hire a senior finance person to set the scene for scaling in a professional way (and saving FTEs due to automation and smart set-up).

Not sure what your subsidiary structure etc. is but an experienced finance person can play a vital role in internationalisation as well. Contract reviews with big clients, compliance matters, any type of changes of law, tax audits, dealing with advisors, etc. are usually also things such a person could take care of instead of the founders.

I would be very happy to interview XXXXX as well (and to drill him a bit on the technical, hardcore finance stuff) if you think this would help to make up your mind (have done it for several of our portfolio companies before).

Best regards

Ola

In this case, our recommendation was pretty clear, but the company is close to $5 million in ARR and can afford a great finance leader. What about SaaS startups that are at a much earlier stage and haven’t raised a few million dollars yet? If there’s a trade-off between hiring a CFO and, say, a marketing leader or 1–2 developers, most founders will understandably go for the latter. So, when is the right time to hire a CFO? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, as the right timing depends on a couple of factors, including how much capital you’ve raised, how fast you’re growing, and if one of the founders has prior experience with or a talent for financials. Let’s take a closer look at how the “finance department” of a typical SaaS company might develop over time.

Pre-revenue

Aaron Patzer, the founder of Mint, once said: “When valuing a startup, add $500k for every engineer, and subtract $250k for every MBA”. While I don’t agree with this sentiment in general (and I don’t know if Aaron was serious), it’s true that in the very beginning you need people who can build stuff, i.e. mostly engineers and designers. Almost everything else can wait until you’re closer to launch. Before you start to commercialize your product, your company’s finances are usually very simple and can be handled by one of the founders, with accounting and payroll typically being outsourced to one or more external service providers.²

~ $1 million ARR

You’re live, you have the first paying customers, you may have raised a small seed round already, and slowly but surely, you’re generating more and more revenue. It begins to feel like you’re on to something, and you’re starting to think about raising more money to accelerate product development and customer acquisition. At this stage, the workload, as well as the complexity, with respect to the company’s finances increases quickly. Some time around the $0.5–1.5 million ARR stage you’ll want to hire a finance person who can take everything in regards to accounting off your shoulders and who will help you with financial planning and budgeting as well as your accounts receivables.

That person will also help you get better at tracking your business performance over time and will professionalize your finance tools and processes, which will become increasingly important as you move to the next stage. The finance person that you’ll hire at this stage is not going to be an experienced VP Finance or CFO, though, so expect that although he or she will be able to help you with e.g. financial planning and an investor presentation, you’ll play the key role in putting together the plan that you’re going to present to prospective Series A investors.³

~ $3–5 million ARR

As you’re approaching $3–5 million in ARR, it’s time to bring in an experienced finance person — unless the one you’ve hired at around $1M in ARR is learning so fast that he or she can be that person. With a few million dollars in ARR, improvements to how you manage working capital, credit controls, payments, various currencies, etc. will start to have a bigger impact because you’re starting to deal with larger amounts of money. At the same time, controlling expenses will become much more complicated, especially if you’re doubling your team size year-over-year; you might open a second or third office in another location and might have a subsidiary in another country, which means you may have to deal with topics like payroll and employee benefits in other countries and transfer pricing between your company and its subsidiary; and you’ll have to deal with ESOP pricing, auditors, and much more.

At this stage, you will hugely benefit from somebody who can do most of the things I’ve mentioned under “a great CFO will…” in my email above. That doesn’t mean that your finance leader must have been a CFO before or that you should give him or her the CFO title — making him or her a Director or VP might work, too. In fact, if you hire someone who has been a CFO already you’ll have to make sure that he or she doesn’t expect a job that is primarily about managing people. Your finance department will still be quite small at this stage — probably 2–4 people, so you need someone who isn’t too senior for hands-on work.

One more point: A few of our portfolio companies have hired a seasoned part-time CFO at a few million dollars in ARR, which allowed them to punch above their weight in terms of experience of the candidate and to delay the hiring of a full-time CFO (or VP Finance) until around $10 million in ARR. This can work, but the caveat is that with a part-time CFO you will most likely not get what I described as a “true business partner” in my email above — a “late co-founder” who is extremely strong commercially, acts almost like a founder, and, as one of our portfolio CEOs put it, is “an additional trusted voice that knows which questions to ask that we may not have thought of”.

$20–25M+ ARR and beyond

The finance leader who you’ve hired at around $3–5 million ARR will hopefully be the right finance leader to get you to around $20–25 million in ARR but that doesn’t mean that he or she has the experience and skills to be your CFO as you grow to $100 million in ARR and potentially become a public company. During that part of the journey, you’ll want a finance superstar with lots of experience in M&A deals, equity and debt financings, and maybe even taking companies public. I’ll stop here, though, because if you’re reading this, chances are that there’s nothing you care less about right now than whether your $20–25M ARR CFO will scale all the way up to $100M. 😉 As with all manager that you hire, optimize for the next 2–3 years. If he or she continues to be the right person for the job beyond that, you’re lucky. But if you optimize for it at the get-go, there’s a high chance that you’ll hire the wrong person. There may not be 48 different types of CFOs — but there are certainly a few!

Our Startup Life at Techstars Berlin: Mentor Madness with Eversend

Countdown to our DEMO DAY displayed in the office corridor.

The most overheard water cooler conversation this week has got to be:

“How were your mentor madness sessions?”

“Mental!”

Eversend reporting from Techstars Berlin, Germany.

The Techstars Berlin Accelerator Program

Techstars hosts a 3-month mentor-driven accelerator program in various locations. It forms part of an impressive greater global network of startups, mentors, and corporate partners — an ever-expanding well of resource and advice — that abide by a #GiveFirst principle.

Stone (CEO), Emma (COO) and Theresa (Growth) are now stationed in Berlin for its program here, being whipped to shape and led by the wonderful and intrepid Managing Director Jag Singh.

We embarked on this journey with 9 other highly promising technology startups, selected from all around the world. For every 100 startups that apply to techstars, only around 1 gets in. That’s a lower acceptance rate than admission to Harvard, Oxbridge and other prestigious institutions.

Month 1 focuses on mentorship, month 2 on execution and month 3 on the pitch. This culminates at DEMO DAY — a grand energetic pitch day at the end of the program showcasing all the startups to an audience of investors.

Corridor wall lined with our cohort’s logos framed. See Eversend.

Mentor Madness

As said, the program is mentor-driven. Mentors are matched with startups based on mutual liking and rating.

Here at the Berlin program, there’s a whopping 78 mentors with in-depth experience of their respective industries.

In the past two weeks, we met with every. single. one. of the 78, for 25 minutes each. That’s over 32 hours of exposure to an incredibly diverse range of expertise, external questioning, and intense introspection of our business.

Fundraising, business development, customer acquisition, KPI setting, communication, social impact, design, technology, marketing, the list goes on… You name it, and we will have met an expert in the field.

Here are a 5 core things we have tested and validated about our business.

Create meaningful partnerships

Listen to our customers to provide direction on what services to offer on our platform

Deliver practical solutions that our customers NEED

Prioritise the most valuable growth funnels

Root ourselves in our knowledge of the market and communication with customers

Starting next week, we will get our hands dirty in workshops and follow up on these new developments with mentors we matched with.

We cannot wait to grow, even more.

Photo of our Berlin 2019 cohort taken from Techstars instagram for International Women’s Day.

Follow our journey!

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About the Author

Theresa Yung is our Growth Intern studying International Relations with a special focus on International Political Economy and Money at the London School of Economics. Driven to generate social impact by innovative solutions, she joined our Eversend team and is enjoying working with people who share passion for change.

Texas McCombs at SXSW 2019

When SXSW kicks off tomorrow, Texas McCombs is taking the homefield advantage in showcasing the innovation and entrepreneurism that characterizes both the school and our home in Austin. McCombs and UT Austin are represented in bold news ways this year: from a major pitch competition to leading researchers and alumni sharing their expertise to SXSW volunteers clad in UT-branded T-shirts.

A full list of the 40-plus UT-powered sessions can be found here. Below are highlights of where to find McCombs at SXSW this year.

Event

PitchTexas

The University of Texas presents the sixth annual 2019 SXSW Graduate Startup Pitch competition, with prize money of $50,000. PitchTexas was started and is run by the Texas McCombs MBA Entrepreneurship Society, a graduate student organization at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.

The semi-finals will be held 9–11am, Friday March 8, at Rowling Hall. They are open to everyone, including non-badge holders.

The finals will be held at the Hilton at 5 pm and are open to badge holders. Judges include President Gregory Fenves and innovator CEOs Heather Brunner and Rod Favaron.

The Longhorn Band leads the winning team in the PitchTexas competition and the crowd from the Hilton Austin Hotel to the official SXSW PitchTexas after-party at HandleBar on East 5th Street.

Faculty

Cara Biasucci, Creator and Program Director, Ethics Unwrapped

Ethics and AI: How to Plan for the Unpredictable

Cesare Fracassi, Associate Professor

Blockchain Deathmatch: Permission-ed vs -less

Julie Irwin, Professor

Ethical Shopping: Why Good Intentions Go Bad

James Scott, Associate Professor

Big Ideas in AI: Solving Problems… Since 1696

Dr. Elizabeth Teisberg, Executive Director of the Value Institute for Health and Care at Dell Medical School and the McCombs School of Business

Reimagining Life with Cancer

Alumni

Alissa Bayer, MBA ’04, Owner of Milk + Honey

The Business of Making People Feel Good

Jay Kleberg, MBA ’13, Producer and Character

The River and The Wall, World Premiere Documentary

Deborah Navarro, MSTC ’16, Commercialization Lead at MIT Hyperloop II

Air Levitation: A New Hyperloop Transport Method

Distraction disguised as learning: Duolingo, Codeacademy and why you should get back to basics

I moved to Greece this past fall after quitting my job in banking. The first thing I wanted to focus on before I got around to all of the project ideas I had in my head was to learn Greek.

On the first day I arrived in Athens, I enrolled in a language school close to my apartment and started going to class every day, Monday to Friday. Classes are 4 hours per day, with another 3–4 hours of homework on top of that.

In case you’re wondering, yes that’s a lot of Greek to absorb.

A few months later and I am getting up to a level where I feel comfortable speaking and can understand most of what is going around me —but learning new words is a big challenge, it really takes time and repetition to absorb an entire vocabulary.

So a little while back, I thought, why not add Duolingo into the mix to help with the vocab and to keep things fresh. I was familiar with Duolingo as I had experimented with it on and off over the years to try to keep from forgetting Spanish, but I had never really tried it for a language I was actually going to use every day.

But what I found was really surprising: as my Duolingo streaks and lingots added up, my confidence in my classes and speaking Greek while out and about actually started to go down.

What’s going on here?

I shook it off for the first few days and put it down to having a couple of bad days in a row, but after a week of feeling shakier out in the real world, I pulled the plug.

It was tough for me to put my finger on exactly what the problem was, so I did some searching around to see what other people’s experience has been with Duolingo.

It turns out, it’s actually not that difficult to find stories of people who went through the entire course and find that they can only communicate at the most basic level.

Ok, this is for someone who is exclusively learning with Duolingo. It would be a pretty high bar to set to think that you can learn a language exclusively from an app and I’m sure most people don’t have that the expectation…

But how could it be that using Duolingo as a supplement to my full-time language learning was actually making me worse?

My experience with Codeacademy

It reminded me in many ways of how several years back I was teaching myself to code. Like many people, my first stop was Codeacademy. (this was in the early days when it was all free)

I remember going through their entire Ruby course in a couple of weeks time and then afterwards I couldn’t even set up the development environment on my computer.

Once I finally got to the point that I had a blank text editor in front of me, I was hopelessly lost without the step-by-step instructions that are spoon fed to you in Codeacademy.

It’s amazing how soon you start depend on the crutches that are given to you.

Thinking back to my experience with Codeacademy, I was interested to hear other people’s experiences as well, so I searched around again and found a great blog post.

The author, Alex Coleman talks about how Codeacademy lacks two key factors in learning:

  • Learning in context
  • Practice in a real-life environment

The fact that you are just told to do coding exercises, with no idea how they fit together into the wider context of an application removes the big picture that you are working to achieve from your learning experience.

And by restricting the environment that you are learning in, you are not able to experiment on your own and make the connections to the real-world applications that you are actually going to use coding for.

So as soon as that comfortable learning environment is taken away, you are utterly and completely lost.

And it wasn’t until I set up my environment on my own, worked through a couple of Javascript books and their exercises to pick up core concepts, and then built lots of increasingly difficult projects that coding really clicked for me.

Back to Duolingo

I think the same thing is going on with Duolingo.

  • You have an ultra-comfortable learning environment that spoon feeds you answers (with your phone’s auto-correct on top of that!)
  • Endless amounts of 1-line exercises with no wider purpose (like a conversation, dialog or real-life scenario)
  • No indication at all of how the bigger picture of grammar and etymology fits together (maybe not as important for some languages, but very very important for Greek)

Within just a matter of days, I started to feel lost if I was outside of this comfortable environment and wasn’t given a set plan of exercises to follow.

Distraction disguised as learning

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an entirely negative view of Codeacademy or Duolingo. I think they are a nice way for someone to dip their toe into the water of a new language or coding…

But as a long-term tool to get real-world results, I have my doubts.

And that’s why I get worried when I see articles like this recent one at Bloomberg titled: Addiction to a Language-Learning App Can Be Good for You.

The article talks about how recently Duolingo has been hiring developers from companies like Zynga, who produced addictive games like Candy Crush and FarmVille, in order to mimic their addictive behavior.

But don’t worry, according to a quote in the article from founder Luis von Ahn:

Duolingo isn’t addictive in a “harmful way”

Yet at the same time in the same Bloomberg article, there is this quote from Duolingo’s VP of Product Jorge Mazal:

Fluency, Mazal says, isn’t really the goal. “When you’re done using the product,” he says, “you feel like you’re a little bit better as a person. That’s really what people are going for. That’s what we try to give them.”

Interesting, because my ultimate goal in learning Greek is to become fluent in Greek. Not to feel a bit better as a person because I’m telling myself that I’m learning Greek.

I would be very wary of anyone who is saying that their “addiction” isn’t bad like all other addictions. In the end, they are trying to get your attention and drive their ad-revenues, and the more attention they are able to get from you by creating this addiction, the better they perform.

And helping you to actually learn the language, by their own admission, is not their goal.

Just like with my experience coding and my experience with Greek now, getting back to basics and grinding through is the real way to success, but that’s the one we try to avoid.

We would like to think there is some quick hack, or that we can learn something with it feeling like a simple game, but the true is that real learning is hard work and frustrating.

Don’t shy away from that, embrace it.

Sometimes you have to look at that blank page staring back at you before you can really learn something.

Greek tech scene had a great 2017 and expects a fantastic 2018

I believe it is useful at every year-end to do a retrospection on what has happened and take a view of what is coming ahead. On that note, looking back at 2017 we can attest it has been a great year for the Greek tech ecosystem and I can’t help but be very optimistic about what is coming in 2018. Even though a strong and self-reinforcing ecosystem takes years to build, some serious underpinnings have been put in place in the previous years and in 2017 we saw clear evidence of that positive evolution.

As a first positive note, we had a few more notable exits in 2017 and we can also name a few tech companies that left the “startup” phase and became scaled tech companies. The 2017 exits of Taxibeat, Innoetics and Quizdom provided further confidence in the potential of Greek founded companies and the same applies for companies like Workable or Marinetraffic that entered a growth phase scaling up their operations and know how. Both the startups that have exited and became part of larger international tech companies, as well as the startups that have scaled up, provide the backbone of a tech ecosystem. They provide employees with much needed work experience in larger scale tech, marketing or operations problems.

Apart from helping their employees gain skills and grow, mature tech companies also prepare their more risk taking employees to eventually create or join and support new startups.

We already have examples of great people who having done their cycle at strong companies like e-food.gr or Workable or Upstream are now supporting new promising initiatives.

As a second positive point, in 2017 we saw an increasing number of startups reaching the Series A level which we define by their exceeding the 1mil euro annual revenues run rate. This is very important for an ecosystem because it is great to see many new startups receive seed funding but what mainly matters is how many startups grow and move closer to becoming sustainable. The failure rate of companies that have reached the Series A level is quite low with typically more than 70% of them making it to sustainability. That survival metric for Seed investments is typically 10%-15%.

Blueground, Welcomepickups, Douleutaras, Instashop, Weengs, Pollfish, doctoranytime and Projectagora are some of the startups that have crossed the 1mil euros annual revenue rate in 2017 and we expect that many more will join then in reaching that milestone in 2018.

This is also important because the next best thing to founding a startup is joining a promising one early on. Young driven people now have many options to get involved in their function or industry of choice be it in promising Saas, e-commerce, marketplace or deep tech startups.

Finally and quite importantly, 2017 was a year that funding options for Greek founders expanded or to be more accurate exploded. Even though no one could argue that strong founders with clear business models had an issue to get funding especially after the launch of VentureFriends in 2016, Equifund will be a game changer. At the end of 2017 there were at least 6 new venture capital funds approved for co-investment by EIF (including a new larger fund from VentureFriends). The new available capital for startups, in total around 200mil euros, will create many options for aspiring founders.

As a summary, in the Greek ecosystem during 2017 we were happy to witness a few tech companies reach a more mature stage, many new promising startups scale up and the creation of many new VC funds. All developments attest to a great 2017 that will give its way to a fantastic 2018.

We are very excited to be part and support this vibrant Greek tech ecosystem.

Venture Things E02: The Target Ownership

Post-Money Matrix for the Targeted-Ownership Method.

US State of Connecticut Introduces Bill to Authorize Smart Contract Use in Commerce

NEWS

A committee of the Connecticut state legislature has proposed to authorize the use of smart contracts in commerce in the state, according to official documentation introduced on March 7.

The Commerce Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly (CGA) has introduced House Bill 7310, suggesting that blockchain-powered smart contracts may be used in commerce conducted or initiated in the United States state of Connecticut.

The committee elaborated that any cryptographic signature or a record secured through distributed ledger technology (DLT) should be considered to be in an electronic form and an electronic record.

The CGA Commerce Committee emphasized that no smart contract relating to a transaction should be denied a legal effect or validity only because it is processed through a smart contract rather than a traditional method to secure a transaction data.

A smart contract is a protocol designed to contribute, verify or implement the negotiation or performance of a contract. Blockchain-powered smart contracts allow parties to perform credible transactions directly, without third parties. Containing all the data about the contract terms, smart contract transactions are traceable and irreversible.

On March 6, the General Assembly of the U.S. state of Colorado introduced a bill on examining the possibility of applying blockchain technology in water rights management.

Earlier in February, Cointelegraph reported that two blockchain-related bills were passed in the U.S. state of Wyoming. Both bills, tokenization House Bill 185 and blockchain compliance-related bill, House Bill 74, were introduced in January this year and are set to be enforced later in 2019.

By Helen Partz

Source

The Joys and Tribulations of Indie VR Development [updated]

Crouching Man

[This story was originally published 12/29, but I’m updating it in dated brackets below]

The process of becoming a VR developer has been a wild ride.

There are times I’m so excited about the possibilities I can hardly sleep, followed by bouts of deep existential questioning about our strategy, cash flow, and so many other typical startup issues that keep me up just the same.

This is life on the virtual frontier, at least from my perspective here in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

I wonder how other VR developers are adapting to life on the virtual frontier?

We hear the occasional success story — the handful of games that made it big. I hear a lot less about their origin stories, postmortem lessons learned, or their plans for the future. I hear even less from what must be thousands of other indie VR developers out there making a go of it. What are you up to?

For better or for worse, with this post and others to follow, I’d like to share some of my experiences. Maybe others out there are thinking about getting into VR development, and my experiences can help you? Or maybe you can help me with advice on some of the hefty decisions I face on a regular basis?

Or maybe nobody cares. That’s fine too.

I’d like to share more about our process — the issues we face, the opportunities that excite us, and the hopeful future of what we’re trying to build. I’m afraid many of us are busy working in our corners at a time when we could gain so much from being more sharing and open as an industry. At the very least, if we open up and get some of our experiences in the open, it will give us something to look back and laugh about when we’re all hanging out in the Oasis someday.

[1/20/18: I ended up posting a lot more about our process than I thought I would. Here are a some links:

My Big Dumb List

For as long as I can remember, I’ve maintained a living document I call ‘State of Play’ where I continuously comb…

medium.com

Thinking Bigger with Enterprise VR/AR in 2018: Who Should I Be Talking To?

I used to feel a lot more connected to the VR/AR community. The early Oculus Connects, Unity Vision Summit — treks to…

medium.com

I Was Supposed to be an Architect

I’m leading a VR development studio, but the truth is I’ve been navigating a series of epic career learning curves that…

medium.com

First, I need to establish a few ground rules — just for myself and my own sanity:

  • This is going to be a stream of consciousness. I’m not going to spend too much time editing the ramble. I apologize in advance.
  • I think in spirals. It drives my team and my family nuts, but I’ve been this way as far back as I can remember. You might even think it’s two or three different people writing these posts, with competing viewpoints. Nope, it’s just me — thinking in spirals. That’s what I do. The good news is, spirals circle around a center. I might stray a bit, but I eventually bring it home. Bear with me, if you can. Maybe this ledger will help me manage it.
  • I’m a highly sensitive introvert, and I’m prone to deleting an entire post, video or tweet at the first negative comment or down vote. I’m kind of a baby like that, but I promise to resist that temptation.

As is my tendency, I made a lengthy Google Doc to start planning this new endeavor. Somehow, it feels very productive to type away on a Google Doc. I’ll admit to spending an inordinate amount of time careful grooming and combing through my various planning docs, as is the habit of any good introvert. I have dozens of them covering every nuance of the business. If Google is ever hacked or gets shut down, I’ll be screwed and I’d deserve it (note to self — back up Google Drive). I rambled out a 5 page plan of intentions and topics for these posts before realizing I should just start writing those thoughts here openly instead.

These might not always be posts like this. I might just tweet. Maybe I’ll even make a mixed reality video, or audio podcast. I’m not sure yet.

I might also post ‘scraps’ of ideas that I’d like to dial in on at some point, but don’t yet have time. Rather than letting these ideas collect dust in my Google Drive, maybe I’ll post and revise drafts over time as time permits.

I’m also going to start being more transparent about our development process. For example, we’re about to completely overhaul our user interface and user experience design on our Immerse Creator. Rather than keeping it a secret and having our team work quietly in a corner, I wonder if anyone else would find this process interesting? We’re in Early Access on Steam after all, isn’t that what it’s all about? We haven’t been nearly as transparent with our process as I had hoped we would be.

[1/20/18 update: I posted the following, dedicated to a transparent development process for Immerse Creator, along with published meeting notes from our UI/UX overhaull:]

Immerse Creator Brainstorming: Should We Focus on Architecture, or Go Bigger?

Topic:

medium.com

Immerse Creator UI/UX Overhaul: Post 1

We’re embarking on a journey to completely overhaul our user interface and user experience in Immerse Creator.

medium.com

Immerse Creator UI/UX Overhaul: Post 2

During today’s UI/UX design meeting, we stepped back a bit and discussed the need to utilize this opportunity to build…

medium.com

Immerse Creator VR UI/UX: Post 3

Design Meeting 1 notes are [here]. Meeting 2 notes are [here]. Below are notes from Meeting 3.

medium.com

Immerse Creator UI/UX Overhaul: Post 4

As we continue working through restructuring our underlying repository structure for Immerse, we’ve decided to hold off…

medium.com

Immerse Creator VR UI/UX: Post 5

Design Meeting 1 notes are [here]. Meeting 2 notes are [here]. Meeting 3 notes [here]. Meeting 4 notes here [here]…

medium.com

We’re also in the early stages of pitching for seed funding for Arch Virtual. I know there must be lessons I’m already learning in this process that could help other VR devs. If you’re a VR developer and already went through this, what advice would you give me and anyone else attempting the same?

[1/20/18 update: Here’s an article I later wrote dedicated to this topic:]

To Raise or Not to Raise? Dialing into the world of VR/AR capital

A few months ago, I came to the conclusion that we need to start thinking about raising capital to take our enterprise…

medium.com

Another topic might be the fact that we’re a remote team. I know this isn’t nearly as unusual as it was when we first started, and probably common in VR development, but I know there are lessons learned from being a virtual team building virtual stuff that could benefit others. I’d love to tell a few of those stories.

[1/20/18: This topic is next on my list]

Off the top of my head, I’ll ramble out a few topics I could cover in future posts below. If you have any other ideas, let me know. Some of these are issues I’ve already faced and resolved. Some we’re up against as I type this. Others are issues I know we’ll be facing at some point in the future.

The only thing I know for certain is the answers to these questions are anything but certain, and it’s a moving target as the industry evolves. I have an absolutely brilliant network of advisers across the country that I trust and lean on for the big questions we face as a company, but I’m always amazed by their total lack of consensus. There is no right answer to any of this. Sometimes you just have to listen to your heart, or shoot from the hip and hope for the best. At the very least, I can tell you how I’ve handled or how I’m currently handling some of these issues, for better or for worse.

  • Should we start a VR development company? Is there a big enough market?
  • Should we build a game or provide custom development services?
  • Should we try to patent anything? (I consistently resist, but everyone asks…)
  • Can we make any money in VR development? Should we be making money in VR at this early stage?
  • Should we be focused on one industry or remain open to all possibilities?
  • Should we bring in angel investors? How does that work from a legal perspective?
  • How will we handle bookkeeping, payroll, accounting, taxes, etc.?
  • What are some good resources to help with decisions like this?
  • How can we move the needle, gain more traction, and let more people know that we exist?
  • Can we function efficiently as a remote team, or do we need to be co-located?
  • How can we find and retain VR development talent?
  • Should we stay focused on services, or build a toolset to help other VR developers? (aka the story of Immerse Framework)
  • Can we effectively support both services and platform?
  • Is the VR market big enough to support a toolset like Immerse Creator?
  • Should we raise a seed round or grow organically?
  • Should we bring in a business adviser? If so, who? Where do we look for someone with VR or similar experience? (p.s. if you know anyone, let me know.. )
  • Should we have an advisory board? Who should be on it? How often should we meet? How much should they be compensated?
  • Should we stay in Wisconsin or relocate to California?
  • Arch Virtual is a confusing name — should we change it, or do we stick with it now?
  • Should we overhaul the design of our website?
  • Should we have a separate company for platform and services?
  • Should I be spending my time writing all of this, or should my time be spent doing other things to help grow the business? Why am i doing this again?

You can already see the spirals.. I’m looking forward to sharing more of the joys, trials and tribulations of VR development, and hope it will be of value to someone, sometime, somewhere.

See you on the virtual frontier.

We’re changing the way you give online.

Another big announcement for what 2018 holds for us.

Lots of people (myself included) are looking at 2018 to be a new year full of great opportunities. Reflecting back on 2017, it’s been a springboard to what’s to come. Our family has gone through a few major life changes this year, and the ride hasn’t even left the platform yet.

In 2017, I’ve quit one full-time job as a web designer, to pursue a job in web development, where I taught myself how to build websites from scratch. I ran my first full marathon. My wife, Brittany, and I welcomed our 3rd child (with a homebirth no less!). We bought a new vehicle (to support the gaggle of kids). And just before Christmas, I quit my full-time job to start a business building websites for other small businesses. It’s been a rollercoaster to say the least, and I have yet to talk about our biggest development of 2017 — we developed an online fundraising platform. Crazy, right?

It’s not that we’ve been keeping this project a secret. We’ve definitely shared the project and our excitement with many around us, but it hasn’t exactly been made public. And for good reason. What we’re creating isn’t a thing… yet.

I know, I’m still being mysterious. What the hell are we working on exactly? Like I said, it’s an online social fundraising platform, built to change the way organizations raise money. And more importantly, built to change the way we connect with them. It’s called Togetherr. And it’s pretty awesome.

No, it’s not a typo… It’s Togetherr with two r’s. Kinda weird, but you’ll get used to it. I promise. ©2017 Togetherr

So what does Togetherr do?

Togetherr is a new social giving platform where people can connect with a cause and donate in a unique and inviting way. It works like this: Say you see a wall full of envelopes for an organization that you support. They’re doing a project and you want to help. On the wall, is a series of envelopes with numbers, 1, 2, 3… all the way to 150 (or any other arbitrary number. For this example, we’ll use 150). You grab the envelope with the number 50, you put a $50 bill in it and drop it in the offering plate or donation bin. The next person that approaches the board can now give $49 or $51, or any other available amount. When all 150 envelopes have been removed (donated), the organization will have raised… wait for it $11,325.

mind.blown.

Over $11k raised for a relatively small ask. The organization asked 150 people for money with the highest amount being $150. Simple, right? Very. This very successful style of fundraising, doesn’t exist online. So we built it. Simple.

As I mentioned, it’s not a thing… yet. We’re working on it. We’ve had a lot (like a ton) of hurdles to overcome, but we’re nearly there; just wrapping up the details and polishing some final touches. We’ll be releasing a ton (like a lot) of information about the platform as we get closer to launch. But for now, we just wanted to give everyone a bit of insight as to what’s next for us.

In the meantime, check out our Facebook page. And if your organization or an organization you know is interested in setting up a campaign (it’s 100% free to create a campaign), I’d love to chat with them. (seriously, we need people) Have them check out our website (it’s a coming soon page, but hey… it’s something).

Anyway, we’re pretty excited about the possibilities of this new style of fundraising. We recognize this is way bigger than us, and that’s the point. We think this has the potential to change the world around us, for the better. And that…THAT…makes it worth it. ❤

Visit us online, www.givetogetherr.com.