Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ten Thoughts on what matters at a startup: Team

Why does team matter at a startup?

As smart and skilled as you might be, even if you can do most of it you likely can't do it all. Moreover, your teammates are also smart and skilled. Rely upon and trust your teammates to do the things that you can't do. Sustain your teammates by doing the things that you can do to make the team a success. You'll push each other to do great work, and support each other to get through the tough times.

You'll learn from your team if you let yourself. You'll learn how to do your own work better, and you'll learn why what they do matters to your work. You'll learn things that may not matter right away, but will matter down the road.

Beyond all that, being part of a great team is energizing and just plain fun.

Finally, your startup may well use Scrum, as we do at Primal Fusion. In that case team member is one of only three roles (the others being product owner and scrum master) in your software development process. Scrum is highly productive way to create software products.

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This is one in a short series of posts called Ten Thoughts on what matters at a startup. The thoughts started life as a presentation I made at VeloCity residence at the University of Waterloo. While they're far from definitive, and aren't a top ten, they've mattered to me in my software startup experience.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ten Thoughts on what matters at a startup: Confidence

Why does confidence matter at a startup?

As an individual you may be leaping from a comfortable position into the uncertainty of startup life. You'll be trying new things and may not be sure what the right answer is. You’ll be exploring the limits of what you’ve learned and reaching into uncharted territory. Are you confident that your skills and experiences bring the kind of value that a startup needs and that you will make a meaningful impact? You need to understand your own strengths and weaknesses and how to best leverage them.

Further, you may be going to (or starting) a company that is based on a great idea that hasn't yet been fully realized. Can the company deliver on that idea? Can it make progress even in the face of uncertainty? Can it solve the problems that will undoubtably arise? Can the company team build not just a great product, but a great company? Confidence isn't about being able to answer "yes" to all these questions. A startup, particularly in early stage, is a bet. For many of the questions the answer that you're looking for early on may not be "Yes", but rather "If anyone can do it, we can." Confidence inspires and gets you past the uncertainty. It enables you to push ahead, make progress, and maybe even succeed.

And by the way, confidence isn't arrogance. Temper your confidence with enough humility to be open-minded and willing to learn. And confidence isn't unrealistic. Confidence won't let you become seven feet tall if you're five feet tall and well into adulthood.

• • •

This is one in a short series of posts called Ten Thoughts on what matters at a startup. The thoughts started life as a presentation I made at VeloCity residence at the University of Waterloo. While they're far from definitive, and aren't a top ten, they've mattered to me in my software startup experience.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another month, another fine meeting of the UX Group of Waterloo

This month's meeting of the User Experience Group of Waterloo looks like fun. It's an opportunity to talk about the state of UX in Waterloo Region. Even cooler is the venue, the wonderful Whole-Lotta-Gelata in Waterloo. UX chatter, gelato, paninis — how can you beat that? It's on Thursday May 21 at 5:30pm.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

DemoCampGuelph demonstration of Primal Fusion

Last Wednesday I demonstrated Primal Fusion at the ninth edition of DemoCampGuelph. I had previously presented at the same event early last year and enjoyed it. This time I was essentially doing a demonstration very similar to the one given by Peter Sweeney and Bob Barlow-Busch at the DEMO conference in March.

I have to confess, though, that I was much less polished than those two! To ensure that everyone realized that it wasn't a canned presentation, I decided to demo our product based on Toronto transit commission, a topic drawn from a presentation made earlier that evening by Jay Goldman. That worked out well.

The event was great fun, and the other demos were enjoyable to watch. One challenge that I had, though, was that because I arrived late I watched the other demos from the back of the crowded bar. It was hard to see and hear everything clearly back there!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A visit to VeloCity

Today I had the opportunity to make a presentation to students at the VeloCity residence at the University of Waterloo. If you don't know about VeloCity, it's worth checking out. In their words:

VeloCity is no ordinary student residence.

It’s a place where some of UW’s most talented, entrepreneurial, creative and technologically savvy students will be united under one roof to work on the future of mobile communications, web and new media.

It’s a place where students, faculty and corporate partners will be active collaborators and beneficiaries of the talent, ideas and innovations that evolve.

It’s a place where the ‘next big thing’ could happen.

My presentation was a pretty simple one – Ten Thoughts on what matters at a startup. It certainly wasn't meant to be definitive, but it did cover the kinds of things that, in my experience, matter on a daily basis. Some of it was informed by my recent experiences at Primal Fusion. Anyway, it seemed to go over well, and I had some good conversations with a few of the students after I finished.

In the near future I'll start a little series of posts inspired by that presentation.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

That vision thing

One of the things that is important to any organization, but in particular to a startup, is a clarity of purpose. With limited resources, a startup can't afford to allocate them to the wrong activities. Clarity of purpose is informed by a strong vision of what the company is about. At Primal Fusion we have a diverse group of smart and experienced people driving the company, and our shared vision originates from our founder, Peter Sweeney. In a series of provocative posts to our company blog, Peter has been revealing that vision to the world. Are we in the midst of a new industrial revolution? Peter thinks so. Read his latest post and see why. Read the others to see the vision that he's been laying out for our particular startup.