Finding That Next Big Thing That Will Make Me Just a Little Less Small

My friends think I am crazy, but even as I work by behind off to get this project up and running, my head is swirling with ideas on how to make it even better. Not only that, but with completely new concepts that are meant to blow peoples socks off.

Apps are like the new plastic thingies at the tip of your shoelaces. You struggle with tying your shoes every day. And then suddenly someone comes up with the insane idea of putting little pieces of plastic at the end of the laces to make them fit through the holes better. Head smack as you scream “now why didn’t I think of that?!”.

Finding a new app exactly the same way. In order to develop one that people want to have, you really have to examine what would make your life easier, or more fun. Once you have that down, then you have to figure out how an app for that can work.

Not so long ago I had one of those head smack moments with an online site that I came across for online singing lessons. How perfect is that for the girl or guy who wants to learn how to sing but doesn’t want a whole class of people to hear him? With the popularity of American Idol and the Voice, millions of people are going to be interested in how to sing better. Having the singing class online just makes it better.

There is always some type of niche that can be filled if you give it the thought that it deserves. No one ever thought that the grocery shopping apps were going to be success and look at how that turned out. There is actually competition there now.

apps-image

I also came across this guy who created an app for Vegas lovers. His helps to make reservations, book hotels and even get a VIP table at a club. Again, localized content that is going to appeal to a select few, but that kind of innovation is what is becoming the next best thing in apps and all technology.

I can go on and on about these head smacking app ideas that I see popping up all of the time, but I am busy trying to discover my own. Even if that means taking a concept already in play and tweaking it to become even better. That Vegas guy is on to something, but what if I expanded the horizons? What if you had a NYC app that could pinpoint your location and tell you where the closest subway station was? This concept could be made popular for every major city on the planet.

These are just thoughts and musings for now as I still focus my efforts on raising money for the idea I already cooked. If you have any great ideas for an app, but lack the know how to set it up, give me a shout out. I’ll cut you in on the deal.

Selling My Sports Gear To Raise Money: Is Anyone in the Market for a Recurve Bow?

There have been times since I started this project that I did not think I would be able to see it through. One of the lowest moments was the realization that I may have to start selling stuff just to make it to the next month.

Raising money has been my biggest challenge. As I have said before, creating my product was a cake walk in comparison to having to sweat out waiting for someone with money to back it. I exhausted my own funds getting things going and really did resort to selling some of my stuff to stay afloat. You’d be surprised at what you can get for those things gathering dust in the garage.

What I Had of Value

I may seem like a computer geek to you now, but before the internet became a part of my life, I was quite the athlete. Not just any athlete, but a well rounded one that played everything from organized games like football and baseball to recreational sports like bowling and archery.

bow

This led to me having a lot of sports equipment in my garage that was in great condition but of no use anymore. I decided to try out the Craig’s list thing to see what I could get first for some of the more obscure items, like my OMP bow (recurve style) and set of arrows. With deer season just around the corner, and mine being a recurve bow for hunting, I felt that this was the best place to start.

What’s Craig’s List Like?

If you have never been on the Craig’s list site before, you should get on at least once for the fun factor. Here you are going to find everything from room mate wanted to ads to people selling items of clothing they claim belonged to Derek Jeter. If you have some time to kill, browse around and see what kind of craziness is being sold and looked for.

Obviously my recurve bow for hunting and set of arrows was tame compared to the other stuff, but I still did get a lot of interest in it. In less than a week I had shipped it off and finally had some money to go food shopping with. Of course it was at the same time that one of my chief backers came forward and offered me support. Now I didn’t need to worry about ridding the garage of my bowling bowl.

Even if you are not as desperate as I was at the time, you still should consider sites like Craig’s List when the junk in your house starts to overwhelm you. Easy to navigate, you will quickly find that no matter what you think is junk, someone else is going to see as treasure.

Keep this in mind when struggling for money now. There is always a way if you are willing to look for it. Yes, I am going to miss having my own recurve bow, but when I make my first mil I am going to go buy a dozen.

Finding the Motivation When Being Small Becomes Too Big

Conceiving of a new idea and bringing it too life is very rewarding. The stress of then taking that to the next level and marketing it is where the frustration comes in. Don’t let frustration cloud your overall goal. When you feel like the chips are stacked against you, try these motivating tips to keep on moving forward:

Take a Break

If you just got turned down by five investors in a row, (this will happen) step away from the money raising project for a few days. Do something that you enjoy, go out with friends or even just veg out on the couch. Anything that allows you to relax, regroup and maybe come up with some better ideas on how to get your small company up and running.

Think About the Big Guys

I have been known to hang odd post-its around my work space. These one-liners such as “Microsoft” and “McDonalds” remind me constantly that every major company we know of today was once smaller than I am now. McDonalds sold a whopping 2 hamburgers on its first day in business. Thinking of that and what happened to them afterwards makes me remember that no fortune 500 company started off making a fortune.

Climb the Mountain

Another trick I use is to think of the worst possible situation, and those who have persevered through it. Those stories of finding strength within and winning against all odds always help me to get through a rough patch. On one of my favorite post it’s simply says “Everest” to remind me that if someone can manage to reach that apex, I can do this. Those guys have to pitch a tent in the snow and snuggle inside of a sleeping bag (a warm thermal one, no doubt!) for weeks before their goal is reached. I am trying to reach mine from the comfort of my own bed with plenty of heat to keep me warm. If they can come out on top, so can I.

everest

Visit Your Family

No one in the world can give you a self esteem boost the way a mom does. Go spend some time with your family and let them give you the encouragement you need to keep going. You may even get some of mom’s home cooking to sweeten to deal.

Go to the Gym

Whether you know it or not, you have a ton of built of energy and aggression inside of you from the frustration of finding money. You will be able to think clearer once that energy is spent. Go to the gym and push yourself physically in order to get yourself back together mentally.

Don’t let frustration stand in your way of reaching your goal. Once you learn how to deal with it positively reaching those goals will come to you easier. Your dream is a good one, stay focused and it will come true.

Putting Your Hand Out: How to Present Yourself to the Big Guys Who Get You the Funds

Believe it or not, despite the intricacies of creating my software project, the biggest hurdle for me has been finding the funding to get it out to the public. I have never had to ask for money before, and this walking into offices with my hand out stuff is a lot harder then I thought.

Through my hundreds of interviews and presentations I have learned a few important points that will help you sell yourself and your project more effectively:

Pick the Right People

If you are looking for an investor or investors for a software product, make sure that the ones you pick to ask have had similar successful ventures in the past. You are not going to want to start asking the guy who lost millions from a failed web company last year. Do some research into who is backing some of the more popular online based companies today and save your energy for pitching your ideas to them.

Prepare Yourself

It took me close to a dozen interviews before I finally got the idea of the kinds of questions that would be asked. That meant 12 potential investors that I turned off because I was not prepared with the answers they wanted to hear. Give your presentation to friends and family first, for as many times as necessary, and pay attention to the points they don’t get. From here, work hard at anticipating every possible question, and your quick and positive response to it.

Your Appearance

When you are a millionaire then you can show up to meetings in jeans and t-shirts. For now, you must always present yourself as a serious business person. This means a suit and tie guys (sorry), clean, short and combed hair, and yes, whip out that beard trimmer, a clean shaven face. If you are not keen on parting with your beard, you should at least invest in a beard trimmer and make it look presentable. On the day of an interview, trim it down and finish off the neat look with a quality beard balm. Money is not being handed over to guys who look like Grizzly Adams.

Your Presentation

The presentation cannot be a cookie cutter telling of your story and idea each time. In some cases you will be given as much time as you want to make your pitch, in other cases it may be no more than an elevator ride to the lobby. You need to have a fast and concise way of selling yourself and your product, as well as being expandable when you are given the time. In those cases, have the visuals on hand to further drive home your point.

presentationpic-1384723221Give Thanks

Whether the answer was yes or no, give a sincere thank you. Follow up every meeting with a note that thanks them for their time and attention. Even if they didn’t give you much of either. A few years from now you might have another great product to get off the ground, and they will remember how gracious you were the first time around.

This is the single most difficult part of your entire endeavor. But a necessary one if you want to break through and make it small. Learn from the mistakes that I have made and you are going to find (hopefully) that the right investor is going to take an interest in you in no time.

How to Set Up Your House to Focus on Building Your Own Business (Hint: Get a Dog Fence!)

There are not too many entrepreneurs who have the luxury of an office space when getting their awesome idea up off of the ground. For this reason most of us end up doing the work at home, during our off hours from the day job. This can be very distracting if you don’t set yourself up for success first.

Here are a few things I learned while developing my business at home that you may find useful:

Turn off the Phone

Bill collectors and telemarketers always call right when you are on the brink of a brilliant discovery. To avoid this from happening to you, turn the ringer on the house phone off and the volume on your answering machine all the way down. That way, you won’t be tempted when your buddy calls looking for someone to go out drinking with.

Don’t forget your cell phone. Put it way out of sight and it will quickly go way out of mind as you get immersed in your work. Those texts and calls can wait until later while you are working.

Stay Offline

This was a big problem for me at first. Since most of my work was being done with my computer I developed a bad habit of keeping my facebook page open. Play a turn on Words, have a chat with a friend, and pretty soon an hour passed and no work was done. It is better to keep offline, or at least the social part of it, while you are working on your project.

Secure Your Dog

I am a dog person, and do consider mine to be part of my family. But dogs have no concept of when we are trying to get things done. After the 100th time of shooing mine away from the table I decided it was time for some tough love.

That Saturday I looked into some wireless dog fences and had one installed in the yard. This got rid of those puppy dog eyes that kept begging me to take him out for a walk. The dog fence made him happy, me happy and let me get a lot more work done.

Secure Your Family

It isn’t that my priorities are out of whack, but during that crazy time when I was in early development I only had the dog to worry about. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have made it if I also had to worry about the wife and kid. The only advice I can think of here is to create a space that is by invitation only. A spare room, basement or even the garage if you have to.

Yeah, That's Not Really Happening

Yeah, That’s Not Really Happening

Sleep

I learned this the hard way. Not getting enough sleep is very distracting. Your mind wanders in ways that not even a gallon of Red Bull can stop. Once in a while put the work down and go to sleep. This is sometimes when the best ideas come.

You do need some downtime and shouldn’t be ignoring every call to go out, but you do need to know when it is crunch time and prepare for it. This will let you think clearly to create that awesome idea that is right there at the tip of your brain.

Funding The Future…or Flop

There’s a lot more money involved in getting this project flying than I had originally imagined. Once I started to break down the costs I nearly backed down. But with so much support already, I feel like this is do or die time, meaning its time to go after some funding for what I still think of as my little project.

This has been a project that has changed my life forever. When I first thought up the idea I really had no idea how much effort was going to be needed on my part. All I wanted to do really was create some really cool software that could help make a lot of people’s lives easier. Now I just need the money to get it to them.

software button

Push the button, make the software, get the customers, make the money. Right???

I had no idea of the number of bills I was going to have to cover to get this business up and running. I was having too much fun creating it to give it that much thought. Like someone just told me I was going have to drop a bunch of cash in business filing fees. That means a license and a whole lot of other stuff that’s important if you want to be a small business owner.

Then there’s all of these suggestions that I am going to need an accountant and a lawyer. The accountant to make sure I don’t break any tax laws I guess and the lawyer to help you with contracts. That part seems very important to me.

Insurance was something else I hadn’t considered but it costs a lot of money to insure a business, even a small one like mine.

Now it’s time to ask for the funding for all of this, plus the dozens of other expenses I don’t want to bore you with and my palms start to sweat when I think about. I have already built up a following and I have more ideas spinning in my head. Great ideas that I know people are going to be really excited about. After all of this hard work and planning, I would hate to have all go sour just because some suit decides me and my ideas are too much of a risk.

Unless you have ever built something up from scratch by yourself, it’s hard to imagine how it feels when all that sweat and hard work is now dependent solely on whether or not someone believes in me enough to take a chance. It’s nerve wracking and it’s put my stomach in knots for weeks.

The only thing that gives me hope is the knowledge that at some point everyone who is big in the software business, or any business, once stood exactly where I stand now. They got the idea, created it and just needed some money to get it up and going. I don’t have visions of being the next software super giant, I just want to be able to market and sell a product that I believe strongly in.

 

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Launching a Software Company With No One But Yourself

Who doesn’t dream of being self made? Of creating something unique that other people are going to want. It’s not easy, but when you succeed… ah the reward is unbeatable.

This was me mapping out my software. Not! Way more messy. More post it notes...but cool pictures right?

This was me mapping out my software. Not! Way more messy. More post it notes…but cool pictures right?

What I set out to do was start my own little software company. Our lives are completely controlled by computers now and like stars, there are thousands of needs out there that haven’t yet been discovered. You just have to find one.

I had some code knowledge already, the first hurdle was figuring out what to do with it. Once I fixated on my idea it took a lot of hard work, but I did get my program up and running. All I needed to do now was create a little company and begin marketing.

This was where the real hard work comes in. You can’t just set up a web page with a domain name and think that hordes of people interested in your software are going to come clicking. There has to be a strategy where you build up the right connections. And that doesn’t mean a list a Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

What you need to try and do is get people just as excited about your software as you are. This means a lot of forum posting and blog commenting on similar items. Leave your link wherever you can. What I learned was that this was my personal project and I needed to be personally involved if I wanted to create any buzz about it.

You make connections on line all the time. But do you actually engage with them? Like those Facebook friends who post cryptic status updates and then never respond to the comments. After a while people lose interest. The same goes with growing real connections that can garner you real results when you are trying to attract attention to a brand new concept. If you just make a post and then forget about it, people will too.

Not only did I figure out that engaging was a critical component, I also found that people like visuals. The sudden popularity of Instagram is proof of that. If you are working on making connections try using videos and pictures. Be as entertaining as possible to keep people interested and maybe even sharing. I could name a hundred silly videos about nothing that suddenly went viral to where everyone was talking about. If you can create that kind of buzz, people start to get excited wondering what all the buzz is about.

There is so much more to making connections online than SEO, especially when you are a little guy going up against some big ones. They already have the SEO upper hand, I need to figure out my way around that. What they don’t have is me, and the passion I feel for the software I created. So I guess what real marketing and building connections is for the little guys like me is learning how to get people interested in me, and my software.