Category Archives: Open Stories

Open Stories

This is how you build a business of 130k users.

Peter is the founder of Brickflow, a web application that analyzes Tumblr profiles, and provides photos and videos that will suit the poster’s tastes.

Here is his honest, candid take on what it takes to build a digital idea to a business with tens of thousands of users. 

To be honest, my founding partners and I were pretty clueless when we started Brickflow. After more than two years, I can confidently say that we know how to validate and get initial traction for your startup, and we know what it takes to build a business. Moreover we have learned how to build a product and manage a team. Since then, with more experience and deeper integration of best practices, we can move faster to build our business.

Back at the beginning Tamas Kokeny worked at Prezi as a junior developer, Mihaly Borbely was a hobby-geek and photographer, whereas I worked at a Harvard founded ArtScience Labs incubator in Paris.

We had a lot ahead of us in terms of customer and product development. We did our homework by learning about lean, agile and other methods, but we were not successful implementing these practices.

At first, we built Brickflow in a typical waterfall way without any real validation. But we had passion and courage to learn and do it better. Much better. This is what Startup Wise Guys and Startup Chile realized, so they gave us a chance. SWG was like school with a vertical network of mentors, whereas SUP gave us time to build the product and connected us to the world’s biggest horizontal startup network. These 8 months in Estonia and Chile gave me more than my undergrad studies ever did when it comes to the foundation I needed to build a business.

We launched the first version when SUP ended, but we were not satisfied with user engagement. We realized that we need to test and iterate more, moreover that we need to improve execution significantly. This was the time, when we realized that we have not been applying the best practices that we have been thought. Facing this changed our mindset, and helped sharpen our focus to finding something that would work to build our business. After iterating the product for 6 months, we found something that really works. We arrived at product-market-fit and since then grow our active user base day by day.

But not only our user base grew but the team itself too. In one year we hired 6 people, so we have tripled the team. It was yet again a great challenge to integrate new people into the team and find our own roles as real executives. This is the first time when management and company culture become crucial to the building of our business.

Today, we are agile, we work in strict weekly sprints and do daily stand-ups. We use kanban boards to manage development. Getting used to estimating each task and giving them business value made management smooth. Moreover, we experiment every week with defined assumption – KPI pairs. Each modification of our design, copy and features is based on these experiments. We do not build or change anything without having it tested and validated. Backing everything with metrics made decision making faster and less of an emotional or hierarchical argument.

Being data driven makes our life easier and serves our customers much better.

Being data driven makes our life easier and serves our customers much better. Besides the quantitative experiments we have weekly in-person UX tests too. It is key to listen to the users. If there’s one thing you want to take out of this it’s this: find your users. Make sure you’re building something they want. 

If you liked that story, you should check out our other open stories. 

Build a business with code(love)

Build a business with code(love)

 

Open Stories

Plunker: Open Editor Perfect for Angular.js

Innovation

Some of the best open-source technologies are based on a great mix of things.

It usually comes after somebody with an entrepreneurial spirit confronts a problem due to old mentalities. As the old saying goes: “necessity is the mother of invention”.

Innovation is often about molding different pieces together and building something new out of it all, taking failure and turning it into the creation of something new.

3M’s post-it notes were created because one scientist named Spencer Silver failed at creating a strong adhesive for the aerospace industry. Instead, the result of his work was too weak to be used to mold together much of anything.

It was Art Fry, another 3M scientist, who was frustrated by how his paper bookmarks kept sliding out. Turning to what had been regarded as a failed adhesive, he realized that if he stuck the weak glue onto a paper, it could represent a temporary sticky paper, a way for one to mark one’s position—a bookmark that wouldn’t slide out.

That was the birth of Post-it notes, bathed in the spirit of innovation.

Plunker: A Primer in Open Innovation

Plunker with code(love)

Plunker with code(love)

In that spirit, Montreal-based Plunker is a good example of what happens when necessity strikes exactly the right person.

The creator, Geoff Goodman, is a programmer by calling, but not by profession. He works for one of the largest accounting firms in the world, but his true passion is building web technologies.

By day, you’ll see him plugging away at financial models for the sake of profit. At night, he’ll be driven to build things for the sake of passion.

He recently came across a pain point of his that needed solving. He had been using JSFiddle to help sandbox and prototype several versions of his code, but found that it was lacking for more complex Javascript frameworks such as Angular.js, which require more of a file-by-file approach where you can separate out different aspects of your code into a contained and organized multi-file system.

Geoff had been looking to build a timesheet application, but was frustrated by how JSFiddle’s sandbox couldn’t take on the more modern and complex Javascript frameworks that were required to make the application truly interactive.

So he set out and modified the Ace text editor, an open-source code-editor used by Cloud9 to help programmers build and prototype applications in the cloud.

Prior to finally installing Linux on top of my Chromebook, Cloud9 was the only way I could access node.js, and other tools that allow you to build out full web platforms, rather than simple display-only HTML/CSS pages.

The Ace text editor is open-source technology that aims to emulate the features of other text editors for code such as Sublime Text. Geoff built out an intuitive user interface with Ace that allows one to save one’s sandbox experiments (dubbed Plunks) and toggle easily between different Plunks, and different files within the Plunks. You can test your code, and see the live results instantly, which is quite gratifying for more complex applications that don’t load well in JSFiddle.

Modulus.io, responsible for scaling node.js applications, and MongoLab, which offers MongoDB have pitched in to help build out and scale the back-end for saving and accessing Plunks. The Angular.js team and tons of denizens of StackOverflow, a popular programming Q&A website, have used it to explain and teach code. Plunker has been an application built on open-source principles being helped throughout by a community that believes in it.

You can load up your plunks in Plunker with frameworks, including Angular.js, Bootstrap, and a whole host of others. You can save them for your own learning purposes, and watch what others have done with their plunks—this one taught me how to build with ng-table, an Angular.js function that extends tables to some nifty properties such as sorting, filtering, and pagination within tables.

Plunker’s been visited by hundreds of thousands of people, and used by many to learn and to teach programming. Plunker started with one person, frustrated at his own pain point. This is the beauty of the open Internet—something that allows solutions to spring from anywhere, supported by a community of people who believe that building is beautiful—and that sharing is caring.

Open Stories

Ten traits to define your perfect customer.

This was originally posted on Businessforbeginners, a resource for entrepreneurs to understand the business side of their ventures. 

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Now that you’ve figured out what it is you’re offering and why it’s valuable, the next thing to think about is identifying the group of people who will care. In a previous post, we began thinking about the answer to “Who is your product/service for?” This group of people (i.e., your target demographic or target audience) have at least one thing in common – they like what you have to offer. So, a preliminary question to ask yourself is, if your product or service solves a problem, who has that problem?

By now, you should have an idea about who your target demographic, or group of customers, are or will be. If your answer to the question above is EVERYONE… try again. Everyone is not your customer, and this is great news. Why? By focusing on the group of people who ARE interested in what you offer, you will save yourself time, money, and energy. The goal here is to identify the exact group of people who are interested in what you’re offering, and to do everything you can to make and keep them happy.

EXAMPLE:

Joe’s Steak Shop 

Joe closes his eyes and pictures a room with 100 potential customers. Joe announces, “Hey everyone! Come and buy my steaks!” Immediately, 5 people leave the room. Why? They are vegans and vegetarians. It doesn’t matter how great Joe’s steaks are, those 5 people won’t want to buy them. So, why would Joe waste his time and money trying to sell steaks to vegetarians?

TO IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC, CONSIDER THESE 10 THINGS:

Still not sure where to begin for your idea? No problem. First, if you know of a similar business, go there and see what kind of people spend time there. If it’s a web-based business, look at the websites of companies that are doing something similar to what you have in mind for your business. Also, use the tips and tricks you learned in the Dollar Shave Club practice problem to examine a website for clues on who their customer is. This is an iterative, ongoing process, and the information you gather now will have to be validated through more research and the data you collect over time. If you want to open a Thai restaurant, for example, visit other Thai restaurants! Another option is to just close your eyes and picture a room filled with your future customers. For either method, think about the following ten things, with the first six being especially important in the beginning stages.

  1. Age: Pick an age range that represents the group, e.g., 12 to 19 years old or 25 to 40 years old. It’s not always obvious, but you can estimate and try to confirm later.
  2. Household Income: You can start with something as simple as ‘high income’ or ‘middle income’, but this part will require additional research. If you’re in Canada, this kind of statistical information can often be found here. If you’re in the USA, try here or here. Live in Europe? No problem, try here and here.
  3. Gender: Male, female, etc.
  4. Geographic Location: This can be something broad such as all countries, or incredibly specific, like people living within a certain postal or zip code.
  5. Interests/Hobbies: Again, it may not be immediately obvious, but it can be incredibly important. A year from now, if we put all of your customers together in a room, what would this group of individuals have in common? This is where interests and hobbies come into play. It may not be obvious at first but when you start to chat, you realize they’re all obsessed with yoga, or they all love cooking. The point is that this group shares that interest or hobby, and you can use that information to build connections between your product and what your consumer loves.
  6. Attitudes/Values/Lifestyle: What is important to this group? What do they believe in? Again, invaluable information for
  7. Marital Status: Single, married, divorced, widowed, or dating. Again, not always obvious, but you can guess to begin with and confirm later.
  8. Occupation: This information is typically gathered over time by talking to customers, through newsletter sign-ups on your website, or in surveys and questionnaires. It’s not a big deal if you can’t answer this part right away.
  9. Ethnicity: Depending on what you’re selling, the ethnicity of your customers can play a role. If, for example, you’re importing a candy into Canada that up until now was only available in South America, the Latino community in your region would might be interested in a little taste of home.
  10. Education Level: Similar to martial status, or age, in that you may have to guess at first. Something to keep in mind is that education level is often correlated with household income.
Finding your perfect startup customer with code(love)

Finding your perfect startup customer with code(love)

WHY IT’S DIFFICULT TO FIND CUSTOMER INFORMATION:

Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to determine exactly who their customer is and continuously refine their answers to the above categories of customer information. By looking at existing competitors, you may be able to learn about their target demographic. Often, this information is not readily available to people outside the company. The important thing here is to use the ten categories above to guide you as you try to figure out who your ideal customer is or will be, even if you don’t have all of the exact information you need.

EXAMPLE:

Now that we have a list of ten things to consider, let’s take a look at an example.

Example #1: Lululemon. Product – Women’s Apparel

Let’s pretend I want to start a retail business that sells high-quality yoga clothes to women. To learn more about who buys yoga clothing, I will look at another clothing brand that sells yoga clothes. For this example, I’ve chosen Lululemon, an athletic apparel company inVancouver, Canada that specializes in yoga clothes. As I mentioned before, it is difficult to find specific information on the customers who buy from a particular company. So, with my list of ten things to think about, I visited a few Lululemon stores to see who was shopping there, and reviewed their website. While I was unable to fill in every category, I found information on the most important first six items.

Lululemon Customer Overview:

  1. Age: 16 to 45 year-olds
  2. Household Income: Middle to high income
  3. Gender: Women
  4. Geographic location: North America, but expanding internationally
  5. Interests/Hobbies: Yoga, running, dancing
  6. Attitude/Values/Lifestyle: Physically fit, health and appearance-conscious, environmentally aware
  7. Marital Status: ?
  8. Occupation: ?
  9. Ethnicity: ?
  10. Education Level: University educated

If my business will offer women’s yoga apparel that is very similar to Lululemon’s, the information above would help me better understand who my future customer will be so that I can focus my efforts.

If my business will offer women’s yoga clothes is going to be different than Lululemon’s, this example will be a reference point, but my answers will be different. For example, if my yoga clothes are going to be much cheaper, then it doesn’t make much sense to target individuals with a high household income.

PRACTICE:

Now, just like the above example, you should be ready to apply what you’ve learned and tackle this practice problem! The company is Bentley Motors, and the product is a Bentley, a car whose starting price is approximately $200,000. So, who buys a Bentley? Who is Bentley’s ideal customer? Visit the Bentley website and try to complete the first six categories of information below.

Practice #1: Bentley. Product – Car 

  1. Age:
  2. Household Income:
  3. Gender:
  4. Geographic location:
  5. Interests/Hobbies:
  6. Attitude/Values/Lifestyle:

I will post my answer next week!

Practice #2: Your Company

Now that you’ve seen an example and have done some practice, you’re equipped to do the work for your company. Good luck!

Still not quite sure? Contact Us.

Final Thoughts:

If you know your potential and actual customer, what’s important to them, what they like and don’t like, the better you will be able to find them, make them happy, and keep them coming back for more. Remember, this is just a first step, as you will have to do some additional research to confirm these assumptions. Not everyone will want what you have to offer, no matter how good it is, and that is okay. Focus on the people who will love you, and you will succeed.

Open Stories

Why the early adopter user is essential to your startup success.

This is the open story of Rapheal Costa from Hashtag Consulting. If you want your story to be highlighted, and given the views you need, contact us at info@code-love.com 🙂

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I think that a solid “early adoption” base is as important to a startup as a solid team of developers.

Often, and that keeps on happening to me, we overlook everything else and we focus on three conceptual things: our idea on how to solve the problem, how to develop our innovation and how to go to market.

However, what I kept on forgetting was that in order to cross the chasm and hit our target market we have to meet the consumer where they are and then walk them through our so-called “new thing” so that they can mature to be the users we built our app for.

I have learned that there’s no prototyping routine/process that can substitute for the feedback of a group of engaged early adopter users.

With a poor early adopter user base you can end up investing your time and money on something that is irrelevant to the industry and to the future of your startup. I have done that several times!

I have failed several startups. Not 1, not 2 and not even 3 – several. When I sit back to reflect, I realise that the only thing they all had in common was our focus and processes.

Here’s how we approached the ideation process through to deployment.

1 – Market Research

2 – Prototyping

3 – Feedback

4 – Development

5 – Go to Market

6 – Funding

A huge gap was left between point 4 and 5. I assumed that the feedback over a prototype would shape my product and bullet proof it for the market. Silly me.

I’m no startup expert – you can see by the number of failures. I’m a developer by trade, I like to build things and I like to solve problems.

After building building several failed “apps” and some successful apps I realised that as far as startups go, it doesn’t really matter how well built your app/innovation is. If that doesn’t fit the “consumer’s way of doing things” within that specific niche you will be out. Humans are creatures of habit and often startups bring innovation by streamlining processes, yielding better and faster processes. I’m not saying that startups should not bring on drastic innovations. I advocate that often, you have to allow your consumer base to mature in order to engage with your innovation. A strong early adopter user base will guide the startup on what is important to cross the chasm and how to present an innovation. That’s key.

Do you like learning from genuine stories about entrepreneurship and coding from those living thorough building new ventures? We have more!

Open Stories

An essential entrepreneurial trait you must know.

I believe entrepreneurs have a slightly different worldview than the average fellow. They wake up excited every day, but also a bit scared because the day’s event can always be unpredictable.

Their mentality is different and their entrepreneurial quest to achieve something great allows them to overcome arduous, draining, and never-ending stumbling blocks that come with the journey. Many of these individuals possess the same entrepreneurial character, which derives from nourishment or circumstances in their lives that push them to find an answer to a lingering problem.

Entrepreneurs don’t believe in the status quo.

The Entrepreneur Path with code(love)

The Entrepreneur Path with code(love)

Entrepreneurs don’t believe in the status quo.

That term doesn’t hold truth and more often than not, a courageous individual from a different background will create something that shatters the notion that status is just as valuable as one’s product.

Some entrepreneurs have a special trait that society, for the most part, considers a flaw.

However, they flip it and use that flaw in a manner that drives them to great lengths. Insecurity is that characteristic and that trait can be the catalyst to one’s success if they use it to their advantage.

Insecurity can lead individuals to work so much harder than their competitors because of the fear of failing that looms constantly in their mind. It leads some entrepreneurs to stay up all night, perfecting their craft because of the fear that someone else will get the better of them.

The drive to never settle can drive a person to great heights. Farrah Gray, a noted entrepreneur, put it best: “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.” If you’re constantly looking to challenge yourself,  you will grow stronger. Pain can be good. 

This trait explains why so many entrepreneurs are dyslexic, or come from difficult entrepreneurial backgrounds. This is what Malcolm Gladwell was alluding to in his novel “Outliers”; using a pre-conceived flaw and turning it into a strength. This entrepreneurial trait is rarely talked about, but its importance cannot be understated.

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This is the story of Joel Musambi. He is one of the founders behind Flexsports. They want to create a platform that links great college sporting prospects with coaches across North America, helping them to realize their goal of achievement in sports. They’re raising money, check it out. If you have a similar story you want to get the views it deserves, email us at info@code-love.com. 

 

Open Stories

An insider perspective on working in technology.

Working in technology can obviously mean a lot of different things, from building better jet engines to the kind of tech that we do at Engagement Labs, which is creating “intelligence” from data.

That’s always challenging, since intelligence is not easy to come by.

The exciting part of working in this area of tech, is that with the right analysis and a novel perspective we can have an immediate impact on a client’s success. I’ve worked in several other, older industries (i.e. pharma, airlines) and what I can say is that the wheel definitely spins faster than in tech companies.

If you’re passionate about the sector you’re in and love the opportunity to create new and innovative products or the branding and marketing behind them, there’s nothing better.

However, it’s important to note that it can get intense, especially if you’re a startup. Direct competitors or products can spring up at a moment’s notice, so you have to always be on your toes. Chances are you’ll rarely get bored. For me, and most us at Engagement Labs, we are most excited about the power of tech to drive creativity and problem-solving. We’ve seen it time and time again, technology done right, can change the lives millions (sometimes billions) of people.

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Thanks to Jordan Stotland of Engagement Labs for the insider story on what it feels like working for a startup. If you want your story on code(love), email us at info@code-love.com.

Open Stories

How computer science made studying us so much easier.

In 1859, the German physiologist Alfred Wilhelm Volkmann described an instrument—the tachistoscope—that soon became ubiquitous in psychology laboratories for studying learning, attention, and perception.

It displayed an image for a set period of time, making it easier to capture the reactions of people, and to learn about how humans reacted to stimuli: how they learned from what was being displayed to them, and how they perceived what was happening in the world around them.

Attention with code(love)

Attention with code(love)

Fast forward. Cognitive neuroscientists have expanded the science that was pioneered with this instrument and, in the late 1970’s, they were able to replace the famed tachistoscopeby the personal computer. Today’s students of the cognitive neurosciences take Matlab programming courses rather than woodwork and metalwork courses to study human behavior.

The connection between technology and behavior made in the last decades is a natural evolution for a better understanding of the human physiological processes. Today, these two fields are intimately connected together by the emergence of exciting and promising research fields such as human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

From the Kinect to speech and face recognition systems, A/B tests to the Facebook new testing button, intelligent air transport systems to online customer services, the use of the computer as a super tachistoscope has spread to consumer research. As a natural form of presenting visual stimuli, web applications have played an immense role in opening up new possibilities for cognitive research. 

More recently, this combination of advanced cognitive neuroscience research and programming have led to the development of new digital products to increase audience engagement and monetization for either video (Neon Labs) or online digital advertising (Neurométric). They have also led to a wealth of knowledge about how exactly humans perceive visual stimuli, and how they perceive and learn from the world around them. 

This is the power of technology. This is how computer science made studying us so much easier. 

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This open story is from Guillaume Fortin, CEO of Neurométric. If you have a story highlighting how technology is evolving, email us at info@code-love.com, and we’ll get it the views it deserves. 

 

Open Stories

My failed startup ThoughtBasin—and the lessons you can take from it.

This is an edit of my original post on Techvibes about my first failed startup. Thought it was worth reflecting on again, as we near six months after that article posting.

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Getting involved with startups requires a healthy amount of delusion. It’s usually why you’re the last person to know that your startup is dying.

That didn’t happen for me. I knew that it was dying, and I (mostly) knew what I did wrong, so when I finally made the phone calls to thank everybody for their involvement, it was with cold sobriety, rather than emotional explosiveness.

It hurt to do it, but it was more of a chronic pain than an acute one. A lot of people will have stories about them slamming a door on an opportunity they had chased for miles and miles, but my story is more about tapping the door closed dutifully, and keeping that thin margin between the door and the wall open—if only for a tiny bit of light.

Every good story has a context to it, and this is mine. I started my first startup, ThoughtBasin, while I was still in university at McGill. I juggled economics courses, a part-time job at a pharmaceutical firm, and trying to jump-start ThoughtBasin at the same time. At the beginning, I had nothing more than a cofounder, a set of ideals, and something that vaguely resembled a good idea.

We wanted to take the work that students put into learning, and see if it had a use outside of the confined context of a class. We wanted to create an online platform where students could contribute easily to various problems, and be rewarded and recognized for doing so. The purest interpretation of our ideals would be that we thought the ideas of students could power societal innovation. In many ways, I still do, but as it turns out to be the case with every dying startup, we simply approached it the wrong way.

How do I begin to define and learn from the “wrong way” so that you can glean some insight while we move along my story? Well, as it turns out, while there were too many individual mistakes to count, let alone learn from, I have grabbed a collection of key lessons with my experience chasing dreams. Let’s begin.

make the leap with code(love)

make the leap with code(love)

WHO ARE WE SHARING OUR DREAMS WITH? BE SURE TO KNOW

At the beginning of any startup there is only you, a dream that masquerades as an idea, and if you are fortunate, one or two people with whom to share it with. I shared it with some of my closest friends, and stuck with them to develop it together.

That was my first mistake.

They always tell you to never mix business with pleasure, but it’s astoundingly easy advice to ignore once you’re involved with both business and pleasure.

Who do you choose to found with, if you choose anyone at all? I laughed at how easy it was for me: I founded with a set of close friends that I happened to share the idea with. End of story. That we were all of similar business backgrounds, had little to no technical knowledge, and sometimes had drastically different viewpoints as well as bad tempers to boot would be problems

Make sure you know who you are founding with. My cofounders were and are great people, hard workers, and talented. I like them very much. Unfortunately, that’s not a very good criteria for success.

GOOD CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS

When we went through the process of building the website, I had to start getting a sense of the code. If there’s one thing I would say, it would be that knowing code is essential. It’s why I started code(love) in the first place.

ThoughtBasin ended up with a new technical cofounder who brought us to the next level. He was the one who largely assembled the online platform with the help of two talented junior coders. We had an office at last where people dedicated days towards building ThoughtBasin. It had taken us a while, but we finally had a clear path to a product.

I started ThoughtBasin with zero technical knowledge, and now I’m not half-bad as a front-end developer, so I believe it’s very achievable to develop those skills if you don’t have them. We wasted so much time trying to start a website without knowing how to go about doing it at ThoughtBasin. It took us two years to get a proper landing page up. Now, I can build one in four hours.

I also believe that it is crucial to make sure everybody is a good fit, not only at the bar, but also in the office. Ideally, you would test a team before you even embark on a startup idea.

Like in any dedicated relationship, you don’t really know who you’re dealing with until you’ve had your first good fight.

BE A STUDENT, NOT A TEACHER

I believe my first real fight with my cofounders, and every subsequent fight after, had a common theme. I was trying to be a teacher rather than being a student each and every time.

The reality with startups is that everybody is on a learning curve. You can have all of the experience in the world, but a startup is all about examining a new path for everyone involved. I waded into every argument with a gung-ho attitude that I had nothing left to learn. That sparked some fights, and continued many. It was an incredibly bad attitude to have. When you’re a student, you can afford to make mistakes, and strive to improve on them. When you’re a teacher, it makes it that much harder to do so without looking like a fool to others. That fundamental difference made all the difference in the world at ThoughtBasin.

I remember an argument over whether or not we should incorporate, and one on whether or not to bring more people onto the team without clear pre-defined roles. In the end, we incorporated, and had a team of fifteen people. They were both bad mistakes on my part, and if I were willing to listen more, and to compromise more like a student should, perhaps we would have ended in the happy middle where we would have had a smaller, more well-defined team, and a company that had sales before we went through incorporation.

Ultimately, after a series of arguments that went nowhere, one of my original cofounders chose to leave for law school, and the other one gradually started working in banking.

ThoughtBasin was a constantly painful learning experience, and I would never consider it over. I look at this article as something I had to write to get some lessons I’ve learned on paper, and I don’t look to teach from these errors. I look to learn.

LOVE YOURSELF, BE DELUDED, AND BUILD GREAT THINGS

The reason why we broke too far was because one of our competitors in the student space was much further along than we thought they were. We had not been watching our competitors carefully, and this was another instance of working hard in our zone, while not working smart outside of it.

Their online platform was much more developed then ours, and so were their partnerships. We realized we would never be realistically able to catch up with them, and so we would be relegated as late-comers to a niche that wasn’t worth fighting over.

While this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, there were plenty of other bumps along the way. All of them struck me hard, because I had not been taking care of myself too well. Every failure of the company became a personal failure of mine. We missed tons of sales opportunities as I struggled to elaborate on why people should work with ThoughtBasin, and I learned how hard it was to maintain a thriving company while suffering personally.

If there was one note I’d strike on this: love yourself. Take a break once in a while. Playing a martyr will get you and your company nowhere.

As a corollary to this, love your community. I cannot help but think of the Montreal startup community as a godsend. The number of people willing to help you, and to take coffees with you as you navigate your path is truly staggering. The startup community, no matter where it is, is in it together to watch everybody succeed, so get help, and pay it forward. If you ever want to meet with me because you think I can help, shoot me an email at roger.huang@thoughtbasin.com.

You do need a certain level of delusion to think that you and maybe a few other people can band together in a garage and change the world. Even now, I still have that spark, and I am constantly searching for how to exercise it. For now, I’ve settled on working on another good startup idea: Shout, a utility that takes your social media messages directed at a company, and shoots it off to every social media outlet the company owns if they don’t get back to you.

I look at ThoughtBasin as a means to an end, and though the means did not work perfectly, that did not mean it was not a worthy exercise, and that does not mean I can’t find another means to that coveted end.

So be deluded. Be silly. Think that you can build great things, because you can, even if it takes a few setbacks to get there.

Open Stories

The story behind the world’s fastest growing car classifieds.

This is the open story of Fritz Simons, a co-founder of Carmudi, a startup that bills itself as the world’s fastest growing car classifieds. If this story inspires you to build, join our mailing list.

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Carmudi with code(love)

Carmudi with code(love)

1. What is the ultimate vision of Carmudi?

Carmudi will revolutionise the way vehicle are traded. We are combining technological expertise with a passion for cars in order to offer our customers the best possible experience. For us this means making buying and selling vehicles easy, safe and fast. We are only at the start of our journey but we are working extremely hard every single day to get there.

2. How did you achieve your current success?

We are simply faster than anyone else. This results from a combination of being very customer focused and extremely execution driven. We spend a lot of time understanding the market we operate in and leverage everything we learn immediately by making it influence our priorities and goals. At such an early phase of a company, one must be able to react very quickly.

3. How did you get into founding a tech enterprise? What’s your advice in regards to understanding technology and code?

The Internet changes the way people think and go about their lives. As an entrepreneur I can be part of this change and impact people’s life for the better. This is why I ended up in tech and founding Carmudi. Of course, my understanding of technology helps me every day. Get yourself excited about it and spend time to learn from everyone around you.

4. What do you find fascinating about cars personally?

For some, cars are merely a means of transportation. For others they are a hobby and status symbol. Cars fascinate me because they have their own different meanings for different people. I myself am a car enthusiast having dedicated my entire working career to the automotive industry.

5. What are your tips for building a great team and establishing an excellent company culture?

Only hire people you are fully convinced of. This is time consuming but will pay off from day one. Then get every single one in the team enthusiastic about the company vision and product. This serves as the basis for a fruitful company culture.

6. What is special about Carmudi’s company culture?

We all love cars and we all believe in our vision. Everyone wants to make the next step to making car trading better for our clients. Thus, the environment is productive and this is fun for everyone.

7. Where does your drive of being an entrepreneur come from?

It comes from the ambition to make a meaningful impact. To achieve this you have to take responsibility and ownership of what you are doing as well as be prepared to take risks. This is the true basis for entrepreneurship.

Open Stories

MakeWorks: A Co-Working Space that Mixes Physical and Digital

We live in an exciting time where the Internet of Things and connected devices are rapidly breaking down barriers between the physical and digital world. MakeWorks is at the frontier of what is happening, as a co-working space designed for connected devices.

Here is an interview with the founder, Mike. 

1) Describe what Makeworks is.

MakeWorks is Toronto’s first coworking studio of its kind, catering to both digital and physical focused startups. The 10,000 sq ft facility is located in a restored shoe factory, and broken up into four parts: a coworking space seating 120 people; a prototyping and electronics lab; a makerspace, and a large event space for meetups, prototyping and pop-up concepts.

2) What is the ultimate vision behind Makeworks?

​To be Canada’s leading coworking studio and community platform for entrepreneurs all along the digital-physical spectrum.

3) What are some examples of cool projects being built in Makeworks?

Sprout Guerilla (moss grafitti wall art), Pawly ​(robotic dog companion), Orchard (used smartphone buying platform), Makelab (creative technology experiential agency), Sensimat (smart wheelchair technology), and many more applying every day!

4) How does one become a part of the Makeworks community?

​Simply apply at makeworks.com and schedule a tour with Steph, our GM!​