This is a talk I did in Nov of 2011 on building a business organically. About 250 people in the audience. Was a good time. I gave the same talk to a different audience at WordCampPHX 2012 a few months after this.

I too built this model. I too was in awe when my Dad drove me about 1hour north of Salt lake to Hill air force base to see one for rea when I was about 12. [Read the article]

The quote below was from a book written by a pilot of an SR-71. It resonated with me. This is sort of how we do business at Page.ly.

One day, high above Arizona , we were monitoring the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers to check his ground speed. ‘Ninety knots,’ ATC replied. A twin Bonanza soon made the same request. ‘One-twenty on the ground,’ was the reply. To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a ground speed check. I knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, he had a ground speed indicator in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the bug-smashers in the valley know what real speed was ‘Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,’ ATC responded. The situation was too ripe. I heard the click of Walter’s mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter startled the controller by asking for a ground speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace. In a cool, professional voice, the controller replied, ‘ Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.’ We did not hear another transmis sion on that frequency all the way to the coast.

Hosting Douchebags

September 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

Kick a guy when he is down? You might as well kick your own customers in the junk while you are at it.

Godaddy has had its fair share of problems, everyone has. Today they had a big one.

Ouch!

Competition jumps in and starts kicking.

And the best

Jesus people.. have some class. The sad thing is this has become so common place. I think you can make a solid case why your service is better/faster/stronger than a competitor without having to resort to tactics like this. For the % of customers your offer attracts, how many are you turning off by being a total douchebag?

 

 

We sort of pride ourselves at Pagely for being the “first” in just about everything we have done.

The merits of the first mover advantage have been hotly debated if not outright dismissed. However Brad Feld says be a niche first mover.

Several people challenged this idea in the comments and there are many investors that like to invest in “fast followers” (I’m not one of them.) There’s also a well worn cliche that you can identify early leaders as they are the ones with arrows in their back. While I understand the convention wisdom around this, especially in the context of corporate strategy and general innovation theory, I take a different approach, especially in very fast moving markets like the ones I invest in.

On the opposite end is the Fast follower argument. Which essentially says while the first mover faced the challenges of innovation, customer education, and proving the concept; the Fast follower has the luxury of entering a warm market and learning from the mistakes of the first mover. There is also the advantage of being able to say: “We are just like X, but we do Y differently”.  Being able to explain the gist of the business with a simple contrast is a luxury the first mover did not have during the market education phase.

If we were to do it again, I still think we would opt to be a first mover. Even with the extra challenges that go with it for 1 simple reason: Never having to say “Me too”. When your company is innovating in the space, you never get caught in the situation where you are forced to duplicate a feature or product to stay relevant. In the follower positon, companies do a lot of reacting to others in the space. The best efforts of the fast follower marketing team may present the new item in all sorts of gloss and sparkle, but the underlying message is “we now do this too”.

This is not the case across the board. Certainly many a 2nd-3rd or 10th entry into a space has out maneuvered the entrenched players and gone on to win the day: al a facebook, google, etc.

Recent happenings in our own space got me thinking about the Me Too’s. About this time last year we laid out plans for what is now our new API driven account and infrastructure management system. In June we relaunched our entire system and made our new Partner API available publicly a few days ago.

Company X in our space is working on a similar product, and they chose to mention our press to provide context for their Me Too pitch they made to the target users of the product a few days after our annoucement. This is the meat of slightly longer email sent out by another hosting company within a day or two of our Partner API announcement.

To Theme shop owner

We’re aware that there have been some announcements in the past few days about opportunities for theme marketplaces like yourself to partner with hosting companies and offer tightly integrated, white-labeled managed hosting to their customers via partner APIs.

We wanted to let you all know that, while we have not publicly announced this yet, [company X] has already developed a Partner API which we’ve been “bedding in” for a few months with a select number of partners in order to ensure stability.

… we’d hope there would be opportunity to speak with you about what we have going on over at [company X]  in this space.

 

*SMH*

Now getting beat to market happens all the time in all spaces. We were working on a product that was to be an “app store” for WordPress plugins and themes.. before we got it finished and to market the WP App Store plugin launched beating us to the punch. We had a choice, push ahead and be the Me Too, or shelve it. We ultimately decided to adapt parts of it for something else, and shelve the concept. We just had no interest in getting out there and trying to promote a product that was 2nd to the game.

Being a first mover is hard. Being a fast follower is probably difficult too. Startups in general are an exercise in self torture some say. At the end of the day it just comes down to execution and how well you do it. Some of the followers in our space have executed on things amazingly well,  some not so much, we have had our share of misses as well. Chances are good this other company will execute on their partner play well, and it will be fun to see how it shakes out. This affiliate seems to like Pagely.

For my personal taste I prefer getting out front, the target painted on ours backs be damned.

I sort of pride myself in being able to hold conflicting ideas in my head at the same time. Being able to consider multiple viewpoints at once. Imagine how much easier things would be in the world if everyone did this.  The religious could also consider science as valid, the conservatives could consider progressive viewpoints as valid.. etc. Being able to anchor yourself in a position to consider the merits of both sides.

GENIUSES THINK IN OPPOSITES.
Physicist and philosopher David Bohm believed geniuses were able to think different thoughts because they could tolerate ambivalence between opposites or two incompatible subjects. Dr. Albert Rothenberg, a noted researcher on the creative process, identified this ability in a wide variety of geniuses including Einstein, Mozart, Edison, Pasteur, Joseph Conrad, and Picasso in his 1990 book The Emerging Goddess: The Creative Process in Art, Science and Other Fields. Physicist Niels Bohr believed that if you held opposites together, then you suspend your thought and your mind moves to a new level. The suspension of thought allows an intelligence beyond thought to act and create a new form. The swirling of opposites creates the conditions for a new point of view to bubble freely from your mind. Bohr’s ability to imagine light as both a particle and a wave led to his conception of the principle of complementarity. Thomas Edison’s invention of a practical system of lighting involved combining wiring in parallel circuits with high resistance filaments in his bulbs, two things that were not considered possible by conventional thinkers, in fact were not considered at all because of an assumed incompatibility. Because Edison could tolerate the ambivalence between two incompatible things, he could see the relationship that led to his breakthrough. Full Article

Puffy customers

May 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

Hey ego man with 10 followers, shut the fuck up. This guy too.

What is it with people now-a-days and their “Do you know who I am and I’ll talk bad on twitter about you” bullshit. I had a customer, mind you a $20/mo customer, pull this card today.

Please terminate page.ly service and reverse the original credit card charges. If you check the correspondence with [REDACTED] on our behalf, you will see your organization’s work and responsiveness has been completely indadequate. It took us one day to accomplish with a new hosting service what we were unable to accomplish with you in a week. I am willing to write this off as a bad day/weekfor you, if you simply reverse the credit card charge, despite the hours wasted and stress you crated for us. If you think on review your service was adequate, I will happily debate you on that topic in a more public place.

The emphasis is mine. First let me say, we dropped the ball and we take full responsibility. The setup took longer than it should, and when it finished file permissions were wonky, and to top it off our our management system would not authorize the client. A grade A clusterfuck for sure. We fixed it up though, over a few days and 3 tickets. Not our best moment, but we took care of them.

If this customer had stopped writing before that last sentence I emphasized. I swear before you I would have polished his ass with my own lips in heartfelt apology and humility. And there would not be a story here.

Instead they got this response from me. We of course take responsibility for the problem and issue a full refund, but they also got a heavy dose of snark:

I looked back at the tickets from [REDACTED] and you are correct, we did drop the ball on getting things taken care of in a timely fashion. We’ll happily terminate the account and refund the payment. We stand by our product and our service, and if we don’t come through on that promise it is our fault.

I would like to also add that your threats of taking things public are not the best way to achieve you end goal. Perhaps you were burnt in the past, and some evil company maybe got the better of you and stole your lunch money. So you may had called them and had to wait on hold for 3 hours and missed your soccer game or something. And you may have sworn, right then: “this will never happen to me again, so I am going to flex my muscle next time and use this thing called the internets to have my revenge. I can use twitter and facebook, and I will say bad things.. and that will teach those mean people to mess with me” On that day you may have decided to reclaim your honor, and you might have taken your @aol email address out into the wild of the internets, head held high, just waiting for the day someone was even going to even think about messing with you.

But truth be told, you had a bad experience at page.ly, and we feel bad about it. Cause you know, we are people too. And we dont like feeling like we got taken advantage of so we try every day to deliver the best product and customer support we can, and if we fail we are wise enough to own up to those mistakes and try to make it right, regardless if the customer on the other end threatens some lame bullshit about telling their social graph they were unhappy.

Thank you for giving us a try, I am sorry it did not work out.
I will cancel the account and refund the payment immediately.

NOT my finest work, but this is how we deal with bullies at page.ly. Every once in a while we get the tough guy that for whatever reason (right or wrong) is ready to start a social media flame war over some real or imagined transgression. That’s really what they or anyone else is doing when they pull the “I’ll take this to twitter” card, they are being bullies. Alec Baldwin lost his shit when a flight attendant made him comply with federal regulations, for some reason he was above the law made a PR nitemare for the airline. Real nice Alec.

So how do you deal with this in your own business?

 

I spent the better part of the last 3 years building our 3rd business from revenues and sweat. We went from an idea to sustainable, growing, and profitable business. It was not easy, nothing ever is. At times we flirted with taking funding, had offers on the table, and sought out a few commitments. Even had 2 larger companies approach for us for an early acquisition. Ultimately though we chose to stay independent.

During this same time a close friend of mine left a huge internet company, founded a new startup, raised 10′s of millions in VC, folded that startup in what they call a ‘soft landing’, and started another one. He was convinced he needed funding for the new project. I doubt my words made any real difference but I tried to steer him away from it. He did the math and ultimately decided to tell some of the biggest names in the angel and VC world he would forgo their cash for few months to see if this idea had legs.. and was met with utter contempt.

With VC  you gain cash, and the ability to spend it. You do not gain the assurance of success. And all along you have to deal with other people telling you how you should conduct your business. Meh.

As bootstrapper you have earned the freedom and independence to make your own mistakes, revel in your own success, and work you ass off. The success or failure is 100% yours.

Why is this important to me? It allows me to build the company I want to see. One that does not push useless upsells on their customers to maximize profit, one that can operate from a mindset other then win at all costs, one that has integrity and character. Sure a few extra 0′s in the bank would come in handy from time to time. But I also like knowing that every 0 in there was a result of choices that were made with our values in mind. The soul of a business runs through every aspect of it. Your customers, your employees, and the public at large sees it for what it is. Good and bad, motivated by greed or passion, acting like asshats or elegant problem solvers.

When did “funding” become a mark of success? The argument could be made it is the direct opposite. Yes, we all see the big IPO’s, those 1 in 1000 that make it. The other 999 would likely have been so much better off either flaming out early, or working through to a real solution to a real problem and making real revenue. We live in the age of the zombie startup. It should be dead, but instead just pivots with every dilution.

 

HE-MAN

December 29, 2011 — Leave a comment

This IS amazing. Hat tip @joestump

I have a hunch that the majority of startup centers in the nation lean left.

SF, Austin, NYC, Boston, Boulder.. predominantly vote blue in presidential elections.

Infrographic: Graph the last 5 presidential elections and the number of startups, or successful startup exits, or successful startup IPO’s by city. We know tech is an easy one, but what about finance, energy, or bio tech. Are certain types of startups more red or blue?  Is it based on geography or industry?

I have a feeling liberals are better  (high paid knowledge economy) job creators over the last 20 years.