November 18, 2014

Singapore Sling(shot)

We are continuing our internationalization efforts with Most recently with participation in Innovation Norway’s Tech Incubator program at JFDI in Singapore. So for the next three weeks, I am discussing with potential partners and collaborators in the South East Asian market.

I am old (or young?) enough to be truly amazed by how global the world has become (I wrote a separate post on the practicalities of this globalization for a small firm some time ago). Tomorrow I am meeting a potential partner that contacted me about two years ago and we have done several Skype demos and project discussions in the meantime. Still - even with all our electronic tools, there is nothing like meeting face to face, so exciting day tomorrow.

If you happen to read this and are in the area and want to meet for a coffee to discuss something interesting, give me a ping (+47 91741574, sbjorneb on Skype or on local cellphone +65 9166 5766).

August 29, 2014

Five Fine Years

Today it is five years since I quit my job to run my own company as a full time gig. It is quite different from doing some product development things on the side with the employer's blessing or in addition to studying as I did back in the days... You can't be half pregnant and it is hard to be a part-time entrepreneur as well.

Even if things may not have "taken off" by some measures (and some of the first products truly never got out of the phase with a few pilot customers), I am extremely proud of what we have been able to do with with no external funding since 2011. All the major publishers in Norway are customers and we also have customers in exotic, and less exotic such as San Francisco and London, places all over the world.

Today I met with an author that was so inspired by our tool that she was shivering from the opportunities it opened (we are working on our business model and technology to help indie and stand-alone publisher-authors, and are running a beta program to learn more). Such experiences makes it easy to find motivation for an extra long night of working (I've had my share of such late working nights, or to paraphrase Joey from good-ol' Friends: Actually, I've had a lot of people's share!).

If you read this and are considering to do the same and start your own company, should you do it? I will not claim it is easy and I am still not quite used to the insecurity of not knowing the economical situation just a few months into the future. That being said, I can honestly say I have never regretted jumping. So I would say jump, get the experience and find out for real if it is your thing. And unlike being pregnant, there is even a way back if it should not work out for you. Good luck!

April 15, 2014

Food for conspiracy theories

So, according to the WSJ Google is buying a maker of solar-powered drones. They are also talking to other companies in the sphere (pun semi-intended, semi-working).

It would not fit very well with the mantra of "Don't do evil" for Larry to go crazy and mount guns on these drones, but even without the craziest ideas it makes me a tiny bit uneasy knowing the same company may know where I am (GPS from mobile phone) and be able to record me from a drone with extremely sharp eyes. That company better have decent privacy policies and be strict with relevant governments and agencies...

February 26, 2014

Nir the Truth

Following Facebook’s announced acquisition of WhatsApp a week ago tomorrow, many interesting discussions about valuation have popped up (my stand on this is that the defensive argument makes a lot of sense and that improving ads on Facebook is probably the primary monetization strategy, but enough on that).  Yesterday I saw a blog post from Nir Eyal, one of the guest lecturers in our TINC program, that explains what I discussed with a fellow entrepreneur the other day: While it is super cool with such an event, there is a sting of jealousy to be felt quite clearly for most of us. “I could have written the prototype for this in a weekend and done many things better”[1].

It does not feel fair. What Nir basically points out, is that you will be happy with your car (or salary) until you learn the neighbor’s is better, or if you are a monkey in an experiment a piece of cucumber is a nice treat until your mate gets something nicer, like a grape. Then no way you are going to keep working for just a cucumber slice!

I have a personal experience to share, that is somewhat related to these types of feelings as well. I experienced my first “liquidity event” quite early, about 23 years old and still in university I got about 1% of a company as compensation for going the extra mile and working several nights to land a fixed price project, even delivering some interesting features like social scoring of the stock forum that was part of the service.

This company was sold (at 1/10 of the estimated price when discussions begun, one dotcom-crash in between…). Looking back, it feels somewhat like pocket money[2] - but at the time it was both significant in economic terms for me as a student, but not least it gave me a taste of what might even be an important reason for me being an entrepreneur today.

But my point is this: I remember how happy I was about the reward at the time. That is, until I learned that someone else in my university had earned more by just selling a domain (they had it by chance, same abbreviation as a bigger brand). On all my available scales, at the time at least, my effort was bigger, so it did just not feel fair! Like Nir points out, such feelings might have helped during earlier phases of evolution, but it does not help us being sympathetic (or happy!) right now.

Anyway, my personal cure to this is to always ask myself the question “if there is never an exit, will it still have been worthwhile?”. As long as work is fun[3] and meaningful from day-to-day and the economics work out somehow, I can easily live with not being acquired for heaps of money - even as we try to become “venture worthy” I will not let go of this. Then it is also easier to honestly admire other people’s success and just hope that some day a smaller scale version awaits you, knowing you are still good even if that is not the case.

[1] - Most people realize there are subtle details in focusing on such a narrow area, not least to viral growth and adoption, but there is of course some truth to it. You need luck and timing, in addition to gut feeling, dedication and hard work. Having worked a lot with scaling web apps, I think the engineering effort to scale to this level with such a limited team size sounds impressive - even if also this aspect in theory sounds like “easy” to scale since traffic (minus large group broadcasts) is very easy to partition.

[2] - Inflation adjusted, we are talking about maybe two months of my current salary. Now this may also show that we have decent salaries in Norway (but high taxes), but try measuring it in beers out on town. My best estimate for that is that it would have covered maybe 900 pints of beer in a bar. :-) If it had happened the months before at 10X the price, I could at least have been pretty beer-soaked in the rest of my student days...

[3] - A slightly tongue-in-cheek test that is in fact useful in practice for evaluating many options such as projects, features and partners is: It is either "no" or "hell yeah".

January 30, 2014

9 billions of patents

Google is selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for about USD3B, not that long after acquiring the company for about four times that amount.

Many interesting things to say about this (before converting to Mac, I was a sworn Lenovo user on laptops - can they win the enterprise mobility market?), but one thing that stands out is that the patent portfolio must surely be great... That, or it just did not turn out as planned for Google (since no-one quite seemed to 'get it' it could be a genius move, or...not) this time. But I think my 5 cents rests with the patents being the core motivation and that it is troublesome to compete with your own partners in the Android ecosystem.

All in all it seems, from the outside, like a good move from Google.