Fear and Startups

February 25, 2009

I have been thinking for a while what to write about here.  It has been a bit since I have written anything and that has contributed to some writer’s block.  Today that changed.  I was reading an article on the OC VC Blog about fear (Overcoming Fear) and thought, that’s it! Fear! It is the thing that everyone is talking about these days. It can be easily said that it is the predominant driver of most people in our current environment.

I began thinking about the fears you encounter when running a startup. The biggest is…fear of failure! Fear of failure kills more startups and delay more action then just about anything. I have encountered the nastiness of this fear and it’s ability to cause procrastination to set in with such a vengeance that everything slows to a crawl. My solution is to ignore the fear of failure. I don’t base my actions on success or failure but on passion and motivation. In reality there is no failure. Either you do something or you don’t. This leads to the next big fear…

The next biggest fear is…fear of immensity! I’ve had this fear creep in anytime I think about what I want our companies products to become. I see these beautiful applications and services all done and gleaming brightly in the sunlight, with extraordinary features that everyone is in love with, then I look at where we are…and the fear creeps in. How can our little team build this thing, were we crazy!!! You can see where this thinking leads, usually to paralysis. So I look at the little steps instead. If I can just do a little bit every day, just something to forward the cause, then something amazing happens. You step back one day and realize the immensity of what you have accomplished! There is a corollary to this fear….

The next fear is…fear of competitors! This can be as paralyzing as fear of immensity. What are they doing? They got how much funding?! Who is their new partner?!? We’ll never catch up…you see where this is going. So I ignore my competitors. Well not really ignore, I just realize that they are running their race and we are running ours. I have found over time that most competitors don’t meet my expectations. It is a common trap to believe that just because a competitor has money or connections they will actually leverage those assets successfully. It rarely occurs. So, if it rarely occurs, why worry about it or be fearful. Just build your product or service and make your customers happy. Let your competitors fear you, don’t fear them.

The next fear is…fear of loneliness. Running a startup can be very lonely. Most people don’t understand what you are trying to do. You can’t really talk to them in terms that they understand. If you work for 2 months adding something ground-breaking to your product or service and 3 AM some morning you get everything to work for the first time it’s time to celebrate!!! But who is there? Usually you and your computer. Maybe one of your partners is around, but even then they may not understand everything behind your accomplishment. Not being able to share in your success can make you feel lonely. Just the fact that you may be the only one that believes in your ultimate success can make you feel lonely. To handle this loneliness I have found that it is best to include everyone you can in your business. You talk to your girlfriend or wife about it on a regular basis, you let your friends know what is happening. Then, when you have success, you can share it. Another thing is to get out of the office. Go to a Meetup related to what you are doing, attend a conference. These things can boost your morale, make you excited about what you are doing, and get other people excited. When other people are excited about what you are doing the loneliness vanishes.

The next fear is…self-doubt. In the Web 2.0 world this is an easy one to catch. Everyone is building something or launching something new, all of the time. It used to bother me when people would say how easy it is to create a company these days. Most of the time it comes from people who have never created a startup in their lives! You will also find yourself wondering if you are in the right business, especially when that new flavor of the month comes around. I push back on this fear by remembering that I am building something to last. That it may take 3-5 years to become profitable, that it can take even longer! If I am building something to last that is profitable and takes care of the needs of my customers then there is no way that the flavor of the month, or people that don’t understand what it takes to build a business, should have any impact on me!

This all brings me to the big fear of the day…fear of the future! Everyone these days is afraid of what the future will bring. Will I get the funding I need with the economy so bad? Will my customers still continue to pay me? Will I be able to continue to pay my employees? Is everything going to collapse into ruin!!! This is were you need FAITH! This is where the Overcoming Fear article inspired me to write this. Faith is many different things to many different people. To some it is religious and spiritual, to others it is not. No matter what, faith ultimately is the belief that there is something better out there. That if we work hard and do the right thing we will survive and thrive. I have faith that I will succeed so I keeping moving forward building my company. I have faith in my family and friends, so I don’t worry about loneliness. I have faith in my abilities, so I can erase self-doubt. I have faith that my competitors aren’t as good as I fear they are. I have faith that I can overcome the immensity of my dreams. Ultimately, I have faith that I can be a success.

…but then again, we entrepreneurs are a little crazy!!!

– Doug K.

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Regarding Focus

August 12, 2008

One of the big challenges being a startup is focus.  What is your business about?  It is a challenging question, especially when you have created a technology that can do all of the things that PodGlo can do.  If you focus on the wrong thing, or too many things for that matter, you can doom your business to failure.  So what do you do?  Well, you talk and listen to as many people as possible, weigh their thoughts and yours, and then choose.  Taking to long to decide the right way to move is just as bad as choosing to many things or choosing the wrong thing to focus on.  A lot of it is gut instinct based on your prior experience.  How should the user interface flow?  What technologies should you be using?  Are the servers in place enough to handle the load…for now?  What business should we get into?  What customers should you pursue?  These can all be very tough questions.  One thing is for certain though, as a company leader if do not make the decision someone else will make it for you and that someone can be an investor, a partner, your husband/wife/kids, etc.  Anyone with a vested interest in your company or you personally will be more then willing to decide.

The person who knows the business the best are the founders.  The founders are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the business so it is up to the founders to take the lead and move forward.  Sure you will make mistakes, everyone does, but you will also have great successes and you will learn a great deal along the way.  Don’t get me wrong, many people can be involved in the decision making process but my point is that you are ultimately responsible.

You may wonder why I am talking about this now.  Well, PodGlo is going through just such an evolution.  Prior to the last month or so it was all about the technology.  But now things are a changing.  It is becoming more and more about the business and what we plan to focus on and where we plan to differentiate.  Those of you who have seen the tech know it is good.   Soon you will see the business evolve around the tech and hopefully it will be just as good.  We have to pay the bills somehow after all.  So far it has been a lot of fun and I have met a lot of people I never would have before this evolution began.  These days I just keep saying to myself, “Focus, focus, focus…”.

Doug K.


Where’s It All Going?

May 19, 2008

Sorry I haven’t written in a while.  We’ve been crazy busy!  We just did a soft beta launch…which means we are controlling access and rolling out features and bug fixes almost daily while people help us test things out.  If you’re interested in helping test PodGlo then Click Here and request a Beta invite.  Mention that you came from our blog in the message section. 

We attended PodcampNYC again this year.  In fact we were a sponsor of the event.  It was great fun and we had a more mature product to show off.  My partner, Peter, and I are both technologists so sometimes we get carried away in the technology and forget that people aren’t at the same level that we are when thinking about micropodcasting.  The big thing we learned at PodcampNYC is that we need to simplify our message.  This is why when you first go to PodGlo you see, right in the middle of the screen,

“PodGlo lets you create micropodcasts {short, recorded audio thoughts} on the fly…from anywhere. It is quick, simple, and fun.”

Followed by:

You can:
  • Create micropodcasts easily using a web-based recorder or phone
  • Create audio conversations around any topic
  • Get a fully interactive PodGlo widget for your site
  • Listen and reply to micropodcasts directly from email or SMS (text message)
  • Share your micropodcasts by email, SMS (text message) or Twitter.
  • Quickly download MP3’s of micropodcasts
  • Subscribe to, play and reply from within RSS Readers (like Google Reader)

We also added a lot of Join links because it is what we want people to do the most right now.  It’s probably still a little off, I think, but we will continue to tweak the message so please feel free to leave suggestions.  Also, we are working on what I call the flow.  This is how we guide you though the site to show you how simple it is to create micropodcasts and our super-advanced widget that is fully interactive and bi-directional.

Another interesting thing that happened last week is that I used Twitter to communicate with a user in London and he helped us troubleshoot our web-based recorder.  Turns out he was using the GB (Great Britian) version of Firefox and we hadn’t taken that into account yet for our international users.  It was the first time that I am aware of that anyone has used Twitter to debug a web application/service.  How cool is that!  I can tell you the user loved it.   You could feel the excitement when we got it all working for him.

I can promise you that I will be writing here a lot more.  We are finally emerging from the heads-down, code as if nothing else matters phase into the ‘hey, customers let us help you’ phase.  Also, please don’t judge us to harshly just now on our ‘flow’.  This is a new-born baby and we are just starting to try to get up and totter about.

Talk to you all soon!

– Doug Kersten


Predicting the Future!

October 30, 2007

I wrote this about a year ago and now, when I read it, there is a bit of spookiness there what with the events of the last few months:

“In case it is passing you by, you should understand that the second dot-com boom is here. This boom is all about user-created content and social networks where people share that content and information about themselves and their desires. It is no longer about companies preaching to the masses in a one-way conversation. It is about companies listening to the masses speak to each other in a many-to-many conversation where the companies are facilitators! There are many examples of this type of site out there already (like MySpace and You-Tube) but these are companies that are indicative of the beginning of this era, not where it is going. Myspace and You-Tube still rely on a centralized point for everything. The future of the web is using one of its strengths and creating distributed communities. These are communities that flow across websites. They are ubiquitous, existing wherever you are across the web. Do you want to see an example? Check out MyBlogLog. MyBlogLog creates communities around blogs. You can join blog communities in a couple of clicks and you feel as if you are a part of a broader community, one that spans the web itself. This is the new way of the web. This is Web 3.0! You will see more and more of these cross-web community platforms and you will see the likes of MySpace and You-Tube trying to integrate it into their offerings. They will have to do it or they will be blown away by the competition. Unfortunately, their models are centralized so they have to be very careful. If they get it wrong they will lose. Web 3.0 community platforms will also need to be open (not necessarily open source but open to integration). MyBlogLog does a great job at what it is designed to do but they should keep in mind that others are creating services that would work very well with MyBlogLog. What I mean is that MyBlogLog should be designing its platform to leverage synergies that will exist with other cross-web community platforms. This will help to create a more stable and locked in user-base as well as promoting growth in businesses that will help them to grow. Of course, I am focusing here on MyBlogLog but this applies to any Web 3.0 company out there. Remember to keep your eyes on the forest, not just the trees, and you will be on your road to success in this new dot-com world!”

Source

The Web 3.0 stuff is a little weird but I remember more clearly now why we made some of the decisions we have with PodGlo and realize that we are definitely on the right track!

Anyway, we just entered the Amazon Startup Challenge and I am hoping we have a chance of winning, even with the fierce competition and other entries that I know are further along with their businesses then we are, I think we have a chance. Everyone I show our stuff to gets pretty excited about it and I can’t blame them because we do to every time we work with it and polish it off a little bit more. Wish us luck and thanks Amazon for such a cool challenge!

– Doug Kersten


How to tell you are a Real Startup!

April 2, 2007

This morning I dumped out my keyboard and it got me to thinking…how do I know we are a real startup?

1.) When you flip over your keyboard bits of every meal you’ve had for the last week fall out.

2.) You’ve forgotten what sleep over 3-4 hours per night feels like.

3.) You set yourselves what seems like very realistic deadlines only to find out they probably weren’t and now you are scrambling like madmen/women to make sure it happens and you are good to your word.

4.) You find yourself trying to get everything for free.

5.) You find out if your friends and associates can really keep their word and really believe in you.

6.) You find you like your friends even if they don’t keep their word regarding your startup because you realize they don’t have the same aspirations.

7.) You dream about your business and what it will be like when you succeed.

8.) You dream about coding and victoriously solving tough problems, often with some very strange results (usually you are dreaming at the keyboard and those crumbs are falling off of your shirt and into your keyboard).

9.) You learn to really appreciate the power of caffinated beverages.

10.) You learn that whiteboards have worth.

11.) You learn that time is the most important resource that you have.

12.) Finally, you have great moments of self-doubt (which are terrible) and great moments of optimism (which are great) and without the support of family and friends you would have no one to share it all with.

– Doug


“What do you Speak?”

February 22, 2007

Well how did we come up with “What do you Speak?” for a tag line. This makes a little more sense. PodGlo is a micro-podcasting service. Don’t be fooled, that statement can mean a lot of things and we think that we are being pretty innovative. We tried “Speak!” first but someone was using that and I didn’t want any confusion. Finally after Googling (notice a pattern here?) I found something that fit…”What do you Speak?” I like it because it can refer to what language but also can refer to what you have to say. As in, what is your opinion? Perfect for a micro-podcasting service. That’s why I like it.

Initially I didn’t feel this way. It was a placeholder till we found the right thing. It grew on me though as it started making more sense so we agreed to keep it.

So I’m going to ask you the question….,”What do you Speak?”

Soon you will be able to tell me.

– Doug


PodGlo(tm), Inc.! Not another company that begins with Pod!!!

January 25, 2007

I know… I know. But let me tell you the story. I got interested in podcasting at the time that the first podcast readers come out (iPodderX – September 2004). I became obsessed with bringing podcasting to the masses (a term I now hate) and started PodGlo(tm). There were no other Pod companies out there that I was aware of and I did a lot of Google searching before I decided on the name. It was unique! Little did I know that podcasting was going to become such a success and that so many people would start their company names with Pod. But guess what? I like it. It looks good, is easy to remember and generally has a really nice feel to it when you say it. I talked to my partners and friends about it. I mentioned my company to people I had not seen in six months and they remembered the name. So, even though the mission, products and services of PodGlo(tm) Enterprises, Inc. have changed dramatically since my original obsession I have decided to keep the name and my partners have agreed.

Next post I’ll talk about the tag line: “What do you Speak?”

Oh, and please feel free to post your Pod jokes.

– Doug

PodGlo Enterprises Inc. logo