Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Passing it forward

This morning at the biweekly Boulder Open Coffee Club I was struck by how so many startups are based on a lame premise. I'm talking about your garden-variety Internet or iPhone-only social-networking tool.

Although I occasionally use Twitter I haven't found a need for it. It's inconvenient to check in to let friends know what I'm up to, and often when I do check in it turns out I just missed something cool, like Brad Feld inviting all his followers out for ice cream -- two hours ago. Plus so few people follow me I feel like the kid who's chosen last for the kickball team.

When you ask the founders of these types of startups how they intend to make money, they often don't know. They are so in love with their premise they haven't given the business model much thought.

So as we laggards stood around sipping the dregs of our lattes before going back to face the onslaught of to-do list items, I proposed that if we took the collective intellect of every coffee club entrepreneur and put it toward a socially responsible project -- like developing a car that runs on coffee grounds -- we could do something good for the world and make money, too.

The gang, millennials all, shrugged.

"Why would I go out and buy an fuel-efficient car when my car is only two years old?" one wanted to know.

"Detroit would just stomp on it," another declared.

We baby boomers have our hearts in the right place but in our dotage tend to lack the energy to follow through. Many in the generations that follow us tend to institute socially responsible initiatives into their startups. I'd like to see fewer startups based on popularity contests and more based on those socially responsible initiatives.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive

One of the perpetual dilemmas we've had at 3D Radio is prototyping. We have steered away from building them. We simply don't know what the final product will look like because much will depend on who licenses our IP.

Mike has been more enthusiastic about going this route than me -- must be because he's the engineering brains of the operation while I'm the cautious voice who doesn't want to promise more than we can deliver. Additionally, the equipment we needed is a bit pricey and will require someone skilled in the art of software.

So last week we were on the phone with a potential partner who said they were pretty interested in our technology but were strapped for resources right now. "What can we do to help?" they wanted to know.

"We've kind of been thinking of building a prototype ..." I began, remembering a recent marital "conversation."

"Happy to help," said the company's president. For free. No strings attached. Just for the opportunity to help a startup. This potential partner was offering to be more than a partner -- an enabler. We were overwhelmed by his gracious offer.

The box of electronica arrived on Monday. Mike has decided to take on the task of composing the software, while I wrote the gushing thank-you letter

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Time management

During the past couple of weeks I've noticed a real change in my attitude. OK, noticed isn't the right word because I actually made a decision about time management.

The decision? Work on 3D Radio first during the day, then move onto my "day job."

It might not sound like a great breakthrough, but the successes we've had since then prove it was the right thing to do.

For most of 3D Radio's life I worked as a newspaper editor, a job that consumed the bulk of my time and energy. I enjoyed it immensely, but knew that to make our startup fly I needed to devote more time and energy to that.

So when an offer to work part-time doing another communications-heavy job with people I knew and respected at a much higher hourly rate, it was obvious what to do.

The Protestant work ethic in me (yes, even Jews are susceptible) leaped in to do the best damn job I could for my new colleagues. Each morning I'd tackle my projects with enthusiasm.

Satisfied with my progress, I'd turn to 3D Radio. But it was already mid-afternoon. I was running out of creative steam. Those folks on the East Coast I should be connecting with were wrapping up their days. Bike trails beckoned. My pots I drying at the Pottery Lab were probably firm enough to complete and put on the bisque shelf.

The bottom line -- even with our bizdev guy in place we were treading water.

Now we're starting to swim.