Allan Isfan is a co-founder of FaveQuest, a young start-up. This blog covers start-up topics.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

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The Thick Plottens

I'd like to start this post with a quote from an interview with William Shatner written by James Martin in the Air Canada EnRoute magazine. This piece in part caused a bit of a eureka moment on the way to New York City a couple of weeks ago.

"
Bill likes music. He likes listening to music, especially jazz radio, though he blanks on specific musicians: "If you named some, I might know them." He like making music too, "even though I can't sing!".

Someone gave Bill a free iPOD. The thing holds 5,000 songs, "but I don't know three." Downloading wasn't an option: "At 99 cents a song, that's $5,000 and 5,000 minutes, right there!" So he walked around listening to an empty iPOD"

"It was like being insane," he recalls. "My mind was empty. I had no memories, no musical identity. I'm not supposed to say this, but what the hell: Someone said, 'Well, I've got 4,000 song on my iPod ...' So they download their iPod into my iPod, which is apparently illegal. I now have someone else's musical personality. I am bipolar.

"
After reading this, the light went on .... there are many people just like this. Bill will be my first customer. Oh ... and I also decided it would be awesome to get him to do the launch of the product. He's a good old boy from Montreal ... I'm sure he'd love to do it. The choreography came together years ago on a ski trip with a bunch of friends in St. Sauver. We were laughing so hard, we were crying and sore. We were going to call the group "R Soul". Say it a couple of times ... you'll get it ... let's say the were lots of corks freed from the confines of their wine bottles. I now have a great reason to do it and can't wait. BTW, the name gets changed to "Out of Sink" to be a little less antagonistic ... the ladies didn't seem to think the other name was that funny. Don't want to spoil it by telling you more.

Ok ... so back to the startup. I've been having many private conversations with a large variety of people ... from non techies, ultra techies, CEOs, VCs and many in between. The overwhelming consensus is "keep going ... this is very interesting". Naturally everyone has a different tangent on it and they get some parts more than others but the whole vision hangs together well, even though the product itself is still fuzzy.

With the help of friends in high places, I will have the opportunity to share the concept with some very high level people, including potential customers and partners, in the coming weeks. I'm also very fortunate to have some fantastic people volunteer to join me in this initiative. This will allow me to spread the joy, fill some big gaps in the story, develop a demo and have fun with a great group of people. The next few weeks will be very critical and exciting.

I'll close this off with a few tips from Guy Kawasaki's excellent book "The Art of the Start" that I'm taking very seriously:

THINK BIG. Set your sights high and strive for something grand. If you're going to change the world, you can't do it with milquetoast and boring products or services. Shoot for doing things at least ten times better than the status quo ....
-anyone that knows me knows that isn't a problem for me ... it has been coined "The Isfan Way"

FIND A FEW SOULMATES. History love the notion of the sole innovator .... History is wrong. Successful companies are started, and made successful, by at least two, and usually more soulmates ...
-working on it

USE PROTOTYPES AS MARKET RESEARCH. In the early days of an organization, there is high uncertainty about exactly what you should create and exactly what customers want. In these times, traditional market research is useless - there is no survey or focus group that can predict customers acceptance for a product or service that you may barely be able to describe. .... The wisest course of action is to take your best shot with a prototype, immediately go to market, and iterate quickly ...
-already in the works


Live well and prosper ... beam me up Scotty!

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