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

Sunday, April 01, 2007

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little inventors

Before I jump in, I would like to remind you that you can receive my posts in your email by simply entering your email in the Feedblitz box to the right of this article. I also want to remind you about the April 14th Open Kimono Party at the Isfan Ranch. If you didn't get the invite, give me a shout at 5628isfan@rogers.com.

Ok here we go.

When I made the decision to quit my job so that I could ultimately launch a great new company, I remember a discussion around the dinner table with the family about why I had decided to do this. One of the girls summed it best "daddy has too many ideas and he wants to build one of them". That's about it.

My ten year old is also a little inventor. She has a little black note book just like I do and she scribbles notes and diagrams in it whenever she thinks of something. Her books says "INVENTIONS" on the front with nice silver paint. Wish I had thought about that. She wants me to help her create a doll that starts out as a baby and grows to about 4 feet. Simple enough. She has many other ones, some of which are pretty impossible while others are actually quite good. Interestingly, she is just as scatter brained, unfocused, messy and forgetful as I was at her age.

My mother was an electrical engineer and inventor just like me. She specialized in audio and had prototypes of speakers all over. She used to test the coils for continuity with a small battery. She would touch the end of the speaker wires to the poles of the battery and if she heard a small click, the coil was good. I figured if a battery worked, a wall outlet would also do the trick. My test usually passed but my pops were a little louder :) My mom was probably wondering what went wrong with her designs ... I got a bunch of great magnets to play with though :)

I still fondly remember the first time I got a serious electrical shock for the good of mankind. I was twelve and taking apart an old phone to install another microphone and speakers to turn it into a hands free phone. I talked to friends for hours and got sick of holding the receiver. Unfortunately, someone called at the exact moment I had my fingers in there and rang my bell real good. Not lethal but it definitely got my attention. I would enjoy the gentle shock of ring voltages for years to come as I entered the world of telecom.

Creating things that don't exist is a lot of fun. Turning these crazy ideas into real products that people want to actually pay for is a completely different thing and equally fun. I have actually been surprised by how exciting the business side has been. While at Catena, I had the fortune of getting involved directly and deeply with customers, business and technology. I worked on product definition, strategy, navigating around politics, regulatory issues, pricing, product verification, defining and executing trade show demos, competitive analysis .... all the while working on defining core technology and writing the associated protocols and patents. I have so many good stories and would not trade it for the world.

Although I have been working a ridiculous number of hours on this thing on top of consulting, it just doesn't feel like work. Though I'm often tired, I'm glad to have the opportunity to share this experience with my family. We had a third child and built a home during all that Catena craziness and some people wonder how the hell we did it. People often fear too much. Just do it. That would make a great motto .... nah ... would never catch on.

It is not usually good to bring the office home but in this instance it gives the kids a chance to learn about life, hard work, the power of dreams, relationships and especially perseverance. My wife and I are both self employed (she is an artist and graphic designer) which can be a little stressful especially since one of us is spending most of the time on non billable work. Nonetheless, we are still able to keep an excellent balance by tag teaming and being there at the bus morning and afternoon, doing homework, going to gymnastics and music lessons, going to movies, cooking and just goofing around together. Ultimately, these are positive lessons for our kids that no school can ever teach. I can't wait to read the patents, go to the recitals, attend the art gallery openings or whatever our kids end up being passionate about. We'll have to fly in from Hawaii quite often (don't have a place there yet but we will ... even if it is a trailer).

Note that I will be in NY city this Thursday and possibly Wednesday evening. Drop me an email if you feel like touching base.

Cheers,

Allan Isfan

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