Archives for August 2011

August 15, 2011 - Comments Off on Dan Shipper – Founder Of DomainPolish.com – Inspiring Entrepreneurs Interview

Dan Shipper – Founder Of DomainPolish.com – Inspiring Entrepreneurs Interview

In this Inspiring Entrepreneurs Interview I spoke with Dan Shipper, the founder of DomainPolish. As a programmer for 10 years and a Freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, this young entrepreneur is making a big impact in the online technology scene.

Diesel Laws: Hi Dan, it's great to be able to chat with you. For those who aren't familiar with DomainPolish.com please explain what it is.

Dan Shipper: Hey Diesel, thanks it's great to be here! So DomainPolish.com is a really simple way for anyone to get instant feedback on their website from average end users. Basically it's like an on-demand focus group for your site. It's a really simple way for you to know whether people understand what your value proposition is, what your branding is, and find out how they feel about the service you're offering e.g. Whether they would use it, if they would recommend it to their friends etc.

DL: Great! I first noticed DomainPolish through HackerNews. How did HackerNews help in getting Domain Polish off the ground?

DS: I've been something of a Hacker News addict for a really long time now, so the process that I went through in developing DomainPolish was heavily influenced by everything that's written there in terms of the lean startup model and the customer development process. I literally conceived of, built and released the first version in less than a week. But beyond that, Hacker News has been an integral part of the DomainPolish user base from launch. When I first finished the project I posted it to HN and got a good amount of feedback but no sales. Then after about two days where no one had bought anything I got two sales back to back. The second person who bought it, Iain McQueen, decided to write a blog post that became very popular on HN, and the sales started rolling in. From there I've written a few blog posts which the community has found interesting, and I've gotten a lot of great feedback, and met a lot of people over the last week or so from there.

DL: I have been following along and watching you literally document the progress through HackerNews/Blog Posts - it's a very impressive and honest marketing campaign - did you plan that from the outset?

DS: No not at all. It's been a habit for me to submit projects that I've completed to HN for a while. I've also done a few other blog posts in the past documenting other experiences I've had with successful projects that the community has seemed to like. But after Iain's post became popular and I started seeing some success I realized that I probably had a story that people would be interested in and could learn from. So I wrote a few posts about it and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It's been a clear decision for me to just be open and transparent about the whole process because a. I think it's really interesting and I wish there were more people doing it and b. I have nothing to lose by doing it, in fact I think it's been a huge help to my business both from a marketing perspective and just because I get to talk to a lot of really smart people who give great feedback.

DL: It's incredibly inspiring to learn from someone being right in the trenches. And you're quite young too, do you find it hard to juggle between college and business?

DS: Striking a balance is definitely something that I've had to think about in the past. I've been coding for about 10 years, and have done a number of software businesses starting in high school so I've been pretty good at managing it in the past. It definitely got a little tougher over the past few months as I started seeing more success, especially last semester interviewing at Y Combinator. But I think overall it's been very doable.

DL: Yes, the entrepreneurial mind never switches off! When did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?

DS: I get that question a lot and to be honest, I don't remember. It was very early on which is why I started programming. Knowing how to code is the only way that a 10-year-old programmer can produce something people want in a scalable way for free.

DL: Do you think a good education is important for entrepreneurs?

DS: Well I think in order to answer that question you would have to define what a good education is. Certainly you don't need a college degree to be a good entrepreneur - a good education as it applies to entrepreneurship can easily just consist of practical experience. Beyond just practical experience though, if you want to define a good education as coming from college, I think college provides a lot of room for an entrepreneur to meet new people, explore new fields of interest and invest time in learning about things that have nothing to do with business. I think it's really important to be well-rounded and well-educated. But the question is, at what cost? For some people, the college experience may not be worth the debt it incurs. So is it a necessary requirement? Absolutely not. Do I feel like I'm getting a lot out of school as an entrepreneur, but more importantly, as a person? Absolutely yes.

DL: Very true. You do have to work out what is right for you as an individual. What do you have planned next for DomainPolish?

DS: Well I have a new release which was supposed to come out tonight, but I've been getting bogged down taking it from 95% done to ready-to-ship. There's just a lot of little things that need to be taken care of. The new release has a ton of new features, including complete start-to-finish order automation, awesome visualizations of the feedback you get, and the ability to send the usability surveys out to friends and family so you can get quantifiable feedback from people you know in addition to feedback from the cloud.

DL: It is definitely worth taking the time to get it just right. Once the new version comes out where do you think you'll take it?

DS: Yes, I'm sort of taking this one step at a time, so if this release is well received I'll look into continuing to expand the brand and turning it into a real company. I know there's a need out there for something like this. It really depends on whether or not I can cost-effectively target the sales channels that reach the target customer for this service. Its biggest problem is that many people look at the feedback as a one and done type of thing. So I'll either have to continually find new users which is extraordinarily difficult and expensive to do, or figure out a way to provide enough value and change consumer mindset enough to make it into a subscription model.

DL: That's an incredible insight into where you are taking DomainPolish. I really look forward to following your progress with it. What's your one tip for entrepreneurs just starting out?

I've boiled down my methodology for doing projects like this to just three words: Build. Release. Iterate. - Dan Shipper

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DL: Thanks so much for taking some time out of your hectic schedule to chat with me Dan. I'm really keen to see where DomainPolish takes you.

DS: Hey, no problem! It was a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for thinking of me for the interview.

Connect with Dan Shipper via Twitter @danshipper and make sure you check out DomainPolish.com. You can also follow @diesellaws.

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August 13, 2011 - Comments Off on Pablo Villalba – Founder Of Teambox.com – Inspiring Entrepreneurs Interview

Pablo Villalba – Founder Of Teambox.com – Inspiring Entrepreneurs Interview

In this Inspiring Entrepreneurs Interview I spoke with Pablo Villalba, the founder of Teambox. Moving into CEO position, Pablo now handles Product Design, Marketing, Programming and Sales in his 15-person-strong company.

Diesel Laws: Hi Pablo, I really appreciate being able to talk with you today. For those who aren't familiar with Teambox, can you please shed some light on what it is.

Pablo Villalba: Thanks Diesel, great to chat. Teambox.com is a Project Management Software that allows users to collaborate online. You can create your own projects and share tasks and files with your group in a centralized way.

D: Teambox is a fantastic tool (we use it for Barkles). Where did the idea come from to start building Project Management Software?

P: Well, I felt the need

August 10, 2011 - Comments Off on 10 Critical Steps To Naming Your App

10 Critical Steps To Naming Your App

So you've just come up with the greatest app idea and now you need a name. Do you take the old pen and paper route or do you look for what's available in the digital world? Let's walk-through the 10 critical steps to naming your app.

The Simple Idea:
Side by side discussion platform.

1. Know The Idea Inside Out

Take the time to get to know the idea in detail. Bounce off the people in your team, the path the business is travelling on and who you are planning on marketing to. This will help you formulate the brand in a much better light for the target audience.

The Detailed Idea:
A side by side discussion and debating platform similar to a commenting system. Marketing will be directed to corporate and general users. The team will be focusing on early iteration, organic growth and rapid feedback development.

2. Keywords Are King

Once you know the business idea inside and out formulate a list of keywords that simply describe the app. For this I use the notes on my iPhone, but it really could be any piece of software that allows typing. You could use a pen and paper, but it's not that easy to copy and paste from a physical notepad.

Keywords:
Discussion, Debate, Conversation, Agree, Disagree, Like & Dislike.

3. The Digital Brainstorm

Now that we have our descriptive keywords, work with them one by one in a tool like nxdom.com and browse the Thesaurus. I used nxdom to string together keywords with random beginnings or endings and often find something I like. While this tool is supposed to find available domains occasionally a claimed one surfaces - just make sure you check for available names with a domain service like Hostmonster.

During Brainstorm:
"Dogfight" was found during research (similar to debate). This lead me down the path to a dog themed name.
Winner: barkles.com

4. Add On The Non-Descriptive

Having no luck with the descriptive keywords or wanting something non-descriptive? Add in some random words (or even just some letters) to get some interesting results. Try with ending letters such as 'ly', 'es', 'ing', 'on' and 'le'.

5. Check The Social

Once you've found an available domain name celebrate a little, then quickly move on to checking the social platforms to see how available it is. As long as you have the domain name, it won't matter too much if you slightly change it up for your social networks. Use a service like namechk.com to see which services have your name available.

Twitter: @barklesapp
(All other social services have been aligned with barklesapp)

6. Does It Fit?

Now just before you get too fixated on the app name, take a step back and work out if it's right for your idea. Pay attention to the readability, the memorability and also how easy it is to spell/say.

Back To The Detailed Idea:
A side by side discussion and debating platform = 9/10.
Readability and Memorability = 9/10.
Spelling & Saying = 8/10[pronounced: Bark-ools]

7. Talk To Your Team

Take a moment to share the proposed name to the team. They will often give you unexpected feedback that can help your decision going forward (i.e. Companies that already have a similar name, words that rhyme and connotations that you weren't aware of).

8. Secure It

Secure the domain and all the social services you need in one swoop.

9. The Logo

While many may point out that a logo isn't part of naming your app, I beg to differ. 9 times out of 10 your clients will see your app name in logo form before anything else. If your logo is hard to read or confusing your well-chosen name will be lost.

10. Putting It All Together

These 10 steps are usually completed within a couple of hours to a few days depending on your team. Take the time to get a great name, domain and logo so your app has a stronger chance at surviving amongst the million and one other companies (even with just a coming soon page).

How Did You Name Your App?

Share your feedback in the comments below.

August 1, 2011 - Comments Off on Open Letter To An Entrepreneur

Open Letter To An Entrepreneur

I like to think that I'm ready to tackle the big challenges of building a startup like funding, marketing, team building and more. But I'm not. I'm happy to fight in the trenches (and change the design every week), but when it comes to running across the battlefield, I'm shit scared.

Hey Diesel, get over it.

I've been reading recently about the entrepreneurs who build successful companies better after failures. In fact, my whole life I have been preparing for big challenges and have changed my mindset to accept failure as a positive form of growth. I actually enjoy the challenge of failure and get excited by change.

But even still, there's that niggling feeling pulling me back into the trenches, telling me to focus on defeating the enemy with long-range tactics.

Hey Diesel, get out of the house.

While I do feel that in many cases building the product is more important than talking about the product, I know now is the time to step up. Now is the time to take to the battlefield, meet other entrepreneurs, build connections with Angels and VC's, inspire others to join our team and get the Barkles name out there.

Hey Diesel, stop waiting for them to come to you.

I know. It's imperative I change my ways and jump into this head on. And it's not like I haven't been pushing for this day to come.

Hey Diesel, just do it.

You're right. I have been striving for this day ever since I knew I wanted to build a business. But-

Hey Diesel, no more excuses.