I’ve never launched a business (..yet). This is a reflection on things I’ve learned since starting to build a business around our video marketing platform: CrowdEngage (12/2/2012)
Want to know what CrowdEngage is? Read this post
I’m guilty of over-thinking most things. Can I do this? Am I smart enough? Are we using the right technologies? Do we have to be in Silicon Valley or NYC to be successful?
I waste a lot of time over-thinking. Progress is the only thing that matters. I try to just focus on getting things done, as best as my abilities allow me to.
I trust in my ability to differentiate between what I know- and I don’t know. That is a good thing, but spending too much time on anything without feedback I now consider to be over-thinking and it’s not very productive.
I definitely lost time overthinking about the importance of so many things. Hyper focusing on the wrong details is a major time drain. Keep your initial goals in the front of your mind.
I overthink about details upon details, always keeping in the back of my mind “This could fail.” It’s something I have to do to balance the insane amount of optimism I have, support I’ve gotten, and progress we’ve made since starting CrowdEngage.
I’ve learned how to curb my overthinking, and test my assumptions. Thanks lean startup movement!
Over-listening & Oversubscribing
When I first started off this journey, I knew I had no clue what to do. So I started by asking people who were willing to help. I started asking questions, and getting answers. I started to subscribe to people and ideas.
Then even more questions would come from those answers, but it took me longer to absorb the information and formulate my questions again. I kept doing this, and every round of questions I had, I started to see overlap. Ideas that were brand new to me just a few months earlier, were starting to become common sense- because I see the same gem of information in a different form.
There is definitely a point that I started to over-listen and oversubscribe to what people were telling me to do, or what they thought was possible. It morphed itself into this game, of trying to see through the noise of fantastic information that might not be exactly for us.
Topics on bootstrapping, fund raising, designing, developing a streaming video site, user experience, customer support, psychology of marketing, the technology trends, talking to advisers potential investors, etc…
If you literally sign up for things, you get your inbox filled up to your chin and it becomes unmanageable. If you emotionally subscribe to too many ideas from certain movements, they can also start to feel unmanageable.
All I know is I have to make progress. So oversubscribing to information was and still is one of my main faults. I’m getting better at picking what advice and mentalities are best for me to practice though.
Trying to do everything at once. Looking at the big scale of things when sometimes it’s best to focus on the medium or smaller scale, for psychological reasons.
Zoom in on details, zoom out for perspective on your progress. I’ve got a short attention span, so that I need to be jumping back and forth like that, which fortunately is helping us steer progress.
Trying to figure out the best way to do things is just overload on my brain sometimes. I’ve got a part-time job right now, but I’m emotionally distracted by CrowdEngage. I get stressed out when I mismanage my time for my job that I can’t make myself care about any more. Despite how much it bothers me that I don’t want to be a bad employee, I want to be a great boss even more.
I’ve learned there is no better cure for this feeling than progress on my dream. It’s as simple as that. When I feel like this, I look back and see what I’ve accomplished and it makes me think how much more I desire.
That is how I currently feel, in these “entrepreneurial-trenches”. I’m going to fight my way out of here or die trying. Overload is no excuse for failure. It’s only more motivation to concentrate on the plan.
Deadlines are probably the worst when it comes to things I’ve learned in the over category. I’ve been so naive and misguided on so many levels, I just would spend so much effort trying to please the person I was talking to.. It started off with my parents, now it’s moved onto potential customers, investors, and advisers.
I’ve made mistakes, and have had some patient and understanding people to talk with. At this point in the life of our business, it’s so hard to timelines on some things.
I don’t focus on time nearly as much as I do concrete progress. As long as we work, and we have something to work with, we will start to discover our path. That is shaping out to be the case, which only drives us to work harder.
So be careful overpromising with things. I’ve realized that it’s much better to focus on specific progress as opposed to time, right now.
Constantly. Emotional, psychological, financial.
I didn’t go the normal route after college. I had a part-time job that I knew I could carry over to post-graduation, and I started working hard enough on my idea to convince my fantastic parents to sign my lease for 1 more year. That means I don’t have to worry about my rent, and I could spend a lot more time on CrowdEngage.
That is like a win in itself, as I see my father as my first investor. He’s the one paying for my apartment, and the hosting fees over the past year while Tom and I figure out just what the hell we are doing. Well we’re getting really close to showing it off, that’s how I deal with the stress of doing- knowing that eventually our goal will be met.
Underwear (& socks!)
I don’t have the money to go out and buy the luxuries of life, which from my standpoint will be to upgrade some things in my life. I am an entrepreneur, not strictly because I’m chasing dollars. I am chasing a level of life where I can enable myself to give and do awesome things. I’m not money hungry, but I am money aware.
I don’t want to start a business selling snake oil. I want to provide a high level of value to my customers, so much value that they happily fork over cash.
This is intended to be an injection of a little humor, but I do also want to be clear: I keep the silly things (like underwear and socks) in my head. I still wear old lacrosse socks with holes with my Sponge-Bob boxers, and it’s not because they are lucky. It’s because I’ve made the life decision to not get a job, but to make my own job. Apparently that isn’t as easy.
I also think it’s extremely important to have fun while building a business
Under the wrong impression
Sometimes I think I fail at sending the right message to someone. It might be an e-mail, a Skype call, online chat, tweet, anything.. Often I end conversations feeling like I could have made a better impression. It’s a mix of perfectionism and competitiveness that drives me to feel that way.
Other times, I surprise myself. I get contacted by people who I never could have dreamed would even listen to me. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them about the progress we’ve made since starting.
It’s very vain, I admit, but here are a few cool things that always get me excited:
I have made some incredibly cool connections both online, and in the Philadelphia startup ecosystem. I even have legend Robert Scoble to friend me on Facebook + click Like on our CrowdEngage page. It dosen’t really matter truly, but it could. And it sure feels good.
Everything is under budget when you have no budget. It affects our decision making process in basically every level of planning and implementation.
Bootstrapping with Daddy’s money keeps you very humble while spending.
We’re limited by our knowledge and experience, but also by what tools we can and should use. We’ve never build a streaming video site. We’ve got some education that helped, and some work that kind of helped.. But nothing can prepare you for the technical feat of making something you dreamed up with 0 clue how to actually create yourself.
That was well over a year ago, and I can say now, while being underbudget and making wrong decisions the whole way, we are finally in a position to launching a stable, scalable, streaming video platform.
I attribute that to optimism, being naive, and hard work.
I understand my strengths and weaknesses. I understand it’s my job to turn problems into challenges we can conquer. I understand my life goals, my internal motivations, and how to create external motivations (hard work).
I understand how lucky and fortunate I am do have parents who are able and willing to help me make my dreams a reality.
I understand the power of honesty, optimism, and enthusiasm. I understand it’s a battle, a journey, and not easy by any means. I understand dome people wouldn’t do what Tom and I are doing right now. I’ve heard some people call us crazy.
But really, I think everyone who isn’t going full speed into their own dreams, are the crazy ones.
I’m not sitting around waiting to be the person I imagine I can be.
Those are my over’s and under’s of launching a business from nothing. It’s my intention to share my experience to help tell the story of our company, as well as possibly help some other aspiring entrepreneurs to take the leap.
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Now it’s your turn to share your over’s and under’s for starting a business. I would also be very grateful for any type of critique, so leave your comments below!