Since leaving RewardSnap in the summer of 2011, I took about a month off, and then got back to business. This post is an update of what I’ve been working on and interested in since then:
Current projects and interests:
- RailsThemes.com (new project!)
- Awesome Controller
- Desperately Seeking Validation
- office hours
- Hamming Lunches
A new project!
I had been putting together various websites using purchasable themes from sites like ThemeForest, and it took at least a couple of hours each to translate the HTML and CSS to a format that Rails is happy with that looks like the theme is intended to look. I explained my solution idea to Eliza–basically a themes site for Rails apps–and she started running full speed with it. She called me up the next day and was like, “so I figured out the launch schedule for this.” I was like, “whoa, whoa, I don’t remember signing up for this officially.”
Anyway, I drove to Tennessee Tuesday and we worked until noon on Thursday on ramping up the project. We have a great designer, Luke Flener, for the initial templates and site design, I’m working on the development back-end side of things, and Eliza is heading up the marketing and user-facing development. There’s still quite a bit of work to do before our launch in April. Over the course of the last couple of days, we worked on
If you’re interested in project updates or to eventually purchase a design for your Rails project, check out RailsThemes.com. Also, if you are interested in contributing designs, we are interested in talking with you about it. Thanks!
I got pretty lucky meeting Jared Brown in person at the April 2011 Indy Startup Weekend, and he reached out to me to work on some very steady billable work. By having that, I have some stability as far as income goes, and I am in a position to pursue more speculative projects or ask for a higher rate for other projects. I’ve worked on a couple of other billable projects since last summer, working with Eliza Brock and some other badasses.
Soapbox: I think there is a fine line between consulting and contracting. I think that consulting is people paying you for your advice and/or experience, preferably by a function of the value provided, not a time-based rate. Contracting is saying, I get paid based on how much I work on the project. See Weiss’s Value-Based Fees for an excellent explanation of this. I was planning on making this point a whole post at some point, so I’ll leave the expansion out. I think consulting is slightly preferable, for reasons that I’ll state then.
Based on my current project lineup, I’d say I’ve been in the contracting side of things. Not many people are using lean and lean startup principles in Indianapolis and the value seems high, so this seems like a good area to be in going forward. Sure, a development firm can help you get your v1.0 out the door, but what then? Who are your customers, how have you been learning while you have been heads-down developing for six months? So I think this is an interesting area.
Awesome Controller is a product that takes your old game systems and enables you use your modern wireless controllers to operate them. Awesome Controller has been steadily progressing since winning Indy’s Startup Weekend in the middle of November. We have been working on it a couple of days per month, with a solid three day hack session around the holidays. We currently have the NES, SNES, and N64 basically working with wired PS3 controllers and Wii controllers. Next steps include better wireless hardware support, multiplayer, and business things like taking pre-orders.
We’re aiming to take pre-orders for Arduino shields (a shield is basically a chip that we create whose pins connect to an existing Arduino board, kind of like Legos). We also want to create some pre-assembled units. We recently filed for an LLC and EIN, mostly so we can get a bank account, and thereby take pre-orders. At this point, there has been a fair amount of interest. We applied to Kickstarter, and they said that it looks like the project is a legitimate project. Will need to figure out how this fits into the grand plan, might be a viable way to increase our visability. We’ve done little to no marketing at this point, just having Adwords as a way of getting people to find the site and sign up for our exclusive mailing list.
Desperately Seeking Validation
This is the group that a few of us started to practice lean startup techniques. I would say that it has been very helpful in understanding the process of taking ideas and getting some initial validation. I think we’ve done a bit more introspection than true [in]validation the last couple of meetings, so hoping to get out of the building a little more going forward. It seems like we definitely have enough ideas at this point, just need to get them going through the pipeline. If you’re in Indianapolis and this seems interesting, you should check out what we’ve done and contact one of us to get on the mailing list for doing something with your weekends. :)
I announced how to sign up for my office hours a few months ago, and they have been pretty useful so far. I met people that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and reconnected with some former coworkers as well. Overall, I think this is a very high value use of my time. I took a break for the holidays, and things haven’t gone quite as well since then. I attribute this somewhat to my marketing/positioning of the “product”. I think that I need to more clearly define what people will get out of meeting, and what I want to get out of it as well. Thanks to everyone who attended so far!
About every other Friday, a few of us get together and talk about the answers to these questions
- What are the most important problems in your field?
- What are you working on?
- If you’re not working on these problems, why not?
It’s inspired by the lunches that Richard Hamming talked about in his speech “You And Your Research”, so we call them Hamming Lunches. We’ve mostly focused on business, technology, science, and economic/political problems. I’ve found it pretty useful in ensuring that I don’t get stuck solving too small of problems. We’ve talked about neuroscience, transparency in business, the future of countries, space travel, transhumanism, and the like. I like that it’s not all theoretical though, as we ask, “how can we implement this?” or “why aren’t we currently working on this?” to most of the topics.
Alright, well that was a long update post, but a lot has changed in the past eight months. Some of these updates could be posts of their own, and others gave me some ideas for things that I need to write up. Thanks for reading, looking forward to rocking out the next few months!