So I've decided to start a company. Now what??? Well, I have been developing my idea at my house at night starting the first of the year 01/01/2011. I would like to say I been working on it in my garage but I don't have a garage. I have a basement but it is cold and wet so it's not that great as a catalyst for my idea juices. So you ask were have I been doing all this brainstorming? Well, let me share that with you. It is a little cubby hole 6 feet by 9 feet and has a height of 5 feet. You see I live in a big house but I have roommates (4 of them plus my fiancée) so you can see that it is very busy in my house and not conducive to starting a business. My house is on the ocean (which is beautiful but also $$$ so thus having the roommates) So with it being in a flood zone the furnace is located on the second floor in a little cubby room which we will now call the "Loft Labs 2.7." (Which happens to be the cubic feet of 6x9x5=270cubic ft) Now when my company becomes successful perhaps I can go down in some kind of record book for starting up a business from the smallest place. Photo to follow.
So here it is a cold cold cold and did I mention cold New England winter. We have been getting blasted with snow and we have set all sorts of new records for snow fall. Now Loft Labs 2.7 just happens to be the coziest place you could possible be in this type of climate. So after work I crawl into my lab and devour videos on startups. I read books like Business Model Generation, Game Storming, The Answer, Screw It Let's Do It, The Google Story, Smart Pricing, How to Build a Great Business, etc. I develop my concept and then decide I need some help. So from all the research online I learn about incubators. I hear of Y-combinator which is really well known but the more research I do the more I realized they want wiz kid coders and I would have to move California. (My life is here and I love good old beantown) The search continues...
I stubble upon TechStars. I watch every single episode they have with the series "The Founders." I get so excited! This is exactly what I need to help shape my business into the game changing business I know it can be. The deadline is the end of January and that gives me just 7 days to complete a kick ass application to get into TechStars. I spend each day writing and re-writing the answers to the application questions. I create a video pitch of my business concept and even make a stop animation white board video to add a little flair. I know I need to at least one other founder, as a teammate, to even have a chance in hell at getting into TechStars (At least this is what I read from the posts) So I approach my friend who is living in D.C. but flies up here every Monday (and happens to be staying at my house... talk about fate.) to finish up his masters at Harvard. Now his resume reads like the perfect who's who for a technical co-founder. He works for RIM and is helping launch the playbook (there tablet), he has done 3 successful startups, and would soon have a master in technology from Harvard. So here I am working on this start up and having fate drop him on my lap at the most perfect of time. So I approach him and pitch him the concept and he bites. He's in!!! He will be my CTO. Oh what a glorious day! So I continue the application process and add his name to it and submit it by the end of the week.
So I'm thinking I'm a shoe in. I love my concept, I killed it on the application (I didn't half hard it), I did the video and a stop animation white board thing, and now I have a kick ass team. Well 2/10/11 comes and I get the "sorry your not accepted email." REALLY??? and they don't even give you a reason why. Well I guess this will be the first let down of many I will experience as an entrepreneur.
So for some reason this isn't a kick to balls like I thought it would be. I actually get even more motivated and decide I'm going to give up alcohol from now until my company is successful and also going to kill it at gym. So every morning I get up at 5:30a.m. and go and work out. Now I discover something great. I realize if I replace listening to music while I work out with audio books through the phone app "audible" I can work out and listen to great books. I also download "evernote" and every time I come up with an idea for the business I just pop it into evernote so I can view it later. Now this system of listening to books, working out, and coming up with ideas is great. I start improving my concept and decide I'm at a stage where I should do a provisional patent. So I set to work in Loft Labs 2.7 and bang out a 20 page provisional patent on my business method and send it into the patent office. Now I must say, this was really exciting and I recommend doing it at least once in your life. Is it better than sex, you ask? Well I guess must have that entrepreneur gene because gosh darn it, it was.
Now I start asking my friend to start helping out with some things for the business and we both discover that between his full time job, selling his third business to Oracle, finishing his MBA, and having a young daughter at home. He is just spread too thin. So we decide it might be better if he takes a more advisory role and just give me helpful advice when he can. Back to being a lone ranger and back to Loft Labs 2.7.
Back at the Lab I stumble upon Greenhornconnect.com which gets me all the networking events that happen in Boston every week. So I dive right in. I go to every thing "that doesn't cost money." This is the most amazing thing that I knew nothing about. I can not believe that every week successful founders of huge companies have sit downs and talks with the likes of people like me. So I become a sponge. I attend those meetings, I attend meetups, and hackathons. At this point I have also officially gave up Television. I am just too busy to even catch the news. I work all day and then go to networking events and then come back and work in Loft Labs 2.7.
From the networking events I learn about DreamIt, The Founders Institute and MassChallenge. I attend a meeting about DreamIt over at MIT (Oh, you were suppose to be a student at MIT. I guess I did some "Gorilla Networking" and snuck in there) and learn they are in Manhattan and they also take 6% equity like TechStars. I figure being from Boston and being a Redsox fan, that NY was just not going to be in the cards.
So I turn to The Founders Institute and research the crap out of it. Now this sounds great. I can keep my job and attend these classes and slowly build my business at night while only giving up 3% equity that actually goes into a pool that all the founders (that get into the Institute) share among each other as an incentive to help each other out. This sounds great to me. There system is not an application but a test. Oh goodie... Don't we all just love standardize testing! Well hell, let's go for it. So I pop down my $50 bucks and set aside an hour in my Loft Labs 2.7 after getting a great nights sleep and eating a good meal just like the Institute recommends. I bang out the, let's just say "interesting" test. Kinda a cross between a I.Q. and psych test. I finish it and hit enter. There is no directions on what happens next... Did it go through? Did I just burn and hour of my time? When do I hear back? The following day I send and email asking what's next? A few days later I get a response that because one of the team members that was going run the Boston Institute backed out that they are no longer going to have a Boston Institute. If I wanted to be considered for New York they can forward on my test. Well... I guess that's out.
MassChallenge here I come. I attend a MassChallenge Untapped which describes what MassChallenge offers. I hop on the internet and do a ton of research and also talk to everybody and anybody at networking events. Two things happen. First I find out that MassChallenge doesn't take any equity, everyone at the networking events raves about them, they give away cash prizes, and they are they largest of all the incubators. Can you say DAM... Why is it came upon them last? Well let's just chalk it up to what it's like being an entrepreneur. It's like late night stumbling through the bathroom in the dark trying to find the crapper. It may take you a while but once you find it... The reward is there. And second thing I discovered is by meeting the right people I was able to get space at MassChallenge.
So March 1st I get my key card and find a cubicle on the 14th floor to call home. (Cubicle 45) Oh, Loft Labs 2.7 how I will miss you. Anyway... with spring around the corner Loft Labs would be way to hot to work in so thank god for MassChallenge. So now I actually feel like a real company.
So I order some generic business cards off of VistaPrint. This, in turns, motivates me to plop down some dough on 99designs.com and have a design contest for my logo for SkinnyPrices. By the end of the week I now have a great logo. Dam... I wish I had done this first before the business cards. Oh well I will just have to order new ones.
So I start meeting all the faces at MassChallenge. From last year's companies to the staff that runs it. I bring a little of my own personality to the office. I wear Heelys and roll around the nice concrete floors. (For those who don't know Heelys they are the sneakers with a wheel in the back so you can walk or roll. And Yes there not just for kids.) Also have my funny t-shirts I'm always kicking. The my "I live in my own little world but it's O.K. because they know me here." Or my sweatshirt that says "Dork" which seems to be a favorite. Wait... Maybe they really think I'm a dork... Nay! And of course I'm constantly kicking my faux hawk. Who says you can't be an entrepreneur with some flare.
Now parking in the seaport area is $12 bucks a day. Times 5 days a week and times 4 weeks in a month. Well that's $300 just for parking. So, what do I come up with as a solution to this problem... I should buy a motorcycle and park for free. Here's my thinking... I've been burning the wick on both ends. I didn't take a winter vacation. And have not been doing any partying. How's that for rationalizing that decision??? $150 payment is half what I would pay for parking. So I pull the trigger and I am now a proud owner of Ducati Hypermotard 796. (And yes I am parking for free. But boy oh boy. March is still winter and yes it is very cold.
From one of my networking events over at Dogpatch Labs I learn about Launchbit.com The two girls that created this are trying to help entrepreneurs with a step by step process to find out if there idea has a MVP or minimum viable product. So I pay for there service on there website and jump into going through each test to find out if I have a MVP. I build wire frame mock ups and sit down with people and ask them to point where they would click and interview them on my concept. Well I love this system and I get such useful feedback. I am going to constantly use this and always stay close to the customer. This also follows what I have been learning online about the "Lean Start Up" approach.
So I continue on developing my idea. The first week of March has gone by and now MassChallenge is having there launch party. I attend the event and get to hear some great speakers... Oh just thought of something. I have been attending all these events and there is just so much useful stuff but so often I forget it and I'm not great at taking notes. So I did a little research and found this little bluetooth camera your wear like a bluetooth ear piece and you can record up to 5 hours of video. I have been using this during all my networking events to go back and remember people's names and go back to subjects of importance. I probably look like a dork but I don't care the function out ways the fashion. (Looxie camera if you want to Google it) O.K. back to what I was saying. So MassChallenge launches and there application goes live. I had talked to John (one of the founders) he said just fill out the main stuff and pay the $200 dollars and submit it. You can constantly go back and keep updating it but this way you can get your idea out to the judges early instead of waiting to the last minute and getting put in with all the onslaught of applications. So I heed his advice and submit it the first day.
So yesterday was St. Patrick's day and for those of you who are not from Boston... it is a holiday this town takes pretty seriously. Well I was working till 11pm last night and boy did I take some heat from my friends. But scarifies must be made and I can't say I missed drinking green beer that bad anyway. The funny thing is my dad was right. (Who would have thought) If you find something you are passionate about and enjoy it you wont feel like your working. Well, it doesn't feel like work at all and I am loving it. So I guess that takes us up to present day. Even tonight it is Friday 9:45pm as I write this and I have a grin on my face from side to side. I could not be happier. Oh... forgot to mention. I also just got my first platinum endorsement today from Dina Routhier of Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation. So that's a little flag in my hat and it also puts $50 back in my pocket from the entrance fee. Three more of those and my entrance fee will be free.
There must be a ton of other stuff I probably didn't mention but this catches you up. I plan on blogging through this process because I have learned so much from others that have done so and I hope this will be helpful to entrepreneurs who are just starting out and maybe will light on for them when they enter the bathroom.