Last year I decided to start taking action toward my dream of being an entrepreneur. I started reading tons of startup blogs and books (Startup Weekend & The Lean Startup) as well as listening to podcasts and purchasing Entrepreneur Magazine every time I travel. As a full-time employee by day and an engineering masters student by night, I was a little time-strapped. I wanted a project that I saw as small and manageable. Something I could use to start learning the ropes without dropping a lot of cash.
My First Business
I keep a list of business ideas that I come up with, so I searched through the list and picked that smallest idea that I thought had potential. The winner was a minimalist, account-free photo mailing service. If you just got done carving pumpkins and wanted to send 3 pictures to your mom with a little note, we were your service. After having several URLs bought out from under me (lesson learned: do not search to see if your domain name is available unless you are ready to purchase it) I finally settled on www.photosmeow.com. I looked around within my friend network for a developer and found somebody willing to take on the project as a learning experience (fo’ FREE). We worked through several iterations of the site. My design work was atrocious and eventually my designer sister stepped in and saved the day (also fo’ FREE).
Mistakes I made:
1) I did absolutely no marketing work during the 7 months it took to build the site.
2) I wasted 7 months building the site.
3) I thought asking my friends if it sounded like a good idea counted as idea validation.
4) I knew enough to develop a vivid customer archetype, but had no idea how to reach them.
Problems with the business itself:
1) Since it was an account free service, it was BUILT for people who only wanted to use it once. No recurring revenue. No repeat customers.
2) Because it was intended to be minimalist, there were no upsell opportunities.
3) The idea simply did not solve a very painful problem.
It is time to start Failing Faster
I learned a lot about design, development, marketing, advertising and business strategy. My only regret is that it took me almost a year to get to this point. I was listening to a podcast recently (Starting From Nothing – The Foundation) and one of the guests gave this bit of advice to new entrepreneurs,
Learn how to decrease the time between conceiving an idea and acting on it.
So I’m throwing myself off this horse so I can get back on in the most efficient way possible. This blog is intended to document my experience and help keep myself accountable. You can expect a full post-mortem on PhotosMeow when the business finishes winding down.