Ask the entrepreneurs advice


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    As the title says, ask the entrepreneurs. If you are an entrepreneur, feel free to chime in. If you are at the other end of the spectrum, feel free to ask a question.

    The only qualifications are:

    1. I ask that there be no flaming in this topic
    2. There are no stupid questions, and do not call them out as such. What may seem obvious to you may not seem obvious to others and this is an open discussion.
    3. No one in here is better or worse than others, get over it.
    4. I would appreciate it if this could stay on-topic. If you feel the need to diverge, please use the "Reply as linked topic" function.
    5. I am not the only entrepreneur here, so other entrepreneurial folk please feel free to chime in. I would love it if diversity of opinion were celebrated in this topic.
    6. Just ask the question, please. If you wonder, it is likely that others have also.
    7. I readily admit that I do not know everything, but if I do not I will let you know and hopefully someone else can answer the question. Most of us who write code for a living have entrepreneurial ambitions. Hopefully this topic can lead to the advancement of those ambitions.
    8. Please ignore the off-topic bullshit. If you ignore it, hopefully it will go away. If this topic shits itself, I will likely walk away from it though.

    Addendum, to hopefully head-off flame wars: Every person falls somewhere on the spectrum between entrepreneur and employee. None are better than the others. Leave that shit at the door please.

    Addendum #2: Please keep your questions to IRL. No Dwarf Fortress or Eve Online questions. You can thank @ben_lubar for this addendum.

    Addendum #3: I will post questions sent to me through PM, and keep the person anonymous, if someone truly does not want their question public. I promise I will not call anyone out (even @blakeyrant) if they send it to me via PM. I am really trying to foster open and honest discussion here.



  • @Polygeekery said:

    There are no stupid questions

    Which booster should I buy first when building bloodstone on Timbersaw?



  • that's a stupid question.


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    @Monarch said:

    that's a stupid question.

    Ok, @ben_lubar, I am going to give him that one. Let's keep this shit to a minimum though. ;)



  • So a few years ago, I was having an offline, friendly chat with a manager, and he was asking me, more or less, what my career and life goals were. I mentioned that at some point in the future, I was thinking of starting my own business (if I ever get my current project to a marketable state). He said two things: if I were to go that way, I'd probably need to find someone to "help" and, "If you like writing code, the last thing you should do is start a business."

    True or false?


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    @Groaner said:

    He said two things: if I were to go that way, I'd probably need to find someone to "help"

    True. In my opinion. Diversity of experience is almost never a bad thing. You need someone who knows business, and someone who knows sales/marketing. If you know those things, you could be OK. If not, you need two more partners.

    I say two because that is the only reasonable way that everyone can have input. One person, with a great vision and all the requirements, can lead a project to success. A two-person partnership cannot succeed though. You have two options there:

    1. One person has controlling interest and the other person is pissed off that they are constantly overruled by that controlling interest.
    2. Equal interests and deadlocks anytime you encounter a difference of opinion.

    Both suck. One person, or >=3 people is the way to go. I stick to myself having controlling interest, but I have a track record of bringing new businesses to market, and I had the advantage of learning that on someone else's dime. If you do not, get two more people.

    @Groaner said:

    "If you like writing code, the last thing you should do is start a business."

    That is only true if you do not know how to run a business. Business is a unique animal. In no way is it something that the average person could not learn, but you may need diversity of opinion. Are you comfortable hiring and firing people? Can you judge cost vs. benefit when most of the variables may be unknown? Can you sell? (Honestly, being able to sell is usually the deciding factor) Can you estimate a P&L and ROI? If so, you might be able to do it on your own. If you go down the partnership route, can you honestly see yourself stepping aside (or in to a lower-level role) if it is needed? You really need to believe in the product or service and want it to succeed, whether or not you do.


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    Also, if there is anything I am nebulous about, ask for clarification. I do not intend to be nebulous, but if I am, call me out on it and I will clarify.



  • @Groaner said:

    He said two things: if I were to go that way, I'd probably need to find someone to "help" and, "If you like writing code, the last thing you should do is start a business."

    I started my own web development business three years ago - I'm still the sole employee, I get to spend at least 80% of my time writing code, and the money has been very good and getting better every year (breakout year in 2014).

    I am not really an entrepreneur though. I need a certain amount of money to maintain my lifestyle, and I don't really want to grow the business beyond me because I never want to start spending my time managing people. I like to write code.


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    @monkeyArms said:

    I don't really want to grow the business beyond me because I never want to start spending my time managing people. I like to write code.

    Something I missed: Know your expectations before you head down that path. If you want to go down that path, do you want to replace your income and be self-employed, or do you want to employ others and profit from their labor? The path that @monkeyArms is much different than what I think of when I speak (not that one is better than the other).

    When you want to start your own business, do you just want to be your own boss? Or do you want to create residual income? There are different strategies to both, and different pitfalls, etc.

    Regardless, @Groaner, and others, should watch this:

    Mike Monteiro - "Fuck you pay me" (PT Br) – 38:40
    — Montalvo Machado



  • @Polygeekery said:

    True. In my opinion. Diversity of experience is almost never a bad thing. You need someone who knows business, and someone who knows sales/marketing. If you know those things, you could be OK. If not, you need two more partners.

    That makes sense.

    In a previous life, I had a manager who ranted on and on about how he needed business analysts and not programmers, and that technical skills were worthless without being able to apply them towards solving a business need. While I see the merit in being able to solve business problems, in retrospect, I've begun to agree with Alex's soapbox article from a while back that said you can only really be good at writing code OR building software. They're different skillsets, and while intersections exist, they're much rarer.

    @Polygeekery said:

    Both suck. One person, or >=3 people is the way to go. I stick to myself having controlling interest, but I have a track record of bringing new businesses to market, and I had the advantage of learning that on someone else's dime. If you do not, get two more people.

    A software company with whom one of my employers had dealings had four partners. If we wanted to make an API change, it would entail getting approval from all four of them. I'd rather not be in their position if it's avoidable. But I can see how three is better than two.

    @Polygeekery said:

    Are you comfortable hiring and firing people?

    Maybe. It's not something I've done before, but over the years, I've gotten better at identifying the 2-5% of interviewees who are worth the time, and I've gotten more pissed when I see incompetence in new hires.

    @Polygeekery said:

    Can you judge cost vs. benefit when most of the variables may be unknown?

    If most of the variables are unknown, it's going to be a guess, at best. This reminds me of the thread on Fermi estimation. In terms of appraising the value and priority of a given action/issue, one technique I devised was to take the relative importance/severity of an issue and multiply it by the number of clients affected.

    @Polygeekery said:

    Can you sell?

    If I have sufficient knowledge of the system and authority to make commitments, yes.

    @Polygeekery said:

    Can you estimate a P&L and ROI?

    I think the hardest part of that is going to be estimating how long a project takes to completion. Since payroll's almost always the biggest expense, everything else hinges on that.

    @Polygeekery said:

    If you go down the partnership route, can you honestly see yourself stepping aside (or in to a lower-level role) if it is needed?

    It might actually be a better idea to take on a Creative Director/CTO type role. Specialization of labor and all.

    @Polygeekery said:

    You really need to believe in the product or service and want it to succeed, whether or not you do.

    Nothing else is going to motivate you into working 16 hour days.

    @Polygeekery said:

    Also, if there is anything I am nebulous about, ask for clarification. I do not intend to be nebulous, but if I am, call me out on it and I will clarify.

    So far, you've been crystal clear.


  • kills Dumbledore

    Is it possible to start a business too young? Is it better to gain more experience through being an employee for a few years or go for it as soon as you have an idea and the motivation?



  • How easy is it to start your own business? How do the hours put in and the rewards gained compare to corporate cubicle dronery?

    I've thought about contracting/freelancing my skills so I can fund work on my own project on the side, but the prospect of losing my regular paycheque from a fulltime job scares me (and more importantly, scares my wife). Also I have barely any idea how to monetize my side projects.

    What's a good way to network with business/marketing types who are looking for a tame engineer?



  • @Jaloopa said:

    Is it possible to start a business too young? Is it better to gain more experience through being an employee for a few years or go for it as soon as you have an idea and the motivation?

    Second this. I'm 25, have worked for a little over 3 years, learned lots and made some decent money, but I'm wondering is now the time to try and start my own company? Or maybe wait another few years until I'm "senior" (whatever the hell that means) and have more knowledge, skills, experience?



  • @Polygeekery said:

    employ others and profit from their labor

    That's a very very very good point you make there. It's making me think in a different way about the whole "starting my own business" idea.



  • What do you value most from your own education background? What do you value most, or specifically look for, in potential employees educational background?

    (I know: since I work at a univ. the question is fundamentally flawed by assuming that there is something valuable in an education in the first place)


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    @Groaner said:

    A software company with whom one of my employers had dealings had four partners. If we wanted to make an API change, it would entail getting approval from all four of them. I'd rather not be in their position if it's avoidable. But I can see how three is better than two.

    Yeah, too many chiefs, not enough Indians. If you can manage it, having one person leading is really the best way. It has to be the proper person though. I know quite a few CEO's that are a lot more successful than I am. The best of them have leaders below them that report back to the CEO who sets the direction of the company and trusts those below them to execute their vision.

    You only really want to go the path of partnership if you absolutely have to give up equity or control in order to gain what you need. Usually you are giving it up in order to gain talent or labor. When you do so, there needs to be a very clear, and enforced, division of concerns. In the case of the company with 4 partners, only one of them should have needed to approve of API changes, or else you end up in the deadlock that I talked about.

    @Groaner said:

    I think the hardest part of that is going to be estimating how long a project takes to completion. Since payroll's almost always the biggest expense, everything else hinges on that.

    You are not wrong.

    @Groaner said:

    If most of the variables are unknown, it's going to be a guess, at best.

    Correct, but some people when given such a task will just throw their hands up and say that it is impossible. You usually still have to do it.

    @Groaner said:

    This reminds me of the thread on Fermi estimation.

    Yep.

    @Groaner said:

    In terms of appraising the value and priority of a given action/issue, one technique I devised was to take the relative importance/severity of an issue and multiply it by the number of clients affected.

    Here is what I typically do in those situations: You will have some knowns, write them down as definite numbers or ranges. For the unknowns, you will need to narrow it down to a most likely range. (well, we can be almost certain that it will not be less than X and unlikely to be more than Y) Now you have two calculations to make: best case scenario and worse case scenario. Hopefully your worst case scenario will still put you in profitability as you scale up/scale out. If not, then more work has to be done to refine your values (to verify them and reduce the range) or change your business plan.


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    @Jaloopa said:

    Is it possible to start a business too young?

    I don't think so, if you have the maturity and skills. It all depends on what business you want to start though. If you are going to start some brave new web service, you can do that at any age. If you want to build and sell the next generation of business intelligence applications to the Fortune 500, they may not take you seriously considering your age, and you would be unlikely to have the experience necessary to even know what to build.

    @Jaloopa said:

    Is it better to gain more experience through being an employee for a few years or go for it as soon as you have an idea and the motivation?

    Both and neither. If you can get a job where you can learn relevant skills, go for it. A lot of successful entrepreneurs and business people previously worked sales/marketing for companies like Xerox, Pfizer, IBM, etc. There have been case studies done that showed a good chunk of those people took those jobs so that they could learn how to sell from a proven industry leader and on someone else's dime before branching out on their own.

    If you are going to be a low-level grunt who gets no experience with how the business works, then you would be unlikely to learn anything relevant.


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    @tar said:

    How easy is it to start your own business?

    Hmmmmm, it depends on the business really. Here was my experience:

    I have been in management almost my entire working life. My father was always in ownership/management and he helped me get started. As a benefit of being in that position, you get to meet a lot of other owners and managers. Decision makers. In 2007-2008 I left a company that was in decline and took a position running another business that was ~45 days from closing its doors. I went in, sold everything I could, let a lot of people go and got it back to profitability. I had busted my fucking ass and did the (nearly) impossible.

    As a result of that, I took a vacation to NYC for xmas to visit the city and some friends. When I came back, I was let go. They said they could not afford me. I told them they could not afford to be without me. That degenerated in to a pissing/shouting match as you can imagine. I had a 1.5 hour drive home and 1.5 hours to think and decided to start my own business. The thought was basically: "'Eff them. If I can do that for them, I can do it for myself."

    Now, I have always had side businesses on top of my day jobs. I decided that I should take my love of technology and make it in to a business. That week I sat down and called every decision maker I knew at every business I had ever worked with and asked them to change their IT service providers to me. Enough did so that within ~30 days I had enough income to get by.

    I will readily admit that I got myself in way over my head, but I thrive in that environment. I dig high-pressure. I have always been able to just figure shit out. That is my aptitude and my greatest skill. It is not writing code, that is for certain. ;)

    @tar said:

    How do the hours put in and the rewards gained compare to corporate cubicle dronery?

    Hmmmm, good question. I had opportunities that most other people did not. I never experienced, "corporate cubicle dronery". In the beginning, you will work your ass off or you will fail. Now, 6+ years in, I can relax quite a bit. I cannot rest on my laurels, but I can take vacations and I have the ability to drop off and pick up my son from daycare every single day (which is highly important to me).

    I think my wife said it best when asked a similar question about being married to me, she said: "If he had to choose between being married to me or being a business owner, I have no doubt that he would choose being a business owner." She would never force me to make that choice though. I love business. It is one of the things I geek out on. Next to becoming a parent, it may be the most rewarding thing I have ever done. So...I think it is worth it.

    @tar said:

    I've thought about contracting/freelancing my skills so I can fund work on my own project on the side, but the prospect of losing my regular paycheque from a fulltime job scares me

    I can respect that. Here is the thing though, it is a different type of security/insecurity equation. Right now, you are hedging all of your bets on your company continuing to do well enough that they will keep you around. You see security in having that steady paycheck. I see security in my success being reliant on my skills. Neither is right or wrong, just different viewpoints. If you can start to trust yourself, it becomes a lot less scary.

    @tar said:

    (and more importantly, scares my wife)

    Oh man, I know just what you mean. When I came home to my at the time girlfriend (now my wife) and told her that I had just been let go and that I was going to start my own business...and had no idea what business it would be at the time...she was nervous. We were living together, my income had been wildly fluctuating for the past year, and my scheme seemed harebrained. As I got a plan together and stopped thinking emotionally, I made a deal with her that if I did not have X income by Y date, I would find a job. Because I had this end date in mind, had made a deal with her and developed a plan, she was more on board. It let her know that I would not end up one of those guys always chasing "get rich quick" schemes (she had friends with husbands and boyfriends who did that), and it got my ass in gear with a definite goal in mind that I had to achieve or else start looking for a job in the biggest down economy of my lifetime.

    @tar said:

    Also I have barely any idea how to monetize my side projects.

    I hate the term "monetize". I am not trying to be a jerk, it just seems like a hipster term to me. A buzzword. Like "the cloud". The term I always use is "make money", because that is what we are talking about here. ;)

    The strategy is different depending upon what we are talking about. Are you selling a product or service? I am guessing not, because then the way you make money is much more straight-forward. You break it up in to units and establish a pricing structure. Are you wanting to gain free users and then sell advertising to third parties? Another strategy that I am forgetting at the moment?

    I readily admit that as a person who has always been in the business world, I favor the selling of a product or service. We entirely market to the business community. They are used to paying for products and services. They do not expect everything to be free, like on the consumer side of things. It is easier for me to sell to them, as I have greatly narrowed down the scope of sales. I would not be the best person to give advice on selling to consumers, as I have never done so. But I could help you develop a strategy to the best of my abilities if you wish.

    @tar said:

    What's a good way to network with business/marketing types who are looking for a tame engineer?

    "Tame engineer"? Are you referring to: http://www.tame.org/?


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    @KillaCoder said:

    Second this. I'm 25, have worked for a little over 3 years, learned lots and made some decent money, but I'm wondering is now the time to try and start my own company? Or maybe wait another few years until I'm "senior" (whatever the hell that means) and have more knowledge, skills, experience?

    I think I covered this in my reply to @Jaloopa? If I missed anything, call me out on it and I will reiterate.



  • Nope, that was perfect thanks. I have a lot to think on :)


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    @Eldelshell said:

    That's a very very very good point you make there. It's making me think in a different way about the whole "starting my own business" idea.

    Thanks. The reason I put in the qualifier about being nebulous earlier is that there is always the possibility that what I consider to be "common knowledge", may not be. So, if I need to clarify anything, call me out on it. I chose the name "Polygeekery" because I geek out on a lot of things. One of those is business, so I love talking about it, as I am sure you can tell. ;)

    @Mikael_Svahnberg said:

    What do you value most from your own education background?

    Hmmmmm, honestly, what I learned from my father. I did not even really start college. I think I did a semester and a half and it was not for me. I had the benefit of having a father who could get me started. After you are in the workforce for a while, educational background matters little, no offense meant.

    @Mikael_Svahnberg said:

    What do you value most, or specifically look for, in potential employees educational background?

    Once again, I really don't. I prefer raw skill to education every time. If a person is naturally proficient in something, they will always have an easier time than those who have to learn it. I value those who just love learning. That is not always tied to educational background. The best programmer I have is a guy who during the interview process I found out that he had a hobby or working with Raspberry Pi and Arduinos. He made an autopilot for a R/C plane and a CNC router, just because he wanted to. He went on and on about scavenging stepper motors from old printers and shaft stock from other places, his eyes lit up as he talked about the challenges and what he learned. He had a real passion for what he does and he has made his avocation his vocation. That is something that cannot be taught.

    Once again, no offense meant to you or your career. I am just speaking from my experience.

    @Mikael_Svahnberg said:

    (I know: since I work at a univ. the question is fundamentally flawed by assuming that there is something valuable in an education in the first place)

    Not fundamentally flawed at all. It was a good question. All of us speak or ask questions from our own experience. That is yours and I answered from mine. Other people would likely answer differently.


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    @KillaCoder said:

    I have a lot to think on

    If another question comes to mind, you know where to ask. :smile:


  • kills Dumbledore

    Do you think there's a particular type of person who's best suited to entrepreneurship? What are the most important character traits, or the ones that make it harder?


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @Polygeekery said:

    That is something that cannot be taught.

    Those people are the people who get the most from higher education too (provided it is aligned with their passion, of course).



  • @Groaner said:

    "If you like writing code, the last thing you should do is start a business."

    This can be true. I doubt it's widely-known around here but I am majority owner of a game studio LLC. (We don't really have anything to show yet but we have big plans for 2015.)

    One of the things I've really had to work on is getting one of my partners set up to manage as much of the legal side as possible, and also step into a project manager role. I spent way too much of our first year doing that stuff when my time is better spent doing development, and as a result we really missed the mark on our first project idea and it had to be shelved.

    Starting a company as a coder is fine, but you really need to partner with someone who can help manage the business otherwise you will never get to code.



  • @Jaloopa said:

    Do you think there's a particular type of person who's best suited to entrepreneurship? What are the most important character traits, or the ones that make it harder?

    I think it's most important to be motivated. You have to want to succeed, and you have to be disciplined enough to get stuff done when you don't have a boss setting your priorities and deadlines. You also have to be willing to trust others to get their stuff done, and not micromanage or take on too much work.

    Procrastination and poor motivation make things hard. I struggled greatly with both for probably the last third of 2014 because I was so busy I got burnt out on almost everything. The last thing I wanted to do in my spare time was work on business stuff, yet because I'm employed full-time elsewhere business stuff has to be done in my spare time.


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    @Jaloopa said:

    Do you think there's a particular type of person who's best suited to entrepreneurship? What are the most important character traits, or the ones that make it harder?

    Hmmmmm, that is a really good question, and a really big question in just two sentences. I may end up in a lot of tangents on this one.

    Motivation. You have to be a "go-getter". You can force yourself in to this, but it is an uphill battle if you do not perform without someone standing over your shoulder setting deadlines and performance metrics for you.

    Business success has a lot to do with the way you think. I hate those stupid, self-help quotes, but one always rings true to me: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right." As soon as you say that you can't do something, you stop thinking of ways to accomplish it. Thoughts and speech can be very powerful. You have to change the way you think to become successful. You have to be able to break large tasks down to manageable chunks. We do the same thing with programming, apply it to life.

    When you find yourself thinking or saying, "I can't", change that to, "What do I need to do in order to...?" Keep breaking it down until you have manageable steps and tasks. Know what you want to accomplish and have a goal in mind. Be a little selfish about it. If you would like to own a Lamborghini (pulling an example from my ass here), don't say "I can't afford it. Ask yourself, "What do I have to do in order to be able to afford it?"

    Being genuinely interested in people has always helped me. It helps with sales if people actually want to talk to you and do business with you. I ask people questions about their lives and I get to know them, and I remember that. I don't do that as some disingenuous sales strategy. I genuinely like learning about people. If you try to put up a facade of that, you will just seem sleazy. Like a pushy used car salesman.

    Being able to see market needs or failures is highly important. If you can see those, you have a need to fill and a place where you can make money.

    Being a good leader. A good leader is someone that people want to follow, not someone who drives others with a metaphorical whip. In my prior career, I moved from company to company somewhat frequently. I had employees and customers who followed me, because they wanted to work with me. They knew I would treat them fairly and be enjoyable to work with.

    You should be able to sell. If you have the best idea in the world, but cannot sell or market it, no one will ever buy it.

    Never be afraid to hire people smarter than you are, they will just make you look better. In fact, make it a point to hire people smarter than you are.

    Know your strengths and weaknesses. Take an honest personal assessment. Some people find it very hard to admit that they have weaknesses, but you have to do it. Play to your strengths, bring people onboard to fill in your weaknesses. You can do anything with the right team.

    I could probably go on and on, but these are the first to come to mind.


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    @mott555 said:

    One of the things I've really had to work on is getting one of my partners set up to manage as much of the legal side as possible, and also step into a project manager role. I spent way too much of our first year doing that stuff when my time is better spent doing development, and as a result we really missed the mark on our first project idea and it had to be shelved.

    Starting a company as a coder is fine, but you really need to partner with someone who can help manage the business otherwise you will never get to code.

    I couldn't have said it better myself. Play to your strengths, put people in place to cover your weaknesses. Good luck in 2015.



  • @Polygeekery said:

    Business success has a lot to do with the way you think. I hate those stupid, self-help quotes, but one always rings true to me: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right." As soon as you say that you can't do something, you stop thinking of ways to accomplish it.

    You don't believe, that's why you fail. – 00:13
    — Residuals4Life



  • Is it harder to get approved for a loan/mortgage?


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    @NedFodder said:

    Is it harder to get approved for a loan/mortgage?

    Good question, and not one that I am really qualified to answer. Generally speaking, for the first 3 years of self-employment, etc, you are considered a higher risk. After that 3 years, you have a track record of earnings and it is the same as having a job. That is what my banker told me, YMMV.

    I am not entirely qualified to answer though as I made a lot of financial mistakes in my early 20's and decided at that point to not borrow any more money (with the exception of mortgages). As a result of this, my credit score is not able to be calculated. When I went to buy this house and my last one, both loans had to be manually underwritten. So that takes a little bit longer, and there is more paperwork and disclosure involved, but it can be done.


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    @Jaloopa said:

    What are the most important character traits, or the ones that make it harder?

    Another one to add to the list: Listen to people, they will tell you what they need. My father always said, "We have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak."


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    @Bort said:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EwcYwax4Oo

    Similar concept, but the difference is that when most people say, "I can't", they do not even attempt it.

    "Do or do not, there is no try." Yoda


  • SockDev

    @Polygeekery said:

    "Do or do not, there is no try." Yoda

    FTFY (it's best to not think about the do not case IME)



  • @Polygeekery said:

    Hmmmm, good question. I had opportunities that most other people did not. I never experienced, "corporate cubicle dronery". In the beginning, you will work your ass off or you will fail. Now, 6+ years in, I can relax quite a bit. I cannot rest on my laurels, but I can take vacations and I have the ability to drop off and pick up my son from daycare every single day (which is highly important to me).

    At the moment I have a job which pays extremely well, and the office is 5 minutes walk from my home. The downside is that the work isn't interesting to me at all (and also the specific job I was hired to do basically vanished into the ether about a year ago and they didn't have the decency to lay me off or allow me to transfer to a related position). I am intending to find a new job just as soon as I've decided what that is.

    @Polygeekery said:

    I hate the term "monetize". I am not trying to be a jerk, it just seems like a hipster term to me. A buzzword. Like "the cloud". The term I always use is "make money", because that is what we are talking about here.

    What I meant was that I want to effect business outcomes by opportunizing synergies while efficiently leveraging cloud dynamics for great justice.

    @Polygeekery said:

    Are you selling a product or service? I am guessing not, because then the way you make money is much more straight-forward. You break it up in to units and establish a pricing structure. Are you wanting to gain free users and then sell advertising to third parties? Another strategy that I am forgetting at the moment?

    (Please excuse me while I ramble inchoately about this...)

    I guess I'm trying to decide if I can turn a personal project (2D game engine) into a viable business, and if so, do I want to open source the code, or license it proprietarily? Give the code away and try to sell support? Charge some percentage of customer royalties?

    I'd need to strike a balance between charging enough that I can afford to support the project, but not so much that I scare away potential customers. (This is probably a universal concern though...)

    Then again, left to my own devices, I seem to just keep rewriting the low-level system infrastructure. But it compiles for Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Android and Emscripten now though—I seem to enjoy porting my existing code more than writing high-level systems. And I don't really have any timelines or targets.I think I need to find someone with marketing and/or project management experience to make a real go of it. And maybe turning a nominally "fun" project into something my financial future is tied to might remove all the fun from it.



  • This reminds me of another thing I had trouble with.

    I wouldn't call myself pessimistic, but I am always planning contingencies for failure in almost all situations in life. I hope things succeed, but I don't like being surprised by failures. What I didn't realize was that this attitude was dragging down some of my partners, and they thought I thought we weren't going to make it.

    Managing your image and public attitude is important in leadership roles.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Hope for success, plan for failure. Doing otherwise is stupid


  • SockDev

    @Weng said:

    Hope for success, plan for failure. Doing otherwise is stupid

    PLAN for success, BE PREPARED for failure.

    in actions not so different, but the difference in point of view and attitude is critical.



  • @tar said:

    What I meant was that I want to effect business outcomes by opportunizing synergies while efficiently leveraging cloud dynamics for great justice.

    :facepalm:


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Maybe it's the fact that my organization is entirely failure based and my team is the only island of competence in a sea of terrible, miserable derp, but the pessimistic version of that attitude works just fine here.

    Key skill: Setting things up so that a mitigated failure gives you what you actually want.


  • SockDev

    @Weng said:

    Maybe it's the fact that my organization is entirely failure

    i think that world view is symptomatic of bigger issues. if one does not plan for success can it really be a surprise that success does not happen? or if it does happen it is little success instead of great success?


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @tar said:

    At the moment I have a job which pays extremely well, and the office is 5 minutes walk from my home. The downside is that the work isn't interesting to me at all (and also the specific job I was hired to do basically vanished into the ether about a year ago and they didn't have the decency to lay me off or allow me to transfer to a related position). I am intending to find a new job just as soon as I've decided what that is.

    Pay and convenience mean nothing if you are bored and unhappy. Always try to move towards more happiness, that does not always align with higher pay, etc. If you ever find yourself dreading going to work, make a change.

    @tar said:

    What I meant was that I want to effect business outcomes by opportunizing synergies while efficiently leveraging cloud dynamics for great justice.

    +1

    @tar said:

    (Please excuse me while I ramble inchoately about this...)

    If you have read what I have written so far, you would know that I would be a hypocrite if I held that against you. ;)

    @tar said:

    I guess I'm trying to decide if I can turn a personal project (2D game engine) into a viable business

    First ask yourself, honestly, what does it do (better, faster, cheaper) than the alternatives already on the market. You need to find something in there to be able to sell. If you can't, then it should remain a hobby. Look at it from a potential customer's perspective. Why would they use your product?

    @tar said:

    do I want to open source the code, or license it proprietarily? Give the code away and try to sell support? Charge some percentage of customer royalties?

    Hmmmm, I have no experience with those strategies to make money. I wish I could help, but hopefully someone else can come along to chime in.

    @tar said:

    I'd need to strike a balance between charging enough that I can afford to support the project, but not so much that I scare away potential customers. (This is probably a universal concern though...)

    Yes it is. You don't want to leave money on the table, but you can also price yourself out of the market.

    When I started my business, I saw what other people in my space were charging and thought that I would price myself significantly lower to make sales. I made money, but at one point I had hit a wall on sales. I was talking to another entrepreneur about it and he told me to raise my prices. It seemed entirely counter-current to what I had been thinking. But, paradoxically, it worked. There were businesses that would not use my IT services because I was too cheap. I raised my prices, and started making sales again. Markets can be mystifying.

    @tar said:

    Then again, left to my own devices, I seem to just keep rewriting the low-level system infrastructure. But it compiles for Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Android and Emscripten now though—I seem to enjoy porting my existing code more than writing high-level systems.

    Step fettling, get your product out there. I know a lot of people here disagree with me, but ship early. You may be futzing around with things that just won't matter. Your first iteration should be rough. Twitter looked like a steaming pile of feces when it hit the public. You never really know what people are going to do with your product and you may spend a ton of time optimizing something that almost never gets hit. Get it in people's hands, see how they use it, they will find the bottlenecks that actually matter and then you concentrate your efforts there where it will make the most difference. You can ignore that which works, but may run slower than optimum but never gets used.

    @tar said:

    And I don't really have any timelines or targets.

    Set a goal and a timeline. It will sharpen your focus and drive you. If you have an ethereal goal of "sometime in the future", you will likely never get there.

    @tar said:

    I think I need to find someone with marketing and/or project management experience to make a real go of it.

    Possibly. Cross that bridge when you get there. For now, get people using your stuff and get some feedback. Listen to potential customers. Be flexible.

    @tar said:

    And maybe turning a nominally "fun" project into something my financial future is tied to might remove all the fun from it.

    I am not going to lie to you, it is very possible. If you love the work though, you can keep it fun.



  • @Polygeekery said:

    It seemed entirely counter-current to what I had been thinking. But, paradoxically, it worked. There were businesses that would not use my IT services because I was too cheap.

    For example, IBM and Oracle. They are popular not because they sell good software, but because they sell expensive software.


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @mott555 said:

    I wouldn't call myself pessimistic, but I am always planning contingencies for failure in almost all situations in life. I hope things succeed, but I don't like being surprised by failures.

    One thing I always do when I face adversity is to quantify exactly what the worst case scenario is. If you don't do that, your mind runs wild. When you actually say, "The worst thing that could happen is...", you can look at that and realize, "I can recover from that. It will suck, but I can deal with it." If you don't quantify the worst case, everything looks like you are staring down Armageddon.

    @mott555 said:

    What I didn't realize was that this attitude was dragging down some of my partners, and they thought I thought we weren't going to make it.

    Yeah, no one wants to work with/for Eeyore.

    @mott555 said:

    Managing your image and public attitude is important in leadership roles.

    Absolutely. When I first started, it was just me. I was the entire IT service that I was selling. Yet I always referred to my business in the plural. "We provide IT support for small businesses", etc. It is not entirely a lie. Everyone has a support structure around them. I had friends I could call for things that I did not know the answer to. I had my gf supporting me, etc.


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @accalia said:

    PLAN for success, BE PREPARED for failure.

    Exactly. We have a rule here: We like risk, you cannot make money without risk, but we never take risks that could be terminal. Never risk anything that you cannot afford to lose. Have a backup plan.



  • @Polygeekery said:

    There were businesses that would not use my IT services because I was too cheap. I raised my prices, and started making sales again. Markets can be mystifying.

    This actually makes lots of sense. As you have described your business you are their IT department, charging too little means you may go out of business or drop the client as they don't make you enough. The risk this poses makes people more nervous than the lower prices make them excited.

    EDIT: I'm a cubical drone, but in BPO


  • Grade A Premium Asshole

    @locallunatic said:

    As you have described your business you are their IT department, charging too little means you may go out of business or drop the client as they don't make you enough.

    That could possibly be it. I think it had more to do with them thinking a higher hourly cost meant a higher competence level. The other guys were more expensive, so they must have been better. It was not the case, but it was the perception. At the time, I think I was billing out at $90/hour. Most of my competitors were at $135. I was way under market rate and it took someone else to look at my problem and immediately realize the issue. Looking back, it should have been immediately obvious. Sitting there, inside of the situation, I could not see it.

    I raised my rates to $130/hour and sales immediately took off again. It also allowed me more cashflow to build a stronger business and move in to other markets.

    It really helps to have other entrepreneurs and business people around you that you can talk frankly with. They will see things that should be obvious to you, but are not.



  • @Polygeekery said:

    We like risk, you cannot make money win without risk conquering Australia first

    FTFY



  • @Polygeekery said:

    Pay and convenience mean nothing if you are bored and unhappy. Always try to move towards more happiness, that does not always align with higher pay, etc. If you ever find yourself dreading going to work, make a change.

    Haven't reached the point of dread yet—I actually think most of my coworkers are decent enough people, but I am fairly sure there's no way I can advance my career without changing jobs. And I know I am more motivated and do better work when it's for something I care about.

    I guess another reason I'm thinking about trying to get into contracting/running my own show is that it might look better on my resume, even if I have to run back to fulltime employment, it might make me look more independent and/or senior if I ran my own business for a while? So it might open some doors for lead/senior positions?



  • @Polygeekery said:

    First ask yourself, honestly, what does it do (better, faster, cheaper) than the alternatives already on the market. You need to find something in there to be able to sell.

    Other than crossplatformness, I would probably be competing on price initiallyo: the "indie game engine" market is a little crowded. I guess I need to find something Unity can't do... I've been wondering whether sites like kickstarter and indiegogo might be a good place to launch something...

    All your advice so far is pretty reasonable btw :<asdfg>)


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