Thursday, November 24, 2011

4.5 How to evaluate whether an idea is good.

Okay. So, I lied a little bit in my last post. I mentioned I would discuss "vision" next, but before getting into this, I actually wanted to elaborate more on how to evaluate an idea. It's because I hear so many that could have potential, but they just haven't been through the proper analysis. If I told you I believe that ideas are important, then it's only fair that I explain a little bit about what constitutes a good idea. I'll start by making the ridiculous claim that the same identical proposal (idea) can be good or bad depending on some other factors besides the actual concept being proposed. These other factors have to do with whether the person who came up with this idea is thinking about some important additional things or overlooking them. The goal of this post is just to scratch the surface of what those additional things are.

Now, I'm not the "idea guru" by any means, nor an authority on evaluating ideas. However, I've conditioned myself to think about ideas in a certain way that I think just makes basic sense. It might even be obvious to most people, but it's still often ignored. I'll preface by saying that this is (or should be) all very basic stuff. In fact, they probably teach it in most entrepreneurship classes - and so it might be "101" for you. However, I notice that still many people don't seem to go through this thought process systematically, and of course I'm sure others just never heard it explained. So, here it is and I hope it's not so basic that you're thinking "dude, I know all this." I'll try to elaborate on it to keep it interesting.

Here is the basic framework on how to think about an idea before one attempts to present it to the outside world. Behold the graphic:

As you can see, it starts with some insight about the potential customer and understanding a problem the customer has. Next, one defines the value we want to create for (and offer to) that customer. Then, we think about how we want the customer to view us, and based on this we tailor our message to this customer. Of course, this entails first knowing who is the customer. All along the way, we're thinking about the customer, and hopefully even talking to the customer (well, once you start really working on this idea, you definitely have to talk to the customer!). So, let's quickly hit upon each of these steps:

Who dat!? Who is my customer, i.e. who is the person with the problem I'm claiming I'm able to solve? What are this person's demographics and psychographics? (No. This doesn't mean you need to create any "psycho graphics". It just refers to some attributes of how this customer thinks or behaves). Finally how many people in the world fit this description? Now, this gets complicated in the "disruptive" paradigm, which we briefly began to discuss in some of the previous posts, because there, you'd be thinking about a solution that can be applied to an entire class of problems. So, you have to tackle the issue of which problem to consider tackling first and for which set of customers, but for now, let's assume we're not dealing with anything hugely disruptive, and so there's one clear problem and a specific solution.

What's your problem?? I'm just anticipating and I know this is coming: "does there really have to be a problem? Games aren't built to solve problems. They're built to entertain. Some apps that are just for fun, they're just for fun, right? People get them not because they have a problem, but because they're just trying to have fun." Yes, you have a point, but it's still solving a problem. Even a game or an entertainment venue has an underlying psychology that it's trying to cater to - some need that it is fulfilling. When you design even a game, especially if it's innovative and you're not just copying a standard cookie cutter game storyboard, you're really trying to understand a certain need, like this: "when a person plays this type of game, there's an unfulfilled desire to share the experience with friends more ..." or "when you play a typical game and the game is over, your accomplishment doesn't really get incorporated or memorialized into a lasting 'product' or memory that you can hold onto and look at later - at least not beyond a score or record." You get the picture. Something I've hit upon here implicitly is this: the customer's problem is getting evaluated in view of the present solutions: it's only a problem worth addressing if there isn't anything out there that is well known that addresses it, or - at least - that addresses it sufficiently (I know, I know. Obvious stuff, but I often feel that people seem to forget it!).

Value proposition - This is where I come in. Ta ... da ... The value proposition is merely the solution that I offer, and here is what we need to keep in mind (again - obvious, but still often forgotten): the cost to the customer of acquiring this solution must be less than the difference between the size of the problem and the part of the problem that is solvable with the present tools. This might have sounded convoluted; so let me try to reword it: how much happier you are with my solution over how happy you were with the next best thing, that difference should be bigger than how much it costs you to obtain my solution; this is assuming you already have access to the old solution (the next best thing). Here's another graphic to describe this.

Now, if you don't have access to the old solution, you're likely not going to go for my solution either - because you probably don't feel the "pain" of this problem enough to be seeking a solution at all (refer to Steve Blank's The Four Steps to the Epiphany for great elaboration on this concept of customer pain); although it is quite possible that in spite of great pain, the present solution fails so miserably at solving the problem that it's not even worth getting (and hopefully the one I'm offering you is much better!). Here, the cost of obtaining a solution doesn't just have to be money. For example, downloading a free app on a phone doesn't seem to come with huge costs, right? Well, they're not huge as compared to a lot of other things we deal with in our daily lives. However, the phone's storage space becomes pretty valuable real estate when you have 500,000 potential apps to choose from, a great many of which are free (which is the case for the iPhone, or 250,000 for the Android platform). In that context, an app, even a free one, had better be pretty darn good and noteworthy for a person to download it.

Positioning. Where do you stand? In class one day, Professor Mohan Sawhney (here's his bio and his personal site) asked one of the students: if a Mercedes Benz was a person and s/he just walked into the room, how would you describe this person (gender, age, attire, looks, etc.)? The student answered quickly (I don't remember the exact answer). He then asked the same question about a BMW, a Porsche, etc., and each time, the student answered quickly and naturally. Then he got to Nissan, and the student hesitated ... The professor then explained that this is a standard test to understand positioning. It's not only the content of the answer that gets evaluated, but how fast the person answers. If there is hesitation, then the product's positioning isn't well defined. Prof. Sawhney defined positioning as the particular place in a customer's mind that a product or service occupies. For example, in each product category, there's one brand that represents the premium luxury version. Another represents practicality. Another represents a power solution, or youthful energy. There's almost always one that represents the economical choice in the product category. His point was that in most product/service categories, only one brand can really occupy each of these "hills". So, isn't your positioning the same as your value proposition? Not necessarily. Your positioning is the perceived value you want to communicate to the outside world. It may not convey all the value that your product or service is offering, but simply what you want to be the key defining representation of your value in the customer's mind.

Messaging. What do you say?? I'm not going to say a whole lot about this. The messaging is how you convey your positioning and other aspects of your brand to the potential customers. It's the content that you want to communicate through your various branding, marketing, and advertising activities. You need to think about this a little bit even if your idea is just in the "conception" stage - you need to at least start to imagine it. Visualizing really helps with all these different steps. If you have trouble coming up with a clear message, maybe the value proposition isn't as solid as you had thought. Maybe the problem isn't as big as you had thought. And so on.

Now, these steps aren't typically thought of as the way to evaluate an idea initially. They actually become more and more critical the closer you get to actually producing and selling what it is that you're offering. However, I think that even in the conception phase, it's prudent to run the idea through this machine we've just described. You may not have a lot of real "customer feedback" at that point in time, but you should at least take into account people you know who might pursue this solution and you should take into consideration your insights about these people. Maybe talk to them and ask them questions about what you're assuming to be their problem (testing assumptions is key to customer development. Again, refer to The Four Steps to the Epiphany). If you only run your ideas by them, you probably will only get high fives which are not all that helpful, but it is helpful to talk to them about their current behavior and their current perceived needs, etc. Think about what questions you'd want answered to inform which specific problem you try to solve (or which aspects of it), what value proposition you offer, as well as your positioning and messaging. When you're only in the first few days of considering an idea, if you're only thinking about this rubric and all these different aspects we've discussed, you're already a step ahead of the curve in my humble opinion. Then, the more serious you get about pursuing your idea, you'll need to obtain new critical insights by getting directly in front of real potential customers (who are not necessarily friends and family) and trying to learn from them (not to sell to them). You might want to verify some of your insights with a survey to get a bigger picture of your market, after having spoken to a few very helpful customers. A survey will help you get a good feel for whether or not the feedback of these initial interviewees was representative.

This is what I meant above when I stated that a proposed idea can be good or bad depending on some other factors. A person may be onto a cool solution or technology, but s/he hasn't thought sufficiently about the problem, what key value this solution is offering, how it would be positioned in the current landscape of this category/vertical, and finally, what s/he imagines will be the message s/he tries to convey in the market.

So, we know what makes an idea "good", but what is different about disruptive ideas? We'll discuss those in the upcoming posts. For now, keep coming up with ideas and evaluating them. Finally, a word of caution: even if you apply this rubric with very limited data initially, you're likely to be wrong. So, if you have any doubt, get more actual data! Don't throw out an idea just yet simply because of comments from one or two people. Those comments should give you some things to think about, and should inform what questions you try to answer next. However, they shouldn't make or break your idea!

If you have further insights about what makes an idea good or bad, I'd love to hear them - please comment! Also, was all this stuff we talked about really obvious / somewhat familiar / totally new? I'd really be curious to know, but if it was obvious to you, this is just an intro covering some basics for what's to come next, to level expectations about what readers know or don't know before we start trying to get into some of the meat of the discussion, and before we try to learn new things (which will be new for me as well, as you can see here - this blog is for me to connect and learn, not to "teach" by any means, as I'm just starting out).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

4. Ideas are highly underrated.

In most startup circles I've come into contact with, I've encountered this ridiculous majority-held notion that the idea almost doesn't matter at all in a startup. It's "the team" and the "execution", they say. Well, I like to say: "a good team will tend to come up with good ideas!" In fact, the fastest way for me to be able to tell who is someone I likely wouldn't enjoy working with is by the ideas this person presents. Another quick way is by how s/he responds to the ideas I present. It's not whether they like them or not - it's whether their response is intelligent, even if they rip into them. It has been my experience that the smartest people are good at evaluating, analyzing, and critiquing ideas, of course including their own, and they are good at articulating this analysis. To me, it's insane to think that ideas don't matter ...

Those who tend to dismiss the importance of "ideas" usually add that even a bad idea in the hands of a good team can still lead to a successful business given proper execution. They also usually point out that on the other hand, the best idea in the world will fail when the team is weak or the execution is lacking. In other words, according to most in the startup world, the team and the execution are both necessary and sufficient, while the idea only modulates or "colors" the odds of success. So, it's as though a good idea is an added bonus, but not in any way necessary. I'm pretty sure I don't agree with this, because a bad idea that still offers some value to a yet untapped market is not that bad of an idea after all. I will however agree with the converse, which is a much weaker statement: that a good idea in unskilled hands likely will fail (I doubt anyone would disagree with this anyway as it merely states the obvious!)

What I would like to point out though is that no company has made it big with a poor or even a mediocre idea ... You can be successful with a mediocre idea, but you certainly won't be big. For "big", all of the following are necessary: (1) the team, (2) the execution, and (3) the idea, and you're almost guaranteed failure if one of them is slightly sub par. In other words, even with the best team and impeccable execution, you're not going to get very far in the direction of "disruption" with a bad or mediocre idea. This of course is aside from what I mentioned earlier: that smart people are good at evaluating ideas, and even if they might come up with a bad one now and then, they'll know how to quickly critique it and find out when they're wrong. But if they're smart, it'll look good to any objective observer at first or even at second glance - or alternatively, the observer just won't get it. Consider anything that has been disruptive - was the idea in any way weak or mediocre? Did the overall concept not usually convey a brand or facade behind which you simply were certain is a smart team? Let's think of some examples: again the obvious ones - IBM, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Benz, Ford, etc.

In fact, what I would argue is that one commonly overlooked necessary ingredient to disruption is something that goes beyond ideas. It's something more overarching, and perhaps the source of ideas: it's vision. It's vision for how a particular solution can change the way the world works, even in some small way. It's understanding culture and society, and where these currently tend to "break", and it's imagining a fix that is not overly complex that will bypass or mitigate those breaking points. It's simply understanding people and being smart enough to study the tools needed to make the solution work - the science and technology behind the whole thing - and really mastering the fundamentals behind them. Vision is that "je ne sais quoi" that people like Steve Jobs had, that some of us call "genius". I don't call it genius; I call it vision. Mark Zuckerberg clearly has it. What he did with Facebook shows vision beyond what any of his social networking competitors (and now, mere predecessors) displayed. He understood and understands how to "socialize" or "Facebookize" almost everyone's experience on the web. Vision is imagining a social network as not merely living within its own compartment - as a tool enabling people to keep in touch with each other and share news, but as a means to experience the entire web socially. Facebook comes up even when you're not on Facebook - doesn't it? That's a result of vision. I know that in my last post, I harped on those who over-philosophize online social networking and its impact. I still stand by that, and this is not what I'm doing here. I'm merely pointing out that people's (or social networking gurus' and enthusiasts') current "insights" about online social networking were at some point a vision in Mark Zuckerberg's and his team's mind. Now, they are merely observations and reactions.

In my next post, I'll discuss my experience with how people in the tech startup community respond to an articulated vision - or don't. Until then, I'll leave you with this old Apple commercial that has been circulating (you might have seen it), as I believe what it was getting at is quite simple. What distinguishes the people in the video from everyone else is that they had vision, plain and simple, and enough courage to pursue it. The video refers to it as genius - or something that comes across as genius. I would argue that vision results in that perceived genius, and isn't this true of the people in the video? Isn't this the very thing that the video describes, without using the word: is it not the foolishness to want to change the world, and the fact that the status quo doesn't interest these people, nor the standard "rules" of doing things, but something new and different, and markedly better? I am looking to befriend people like the ones in this video. Know of any?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

3. Tech Buzz Kills

I hope you'll appreciate the play on words once you've read the post.

It's only been about 11-12 months since I've started trying to be connected to the tech entrepreneurial community and already I've noticed that tech is marked by a lot of buzz, and people tend to really get caught up in it.

To give you just one example, there is an overemphasis on "social": social media, social this, and social that. There's nothing wrong with discussing the social media revolution and how it is impacting life and business. However, I take it as a given that social media is a game-changer and that we all have to get with the times, especially if we wish to be successful in business - this is old news! I find that in some circles, we tend to over-philosophize it, and I really find that there is no need for all this pontificating about social media because it's actually not all that complicated nor deeply philosophical. It's been happening for thousands of years, rather more effectively than it is happening now. People are talking about it as though technology has finally enabled us to communicate with each other, while in reality, technology has taken us away from communicating face-to-face as we used to and more recently, it has opened up a pathway for a lesser (and far less rich and less information-dense) channel of communication, albeit a pathway enabling simpler messages to reach huge audiences much faster. This is not a phenomenon we need to stand in awe of like deer in headlights. Those of us who wish to be true innovators need to "get" social media, how messages get generated and how they can reach audiences of scale via the social graph, and then move a bit past it.

Now, I'm not talking about people doing actual work trying to gather deep insights concerning the social graph and the propagation of messages through it. Rather, I'm talking about the over-buzz around the obvious aspects of social media, dressed up like new revolutionary insights. I'm talking about the people who call themselves social media "gurus" or "junkies" or "enthusiasts". To me, this is like saying, I'm a telephone enthusiast. Technology is moving quickly - so let's not get hung up on one step in the ladder. Here's an experiment for you to consider: if you tweet at all about tech, count how many people follow you or try to follow you who are self-proclaimed social media experts, but who, in reality, are nothing more than people who get how to use Facebook and Twitter, who know some marketing basics, and who have thought for 10 minutes about a small subset of human psychology.

Yet, I believe the problem goes a bit deeper than this and even infects many communities of "first tier" entrepreneurs and technologists. When I attend events where people pitch tech startup ideas, I feel like I'm always hearing the same 5-10 ideas over and over again, just applied to different uses or use cases, or maybe different markets. Few of these ideas display a desire to innovate on the technology itself or the way it's being used. They're not anticipatory but they're rather reactionary to the technological trends or buzz. 99% of these ideas are still very much entrenched in web 2.0 thinking, something that's going to zip right on by us while we're frozen and staring at it in amazement, while the few who really get the next phase of the web will cash in on it. Interestingly, these are also quite often the same tried and true ideas that get funded by VC's. For a large number of VC's, it seems like you would want to include some buzz words in your pitch - which is a real shame for innovation in America, because buzz tends to equal status quo.

I would argue that technology is what drives the trends and buzz, rather than the reverse being true. You can actually test this yourself and observe what most tech buzz is about - is it generated from people talking about what should happen, or is it mostly in reaction to what already has happened? So, what I'm saying is that if I want to build something "disruptive", then I'd better get away from the buzz and find the 1% who are talking about real innovation, and these are really hard to find. As for me personally, I'm doing everything I can to find them, and this blog is part of that effort.

Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with identifying a need and a yet-untapped market niche and using the current "standard practices" in technology to address it. There's nothing wrong with it, and as a matter of fact, it can be a path for great success. It's just that it is reactionary rather than disruptive, and so interests me only marginally - well, to be fair, it interests me for sure inasmuch as it might be a means to a different end. However, especially in this blog, I'm most interested in talking to people who like to think about things that are going to be disruptive. Basically, if you're going to build something that supports a range of markets, then almost by definition, you're innovating on the technology itself or at least innovating at a fundamental level on the way it's being used. I'm thinking of things like: the smartphone, the personal computer, the web-crawling search engine, the now-standard structure of the online social network, GPS, etc. All of these are actually technological inventions in their own right. They're not just a new market, but a new technology or a fundamentally new general use of the technology that will affect markets in general, people in general, daily life in general.

The point is this: when you pay attention to the buzz in the community, most of what you'll hear and find yourself talking about is really stuff that is intimately connected with the status quo (at least technology-wise). When you read about and listen to what people are saying about technology, most of it is not about developing technology, but reacting to it, and we want to be the ones driving this reaction, rather than being the ones reacting, or even worse, the ones responding to the reaction! So, maybe we need to get away from the buzz (because it tends to kill real innovation) and move beyond it. We need to not spend so much time listening to people express amazement at how things are changing already, and work harder at making new friends who are more likely to talk about how they want to change things. It's not that most people can't innovate; rather, I believe that people ignore their stronger desires to innovate and give way to the weaker desire to copy, perhaps because the former involves greater risk? (Though I would argue it's more personal emotional risk, rather than business risk, because copying also carries its own type of financial and career risks). This scarcity of truly innovative communities is actually good in some way, because it means that the competition for building totally new technology is not as fierce as the competition for "social", "deals", "insert other buzz word here", etc. However, it's a double-edged sword, because it means we have far less of a community that supports us, and so we have to work that much harder at finding or building that community, and this is what I hope to contribute to even if incrementally. This is why I'd love to hear ideas from anyone reading this.

So, to conclude, you'll notice that most great innovators follow a maxim like Steve Jobs' famous "Stay hungry. Stay foolish". This is exactly what I'm saying here and I would argue that the massive startup is one that is marked by hunger and some level of foolishness (and please don't confuse that with an inability to calculate risks, or an inability to plan intelligently, or analyze the market, or talk to customers, etc). You have to understand what Steve Jobs meant by "foolish" here, and I think we all realize he was no fool. As for hunger, it is my strong conviction that many people are driven by money, but they're not driven enough to meet the challenge of true innovation. I believe this is because money can't get you that hungry, because we're not build to really need a whole lot of it. There is a limit to how hungry a person can be for money, but there's almost no limit to how hungry a person can be for significance. All of us need our lives to mean something, but not all of us need to have a ton of money to be happy (and the latter has actually been proven scientifically - that most of us don't).

Since few of the things you hear others talking about are foolish enough, and few of them exhibit any real, deep hunger, the conclusion then is that we must choose very carefully whom to listen to, what talks we attend and what books we read.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


DCWEEK was definitely exciting but quite hectic because I tried to go to too many events and ended up missing many of the ones that I was most interested in attending. It was quite difficult to get around from place to place throughout the week. Also, because I was blogging about a lot of the events, this took up a lot of my time and I couldn't attend everything I had planned to.

I got quite a few things out of it, and the whole week actually stirred some thoughts about innovation, which I will share in depth in my next post. For now, I wanted to take it easy and just link things I've already written on the DCWEEK blog, since I'm all "written out" for the week.

So, here are are some of the things I learned:

(1) The government is not all that slow to pick up on new technology and incorporate it into its mission! (At least not all branches of government - right?) Uncle Sam even hired his first CTO a couple of years ago! Here's an article I wrote about the environmental protection agency's (EPA's) apps for the environment program: Even mother nature is using a smartphone!
Here's a related article that my wife wrote on Crowd-sourcing the Smithsonian.

(2) I get all excited when I see/hear people pitching, because I always imagine myself pitching. To me, the pitch/presentation is the culmination of the work you do, regardless of what stage your company is in. The pitch is "what do you have to show for yourself?" It's the meat and substance of the work you've done, distilled and abreviated only to include the most important elements. Here's a run-down of a cool pitch event: In the shadows - entrepreneurs pitch their inventions and businesses over a drink.

(3) Technology for the people by the people - Impressions from DCWEEK keynotes. My wife also wrote a cool article on the keynotes: Human-centered entrepreneurship - my favorite keynote speeches of DCWEEK

(4) Just build the darn thing! (Self-explanatory)

(5) Fab Labs are an awesome concept and I can't wait till I have access to one! Here's an article I wrote about those and "the internet of things". It's titled: Let's not forget about things

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2. Before Building the Startup: Building the Entrepreneur (a book review)

Let me start with a disclaimer: I want to make it clear that this isn't going to be another one of those blogs that claim to tell you "the secrets of startup success", and certainly not "how to market your business with 5 easy steps". If it ever becomes that, you can definitely assume it was hacked - maybe then shoot me an email to let me know. However, if that's not the case, then someone will have to find me and splash me in the face with some ice-cold water.

Actually, I'm a budding entrepreneur and am more interested in learning than preaching. As I mentioned in the static pages and in my first blog post, my goal is specifically to discover general principles that might enable someone starting with a vision for massive change - though starting from scratch - to realize it by entering the market and eventually reaching the envisioned scale (and just as importantly, the envisioned breadth of applications and markets). This can be a disruptive technology, a paradigm-shifting business model, a concept that leads to major social or political change, etc. Later, we'll get into examples of things that do or don't quite make it into the "massive" category. Of course, then, the whole point will be to attempt to extract some common threads or general themes that describe the challenges characteristic of this type of thinking, and to discuss how one might overcome them.

Before going into any of this though, I feel that there are some obvious, not-much-debated prerequisites. The first is an entrepreneurial attitude, which some might argue is innate, but I would argue can be acquired (I tend to believe almost any talent/skill can be acquired with enough focused effort, at least to a level of comfort and proficiency, even if not to a level of being "world-class"). The question is as to whether or not a person wants to acquire this entrepreneurial gusto or drive or whatever cheesy name you want to give it. That desire may be innate or it may be a result of being fed up with the nine-to-five life, but it doesn't matter where it comes from. If you have that attitude and want to make sense of it, articulate it, and get inspired to convert it into action; or if you have the desire to acquire the attitude, then you might consider reading It's a Jungle in There: Inspiring Lessons, Hard-Won Insights, and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring ... by Steve Schussler.

Schussler embodies that attitude and does a great job of articulating that entrepreneurial persona in his book. He's not a tech entrepreneur and you might argue his vision wasn't "disruptive" in the usual sense of the word: it had to do with the restaurant business, and generally, I might say that disruptive innovation in the restaurant business would have to be something that ends up applying to most or all restaurants. In contrast, Schussler is an innovator and a leader particularly in the world of themed restaurants, which is a specific niche that he was passionate about and wherein he achieved impressive success. But his book doesn't need to speak of global paradigm-shifts for you to read it. It speaks of something much more basic than that: what it means to be an entrepreneur at all, which is even more fundamental. Having that entrepreneur persona is a huge part of being a tech innovator for example, and many of the principles Schussler discusses would have direct parallels for the technologist. They are definitely an essential and foremost piece of the puzzle. In fact, some of the traits and attitudes he emphasizes are especially needed for disruptive innovation, even more than they might be for niche areas. In other words, you might be able to get away with missing some of these if you want to be an entrepreneur, but you got to have them all if you want to be a true innovator. So, you might say they're the essential first ingredients to massiveness.

Here is a review I wrote not too long ago:
"An easy and enjoyable read about what it means to be an entrepreneur. Steven Schussler is an 'over-the-top entrepreneur', and it's worth the read just for his stories, but also for the useful insight these stories communicate. A lot of it is common sense, but the importance of some of these elements can be easily missed - so it serves to highlight how critical they are, and does so by example. Most of all, it's great to be able to identify with the entrepreneurial and creative bent of the author, and realize you're not alone and that others who have set their minds to achieving their creative endeavors have experienced great success!"
Ultimately, the message is about being creative, taking pride in that creativity, but just as importantly, putting that creativity into action. It's also about people and how valuing others results in actualizing the value they bring to your own success. What I got out of it personally was a sense of identification: I'm not alone or in any way strange in my nagging need to exercise creativity in my work, or in my need to do work that is vision-driven, not merely task-driven. I felt that some of what he was proposing already gelled with the way I thought about the world, such as an incessant search for problems to solve. Some other elements of the book gave me some areas to ponder: how can I be more resourceful? Seriously - this is a resourceful guy if there ever was any - comically resourceful! Or how can I more actively show appreciation for the people I'm working with - or even just the people in my life? It's easy to feel appreciation, but it takes some active effort to show it.

The author goes into all the different ingredients, and I wouldn't even call them ingredients for a successful venture. Rather, I'd say they're the ingredients for a successful entrepreneur. One of these is definitely worth mentioning though: dedication and perseverance. This is one of those things that may seem blatantly obvious. Sure, it's obvious and it's easy for us to talk about, but it's all very much easier said than done! And when you see how a real person dealt with real challenges with this indomitable determination and steadfastness, these ideas comes to life and become easier to internalize. It certainly helps place the small rejections into perspective in view of the bigger picture of long-term significance and value.

Interestingly, quite a few ingredients Schussler made sure to highlight in his entrepreneurial journey seem to be universal, and they apply as much or possibly more to tech innovation. Two things particularly come to mind. The first is to show rather than tell: build a prototype, perhaps even a paper prototype. In Schussler's case though, this seems to have been the first key to his success. Boy, did this guy go all out in the prototype phase! And for him, it certainly paid off. When you read the story, you'll see why it couldn't have worked any other way. The second thing is the need to do solid research to understand your customer and your market, a major theme in the Lean Startup methodology and the Customer Development approach, though in Schussler's case, the research that needs to be done for some of these concepts can't be exactly "lean".

Well, I certainly don't want to ruin it for you. It's worth a read just for the stories alone. So, if you want to be entertained with a quick and easy read, and at the same time ponder your own entrepreneurial journey, pick up a copy. Those of you who've read it: what do you think?