Dear my five friends I’ve paid to read this thing (a necessity given my fragile ego and a massive list of insecurities).
Here is an update of what I’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks. Granted part of me wants to post a detailed account of what has been happening. I won’t be doing this because I’ll forget something and keep fussing about what I forgot PLUS doing so would take way too long. So instead, here is a summary.
When it comes to the things that I’ve experienced I’ve had in the last two weeks there are a smattering of learnings. Some of which are:
- If you don’t like homeless people, don’t come to San Francisco
- If you don’t have a lot of money, avoid San Francisco
- If you can, go to Stanford University, it’s an amazing place
- If you have an idea and the balls to follow through, come to SF
For program specific learnings, given how deeply I’ve been diving into the startup world for the last 18 months, many of the concepts were not new to me. The biggest learnings were the importance of persistence, social currency (or the respect entailed with vouching for someone), and that the person behind the idea is more important than the idea.
Those two things especially, persistence and people, are the standout learnings. You can have a great idea but if you don’t stick it out and make people aware, show them the benefits, work through the inevitable problems you’ll encounter… The idea isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
This concept was reflected in the people, people are much happier to share and help progress ideas in SF then they are back home. Granted this is the epicentre of progressing ideas at light speed, you genuinely get inspired by the people around you. Everyone wants to hear and help progress whatever project you might be working on (everyone also knows how hard it is to be successful). Hence it’s up to you to keep going and make something happen (persistence of the person).
What I thought I was going to do versus what I did do.
When I left home, I was thinking I would blog every day, build up a following while sharing my experiences. But in SF certain things are legal and when in Rome… do as the Romans do. This should explain the absence of my words.
What I wanted to do was a mock skit of the entire tech-entrepreneurial journey, dramatising the already dramatic stories which have been told to us through media content. You know what I’m on about. Guy comes up with something, takes it to Silicon Valley, performs the perfect pitch, gets funding, the business it takes off, sells out for a billion dollars, a drug addiction follows, he manages to get over it, recover and discovers the real meaning of life, writes a book, gives back to the community… you know the whole cycle – in two weeks. Along the way throwing in as many buzzwords and hashtags as possible (#startups, #entrepreneurialism, #entrepreneurship, #hustle, #grind, #hack, #stack, #slack, #silo, #solo, #hackathon).
This, of course, did not happen. What did happen is that I learned some stuff, spend time with good people, met some epic mentors and made connections in the place where VC funding is most famous. Good outcome either way. Many memories have been made.
The idea and what happened with it.
The original idea I came to San Francisco with was called Happy Hackers (it was a working title). The idea was to gamify hackathons (compressed problem solving/prototyping sessions originating in the world of programming). So that corporates could easily throw such events and the platform would be a link which facilitated bringing outsourced teams into organizations. Actively growing the concept of ‘future work’ in which outsourced teams are leveraged to solve internal problems. This idea would speed up how effectively that could be done.
Problem is… it doesn’t really solve a problem. Sure it’s clever, it's nice, in a way it’s pretty cool. But really… does it solve a problem? how does it scale? how does it make money? After much Roman reflection, I established that it wasn’t an idea worth following. At which point I started shitting myself. (Additional learning: if you have an idea, make sure it solves an actual problem).
Look at the scenario... This was the opportunity of a lifetime and I’ve shown up without a valid idea, this was about Tuesday or Wednesday into the program (the two-week exchange as part of completing my uni degree). The following Friday I had to stand up and pitch something.
To cut the story shorter this is what I did: I went back to what I know and what I believe in. Supply Chain Visibility. Something I have wanted to see happen for years and still haven’t been able to crack it. Ever since I was working in a warehouse (and even before that) and saw the entire history of a pallet in the Paperless system, through to the visibility in my Dock Manager program, and eventually the attempt to create visibility with Transit Key. All arrows pointed to SCV and this time I wanted to crack it.
Of course, the only thing holding me back was that after seven+ years of trying I still hadn’t figured it out… and I now had even less time to play with. Plus this brought back the realization that business models are not my strong suit – I love ideas, I like finding ways to pitch them, I like knowing how they work, but how they make money... different conversation.
The point is: the pressure was on.
Luckily, pressure seems to work well for me because I came up with something.
Introducing Outcome. The monetized information platform. You see the whole time I’ve been trying to get people to conform to my standardized processes when in fact… that’s impossible. There are so many layers and systems and people that creating one universal supply chain system is by all accounts impossible. But what I hadn’t thought of previously was the following:
Rather than try to get people to conform to my process, why not incentivise people to provide quality data at their own will – the hook: you can make money from your data.
This seemingly insane idea was what I chose to go with, keeping in mind that I only really get motivated by ridiculous ideas. Also because I was out of time and needed to pitch something.
The nice part though is that as time went on, I actually started to realize the potential here. This idea has legs.
(Applied learning: if you have a problem, make sure your solution can make money).
This crazy idea (video to follow) is what I pitched last Friday, it went well, well enough to award me as one of the winners (out of 18 presentations). Whether it was down to my showmanship, the merit of the idea, the payment I made to the judges? (kidding of course). I genuinely believe in Outcome and I want to lean in, give this a shot.
Next steps for Outcome: build the MVP, the pitch deck, find my cofounders, get funding, give this thing a red-hot crack.
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