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New home and a new start

I’ve been struggling with what to call my startup for a couple months now. Because I wanted to get started right away I went ahead and picked a name that I thought would be temporary and applied for some free space on WordPress.com to get the blog started.

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent trying to land the perfect name for my business. I’ve actually come up with several really great ones. However, everything I’ve come up with was already snagged as a web domain name. This has been going on for two months now and the last thing I want to do is let my lack of ability in picking my business name to derail this project before it even gets started.

I was lamenting my slow start a few nights ago when my wife suggested I use the temporary name and “Just get started”. I actually like the name of Philbert. It has a a nice ring to it in my opinion and also has some historical significance from my childhood. So, I have taken Lydia’s advice. I bought the domain philbertdev.com installed WordPress and migrated this blog to the new location. From now on I’ll be posting there.

Talk to you soon…

Information Overload and Stagnation

There is SO MUCH information available on the internet related to business, startups and micro-ISVs. It’s almost too much. I’ve been reading all I can get my hands on and the more I read the more overwhelmed and discouraged I get! My perfectionist nature and fear of making mistakes makes me feel that I need to research every little detail and get everything exactly right or this new business isn’t going to work out. Which, when I step back and really think about it is of course … nonsense. I’m learning quickly that embarking on this adventure in business is going to teach me much more than just the ins and outs of internet and software entrepreneurship.

I can see that I am going to have to really careful of letting my fear of mistakes or doing something wrong prevent me from moving forward. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that “Just getting started” is one of the biggest obstacles to business success. I would propose the second, and equally obvious, obstacle is keeping our fear of mistakes in check and keeping that momentum moving forward.

In addition to this fear of doing something wrong I also have a tendency to over engineer everything I do and design a process to keep things neat, organized, and on track. While this certainly does have its advantages, it also can become the object of all my efforts rather than focusing on the task I’m trying to accomplish. I read a great blog post a couple days ago that deals with this very situation. It was written by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits on his new blog mnmlist.com. In it he discusses the pitfalls of overcomplicating our tasks and endeavors. Leo’s advice – “When you start something new, sure, there’s a learning process. But also realize that while the learning is good, the doing doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Find the simplest way to do things, and just start doing it. You’ll learn by doing.”.

I’ve taken this advice to heart and am going to strive to stay focused and get this ‘party’ started.

Changing Gears

Well, it looks like my plans have changed already. I’ll be postponing my dive into iPhone development for a few months. I really don’t want to stop this new venture before it even gets started so in the mean time I’ve got a few things I’ll be working on to keep myself motivated and on task.

First, I’ll be continuing to work on this blog/website and posting as new developments come along. I also need to decide on a name for this side business (I’ll post about that soon), there is a lot of development infrastructure I need to get worked out and in place starting with source control and issue tracking. The biggest change is that I will start developing an application for Microsoft Windows instead of the iPhone.

I can hear it now … “What?! If you have time to develop a Windows application why aren’t you sticking with the iPhone development plans?!” Well the answer is simple: I don’t own a Mac yet and I don’t want to go into debt for one. Plus I already have the development tools and hardware I need for Windows development.

The reasoning behind this decision is is way off topic but I might as well share the details. For the last year and a half it has been my goal to become completely debt free (except for the mortgage, which will come later). I have nearly attained that objective and can’t tell you how liberating it feels to not owe anyone anything! The catalyst for this desire to be debt free was the constant stress related to money: living paycheck to paycheck, worrying about timing of my paychecks so I could pay the bills, saving for fun and retirement, etc.

There have been two key items that have helped me along the way. The first is reading and applying the principles in Dave Ramsey’s book, “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness”. The second is switching the software I use for managing my finances to YNAB Pro from the recent startup You Need a Budget. If you want more information related to living debt free YNAB offers a free online course called YNAB University. Dave Ramsey also evangelizes his principles through his daily radio talk show, classes, and live events.

These two things along with the determination to stick to ‘the plan’ have made this goal to be debt free possible. Trading the feeling of financial freedom for more debt or a big hit to my savings just isn’t worth it right now.

As soon as I have the money in hand for the Mac hardware and tools I’ll switch back to the original iPhone development plan. Till then there is still more to learn and accomplish.

Lesson One

Well that didn’t take long. I already have a lesson to share. This is one is pretty embarrassing actually.

When you create a blog – someone will read it. Duh.

In my case much sooner than I thought! I felt it was important to get started on this new venture as soon as possible and starting the blog seemed like the first logical step. I wanted to start quickly before some excuse got in the way of starting. I have a history of grand ideas that never quite make it off the page and I really don’t want this to be one of those casualties.

As you can imagine there are still lots of unknowns right now. One of which is what will I call my company and what my web domain will be. I didn’t want to let that stop me from getting started so I threw together a quick website and blog using WordPress and started pulling together some content. During the setup I missed the checkbox that keeps the blog private while I started adding my content. The day after I had made my first post I already had a comment and subscriber!

Here is the kicker, the commenter and subscriber was none other than Peldi that I blogged about in my last post. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, life sure can be unexpected. With this new phase of my life underway I should be prepared for a whole heap of ‘unexpected’.

So to you Peldi, thanks so much for commenting and for the encouragement.

At some point in the near future I’ll get my name and domain nailed down and get this blog into its final location and url.

Inspiration

I mentioned in my last post that I have watched as many have started their own software development venture. One individual I have watched with great interest is Peldi Guilizzoni of Balsamiq Studios LLC. Peldi has created an amazing tool for quickly creating mockups and wireframes to model software interfaces and iterate quickly to find the best design. I love this tool and use it often in my work. I’ll save a more indepth review for a later post. What inspires me most about Peldi is the way he has chosen to run his business.

All along the way Peldi has been open and upfront about his goals for balsamiq and how he has done in attaining those goals. He has provided this window into balsamiq through frequent postings to his blog about his process, Micro-ISV experiences, and financial details. I’ve been impressed with how willing he has been to donate their software to “… non-profits, charitable organizations and other do-gooders”. I like that. I also like the lifetime access to product upgrades.

My intention with Philbert is to do many of the same things. Blog about my experiences, treat my customers (and every one else) as best I can. And on the subject of finances I also intend to be open with my financial data and I also intend to donate a significant portion of my earnings to charity. The exact percentage is yet to be determined by my goal is around 20%.

It starts now…

February 14, 2010 2 comments

For most of the 15 years I’ve been a software developer it has been my dream to strike out on my own and unleash the creative entrepreneurial energy I’ve kept locked inside. I watched and read with interest as the concept of the Micro-ISV made its way around the blogosphere. Many great product ideas have come and gone over that time.  Sadly all I have actually done is watch as others have spread their entrepreneurial wings while I’ve stayed warm and safe in my nest.

Recently I received an iPod touch as a gift. I’m in love. I am constantly amazed at the flexibility and usefulness of this little device. Using it on a daily basis has inspired me once again to try my hand at software development on my own time. For now I have no plans on quitting my day job but I am inspired by just how far this little enterprise could take me.

The bulk of my development experience revolves around developing desktop applications for the Microsoft Windows operating system. I did create one very small application for Mac OS X a few years ago and I’ve dabbled in web development, but my expertise and comfort zone are in windows application development. Pursuing a sideline business developing applications for the iPhone & iPod touch will provide unending opportunities for growth and learning. I envision this blog as a way to document all the new adventures, hurdles, and triumphs I encounter as I enter this new world of entrepreneurship, Mac computers and development, and starting my own Micro-ISV. Since this isn’t a completely new area for me I hope to share some of the knowledge I already have of interaction design and software development too. It is also my hope that as you follow along you can learn along with me or share some of your own lessons learned. If you have been thinking of taking the plunge as I have hopefully you too will take courage and begin an enterprise of your own.