Working on Apple Blossom

This morning I got up early and scrounged around for some paper and a sharpie. I had some ideas about the Apple Blossom layout I’d been thinking of. See this earlier post on the company blog about a weekly lesson plan.

The lesson planner is just one screen, but it’s fairly easy one to understand. It’s also likely to be the most used and complex feature.

Shortly after I got started, my son woke up. “Mommy, Daddy…I’m ready to get up” called Harmon. (This is right about 6:00am). He came out and joined me on the couch and mom put on “Mighty Machines” for him. “I want a snack” he says, and mom handled that as well.

Before long his little sister was up too. She crawled on the couch next to me.

“A…A” she said. (All letters are “A” to Sammy.) I was entering big letters on the mockup.

“I want to watch Monster Trucks” said Harmon.

Eventually I moved to the table, but Sammy kept bringing me books and wanting to sit on my lap. I’d read her a page or two before she’d climb down to go get another book.

“Come play cars with me” called Harmon.

Finally, I got done and played cars and we watched monster trucks on Daddy’s little computer. I skipped breakfast, but Kelsey got me a croissant and apple to go.

Here’s the initial mockup. Thanks to Balsamiq Mockups!

Along with the Lesson Plan mockup, I created a feature list this morning (this was the part where Sammy wanted me to read to her).

See the detailed feature list on the Apple Blossom Blog

And thanks to Sammy, Harmon, and Kelsey for being so understanding and patient with daddy.

Thoughts on the Seattle Startup Scene

Here’s a  few *cough* thoughts I’ve had on startups, sparked by posts on Geekwire, and originally posted as comments there.

Why Seattle needs to create the next Zynga or Facebook

But Facebook & Zynga are opening offices in Seattle. Maybe we’re the South Bay’s sweatshop in the same time zone?

I’ve seen other people complain that Seattle is full of me-too clones. I haven’t seen that really except Zillow/Redfin/Estately which are all local (with Trulia being the Bay’s contender that’s doing pretty good by working with Realtors instead of against them.) But maybe it’s my lack of exposure to the phenomenon.

Now we’ve got an article calling for just that.

There will be a next Facebook, unless Facebook succeed in subsuming the internet where AOL failed. But it won’t be a Facebook clone. Just like Facebook started out as a hot-or-not clone/dorm directory, not a MySpace clone.

Zynga has a billion dollars but nothing but a bunch of Farmville clone acquisitions to show for it. They’ll need to do something with that money to matter. Not to say that they can’t. By scaling the way they have, they’ve got an infrastructure to compete. And that’s there similarity to Facebook. And Google. And Amazon. And YouTube & Twitter & etc.

It looks like it turns out that the really important lesson a company needs to learn is how to massively scale. That’s what investors are rewarding anyway. Of course, there’s the chicken and egg issue that unless you develop a phenomenally successful app, you’ll never learn how to scale.

But it’s the scalability that’s being rewarded, even if it’s being rewarded for the wrong reasons (i.e., investors think you can develop another mega-hit) but it’s irrelevant, because once you have the money, if you’ve got the scale, you can buy the up and coming hits.

It’s the Microsoft strategy, the Oracle strategy, the Google strategy, and the Zynga strategy. It’s companies that have figured out how to scale that are given the money to buy. They’re acting as a gateway for Venture capital, which in part explains both the high valuations, and the new acquisition-targeted exit strategy.

There are two local companies that come to mind that have found a way to scale in a smaller er… scale. Big Fish Games & Cheezburger Networks. Contrary to popular perceptions, they’re not Casual Gaming and Joke Site companies. They’re a subscription based download company and a advertising delivery company. And they’re experts in their field, and they know how to scale.

That’s why Cheezburger is sucking up all the local venture money. Because VCs have decided they know how to pick winners (in fact, Ben Huh is an advertising guy who bought LOLCats to sell ads.) I’d expect Cheezburger to expand from delivering media, to delivering ads on other people’s media. And that puts them in direct competition with Google.

Big Fish Games has had a hard time figuring out micropayments and social networks. Their Farmville name-shift FaunaSphere crashed and burned in part because of this (and in part because it was a weird game that no one was into, even though it had a lot more polish and gameplay than Farmville.) While there may still be a place for downloadable (& flash) subscription games, their foray was crushed between Blizzard and Zynga. (Midrange MMORGs seems to be a difficult segment — whatever happened to Evony, etc?)

Still, there are areas that I’d look for clones, though really more like giant killers. Craigslist and Ebay are ripe for beanstalks (as are Netflix and Paypal.) And I’d even venture to say Amazon could go on this list. But they’re all (except Netflix) sticky networks that have even more crowd advantage than Facebook.

Find an area that doesn’t have a clear market leader like surprisingly even at this date, shopping carts. Or find a market that can be split into services & data, like real estate (or another that I’m interested in, job search.) Or create a market with a new idea.

Personally, I’d rather create a new market, but that’s a lot harder.

RE: Andy Sack on startups, TechStars and the promise of Seattle’s tech scene

I think a big problem is that the “money” in Seattle is in a few big (particularly one) potential competitors to startups. That’s not the case in NY or SF (plus, they have two word city names that are more easily abbreviated.)

Microsoft has it’s own startup incubation environment that, like the company, is a culture unto itself. And we’ve seen great companies come out of that: Expedia, Zillow, etc.

Then you have the ex-Microsofties which are another group, usually experience people with options or bootstrapping from their day job. Picnik comes to mind as a good example.

And then there’s everyone else. Real & Amazon are big early internet success stories which have their own spin offs, but like Microsoft they’re liable to look at new startups as competitors.

McCaw started Clear(Wire), Paul Allen has Vulcan, there’s Madrona, and then we’ve got some satellite offices from the Bay. Other than that, there’s not a lot of money in the area.

Unlike New York, where there’s a lot of finance & media money that can be spent on ventures that are not seen as competitive, or the Bay Area which not only has Sand Hill Row but a more diversified economy.

My TODO list

I’ve started a new project:

Apple Blossom pre-school and home school curriculum software.

  1. Register Domain
  2. Set up DNS & hosting
  3. Email  setup
    Google Apps
  4. Logo design
    Contest at 99designs
  5. Home page with email registration
  6. Blog & Social Media
  7. Market Research
    Big Players
    Focused Players
  8. Adwords Campaign
  9. Sample Curriculum
  10. Feature mockup
  11. Outreach
    curriculum writers
    home school & preschool organizations
  12. Business Plan
  13. Development Plan
  14. Marketing Plan
  15. Content Creator / Writer
  16. Web App
    MVP scoping
    develop iteration 1
    make it pretty
  17. Mobile App
  18. Beta program
  19. Go Live
  20. Feedback & analysis
  21. Plan iteration 2

I’ve also got to brush up last years project Resumelink

  1. Fix registration notifications
  2. Manually process about 100 new registrations since February 1
    Mechanical Turk
  3. Profile editing
  4. Resume Update
  5. Search engine view
  6. Comments & Referrals
  7. Import resume feed
  8. Facebook App
  9. Automatic resume conversion
    Windows server & automation
  10. Find HR / Recruiting / Resume Writer partner for Social Media position

Then there’s my QA consulting at One Shore:

  1. New website
    content areas
    general layout wireframes
  2. Web site redesign
    find designer
  3. Website framework
    choose MVC or CMS (WordPress)
  4. News feed
  5. Blog Feed
  6. Write copy for website
  7. set up CRM for leads and clients
  8. Write blog content
    HP Quality Center / Junit integration
  9. Develop Test Management tool
  10. QA Site product
  11. Write & submit articles
  12. QA networking

And Salescall is still on the back burner

  1. Finish mobile mockup
  2. Develop Web UI
  3. Develop APIs
  4. Implement Salesforce or SugarCRM integration
  5. Skype feature
  6. Google Voice
  7. Transcription
  8. Iphone App
  9. Android App
  10. Marketing

A brief history of Unix

1969 Initially developed as a subset of MULTICS, developed on a PDP-6 at Bell Labs
1970 Officially named “unix” and ported to run on PDP-11
1971 First edition of the “UNIX Programmer’s Manual” is published
1972-1973 Unix is rewritten mostly in C
1974 First PDP-11 with unix installed at Berkeley
1975 Unix Version 5 is released
1976 Lion’s Commentary, with source code is published
1977-1978 Initial release of BSD unix by Bill Joy
1978 Unix/V32 released for DEC VAX
1979 2BSD released with vi and c-shell
1980 Microsoft announces Xenix
1982 Unix System III is licensed for commercial use, Sun Unix is released, Xenix is ported to Intel 8086 by SCO.
1983 US govt settles antitrust with AT&T, Unix System V is released by AT&T, Sun Unix becomes SunOS, the Free Software Foundation is formed