Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Monoprice is killing and so can you!


Bad luck Brian meme - bought a $100 hdmi cable loves the improved picture
This is an open love letter to Monoprice.com.  I love Monoprice.com and I'm proud to tell everyone.

It's also no secret that I love Amazon, but that is a blog post for another time.

Monoprice does something that any tech nerd like me would love - they offer tech knickknacks at rock-bottom prices. In fact, I first heard about Monoprice from a contractor who I was going to hire to hang my TV above my fireplace. He had asked me if I had a bracket to mount the TV. I said no, I've been shopping around but I have not found the one I want yet. He recommended that I should definitely check out Monoprice because they have a solid selection and the lowest prices. I was a little curious at first because the name sounds a little too techie. I was blown away by what I found, and I have been a loyal shopper there ever since.

Buzz feed just today posted an article about how Monoprice first got its start. The CEO started wholesaling direct consumer HDMI cables. The thing about HDMI cables is that they are data cables. They transfer ones and zeros from your TV to your source and back. This is very different from the previous generation of cables that were analog and transferred a signal that could be degraded by a crappy cable. This does not happen with digital cables because as long as the ones and zeros get to where they need to go, the quality will be the same no matter how much you pay for your little cable.

Best Buy, who I have an unending hate for, was fleecing people on HDMI cables. Their Monster brand of cables were great. once upon a time when I worked there. when they offered high-quality heavy gauge video cables for component and composite setups. The colors were never washed out and you could count on getting the best signal from your source to your TV. When the digital age rolled around and HDMI set the scene, their primary value proposition evaporated overnight. As mentioned above why would you pay for expensive cable that did the same thing as a cheap cable? I'm sure there are some people out there who were duped by Best Buy associates based on the claims that Monster brand continued to make on this new technology.

Monoprice hit the scene with HDMI cables of every color and length possible at a fraction of the cost. No longer retailers pulling a fast one on consumers. Unless there was some sort of HDMI emergency, there was no need to go to Best Buy or target and spend $30 or $40 on the exact same cable that you can get from Monoprice in the mail in three days for two dollars. And it would be a pretty blue or green to boot.

At this point, you're probably asking me what Monoprice and this HDMI story has to do with this startup blog. If you have not figured it out already, Monoprice saw an opportunity to solve a problem. They solved the problem so well, they are putting the hurt on brick and mortars and continue to kick ass.

Just this month, they announced they were going to self brand an IPS monitor. When I saw this in my inbox, it definitely gave me a double take. This sort of monitor is definitely new-ish technology, in-plane switching (IPS) monitors are used by graphic artists and rich kids with too much money and too many video games. Monoprice has transitioned from undercutting brick and mortars on accessories to undercutting them on the sort of products that keep the brick and mortar doors open. If Best Buy's margin disappears, Best Buy disappears.

The moral the story, Monoprice started as a warehouse full of HDMI cables. Humble beginnings. If you solve your own problem well enough, your humble beginnings may turn out to be the next Monoprice.com.

Best of luck.

References:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/how-monoprice-is-eating-the-tech-world-from-the-in

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

No money for development? Try reverse incubation!

The Most Interesting Man In The World - i dont always create startups but when i do i have someone else code it
Development is not cheap. Correction: quality development is not cheap. If you believe you have a startup idea that's really worth funding or building, but you don't have the funds, there may be an answer for you.

If you've been in the startup space for a bit, I'm sure you've come across the term "incubator." If you're not familiar with this model, you should look into how it works. In a nutshell, an organization will seed a bunch of fledgling ideas and developers to offer them assistance with building the business and help them get off the ground. I once heard it described as an MBA program for startups; it's expensive, you learn a little bit, but the most important thing are the connections that you make while there. I'm not saying that they are all evil. I'm sure they're very helpful to a small margin of startups. After all, it doesn't hurt to know the people who could eventually find your startup one day, right?

These big incubators, or even the small ones, make money by getting that home run start up to be funded perhaps 2% of the time. That means that 49 out of 50 startups collapse, but the VCs of the incubator are able to get in on the ground floor for an idea that will turn out to be extremely lucrative.

The thing about many of these incubators is that they give you a small amount of money to develop your startup, literally coding yourself while eating ramen noodles out of your apartment or their loaner office. If you saw the movie The Social Network, Zuckerberg and team did this out of their rental California home. (PS, it was a lot more work than they make it seem on TV.)

Problems arise with this type of model. What if you don't know how to code? What if you don't want to eat Ramen noodles? What if you have a day job, bills, and live in the real world? There is still a way to get your software built.

Enter Reverse Incubation. Instead of you maintaining your own software and sharing a large portion of initial equity with the incubator for a ridiculous sum, we can build it for you. You can have your software built while maintaining ownership of the platform and control the company. The best part is we can do it for little to no start up revenue, depending on the size of the effort.

Make no mistake, this is an equity sharing model just like regular incubation.  Based on the initial valuation or perceived valuation in the short term, we can provide you with CTO-level services and project management for an extended period of time.

Something especially interesting happens with this model. There is extra incentive for us to do the best job possible since we are financially obligated to you, instead of the other way around. We have a  literal vested interest in ensuring that your startup succeeds. It's not just a small amount of seed funding that is on the line, it is our time, effort and reputation.

Curious? You can contact me through this blog, leave a comment, or contact me through iScripts.com.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Solutions are Startups


Futurama Fry - Not sure if dumb idea for startup or the most freaking genius idea ever
Solutions are startups. If you have a solution for problem that a segment of the Internet population is experiencing, you have a great idea for startup. Every startup that has ever existed has been a solution to one problem or another. This is kind of a fun game I like to play, actually. Think about any website and then try to name the problem that it solved.

EBay solved the problem of people needing a place to conduct safe, private party transactions.

Facebook solved the problem of MySpace being clogged with spam (get your free iPhone now!)

Groupon solved the problem of empty spas and sushi going bad.

I kid Groupon and Facebook, but the idea has merit. iScripts.com did over 200 individual software projects last year and almost all them solve a problem of some shape. Just off the top of my head, I had a client who created a marketplace for ordering entire crops of farmers produce, another who is creating a marketplace for their local area to support local commerce, and another who wants to set up a marketplace to trade sports jerseys and shoes.  Each of these marketplaces solve a problem that has commercial value to those who need a solution.

The moral of the story here is that if you can quickly identify what the core problem is that you solve, you can better target the market who has that specific problem... and then market to them.


I don't want to end the blog post on a bad note, but if you want to start your own website and you cannot answer this question, you may be in trouble already. I meet people all the time who want to start a social network or a dating website, but they do not have a focus for who they are trying to market to or what problem they are trying to solve with their start up. I never discourage them, because you never can tell where lightning will strike next, but if one tries to start a generic social network they are essentially dooming themselves to compete directly with Facebook. Is it possible to do so? Absolutely. But you better have really deep pockets if you want to play in that league.

To take a minute, think about what problem you're solving and that help you to determine your niche market and your path to success.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

iScripts Reviews


Good Guy Greg - Thinks your software is a good fit for his startup tries the demo before he buys just to make sure
The title this post is called iScripts reviews because I want to take a moment to address some of the reviews that we've gotten from across the Internet. Honestly, I don't think that they are quite a big deal (1000s of software sold and 10 bad reviews? You can't please everyone all the time, right?), but every bad review deserves a response.

iScripts.com makes great software. Our software is mature, it has gone through several iterations, and I'm very proud of it. I'm not ashamed to say that we sell quite a few copies of each of our software offerings every month. We've been selling so many recently however, that a few negative reviews have popped up about our company.

Firstly, I would say that the most common complaint we get is regarding the 30 day money-back guarantee.  We are happy to provide you with the software for 30 days to try it out on your own server. Since we are installing our software onto your server environment, we cannot tell exactly how our software will behave. Therefore, we are happy to refund your money in full just for giving us the chance to be your solution, even if it doesn't work out with your server plan.

One thing that people do not realize is that the refund is not come instantly. Since our software is completely 100% open source, you must agree to no longer use the software and delete in full from your server in order to receive the refund. After all, you can't return any product back to a retail store without giving them the actual product back, right? In the past, we have had people who have demanded a refund while still using our software on their server. To prevent this from happening, we have put this agreement in place.

Secondly, we have a lot of complaints about not being able to install the software. I'm happy to come right out and say it, we want you to use our software. iScripts.com thrives when we have many working software versions out there, all making money on their own. If you have problems installing software, please feel free to contact us and we will help you install it for free.

Lastly, some former customers have complained that her software is of poor quality. As I said above, our software is of the highest quality. iScripts.com was founded in 2003 and some of our initial releases are still popular today. Tens of thousands of development hours have gone into our products. Although our software was built for general audience in mind, many startups have used this product as their springboard to future success. They've used our software as their first stepping stone and have either customized software to be a perfect solution for their market or they have grown up to more sophisticated and costly software. Either way we are happy to support our solution unconditionally for one year with its basic purchase.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us and let us tell you in person how proud we are all products.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My life without the internet


willywonka - Please, Jon, Write another blog post about how much you love the internet
A thought occurred to me today. I guess it's a little cliché, but truly what would I do without the Internet?

I'm employed by PHP development house that obviously could not exist without the Internet. I buy and sell things on a variety of websites including Amazon.com, eBay, Zappos.com, as well as a variety of  brick-and-mortar establishment websites. I manage my money on mint.com. All these things in my eyes are integral parts of my life.  I cannot imagine living without the tool that is the Internet.

I know that life existed before the Internet of course, but if I had to give up the interconnectedness that allows me to be a better consumer, a better father, and a better overall person - I don't think I could.

Now this is the part of the blog where I say how great social media is, but this is only a very small part of how I use the Internet. Aside from this blog, my Facebook profile and other social networks have very limited functionality when it comes to the entire scope of the Internet. It's really not all that useful to me. It's kind of just a time waster.

So the question of the day: can you imagine your own life without the Internet?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stop your project from coming off the rails... before it starts


Success Kid - huge development project from client finishes on time and within budget
We live in a global economy. While many people try very hard to locally source the things that they buy, nearly everything that is purchased comes from another country. Our clothing and shoes are designed in one place and produced in another. Our produce is grown south of the equator. And the cars that we drive to and from work every day are often the collaborations of more than one automaker.

How does this benefit your startup? You can take advantage of offshore programmers that can code PHP as well as any seasoned veteran in country. The thing that many people do not realize about programming is that what it is an American on the keyboard typing the lines of code or an Indian national, both can achieve the same results.

Right about now I'm sure there are lots of alarms going off in your head. But Jon, you say, what about communicating with them? What if they don't understand me?

As with any employee, the key to working with a programmer is communication. If they do not understand you they will never build what you want them to build. This goes for Americans, Canadians, Russians, Indians - you name it. If you can safely assume that the programmer will understand you, the next question that arises is, "if there are two programmers of equal skill, why should I hire the more expensive one?"

I've heard many answers to this question, but none of them made sense. One person told me that he wanted to speak to his programmers during daylight hours. Another told me that he wanted to be able to look over his programmers shoulder as he was coding. I just laughed at that last one. I have never met a programmer who would allow any of his clients to give him up-to-the-minute direction on his efforts. Does the auto mechanic let you look over your shoulder as he works on your engine? I seriously doubt that.

As with any project, whether you're building a new bathroom, having your car worked on, or building website, everything hinges on the project manager. If you have a good project manager, he will take responsibility for making sure that your project is exactly as you asked for it. It is his job to manage the resources who are creating the project and deliver a finished project. At iScripts.com, I am one of those people. My job is to take the request whether verbally or written or scribbled on a napkin and turn that into a startup.This is the benefit of working with iScripts.com, we are a hybrid company. US project management with technical experts in southern India.

Of course I wasn't always as good at this as I am now. There was an entire learning period that anyone goes through whenever they are new to something. This is called the learning curve and the learning curve for creating startups is sharp. If there is an error, someone has to pay for it whether it's the client, the business, or the poor guy who has to stay up late coding it the day before the deadline.

In summary, clear communication to the person who is developing your website will get you exactly what you asked for, and if you are specific enough with your requests you can take advantage of reduced development rate from an offshore developer.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Start a business while keeping your job


Business Cat - launching new startup four of nine lives gone after hiring wrong developer to code site
I saw a five hour energy commercial yesterday that said that if only you took five hour energy, you would have more time and energy for self-improvement. At first I was intrigued, but then I thought about it a little bit further. Does this five hour energy thing create five more hours a day? A 29 hour day? Craziness!

This is not the first post in which I will say that starting a new venture will take a lot of time, nor will it be the last. There are lots of good intentioned people who start businesses, especially Internet startups, and let them waste into nothing because they simply don't have the time during the day to give it the proper amount of attention. Life gets in the way.

This brings me to the main point, which is if you have a day job and you need to spend 40 hours a week earning a paycheck, it will be extremely difficult for you to run a business successfully. I don't know about you, but I'm very crabby if I do not get my eight hours of sleep every night. On a weekday this leaves exactly 8 hours to take care of my son, drive to work and back, speak to my significant other about her day, eat breakfast and dinner, and maybe watch a little TV if I can. This doesn't leave a whole lot of time for doing all the things that a business owner would need to do.

I've read a few business books about being an entrepreneur. A lot of them address this problem with a solution that you should quit your job if you want to start a business. I don't know about you, but not all of us have that sort of liquidity or flexibility to do so.

So what's my solution? It's almost exactly like blogging, actually. Just do a little bit everyday. Give it 15 minutes during the days you have to be at work, and an hour on your day off. Keeping the momentum up will allow you to make small progress until you feel comfortable or getting the sort of revenue that you need to go out on your own...