Life of FBi | Non-Tech Start-up Founder

Looks like a Chinaman, Sounds like an Aussie, Utterly Confusing

Posts Tagged ‘Mass-Customization

what #leanstartup means to me

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having spent most of the past 15 startup months not being lean, when i was introduced to the #leanstartup philosophy by friend, mentor and blank label advisor, dan marques, my entire view of the world changed. dan first introduced me to 37 signal‘s getting real: the smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application, and i was later referred to eric ries‘s startup blog . i used to think that bootstrapping was the most undertaught startup lesson, but i now realize it’s the ability to be lean that will make or break a startup in it’s infancy.

my interpretation of a lean startup philosophy is the ability to identify and differentiate, both strategically and tactically, what is essentially important and what can be deferred to later. one of the most underrated milestones in a startup is the ability to launch. it’s obviously on the mind of all startups, but it should be driving every decision pre-launch. is this task going to help us launch, or is it merely a distraction, and can we do it later? eric ries has this minimum viable product stipulation that helps determine this: the mvp = version of new product which allows startup to collect maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. another way i look at it, within the various components of the startup, what are the 20% effort – 80% reward sweet spots. the very title of getting real is titled, build less: underdo your competition.

how has this helped blank label? the fact that after f***ing around for quite a few months until late last month when we outlined a roadmap for a stripped down, lean launch, and that we’re on target to launch october 31, is an exciting change in company mood. we’re not looking to make a big deal about october 31. it’ll be important to us, but we know the exciting stuff happens after october 31. we’ll be iterating and building every week. we’ve even held back on reaching out to too many relationships in the blogosphere as we’ll have a much better product two weeks into november, and then two weeks after that, and we want to be uniques growth to be stimulated along the way, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket. instead of trying to predict the market, we’re going to keep a close eye on analytics and let the market tell us. people ask about whether we’re going to have this feature, or that idea they think would be great for us. we take it down, and it goes onto the ‘ideas board’.

in such a hot space as ‘mass-customization’ where the barriers to entry are fairly low, we didn’t have the billion dollar idea. like many other ideas, it was spawned from context, and a context that was not unique to me. the money is really to be made in the execution, and execution is really valuable when you’re actually in the marketplace. so this isn’t even about first mover advantage, but rather about making life easier and better for you and your startup. there are too many founders trying to predict exactly what the market will want. it’s all in research reports and opinions and being mostly computed in heads. i have a terrible habit of doing this. now i just say, it’s close enough, let the market tell us. being in the marketplace and making real sales, getting real feedback is the best research you can do. also, the momentum and excitement level your team works at when it can see getting to market, or when it’s in market, is completely different to something that you’re hacking away at with no identifiable time of people ever using it.

this is fundamentally important to most first-time student entrepreneurs. if you’re stagnant and not making much progress, the risk tolerance starts wearing. being young, we may not have patience or experience to do the long-haul kind of deal. i see so many student founded startups fail because they aren’t excited about the progress they’re making, and that’s in large part because they are day one trying to attack something that is so broad. this gets compounded by other school distractions which creep in and the killer of all startups, internship season. the ability to be lean, determine what is important, make traction towards it, get to market, is probably the most critical thing to overcome the first-time risk hurdles.  i keep telling the team, the most important lesson for us to keep in mind is fix time, fix budget, flex scope.

*you’ve probably noticed that i wrote this article exclusively in lower case. i’ve started doing that of late b/c i couldn’t figure out why we still use capitalization.

**listening to pandora radio station ‘i’ve got a feeling’ by black eyed peas

Written by Fan Bi

October 14, 2009 at 11:36 am

Looking for a Lead Developer

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We’ve been scrapping together our web design/ front-end development between freelancers and off-shoring however we’ve been actively on the search for the last couple of months to bring on that Lead Developer in-house who i) shares the vision w/ the team, ii) has the right chemistry fit, iii) is looking to be involved in a dynamically evolving startup, iv) can scale w/ the company in the next few years.

Blank Label‘s vision is to change the way young guys buy clothes by selling mass-customized, i.e. individually-made pieces for between $55-85. The core of the team is myself (brand, supply side, operations, fashion design), lead web strategist (seo, social media, content creation) and lead designer (UI, UX, web page design), as well as three interns who help across various tasks. In the 8 months or so that we’ve been around, we’ve set up supply-side in Shanghai, have acquired 140 customers through in-person event selling, been written up in the Boston Globe and winning the Babson SGA Student Business of the Year.

Lead developer in early-stage mass-customization dress shirt startup. We’re looking for a core developer who is a deep technologist, and has an interest in building an e-commerce web platform that allows a user to visualize their own shirt design. Our current visualization configurator is built in Flash (AS3 and Flex), and the immediate focus will be pushing it to market. Going forward, the main components of development will be client-side UI and UX on the website as a whole, performance and functionality of the configurator, and some server-side capabilities that can manage the large database of options. There will definitely need to be language background in AS3 and JavaScript as we will probably be looking to build out both the website and the configurator in AJAX. Our hiring will be more based on attitude and genuine interest in programming (including possible open-source contributions), more than current skill set. We are fundamentally looking for someone with the programing background, but moreover the programming passion to work with the driven and motivated team.

Getting Started:
Given startups are so much about how the team operates together, we’re really looking to start on a short-term 2-3 wk paid project, with the goal of finding out whether everyone believes this could all work out. Being self-funded to date, post the trial period, the compensation will be in the form of equity. However we’re not looking for you to give away your work for free by any means. We are not that far from being able to have the platform that can start generating revenue quickly, and where cash distribution for salary is definitely a priority. And a group decision on timing of fund-raising (we’ve already begun conversation with a couple of venture firms and angel groups waiting for us to build the team that can actually build the vehicle to sell out product).

Written by Fan Bi

September 21, 2009 at 8:17 pm


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