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Entrepreneurship

Cancelled Orders and other Youth Problems

October 17, 2017

This post is part of a series on building a business with no effort. Check out part one here

The question “What problems do people aged 18-25 face” is apparently a problem itself.

I contacted a freelancer on Fiverr who said she’d be able to look into my research assignment, which is the next piece of my business puzzle. We know that middle-class 18-25 year olds will be a good target demographic because of their phone habits. I would have thought that figuring out their problems would be easy; hell, I could riff a few off the top of my head. People face problems with loneliness, finances, and their relationships, and everything seems more important when you’re young. There’s a sense of immediacy.

Apparently, though, making good on research on the topic is a bit trickier than I thought. Out of 3 elancers I tried to connect with, all 3 cancelled the gig, saying they couldn’t complete it. Huh.

Always look for ways to improve your communication

Maybe the problem is what I wrote to start the gig:

I am creating a business for young people (age 18-25) in mostly middle-class wealth brackets. I would like some market research – what pains or troubles do they experience in their day-to-day lives? For instance, do they frequently find themselves lost? Do they have trouble waking up in the morning? Do they want to look at their smartphones for pictures of dogs to avoid bring bored? Anything goes!

To be honest, I think that what I wrote is clear enough. I think I’ll try one more seller before rewording – after all, fourth time’s the charm.

I’m going to avoid naming and shaming sellers who didn’t deliver. In this case, all 3 were quick and respectful. We’ll see about freelancers we talk to in the future… but until then, let’s refocus on our goal.

We’re going to make a business. And we’re going to do it without doing any work. So let’s put this out of our brains for now and focus on more important things.

 


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Entrepreneurship

Finding a Demographic that will Pay for Your App – Part 2

October 8, 2017

This post is part of a series on building a business with no effort. Check out part one here!

Apologies for the delay – I was dealing with security issues, server migrations, and some other life craziness. However, the project continued during the hiatus, and there’s a lot to share

In the last post, we wondered: which demographic is most likely to pay for an app? Well, thanks to Fiverr seller wilddaniela88, we now know. And the answer is:

“Young, middle-class people are the most avid smartphone users, with 93% of them accessing their phone at least once a day to avoid being bored.” 

Next step: zeroing in on our target demographic

Now that we know who to build an app for, we need to know what the demographic would want to use a mobile app for. The best technology companies are usually those that solve people’s real problems. For example, Uber exists to remedy transportation woes, Google helps people find what they’re looking for on the web, and Wikipedia brings free knowledge to the world. So, our new startup should be one that solves the problems of young people in the middle class!

Our next step will be finding a researcher to determine these problems. After some thinking, I’ve decided to specify an age range of 18-25. This is because there are many laws in different companies limiting the data that companies can store of minors, such as COPPA in the United States and PIPEDA in Canada. Enforcing a user age of 18+ means we don’t have to worry about those restrictions. Youth online privacy isn’t something to take lightly, both for ethical and business reasons. Even Disney is in the crosshairs for violations of such codes!

So, our next step is to contact a research to ask them what problems are faced by people in the middle class between the ages of 18-25. I’m looking forward to seeing what they say!

PS: Wilddaniela88’s work was impressive and thorough. Her turnaround time was quick, and she included a large report on mobile phone usage. Hopefully we have as much luck with every seller!

 


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Entrepreneurship

Finding a Demographic that will Pay for Your App

June 22, 2017

This blog entry is part of a series I’m doing on building a profitable business without doing any work. If you missed part 1, check it out here!

It should go without saying that every product needs a target demographic. This is especially true for young products, without an established fan base. So, for this new business, I decided that the first step would be to find a demographic it would be easy to target. Finally, after some careful planning, I’ve started contacting my first freelancer!

For those unaware, a target demographic means “a segment of the population”. A sample demographic might be teenaged Canadians who like hockey, or senior-aged Indians who like going on long walks. For this project, I think I need to find out demographics that are likely to buy paid apps for their phones.

My freelancer is a business development specialist who works off of the website Fiverr. She offers web research on any topic, promising a 24-hour turnaround time. I’ve messaged her the following:

I am creating a new app. To be successful, I would like to know which market I should sell an app to. This market should be based on the quantity of people in specific demographics that actively use many smartphone apps. For example, teenagers in America might use apps more frequently than people in other demographics, or perhaps the demographic is 25-30 year olds in Canada.

After a little back and forth, she agreed to do the order!

Need for increased clarity based on Fiverr seller demographic

One interesting thing to monitor will be how specific and clear I need to be with some of the sellers on Fiverr. Many are clearly not native English speakers. I think that in the end, this will actually make this project better – after all, the point is just to see where this goes and have some fun with the process, right? If a seller interprets something incorrectly, that just means we’ll have to have a little ad-hoc pivot!

I look forward to reporting back on what my first seller comes back with!

 


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, give me a shout in the comments or on twitter!

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Entrepreneurship

Making a Business Without Doing Any Work – Part 2

June 15, 2017

I recently begun to formulate a plan to build a profitable business and be not doing any work. To do so, I plan to break down the things needed, then outsource absolutely all of it. If you missed it, check out part 1 here!

As I thought, I read over the steps I had formulated and quickly realized I’d need to break them down further. So, here’s the updated list of steps I’ll need to outsource:

  1. Find a market I could sell an app to, including specific demographics
  2. Find what pain points they have
  3. Collect information on players in the field (competitors)
  4. Formulate an idea that addresses that point
  5. Make a name for the app that uses that idea
  6. Create a logo for the app
  7. Decide on the service’s features – probably a scaled back version to start
  8. Create designs for the service, providing the logo for colour information
  9. Create a layout for the service
  10. Build a rudimentary app
  11. Research how similar apps are advertised
  12. Advertise the app
  13. Sit back and let things play out

That’s what I’m thinking at the moment. It’s a lot of steps, but I look at it like this – if I’m paying $5 per step and not doing any work, it’ll barely cost me anything!

What does it mean to be not doing any work?

On that note, I should mention an important caveat that I decided on. Unless the work I receive is incomplete or obviously terrible, I’ll accept it. For instance, if I ask someone to come up with a name and it’s only “okay”, I’ll take the path of least resistance and accept it.

Will this mean I get the best work possible? Probably not. But I think it’s more about the spirit of the project – the idea that someone could create a business with the bare minimum amount of effort – only contacting the freelancers.

I’ll contact the first seller soon. Keep tuned!

 

 


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Entrepreneurship

Can You Make a Business Without Doing Any Work?

June 8, 2017

What’s the only thing better than making a profitable side-business? Making a profitable side-business without doing any work.

First, a little background knowledge. I, like many programmers, enjoy working on the occasional side project. Bringing a program from idea to execution can be extremely satisfying. Although I’ve never made anything that I could monetize, there’s no real reason why I couldn’t. Except, perhaps, for time. Customer service alone is a big task – bigger than I have the bandwidth for when added to my workload.

That’s where outsourcers come in. We live in a world where people who can help with a multitude of bizarre jobs are just a click away. See sites like Fiverr, or Mechanical Turk (AKA MTurk), where these things are quite cheap. Both offer a huge array of services, and Fiverr in particular offers a few that interest me. After all, what do you need for a business?

  1. A target market – one with some cash to burn
  2. A problem that that target market needs solved
  3. An understanding of the organizations trying to solve that problem
  4. A point of differentiation from the competition
  5. A product
  6. Advertising for the product

And… you’re done, right? Of course, in real life, things are a bit more nuanced – but this should be a good starting point. I’m sure that a few of these will break down further – for instance, a product needs a name, branding (colours, icon, design), UI/UX, programming, etcetera. But for most of these points, I’m sure I can find someone on Fiverr who will help.

Starting a profitable side project without doing any work might sound a little far-fetched, but I think that it should be possible. For now, it’s time to break these steps down further. Stay tuned to hear what comes next!

 


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Entrepreneurship

Look Toward Your Vision, but Focus on the Steps Ahead

March 31, 2017

When your company is full of visionaries, it’s easy to forget to focus on the steps you need to take immediately.

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal“, or “BHAG”. A BHAG is a lofty goal that outsiders might consider impossible, but your company works toward and believes they can accomplish. Ours is to energize every child in the world! What’s yours?

A team that believes in their big vision is driven to work on the cause. However, there are important pitfalls to avoid when focussing your company on the big goal.

  1. Your BHAG will take years to accomplish, and it is common to become discouraged on the journey.
  2. Your BHAG is nice to focus on, but the steps on the path are just as important.

You must remember to focus on the end goal, and also focus on the steps ahead.

When you’re climbing a mountain, focus on the summit. But don’t forget to watch where you’re climbing, or you’ll slip.

A proper BHAG will take years to properly accomplish. As well, it will be met with scepticism and naysayers. If it won’t, then perhaps it isn’t that audacious a goal!

Bill Gates famously dreamed of a computer in every home in a time when that was considered laughable. Who’s laughing now?

Prepare yourself for questions from everywhere, including from your harshest critic – yourself.

But what are you going to do – give up? How long are you going to sit around doing nothing or questioning yourself, while a problem you want to solve gets worse and worse?

You are better than that. And I know that, because I truly believe that we are all better than that.

Think about your goal, but focus on the steps to get there.

What you build in the short term will be smaller than what you want to tackle. It’s just not going to have the impact or the features. That’s a harsh truth that you must become accustomed to.

But – you must not forget that every step of your journey is key – your company can’t do great things if it’s dead!

Every time you make a change, think – how does this step benefit you?

Have your users requested this new feature, or do you just think it’s a good idea? Do you need to scale up, or scale back? Will you be able to put food on the plate tomorrow?

Use your big, hairy, audacious goal to drive every small step

Your dreams are important – there’s no point making your company without them! Remember to always use that dream as fuel for each small step. Because, trust me – you’re going to be taking a lot of small steps.

 


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Teamwork

When Problems Become Jokes, They Don’t Get Solved

March 20, 2017

Team members joking about problems is a common trend across low-performing teams and organizations. Have you ever been on a team where bad behaviour gets glazed over, and problems become jokes?

“Uh oh, looks like Gaby is half an hour late to another meeting!”

“Jim forgot to record a client’s details again, classic!”

“Ha, why is Lana even a manager if no one ever listens to her?”

Does this sound familiar? Are you guilty of this?

Maybe it seems like it’s all in good fun because everyone in the organization is friends. Or maybe this office “comedian” thinks they’re influencing a shift in behaviour.

Unfortunately, neither is true.

The harm of laughing off an issue

When someone exhibits bad behaviour, they are at fault. When others don’t help them correct it, everyone is at fault. It might seem like a message is getting through when you jokingly prod into an issue, but it isn’t.

Think about it – if a bad behaviour is frequent enough that people joke about it to the person’s face, it’s a behaviour that people want changed but aren’t confronting. Does the person in question even know that the team wants them to change their behaviour if everyone is joking and laughing?

Jokes about things that people know are real problems will always have an underlying tension. Real feedback needs to be given, and change isn’t being made.

Give real feedback instead of letting problems become jokes

In general, feedback delivered in a constructive way will be appreciated. If you had something stuck in your teeth at a lunch, wouldn’t you rather someone point it out?

When behaviour needs to be changed, it’s time to evaluate if the person actually knows that their behaviour is a problem. Have they been told? Could you help solve the underlying issues?

One final note – is the behaviour one that can’t be changed? Perhaps a medical condition prevents performance from being exactly as you expect. If something can’t be helped, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t make jokes about it! The person probably knows that they have this problem, and highlighting it is nothing more than bullying by means of public shaming.

Remember – leaders raise the people around them, not just themselves. And you have the power to go forth and lead 🙂

 


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Personal

Beginnings

November 13, 2016

I’m currently working on a product called X Life, a daily self-regulation and key life skill tool for school communities. It’s my third serious foray into the worlds of startups and education.

My introduction to the company was unnaturally serendipitous, and the job feels like a culmination of everything I’ve learned over the years – startups, technology and working with children.

When I began studying computer science, I stopped working as a swim instructor/lifeguard at camps and began hanging around the Digital Media Zone, a startup incubator in Toronto, Canada. There, I programmed, learned about business and met a ton of great people. After working on an app called Thumble (think Instagram meets Reddit), I co-founded a business called Materialyze with four masters students.

We began as a marketplace for 3D-printable models, and realized we needed a big change when A) we got a cease and desist over the name, and B) we realized that no one really had a 3D printer.

Well, we weren’t going to give up – all of us cared about bringing 3D printing to the masses. So we pivoted and became Voovo, a reverse-auction of sorts that connected people with 3D printers with people who wanted prints done.

We had a good run, and went on for about a year before it was time to move on to other things. That’s just the reality with businesses, isn’t it?

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