» Up to What I Am #
After a short stint at Amazon.com in 2005, I took some time off, where "time off" means not being an entrepreneur or having open-ended commitments — other than at home. I had a lot of fun getting back to basics as a software developer building applications with some great customers (learning some new industries in the process), working closely with a few entrepreneurs, and with being a hands-on Dad for my kids.
At the start of 2009, with kid #2 up and crawling, kid #1 finally sleeping decently (most of the time, knock wood), and a fresh calendar year ahead, I sat down to think about what to do next. I made a list of things that I think are interesting and things that I do well and/or enjoy. Next, I brainstormed and ranked concepts for businesses with rank roughly defined by the combination of my level of interest, the impact of the idea, and the value both to and from my network and experience in making it a success.
All of the business concepts were subject to the following constraints:
- Minimal startup costs. Getting going should take no more than an LLC ~($200), some assorted licenses (<$100), a domain (~$10), Google Apps for email, and a modicum of non-free infrastructure if required (no more than $50/month total — private repository on GitHub, and maybe CRM/SFA like PipelineDeals, etc.).
- Short path to gauge interest and engage customers. Typical customers, partners, and advisors/boosters should all be present within my personal network and if not, easily identified, enumerated, and contacted
- Strong collaborators. The reinforcement and feedback that comes from working closely (and occasionally butting heads with) collaborators is important.
- Head start or unique angle. The business should have a built-in competitive advantage in the form of knowledge, relationships, or intellectual property.
I ended up with a few dozen things and about half that many business concepts. Some obvious things made the list of, e.g., open source, simpler and lighter middleware, big data, mathematics (including statistics and probability), functional languages, visualization, consuming less, and being data-driven in everyday life. Some less obvious things made the list, too, e.g., teaching/mentoring, generative music, ultra-local agriculture (in your yard or even home), and scholarly communications. I intend to revisit the list of things and businesses as the year unfolds and my perspective evolves.
The first two businesses that percolated to the top of the list were FasterXML and Fremont Analytics. Both are now their own LLCs and spinning up. I am interested in the combination of open source, middleware, and big data in the mold of Cassandra, CouchDB, and Voldemort, but I'm not ready to place a bet there just yet.