May 02, 2008

Adopt, Adapt, and Adjust

Georneys is morphing!  I don't want to say much, but after months of floundering around and considering pulling the plug on Georneys, it's been given a stay of execution by, essentially, rebirth.  Stay tuned for more information on how we're morphing and what we're doing.  And, if you're lucky, we'll let you be a Beta Tester. ;-)

December 19, 2007

Entrepreneurial Evolution

David wrote an interesting post about the different business things that we've done over the last seven years.  It's amazing that we've done so much - I had no idea.

The list includes

  • Scubalicious - my first web site, which in retrospect was a blog (1999)
  • LEnfIS (Law Enforcement Information Systems) - hosted applications for law enforcement agencies.  This grew out of an attempt for agencies to share gang information. (2001)
  • Conservancy Software Group - I incorporated to do a few things, namely a survey application which was used by two FSU professors and the Florida-Georgia Blood Alliance.  The FGBA (now The Blood Alliance) is still using this application. (2001 - 2002)
  • Duey Software - a place to put my consulting work after letting the corporation go (2003)
  • Innovux, Inc. - Our current corporation, that we've decided to jointly focus on (2005 - present).  Under this, we've done Georneys, ListrBlistr, and FevrBlistr, as well as FeedGadget.  And, we've got more to crank out!
  • 2Ruffians - an offshoot of Innovux, because David didn't want to be associated with law enforcement software.  I wrote an application (still used by the Tallahassee Police Department) that tracked officer training. (2005)  I also did a web site called LockerMonkey, for storing private information (credit cards, etc) for easy access.
  • Item Banking - this was one of David's babies, that he researched no end and ultimately decided not to pursue.  He decided that without funding, there was no way to put out a decent application in a reasonable period of time.

That's just a very brief list with even more brief descriptions.  Most of them failed before they ever got started - mostly because I'm horrible at marketing, but also because I'm easily bored.  By the time I finish the development on something, I'm ready to start something else.  So, nothing ever gets marketed, and everything gets left in the "if you build it, they will come" world (and of course that never happens).

I've learned a ton over the years of doing this.  One is that I suck at marketing.  Another is that I'm easily bored.  The biggest one though is admitting that I need help with those things.  I've also learned that when someone gives feedback, they're not criticising per se, but trying to help me (for the most part).  And, when someone says, "And I should be interested in this because...?" you'd damn well better have a decent answer.

In David's post, he gives us a "report card" and actually grades us on aspects of our entrepreneurialism.  I think he gave us pretty high marks, but I'm also extremely hard on myself.  I won't change the grading system but go on a pass/fail basis.  Do we pass?  Yes.  Barely.  And only because we currently technically work for ourselves.

However, I think this time next year we'll have a different story to tell.  I don't necessarily mean we'll be the next Google or even a J-Squared Media.  But if we can be more than we are now, and actually be active entrepreneurs, we'll be better.

November 02, 2007

Finding a Mentor: What's the Worst that can Happen?

David Cohen had a great post the other day about finding and engaging a mentor.  If my husband and I had known much of what David wrote before we started on our Georneys adventure, it might have saved us a lot of time and frustration.  I will say that since taking the plunge and sending an email out of the blue to David Cohen, I’ve learned through experience much of what he discussed.

David mentions that some budding entrepreneurs believe mentors are too busy for them.  I used to believe this as well.  I never expected to hear back from him when I sent him an email.  In fact, I had already emailed a few other angels and VCs who claimed to enjoy mentoring people (some that were very close to home in Florida), and never heard back from them.  If Dave (my husband) had not said, “The worst that can happen is you get no response.  Is that worse off than where we are now?” I never would have dropped David Cohen a note asking for input.

When I actually got a response from David, I was elated.  In fact, I didn’t really even know how to continue because I didn’t want to sound like a fool and ask stupid questions.  I didn’t want to wear out our welcome by asking silly questions or saying “OK, we did that, what now?” all the time (I still feel like we do this sometimes).  We wanted to make sure we executed on suggestions or had valid reasons for going against the advice we got.  Early on I was petrified of the inevitable email saying “I’ve done all I can for you, you’re on your own.”  So far, it hasn’t come, although often I still worry that we are just pesky wannabes J.

What has having a mentor done for us?  I cannot begin to tell you.  It’s shaped our idea in so many ways you wouldn’t believe it – and all without having been told what to do specifically.  Our idea initially was huge and involved a lot of hardware.  The hardware was expensive and would have taken a lot of time, energy, and money to implement – not to mention the partnership building aspect of it.  The undertaking would have been huge.  We knew this, but were told that perhaps we should simplify.  That was it: “Try to get rid of the hardware aspect of it as much as possible – hardware will be a major failing point” (that’s paraphrased but pretty darn close).  We thought about this, and of course it’s true – so we ditched that part of it and made Georneys a software-only solution. 

One of the most important things David has done for us as a mentor has been to keep us focused and excited.  I’m easily bored; once I’m finished with developing something, I’m done with it.  You can’t do that when you are working on a startup.  At any rate, at about the time I get bored, we drop David a note and ask a question, or announce that Georneys is in alpha/beta, or whatever.  He always has a suggestion to make it better.  And I like that.  In fact, just the other day we dropped him a note mentioning some frustrations we’d had and his last sentence was “Don’t give up!”  We’re not close to giving up, but just having someone in his position say that meant so much to us.  It said so much more – at least to me. 

What else has it done?  It’s made me feel validated.  When we unveiled our alpha version of Georneys to David, his response was so positive I felt much the way I did when I was nine years old and met Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones of the Monkees (if you’ve never been in a situation like that, well, you just can’t relate).  Wow!  Just having someone who’s been successful at building startups tell you you’ve done a good job is rewarding.  Whether you’re successful or not, having someone tell you you’re moving in the right direction is never a bad thing.

Is David our only mentor?  Yes and no.  He is the only one we’ve actively engaged, yes.  However, we have sought out input from other people – Brad Feld and Heidi Roizen to name a few.  I have gotten email responses from both of them, and also got to meet Brad when up in

Colorado

this summer.  Getting responses made me feel special – but I think it really speaks volumes about the types of people they are.  None of them was too busy to send a short note answering my questions (I tried not to waste their time or ask frivolous questions – the notes were short and pointed, with a background paragraph about why I was asking), and not one of them knew me initially.  Each of them wished us luck and said to ask more if we wanted to. 

So, for anyone out there who may read this post: if you are an aspiring entrepreneur and you are considering a mentor, stop thinking about it.  Do it.  Send an email, explain your situation (don’t forget to introduce yourself though!), and ask for guidance.  The worst that can happen is you get no response.  Is that any worse off than you are now?

August 24, 2007

Georneys goes Alpha

Today we announce the Alpha release of Georneys.  It's been a long (long) time coming, and we're pretty proud of it, even if it is only the alpha version.  At this moment, you can enter your child's information, contact information, and print out a very plain Georneys ID to attach to your child's belt loop or put in their pocket.

If you want to sign up and check it out, just go to www.Georneys.com and do so.  It's free!  We would also love some feedback on the way it functions as well as anything you would like to see added in the future.  We've got a long list of features, and we're always looking for more.

Ah, now I can relax for a whole five minutes...

August 16, 2007

No Sleep, No Time, No Worries

Today I'm exhausted, because I was up working until after 11:00 last night - which means I didn't go to bed until well after midnight - and I got to sleep even later (I get up at 5:45).  Working on a startup is hellish sometimes, but it sure is fun.  We made some strategic UI changes yesterday, just on the cusp of our alpha release.  Not the best time to do it, but it will make the user experience better, so we may as well do it now as later.  I think it has really helped the flow.

The really interesting thing to me is that, while we didn't make TechStars, we are finishing up around the same time as some of those companies.  Granted, our days were not filled with the great mentorship the TechStars teams got - in fact, ours were filled with working for "The Man"; our nights were filled with working on Georneys!  It's purely coincidental and frankly I'm sure we would have been much further along had we had "all day" to work solely on Georneys.  From what I understand, today is the day the TechStars companies get to pitch to investors.  I'd love to be one of those companies, but I'd also love to be a fly on the wall.  Just to learn a little bit more about "how to pitch".  Is it just basically a demo?  Do you have to prepare some god-awful long speech?  You know, those subtle things that make a world of difference.  Good luck to all the companies we've read about (and those we haven't, as well) this summer!

One thing is for certain; if you're married and have children, your spouse had better be either part of your startup or really, really supportive (read: pushover).  There's absolutely no way I could have deprived David of so much time if we weren't doing this together. 

Even though the last-minute details are driving me crazy, I wouldn't trade this ride for the world.  I don't sleep, I don't eat right, and I have little time with my family the way I'd like to.  I know at least some of that is for the short-term.  As for the long term, with my luck, by the time I have "quality family time", my children will have no time for me!  I'm hoping that's sooner, rather than later.

July 09, 2007

Moving the Business

I didn't realise it had been so long since my last post!  We've been busy working on the Alpha version of Georneys as well as packing things up and cleaning our house.  That's right, our house is officially up for sale - we're moving to Boulder, CO!  We'll have to wait for the house to sell, but hopefully we won't have to wait too long.  If we could afford it, we'd go now, but since we have a family to feed, we'll have to wait.

Georneys has made great progress over the last few months.  We got Slice of Lime to help us with the layout.  If you are looking for someone to help you with your web site, these guys are awesome!  We did everything over the phone (they are in Boulder, we are in Tallahassee, Florida), and they made it really easy.  We even met them when we went up to Boulder for a TechStars open event last month.

While we're making progress, I wish we could get it done a little faster!  We were hoping to have the Alpha done by mid-June, then the end of June, and now it's looking like it might actually be the end of July by the time it's done - although it could be as soon as five days from now.  We're just going to put the meat and potatoes into the Alpha version, but the Beta will have all the functionality.  Finding the time to work at home after working all day for someone else is difficult at best, especially when you've got a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old vying for attention in the evenings (this all means that I don't get to start working on Georneys until at least 8:30PM on a good day).  Let me tell you, I've been keeping TechStar hours for sure!

As the launch approaches, I'll try to post more.  I've been focusing on getting the programming done and hooked in with the beautiful UI, as that is far more important at the moment.  We will have a very private Alpha as well as a private Beta, but we'll open the Beta up a little more to get some diversity in.  We're really excited and can't wait!

April 26, 2007

Dr Seuss was a Deep Thinker

Brad Feld posted an interesting Dr. Seuss reference today and I thought it was worthy of sharing.  OK, nobody who reads this blog hasn't read it already, but at least if I put it here I'll know where to find it when I go looking!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

Man, was he right, or what?  I'm a firm believer in "You can do anything you want.  Just do it."  It's what I had to tell my husband for a whole year before he finally did it (took the plunge on a startup).

Of course, it remains to be seen whether we'll be successful, but the ride so far has been well worth it.

April 19, 2007

One of Those Great Days

Yesterday (4/18) was a great day for Georneys and me.  Why?  Everything seemed to go well.  I had a doctor appointment for a leg checkup (recovering from a bad stress fracture), and got cleared to get back to exercising after five months of couch-potatodom. 

I got an unexpected email from a successful startup - from the CEO.  He was recommending his product, but he wrote to me because we both read a common blog. 

Then we got an email from David Cohen of TechStars, asking if we'd be interested in being interviewed for an article for the Boulder Daily Camera.  We applied to TechStars but didn't make the cut.  We just weren't ready - we started Georneys at about the same time TechStars was announced, and we just couldn't get our idea rounded out before the application deadline.  At any rate, David was kind enough to introduce us to a reporter who wrote about our company, indirectly.  It provided us with our first news coverage!

Then, we decided to move forward with a new site design.  It's going to cost us some money, but we have to do it.  The company we're using is Colorado-based Slice of Lime.  We went to a big fancy lunch and David bribed me with filet mignon.  I ordered a slice of key lime (my favourite) pie to go.  A little later I opened up the carton to eat my pie.  Guess what was on top?  A slice of lime.  How cool is that?  The coincidence had me laughing until I was in tears.  I've never gotten a slice of key lime pie with an actual slice of lime on top.  Ever (it's often got kiwi on top, though).

041807_1536

If every day was like yesterday, I would be the happiest person in the world.  And everyone around me would be certain that I was insane!

February 22, 2007

A New Journey

The following is an entry I posted to my personal blog site and I thought I'd post it on the Georneys' blog as well.

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My wife and I are working on a new business called Georneys.  Georneys is the outgrowth of an idea my wife had for keeping track of children (we have two small boys), particularly in crowded and congested areas such as theme parks.  The idea is to provide peace of mind for parents and caregivers as well as increased safety.  We plan to be as open and transparent as possible about what we’re doing from both business and technical perspectives.  We’ll be providing updates on our progress at the Georneys’ blog.  I’m sure there will be a lot of adaptation and change along the way.  Needless to say, we’re both very excited about the new business.

As part of our efforts to grow the business, we’ve applied to TechStars.  Acceptance into the TechStars program would require us to move to Boulder, Colorado.  We’d be more than happy to do that for all of the mentoring and learning opportunities we’d receive.  (In fact, I suspect we could be enticed to stay in Boulder, it looks like a great place to live and build a business.)  We’ll have to wait another month or so to find out if we’ve been accepted into the program.  In the meantime, we’re working on our business plan and trying to raise some angel funding.

From a technical perspective, to accomplish the Georneys mission, we’ve been looking at a number of cool and interesting technologies.  I’ll be blogging about some of the technical stuff that I’ve found; it’s been a great learning experience so far, and I’ve been surprised about some of the things I’ve found with regard to GPS and WiFi positioning systems.  The technologies seem to have been grouped in the category called "real-time location systems" (RTLS). 

Also, we’d love to get any feed back or suggestions you might have.  Please leave a comment or contact me via email if you have any input or questions.  Thanks!

February 20, 2007

Blogging is Bad for Your Business Plan

Writing a business plan is tedious work.  I know; I've been working on one for the better part of a month now.  It's not just gathering the information that's hard.  Wording things correctly and in the proper tone is important.  There's much more to it than making sure you don't mix up the words "then" and "than".

Blogs are generally written in a very conversational tone.  They read easily, as if the writer were talking to you.  Not so with business plans.  The sentences are short and choppy.  Frankly I feel like the tone is very middle-schoolish.  Basic.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  I did lots of research and consulted too many sources to list here, and they were all of great help.  However, knowing how and actually doing are two different things.  Business plans are written like this paragraph.

My first draft of our plan had tons of information in it.  It was 15 pages long and read very easily.  It was utter garbage, though.  I'm now on the third iteration, and it reads like it's "supposed to".  It's still far from perfect, but at least the style is correct, and it reads like a - well, like a business plan should.  It took me a few tries before I could take off my blogging hat and put on my business plan writer hat (I collect hats - both metaphorically and in the real world). The plan as it exists today is barely nine pages (without financials), and that's stretching it.

So for anyone out there reading this, if you blog and you plan on writing a business plan, make sure you're wearing the right hat when you get to it.  It might save you a draft or two.

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