4-Minute Pitch

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During my time at AppCademy I learned a lot about fine tuning and improving my app. I also learned how to pitch my app. This was helpful because it made me really think about my app, what it’s value is, and what my goals are.

I won’t say that my pitch was really good. But it was a lot better on the last day than it was on the first day. Here I am talking about Timmo’s Challenge on the last day of AppCademy.

 

Learn more about Timmo’s Challenge on our site www.timmoschallenge.com

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Excellence in Music

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I spent this past weekend in Boston with my son, Caleb. It was really great to spend the whole weekend with him since I was gone the whole month of March.

Originally we were going to go up and work on levels for Timmo’s Challenge Boston. But then we learned that Berklee was having their spring open house Saturday morning. Caleb really wants to go to Berklee so we added that to the agenda.

Berklee College of Music - Boston

Berklee College of Music – Boston

Berklee is known world wide as the best music college there is. I was really able to learn why during the open house and tours. It reminded me of AppCademy when Pekka talked about design excellence. Berklee strives for excellence from their school and in particular all of it’s students. From the faculty to the facilities the place was impressive. They produce the best because they have built a community of people that all strive to be the best at what they do.

The three things that impressed me the most about the school were:

1 – You do not choose a major until after your first two semesters. This seems smart to me because most freshman in college do not really have an idea of what they want to do for the rest of their life. Berklee exposes freshman to a variety of careers in music so that when they are asked to choose a major they are able to make an informed decision.

2 – They focus on careers from day one. Berklee doesn’t just churn out diploma, they bring their students into the industry right away and help them build a career in music. This, as a parent, is important because music isn’t usually something you would think of for your kids as a secure and stable profession.

3 – Over 25% of Berklee’s students are international students. After spending time in Finland with guys from around the world it has become even more important to me that my kids are exposed to the world outside of the US. We are rapidly becoming a global society and if US kids do not realize this now, they will when they are competing for jobs later in life.

After the open house Caleb and I had a great day capturing more levels in Boston. I learned a lot more about Boston than I had in my previous trips there. And it was great to experience it with Caleb and see him enjoying the process of building this thing with me.

Trinity Church

Trinity Church

Caleb tested a couple of my existing levels, including level 2 which starts at Trinity Church in Copley Square.

State House

State House

We went through the Public Gardens and Boston Commons and then headed towards Beacon Hill.

Love the wavy brick streets of Beacon Hill

Love the wavy brick streets of Beacon Hill

Some of the best New England residential architecture for sure.

This copper accent was even more amazing in person

This copper accent was even more amazing in person

We headed towards the Charles River using a footbridge over Storrow Drive.

Footbridge over Storrow Drive

Footbridge over Storrow Drive

Caleb really enjoyed seeing the sites

Caleb really enjoyed seeing the sites

We walked along the Charles River and got some of the best clues for the next level of Boston. This level is going to be one of the best so far.

Warm day

Warm day

Sailboat Races in the background

Sailboat Races in the background

Overall this was such a great father-son experience. I hope we get to do it a lot more in the future. And I hope I am able to teach him that doing his best at anything he attempts is worth it – whether it be at Berklee or any other college.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing the right idea is critical

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I’ve been home from AppCademy for a week now. All week I’ve been thinking about what I learned there and how to make the best use out of it. My next few posts will try to describe the most important things that I learned.

One of the biggest things I learned was how to analyze my idea – and any future ideas I have – in an objective manner. My career goal is to become really good at starting really successful businesses, so this skill is really important to me.

When I sat down to write this post I thought about different ways of communicating what I learned in an easy way. So, here it goes. I hope it has the impact that I intend it to have.

So imagine yourself back in medieval times with castles and stuff… (wavy fade in thingy)

Money on top of the castle

Money on top of the castle

So the king’s sworn enemy has stolen money from the people of the county and put it in a large glass jar on top of his castle. The king has assigned you the task of breaking the glass jar and capturing as much money as you can before they open the gates and unleash the hounds on you.

You arrive at the castle and asses the situation. Your idea is to quickly set up a see-saw type device and launch a rock up to break the jar. Using this method you can quickly sneak out of the woods, set it up, and maybe get a few tries at it before you need to high tail it out of there. (wavy fade out thing)

Ok, so this is a completely unrealistic scenario. But you can draw a lot of parallels to technology start ups. For one, you have a limited amount of time to try your idea before it loses its luster and the public forgets about you. It has to be pretty spot on from the get go.

Comparing the scenario to tech startups

Comparing the scenario to tech startups

So in this comparison you can think of the rock as being your idea, the board you’ll use the launch the rock as your assets, the hinge as the leverage you will get out of your assets, and you as the human resources you can use to accomplish the task. Lets look at each. I’ll look at the idea itself last.

Assets

So what do I mean by assets. Well in the fake scenario above the strength and size of the board are critical to your success. If the board is too short or if the board snaps under strain you will fail. The rock will go no where and you won’t even have a chance of accomplishing your objective.

In business your assets  are all of the physical (and digital) things you can use to launch your product. Your network of contacts. Your online presence. And let’s not forget the money that you invest. Lots of money can get you the perfect board. But you need to know that the cost is worth it.

Leverage

Leverage is directly related to your ability to use your assets. If you have that perfect board, but your hinge is just a small log you won’t be able to use the board to its potential.

This is directly relatable to business. And we see it all the time. People blow a bunch of money on marketing that doesn’t work or on the wrong target market. The way you leverage your assets is to be smart! Proper research about exactly what your money will return, what your contacts can and will do for you, and who your real target market is will help you leverage your assets properly. To really leverage your assets you need to know how to get the most out of everything you do.

Human Resources

Human resources are probably the most underestimated part of the whole thing – at least to the entrepreneur. Why? Because they think they ARE the human resources. They are, but its pretty unrealistic for someone to think they can be an expert at technology, business, marketing, and everything else you need to run a successful business. In the scenario above think about how much more effective your mission would be if you brought one of the king’s engineers with you. He could help you quickly analyze how far and how high you need to go with this rock and he’d probably be able to tell you exactly where to place your equipment for the best chance at success.

In business surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than you is just as critical. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. And by weaknesses, I don’t mean where you are weak. Rather – where you could and should be stronger.

Idea

Ok, so let’s get back to the idea. Imagine if you showed up to the castle with a rock already in hand. You don’t have any idea how high the thing is, how far away you’ll be, what board are nearby or what you can use as a hinge. But you’ve found the perfect rock!

The BIG idea

The BIG idea

In business we often hear people talk about their ideas and how passionate they are about them. And why not? Without an idea you have nothing. Right? Well that may not be true.

How many times have I heard someone with the next big social media service? Wow – people can connect online to other people they know! Like Facebook! Well, that is all well and good. And you may be able to be a way better Facebook than Facebook can. But its like showing up to the castle with a boulder. The work it is going to take to get the thing off the ground is enormous. Look at the huge failure of Google+. A big company like Google and even they can’t compete with Facebook. But yet lots of little startups think they can do it.

Someday someone will. Maybe they know a giant with a giant board!

On the other end of the spectrum are people who just want to build a quick app and expect to make a bunch of money at it. Lots of people do it. Why can’t they?

A stones throw

A stones throw

 

Well actually a lot of people don’t do it. The small stone is like the fart apps of the world. Easy to pick up and throw. But they don’t have the impact to break the jar. Sure maybe if you throw it 100 times you might chip the jar and get a few coins. But the chances are better that the stone will bounce off the jar, hit you in the head, and you’ll forever be known as the far app dude.

The right idea

So here is the thing. The right idea is different for everyone. And the right idea is usually not the first one. Everyone has to assess their own assets, how much they can leverage them, and whether they have the right human resources. Then, knowing all of that information, choose the right rock.

So imagine you are hiding in the woods looking at the castle with your engineer and a guy that can help with the heavy lifting. You’ve got your board and something that looks like a good lever. You find an area out in the woods to set up a few tests. You go looking for the perfect rock based on the size, shape, and weight you think you need. You try out a few of them to see how far you can launch them. You test their strength by smashing some branches. You test how many launches you can do in ten minutes – the amount of time you expect to have before the hounds get released on you.

Conclusions

  1. Choose your ideas based on your own personal assets and leverage. If you have bigger ideas spend time building up your assets and leverage before pursuing the idea.
  2. Test your ideas so to minimize risk. Start with small little tests and build up to a test that is as close to market conditions as you can replicate.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed… you are normal. Plan to make at least three significant attempts to try your idea before retreating.

The last thing I’d like to say is that this sounds like a lot more work that just throwing something out there and hoping for the best. It is only if you are lucky. If you’re  lucky go to the casino, it’s faster.

 

Please feel free to comment!

A life changing experience

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Sitting here in Detroit waiting for my connection back to Connecticut I’m trying to digest the past month a bit. Its pretty hard for me to fully appreciate how this experience will change my life, but I know it will.

Well maybe a little bit about yesterday first…

Yesterday was our last day at AppCampus. We each gave a final, 4 minute, presentation – mine went pretty well I think. I’ll upload it when I get home. Then we got our graduation certificates.

It's official now

It’s official now

We then started to say our goodbyes. I can’t say enough good things about the AppCampus staff. They are really amazing at what they do. They made us all feel welcomed and special. I could tell from each of them that we were important them. And that made us work harder and get better.

Mike Bradshaw is great. I’m convinced he had previous careers as either a first grade teacher or a cat herder. How else could he have kept 20 teams from around the world busy, out of trouble, and productive for 4 weeks? Seriously Mike, I really appreciate the hard work you out in to make this a success.

Tiina and Anna in the office helped me get my app QA’d and all issues resolved! Its because of the that our apps will be much better than the average apps in the marketplace. Thanks Ladies!

Alina was extremely helpful with some marketing ideas for my app from herself and others. Us geeks don’t really have marketing brains so her knowledge and expertise is extremely valuable. Thanks Alina!

Speaking of geeks, Teemu – the guru – was a great technical resource. And what I like about Teemu is that he always has a smile on his face and is always willing to help. Thanks Teemu!

Paola Borella and Pekka Sivonen were really great mentors. They pushed us to strive for greatness. They helped us see our unique value and to develop ways of translating that into something meaningful. You guys had more impact on me than was probably apparent. Don’t worry, I’ll make you proud.

Friends for life

You know when you connect with someone that know you will be a friend for a long time? Well that happened dozens of times for me with the group of fellow AppCampers. I hope to feature a blog post on all of the teams at some point, but to mention couple…

My roomies Jodon and Doug from Vancouver were really great guys. We had tons of laughs. And I really respect their work. They released their app Fling Theory yesterday. Its super cool! Check it out here… http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/fling-theory/3fb05fa1-03e6-467f-9355-3b3778ca2858

BTW guys – its on the front page of the store! Top row!

Another cool couple guys are Anthony and Laurent from France. Their company is Monkey Moon check it out. http://www.monkeymoon.net/ They are working on a cool puzzle game called HarshQuad. When they learned Debbie liked puzzle games they put a special version on my phone just for her. That was a really cool gesture guys!

We really bonded last night – our last together in Heksinki. First we went to Sky Express for large pizza and beers.

Yeah, we took over the place

Yeah, we took over the place

Then we all hiked down to Swengi, a karaoke bar. And we took over that place too. We sang We Are The World and a bunch of other songs and had a really great time.

We are the word!

We are the word!

 

I’m looking forward to seeing these guys again. Maybe AppCampus will offer a Masters Program?

If you think this is the end of this blog – its not. I’m going to keep it up until I’ve accomplished my goals for Timmo’s Challenge. More on my next adventures coming soon.

Thanks AppCampus! It was really a life-changing experience thanks to you all!

A night to unwind

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Had a nice night tonight just chilling and unwinding. It started off with a little walk around Kamppi, the local mall area. There is a non-denominational silence room that is really cool to go into.

Silence Room

Silence Room

I found this lady who set up a booth and she does drawings of you with ketchup. Yep, ketchup. It’s not Heinz or I would have done one to bring home to Deb. :o)

Ketchup Drawings

Ketchup Drawings

Then I went to my favorite spot – Sky Express – for large beers and even larger pizzas. The guys were all in the mood to unwind and we had a good time.

Big beers and bigger pizzas

Big beers and bigger pizzas

 

These guys are all really great. We have a good time poking fun at one another. Tonight’s group was from South Africa, Brazil, Poland, Canada, and me from the US. Yet we all found common ground in beer, pizza, and making fun of male ice skaters. Lots of laughs.

Polish guy pretending to be French

Polish guy pretending to be French

 

Check out the wall art of the naked chic in the background. I swear the face is the guy who cooked our pizza!

Anyway, tomorrow I head out to work more on my Helsinki version. And celebrating St Patty’s day of course.

 

 

Startup Sauna is heating up the startup thinking

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Last night we visited Startup Sauna, a co-working space also on the campus of Aalto University where startups are not just fostered, they are launched into space!

Startup Sauna

Startup Sauna

We got to mingle with some Sauna Alumni while munching on the favorite meal of geeks – pizza and beer. It was a great opportunity to learn what it really takes to launch a real company.

One of the most interesting guys I met was Mikelis Studers from Catch Box. It is a throw able microphone for group events. Its shaped like a cube, can be branded, and makes presentations a lot more fun because people can literally toss the mic. Check out their site at www.thecatchbox.com Right now they are in the pre-development phase, but hope to have product on the shelves in a couple months.

Pizza, beer, business, geeks

Pizza, beer, business, geeks

So today I really started diving into the nuts and bolts of my business plan. I figured out the top 30 markets that I want to get into and detailed the cost to build apps in those markets. On average I’m looking at $1,300 per market in expenses.

I then finalized my pricing model. An episode will contain at least 6 levels. The app will be free to download and will contain 2 of the levels. Each additional 2 levels will cost the user $5, which they can purchase inside the app itself.

So in each market I need at least 260 users to download at least 2 additional levels to break even. My goal, however, is for 200 people per million in a market to download the app. For 30% of those to download 2 extra levels and another 30% to download 2 extra levels.

So in Boston I’d expect 800 downloads and an income of $3,600. This is over a one year period.

The big question now is – how do I get into those 30 markets? And how do I get into them before someone else copies the idea and does it faster. The common approach in the startup community is to look for an “Angel Investor”. Someone with so much money they actually enjoy risking it. Well maybe that isn’t totally true. But they do invest in newer and thus riskier businesses. I’m not so sure about it though. It strike two wrong nerves with me. #1 – I don’t do partnerships. Like my buddy Dave Ramsey says – “The only ship that doesn’t sail is a partnership“. And #2 it seems too much like a loan, which I also don’t do. I’ve been told that it isn’t a loan. It is someone looking to help me and make money from it. But I still feel like I’d be risking their money.

So that was the reason for tonight’s walk. To try to think it through. A night time stroll towards the docks turned into an idea for level 4 in Helsinki. I found some more really cool things. Like Hotel Hanko!

Hotel Hanko!

Hotel Hanko!

And this place got a giggle out of me. And then I laughed because I giggled all by myself. And then I snorted because I laughed out loud by myself. It could of gotten a lot worse if someone wasn’t walking directly toward me.

Cafe... Hahaha.. Fanny

Cafe… Hahaha.. Fanny

But I did find a great looking tower lit up. It was on top of a hill that looks out over the harbor. I’ll be back in the day time to get a picture in that direction.

Cool tower

Cool tower

 

Then I got lost. I thought I was going east, but apparently I was going south. I was walking through the expensive district. I could tell it was the expensive district because grown women were walking dogs with sweaters on that could fit in a purse. You know the kind. And because people were (#1) jogging at night and (#2) wearing clothes they bought just for jogging.

I also was passing shops that looked like they were more like a piece of art rather than an actual place of commerce. Like this sweet shop where every item looked like it was individually created for a specific person.

Expensive treats

Expensive treats

In the end I just came back to the hotel, turned on Mythbusters, and decided to give my brain a rest until tomorrow.

Tomorrow we have an open house where lots of people will be visiting and we’ll be pitching for a number of people.

So chow for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proving my business model

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One of the key points of my business model is that my cost to create a new app will be lower than the money I make from selling it. Basic business concept, right?

My secret weapon for keeping the costs down is a separate app dubbed “Capture” where I can visit some place and create a new adventure on the fly as I’m enjoying it myself. So I set out this past weekend to do just that here in Helsinki. I got one level done Saturday. And then yesterday I got two more levels done. It was a pretty crisp and cold day, or I would probably have been able to do another one!

The Zamboni on one of the many ice rinks in the city

The Zamboni on one of the many ice rinks in the city

Helsinki has so many great places to see. The tricky part, for me, was creating clues that were difficult enough, but still doable.

I set off for the waterfront again and was treated with finding even more interesting sites that I found last week. I found some docks that have cruises. It must be fantastic to be here in the summer with all of the boats. It kind of reminded me of Greenport. I can imagine taking the boat here for the day and enjoying some drinks with friends before heading back.

Helsinki Cruises

Helsinki Cruises

There is a really cool park near the waterfront too, which has a nice hill you can climb and get an amazing view of the water on one side and the city on the other. Yesterday there were lots of kids sledding. I had to respect them too. It wasn’t just a smooth little hill like we have back home. They were sledding through trees and off little cliffs!

And I saw something extra cool… An actual one horse open sleigh… And yeah, it had jingle bells on it.

Dashing through the snow...

Dashing through the snow…

Here it is jingling away…

A couple more photos of yesterday’s journey…

The buildings continue to impress

The buildings continue to impress

 

Camping? No camping? I can't figure it out. Maybe no teepees?

Camping? No camping? I can’t figure it out. Maybe no teepees?

 

I got a much closer look at the cruise ship

I got a much closer look at the cruise ship

 

So anyway… I was able to complete three full levels over the weekend and I have a full app ready to go. And, if I may say so myself, its pretty darn cool!

 

Which led into this morning…

So this morning I met with my designer coach again. With the weekend under my belt I was able to more clearly see that Timmo’s Challenge is just one type of puzzle trek that I could create. I could do a series that was more for history buffs or one that was more rural than city. We drew out a hierarchy where “Puzzle Trek” was the company and main platform. And under it was different versions of puzzle treks (lowercase). I could define this as a new activity and be first to market with something unique. While still owning the platform for creating them.

That has my brain going again. Which is good, because I walked for hours this weekend and I appreciate a day working in the office.

 

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