Awesome Turnout!

If you didn’t get a chance to swing by @chainsawsalon last night for the first KW Start-ups Recruitment and Information Session – you missed out!

A big thanks to Ernst & Young and Communitech for sponsoring the event and supplying all the beer and all-you-can eat poutine buffet.  Another Big thanks goes out to Redwoods Media for hosting this event and making it a huge success!   There were 9 start-ups present last night and over 160 local students from the University of WaterlooWilfrid Laurier, and Conestoga College. The students were given the opportunity to meet the Founders, CEO’s and CTO’s of many great startups!

If you missed the event – take a minute and check out these startups!

Redwoods Media (http://www.redwoodsmedia.com/)

InfiniDy Corp. (http://www.infinidycorp.com/v1/)

tinyHippos (http://tinyhippos.com/)

Enflick (http://www.enflick.com/)

Kik (http://kik.com/)

Cyborg Trading Systems (http://www.cyborgtrading.com)

Canadian Cloud Computing (http://www.canadiancloud.com/)

Skillter Inc. (http://www.skillter.com)

Miovision Technologies Inc. (http://www.miovision.com)

StudyMonkey (http://www.studymonkey.ca)

The dorm room approach to running a startup

I had the privilege and pleasure of speaking to the new students at UW Velocity recently. I talked about “failing fast and often” as well as how we run things here at tinyHippos.  I focused on XP programming, TDD, and the importance of failing fast.

After leaving this great group of students, I got to thinking and remembering my university days. Back then I was quite poor and budgeting was a very important part of making it through the school term. I remembered a time when I was faced with making dinner for 5 people and our budget was a very strict $5. Now you might wonder exactly what we could possibly have eaten for $5? Well, we ended up having a great spaghetti and meat sauce meal and here’s how we put it together:

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Announcing The Ripple Emulator beta launch – 20 days to go

Wondering what the tinyHippos have been up to for the past few months??  Well – if you haven’t had the pleasure of attending a local event in the Kitchener/Waterloo region where you would have been captivated by our demo…  then you are in for a treat!  The boys are finally ready to come out of stealth mode and show the world!

When are we launching?

On April 27th, 2010 tinyHippos will be releasing the Beta version of our “Ripple Emulator”.

Please join us for our launch party at The Barley Works in Waterloo, ON. Please get a ticket here as space is limited.

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Waterloo Region Web Design & Technology meetup: a great event!

Last night we had the pleasure and privilege of presenting at the Waterloo Region Web Design & Technology meetup last night right here in Waterloo, ON at the Barley Works. We had a great time showing off our soon-to-be-released product and got and overwhelmingly positive response. These are some of the tweets about our presentation from last night :-)

I was also very impressed by all of the other presentations from last night! They were:

Corey Dutson (@cdutson) Fast website prototyping using Fireworks CS3: Some great tips for rapid prototyping! Corey showcased several features I didn’t even know existed… like Master Pages

Peter (@TheSignDepot) from The Sign Depot – a great resource if you’ve ever wanted to make a more tangible version of a logo/image for yourself or a client. A great example of how skill and passion of your craft can lead to a great product and a successful company. I know where we’re going when we need a sign for our company :-)

Julia Ouellette (@Jooiah) Tips and tricks in Photoshop. She blew our minds right out the gate with some great features in Photoshop that are really useful and slick, yet not very well known. Great Job Julia!

This is a great event and I would recommend that you attend it if you can. A big thanks goes out to @Jooiah for organizing this great event… and for inviting us to do a demo.

As always, we forgot our camera so I don’t have any pictures to share with you, but if you know of anyone that took pictures and has posted them out there on the Interwebs, please leave a comment below with a link so that we can all enjoy them.

Should you patent your idea?

That is the question that has been taunting us over the past week or so. If you’re here hoping for an answer to that question, I’m afraid you’ve come the wrong place. I’ve been struggling with whether patenting in the software world is even beneficial. There have been many articles and posts (here’s one) out there about the thought that patents stifle, or at the very least, slow down innovation. Today, I read a brief post by Brad Feld on the topic and it made me thing about our particular situation in a much more granular fashion.

Seeing that right now there are only two of us working in the office (aka… Brent’s bedroom), all of our time is spent writing code, meeting with advisors, potential clients, etc. Adding the overhead of preparing to file for a patent, will, and is, slowing us down. Preventing us from developing our product at the speed we would like to.  I understand the need to protect ourselves from someone coming along, stealing our idea, and getting to market before us. These are some of the thoughts going through my head:

  • As long as they don’t just plain copy our code (should be protected under copyright). If our competitors get to market with a product that is better then ours, with more features, and offering more value to the customer… do they not deserve to win?
  • A patent can help you get investment because the investors will feel more protected and know that they are investing in “unique” IP. However, I have to wonder if holding a patent won’t lead to letting one’s guard down and perhaps becoming complacent. The phrase… “We have a patent! We’re safe so let’s relax” comes to mind.
  • A patent can help with acquisition, since those acquiring you are also acquiring your IP and patent. Ok, I don’t have a negative for that one.
  • Launching a product into Beta prior to filing for a patent can make it such that you don’t qualify for a patent due to public disclosure. That’s all good and fine, but I believe that your early adopters and beta testers will provide invaluable feedback which could either show you that you have a valuable product or that you have to re-think your approach. Filing for a patent first might land you a patent for a product or an idea that no one wants!

At the end of the day, I’m new to this aspect of the startup world. My views might be too idealistic and there is a good chance that I’m just plain wrong. I just can’t shake the feeling that patents are evil! Perhaps if patents were only used or contributed to innovation in the past, I would have a different take on the subject. Time will tell… it always does :-)

DemoCamp Guelph – recap

Last night we had the great pleasure of presenting at DemoCamp Guelph 12 along with some other really interesting presentations. MonsterFarming.com did a great job of summarizing the presentations so I encourage to read his post :-)

This was our first DemoCamp Guelph and the turn out was remarkable. The venue was great, but a little small for the number of people that came out. Special thanks to Brydon for putting on this event and providing a great value for community in and around Guelph!

Our demo went rather well with the exception of my laptop crashing right at the beginning :-) From now on, I’m not hibernating my Windows machine 10 min before a demo! The one observation I had about trying to present a product in 5 min is… 5 min is a really short time!!! I remember being in 5th grade and having to do an oral report that needed to take 5 min and thinking that was such a long time. It’s funny how perceptions change when you’re actually talking about something you’re extremely passionate about :-)

ps… Brent’s the one representing in his awesome Batman shirt :-)

A small OMG moment

I’ve read many entrepreneur, VC, and Angel blogs over the past few years. At some point each and every one of the authors of those blogs mention a particular moment in time when they realized that a product, company, person, etc. was just going to make it. Maybe “make it” is a strong statement, but there was definitely a realization that they were on the right path and what they were trying to create was bringing real value to someone.

I am proud to say, that I now know what that moment in time feels like!

Yesterday, we got an email from the interactive media design shop we’ve worked with in the UK to deliver Mobile Widgets to Vodafone Europe. One of their developers had been struggling with one of their widgets. They had spent a couple of days trying to track down a classic “Heisenbug” (see this Wikipedia article). Since they knew we were working on a tool that might help with the testing and debugging of Mobile Widgets, they reached out to us to see if we could help shed some light on the matter.

Seeing that our tool offers a great deal of visibility into what’s going on inside a widget, we were able to: reproduce the bug instantly, diagnose it, fix it, and retest it… All in less then 20 min!

This was it! It was the first time we’ve put our tool to work with code from out there “in the wild” and managed to prove it’s effectiveness. I cannot tell you how good a feeling that was. Knowing that we’ve built something we thought would be useful and actually having that proven out.

To all of you that are out there right now, building/coding/innovating; don’t stop! That one moment in time is definitely worth all of those caffeine fueled sleepless nights :-)

Our first official week – a brief retrospective

Saying that this is our first week would be a little bit of a white lie. We’ve actually been at it for over 2 months now. However, last week was our first week working on our product full time ok, more like Brent working on it full time and me having about 20 meetings with various people and organizations. Over the course of this week, I’ve made a few observations.

You have to pivot!
Our original plan for the company was to follow an 80/20 plan. 80% of our time was to be spent on billable contracts and the other 20% to build mobile applications. However, for the last 2 months, we’ve been spending our evenings building ourselves a tool to help us in our development efforts and alleviate some of the pains we’ve experienced while trying to deliver mobile widgets. Based on our own experience with this product (very much in it’s infancy at this point) and many conversations with people throughout the week, we have decided to change our model already!

We have realized that our product is, in our opinion, commercially viable and will help serve the needs of mobile developers that will be developing for the emerging Mobile Widget market (estimated at 1 billion mobile consumers across the globe). We have decided that we will be focusing all of our energy and attention on building and getting our product to market and leave consulting as a last resort should we run low on funds (we are self funded after all).

I’ve read many VC and startup blogs that pointed out that, as an entrepreneur, you will have to pivot often and quickly. I must admit though, I didn’t think we’d pivot quite this quickly :-)

The people and the community around you want to help

I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting with a lot of people this past week. We’ve met with TechCapital and Communitech, as well with people that I would consider to be great advisors and mentors, like Larry Borsato, Joseph Fung, Karl Allen-Muncey, and a few more. There were two resounding patterns that emerged from all of those meetings.

  1. They were all willing to give us their time, listen and were curious to learn about what we were doing and why.
  2. They have all offered to help in one way or another, either by making an introduction, offering advice, even throwing some market research our way.

I honestly didn’t think that those involved in the startup world would be so open, welcoming, and willing to offer a hand. It goes to show what a great community of people and organizations we have here in the Waterloo region and for that we are truly thankful!

Being passionate about what you’re building, yields great results!

I’ve always known that if you sit down and focus on the task at hand, you can make great progress. It has been amazing to see how much further we’ve managed to develop our product with just one week of truly focused effort. We have easily accomplished more in this past week then in the entire month of December of last year.

If you believe you have a good idea and a truly helpful product on your hands, focus on it! Quiting your job might not be an easy step, but so far, the progress we’ve made shows me that it was the right one (at least for us).

Our first day

You don’t need a big shiny office :-)

I’ll end this post with this: Any place where you can sit down, work collaboratively, and focus is a good place to call your office. Be it your living room, basement, a dorm room, or even a coffee shop. In our case… it’s Bren’t room (for now). Here’s a picture of us, on our first day working for tinyHippos full time, our SCRUM wall featured in the background :-)

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