Wooohoo! Diego has launched the beta of his email/PIM app under the new moniker CleverCactus! Don't be fooled, Diego has been putting a bunch of work into this app and his version of "beta" is my 2.0. Nice Job Diego!
Diego chose the new name as a way of making his new company focused around the app unique and trademarkable. Hmmm. This is all well and good, but I have some business lessons that I learned the hard way that I want to share here. I've sort of ranted about this before, but I'll say it again. I wanted to start a business in 1999 and did everything you could possibly do to start a business except actually produce a product and sell things. I created logos and incorporated and paid taxes and filled out a lot of paperwork, but at the end of the day I didn't have a business. I had a corporation that's still costing me money, but not a business.
Ready? Here's Russell's Rules for Starting a Business (since I haven't actually done this yet, please take these with a pound of salt):
- #1 Until you are earning money, you don't have a business. It's all about the money. Don't mess with all that extraneous stuff that businesses need to mess with because unless money is coming in, you don't have actually have a business, so you don't need it. Get it? Don't worry about licenses and trademarks and business cards and all that crap until you actually SELL something.
- #2 You don't have a product unless you have a customer. You can have users and supporters and everything in the world, but unless someone has given you MONEY for that item, you've got JACK. The best way to find out if you have what you need to start a business is to sell something. If you can't sell the product to your mother, then you obviously should reconsider the business.
- #3 It's all about the business, not the product. Regardless of whether you've got a real product (see rule #2), if you're starting a business to sell just A product, you're not really in business. A business makes money however it can. It makes more money on things that it has expertise on, so obviously you aren't going to sell soap if you're a programmer. But hey, a business is a business. Selling soap isn't glamourous, but we all NEED soap.
In addition to these basic rules, you have to talk about what you're doing. Don't worry about trade secrets or first mover advantage or any of that bullshit. Share your ideas and plans, ask for advice and listen to the replies. If you get discouraged just from hearing negative comments, you don't have what it takes to start a business. If you don't hear what you want, but still believe you've got the right idea, great! Then just follow the rules above and you're golden. Make some money and prove everyone wrong.
Comments welcome if you think I'm full of it. ;-)
Later... checking out Diego's site, someone left a comment pointing out that the words CleverCactus have been used before. Urgh!
I left Diego this message:
I did something similar a few years ago. I wanted to start a company to give tutorials online and decided that I wanted to call it Avedia, for Audio/Visual Education.
I asked a couple programmer friends what they thought and did a search online for the name and came up with nothing. So then I bought the domain, incorporated, submitted a trademark on the name (look it up) and everything.
Then a month into it I start talking about it for the first time in front of a woman who says, "'Avedia'? Like 'Aveda' the hair salons?" Sure enough - there's a large chain of hair salons and products called Aveda and as soon as my site went up I immediately started getting emails from women all over the country asking about hair stuff. It dogged me for the entire time I was trying to work on the biz. Ugh.
So don't sweat it if you're not the only CleverCactus on earth... Make a bunch of money from the product and then hire a marketing firm or AHundredMonkeys.com to find a new name for you.