Friday, June 15, 2007

Aren't we all founders at work?

For the past few days, I've been reading the book "Founders at work" by Jessica Livingston. An interesting read for would-be entrepreneur or anyone curious about the early days of some of the most successful internet companies. This got me thinking that all of us, in our own way, might be founders at work.

Book review

There's an interesting path from the early stories of Steve Wozniak working on the Apple or up to recent success stories like Flickr. Each short story makes only a couple of pages of interview with the founder: initial idea, funding, good and bad turns and advices to would-be entrepreneurs. That makes up a good and easy summer read.

What I would have loved to see is a short summary of each story key takeaways and a final chapter that could have provided an expert view and some advices to would-be entrepreneurs. "The Art of the Start" from Guy Kawasaki would probably be more appropriate for that.

Idea, guts, luck and connections

Although each story is different, there are some common traits:
  • Everybody has ideas, few have the guts to take the risk of turning them into something more tangible.
  • Luck is often a factor, although I believe one can create favorable conditions to increase the chances of being lucky.
  • The initial idea often derive into something else, more interesting and more viable.
  • Having the right connections is also an element of success.
  • Diploma and experience doesn't seem to correlate very strongly with successful entrepreneurs, although entrepreneurs get more successful with each startup experience.

Missed opportunities?

Trough the years, I had some ideas that, given the right timing, the right contacts and a little more guts, could have (maybe) turned out into something big:
  • While working at Softimage as a webmaster, I thought of a web site that would feature commercials, short movies, game animations and movie special effects that were done with the products. People would get a synopsis, watch the video, and rate it or send critics. Animators and students were eager to show off their work, so they would have submitted their own videos. I shared the idea with the founder and it was dismissed as impossible... a few months later adCritic was born... That was in 1998.
  • While working as a project lead for the redesign of a dozen web sites, we worked with an interactive agency that sent us links to an online prototype. Business owners (marketing & communication people) would print the page in black & white, handwrite annotations for corrections, and fax it back to the agency... with cut-off margins, unreadable comments and bad handwriting! I thought of an online collaboration tool that would allow someone to put virtual Post-It notes on a page and share them with other people. That was around 2000. Check out

A new opportunity?

Now I've got this crazy idea about WASP, the Web Analytics Solution profile, that would ease the implementation of web analytics solutions. The early version, more a proof of concept than anything else, was received with great interest and I got very interesting feedback.

Could there be some business opportunity behind it? Maybe, not sure, but it's a hell of a fun to do it!

What's your own missed opportunity?