Friday, September 16, 2005

Artspark - Collapsing Boundaries

ArtSpark is a boundary-spanning effort to bring different creative groups together, including theatre, graphic design, art and gaming. I saw a one of the productions, "Girl 7" last week, and it was a theatre experience like no other I've had. I highly recommend it to everyone, especially bootstrappers.

Festivals like these are really important and leverage Austin's unique communities by brining them together. It reminds me of an earlier post (and discussion within Bootstrap Austin) about how innovation emerges from the borders between distinct fields. The Digitial Convergence Initiative Conference coming up next week is yet another effort along similar lines. Bootstrap Austin is playing its role in this unfolding process through the Bootstrap Ambassador Program.

I'd like to see more of these boundary-spanning initiatives. The innovation that emerges will astound us. Of course, many experiments that come from them will fail, but that is also an intrinsic part of the process.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Jack Long, Co-founder Lone Star Overnight

We had an excellent talk by Jack Long at our September Bootstrap Meeting. Jack is the co-founder of two companies, Lone Star Overnight and PeopleAdmin. He is also an Entrepreneur-Teacher at the Acton MBA Program in Austin.

Jack touched on many issues relevant to Bootstrap Entrepreneurs.

1. Leverage the Maven/Evangelist Power of 2 in your founding team. Jack has consistently complemented his "Mr. Inside"/Maven capabilities with a "Mr. Outside"/Evangelist. While working with someone different than yourself poses a unique set of challenges, it also creates a powerful creative friction and natural separation of roles.

2. Demo, Sell, Build. If you can, do not expend scarce resources you do not have to build the product up front. It's likely you will build the wrong thing anyway. Instead, go with a demo and find a customer who will pay you for it. You will receive invaluable feedback from your customer Once you have the contracts and payment secured, then design and build it.

3. If you have real competitors, you have not scoped your niche down enough. "Competition" does not exist in the classical sense for bootstrappers. In all reality, we don't compete with any of the significant companies in our space. In LSO's case, the "competition" was FedEx/UPS. Jack used a naval analogy to illustrate the point. These companies are like battleships and it's simply not worth their time and effort to re-point their big guns to blow your tiny canoe out of the water. Whatever you do, do not attract attention to your canoe and keep out of the Battleship's way! If you do, it will result in total annihilation. Think Netscape and Microsoft.

4. Manage the transition between the Valley of Death phase and Growth phase. All the rules change as the venture exits the VoD. The founder must change his focus and tactics. New issues will take precedence, such as people management. Often, the people that were critical in the VoD become liabilities in Growth and must be managed carefully or even let go. Founders can be the biggest obstacle. They have to get out of the details and focus on larger issues. Most importantly, start developing leadership capability in the company. Jack's points on leadership echoed those of Neal Kocurek, founder of Radian and the first Bootstrap Austin speaker.

These points were just a few of the nuggets Jack offered to the group.

Thanks for the insights!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bootstrap Launches Ambassador Program

Bootstrap is thrilled to announce the creation of the Bootstrap Ambassador Program. Through this program, Bootstrap will interface with delegates and leadership from other organized communities throughout Austin. Our goal is become a conduit for community and facilitation. By establishing a connection not only between our membership and those of participating organizations, but with the greater Austin business community, we have a substantial opportunity to leverage our combined assets for the greater good.

I am personally excited to be involved with this initiative. I look forward to stretching the proverbial legs of Bootstrap to showcase our dynamic membership and to get them invovled with the Austin business community. I have no doubt that opportunities will be uncovered for our members and additional channels of revenue will be discovered on all sides of the fence.

For a complete listing of organizations targeted to participate in our Ambassador's program, please check out the this link: