Start-up Juggling Act

However, this time instead of joining a well established and profitable business we’re starting from zero.

A brief look back

I wrote the above at the end of my 2020 review and posted it to a number of different channels.

I got great feedback and many suggested that we weren’t actually starting from zero as with over 20 years in business we all have experience and an extensive network of contacts – which is completely correct and helps provide confidence when starting out.

We first began the business in August and have been primarily focused on the development of an iPad based design app. My two co-founders and I, along with some additional part time developers have put long hours into the core of our app with a view to releasing an MVP in late November.

We missed the target date but two weeks later we had a substantial release ready for Apple Approval and subsequently for our first close group of testers. This group of testers are all part of the networks I have built up during my career and they provide a great early (and friendly) test bed for our product.

However, suddenly we were now getting feedback and while we could keep our heads down for the first five months we now had a product release and we had to start juggling a number of tasks that support a product led company. The product still wasn’t (isn’t) commercialised so while we had some new pressure we didn’t have the pressure of paying customers (though I can’t wait for that!)

And this is where my comment regarding starting from zero really came into play. All of a sudden in addition to product development we needed to start thinking about websites, social media, branding, marketing, customer support. None of these things existed, and for obvious reasons nothing we had produced in previous companies could be used directly in our new business – we had a clean sheet of paper to create a branding and marketing strategy, we had no office systems.

And so began the juggling act that virtually all start up founders go through at some point. We are running a very lean development focused business until we raise external capital and to that end my role has now seen me swapping hats on a daily basis – sometimes many times a day.

While we had nothing, again previous experience allowed me to quickly start pulling things together. I have a strength in office system implementation – I have seen how integrated systems allow business to focus on their core activities – so over the last month I have implemented the core of our commercial-side business systems that are all integrated and will allow us to scale over time (you have to love cloud applications):

  • Hubspot – CRM & Marketing (Advertising, Email, Social Media, Lead Capture)
  • Zendesk – Customer Support and Knowledge base
  • Webflow – Website Design

I have longterm experience with Zendesk having used them at Cadimage over 10 years ago, but the other systems were completely new to me but they all work well together.

Aside from office systems, we’ve been busy building a brand (I’ll post on that soon), added a new director to the board to help with capital raising, started a series of lean marketing activities to start broaden our testing community and begun building a social media presence.

On the development front we’ve knocked off one major product release already and have some smaller releases coming soon.

All in all its good fun, a constant juggling act of reprioritising and trying to move each piece forward in a logical order.

I knew from the outset 2021 was going to be busy, looking back (we’re almost 20% done with the year) I can already see we’ve taken some big steps forward, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the year progresses with an official beta launch and (fingers crossed) our commercial debut!

A new look – work in progress

As they say, good things take time – though I guess it’s not up to me to say if it is good or not!

Anyway back in August last year David from Buildmedia took the original photo from my blog and modelled, rendered and composited it to come up with the header above.

It has taken me the last 8 months to get round to updating my blog to a new theme that better suited the new image. So here it is!

Although it is now live I can’t quite take it off my to do list as there are a number of tweaks I still want to make to the site. So keep an eye out over the next few weeks as I find time to make the final adjustments!


Webstock 2011 Conference – Day 1

This post isn’t actually about day 1 it is about the first half of day 1 as I have since left the conference to catch a flight to Napier for – more on that in the next few days.

So anyway, after 3 days of workshops today the conference proper started and the twitter hash tag (#webstock) started getting hammered!

Following a brief introduction by one of the organisers – a team that requires a huge vote of thanks – we kicked off with Frank Chimero (@fchimero)

Frank talked about Digital Campfires and more particularly story telling.

Story telling and humanizing the web are extremely important concepts and have formed a strong part of the strategic branding work carried out by Cadimage with Brian Richards over hte last couple of years.

Frank used the simple concept of cold and warm to help indicate the power of great story telling. Saying your ‘xxxx’ (insert: wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend etc) is 72.8% water is not particularly warm – though factually correct!

Another extremely powerful example was an advertising exec from New York who for weeks walked past a blind man on to work each day who held a sign that simply said “Blind” After a few weeks the advertising guy asked the blind guy if he could adjust his sign. The sign was updated to read “It is spring and I am blind” Not surprisingly at the end of the day the Blind man’s cup was full of spare change.

Other comments Frank made that really indicate the power of and reason behind story telling included:

Stories connect us

We get together to get better

Webstock is a campfire

We tell stories to understand and to be understood

Following Frank was Michael Koziarski (@nzkoz) who decided against pushing Ruby on Rails but instead concentrated on how to be successful and the concept of Skunk Works and outlined some pointers for managers and developers/designers. The interesting advice for developers/designers was essentially “Quit your Job”

The morning was wrapped up hearing from Facebooks’  David Recordon who talked about HTML5 at Facebook, and then Mark Pilgram’s HTML5 keynote.

Over the morning was great and the buzz at the breaks was incredible.

Webstock 2011 – Workshop Day 2

As outlined in yesterdays post today’s workshop was “In-depth with HTML5: getting started with 4 key technologies with Mark Pilgrim”

I have never intended this blog to get overly technical so beyond telling you that we covered off four key HTML5 technologies – Video, Canvas, Local Storage and Offline – I thought it was best to share a series of useful links to various HTML5 resources.

Webstock – Workshop Day 1

Today the Webstock 2011 Workshops kicked off. My day was all about How To Make Information Beautiful with David McCandless

Based in London, David has developed a number of infographics and took us through the steps he follows to take a concept/problem/question through to a completed infographic.

Infographics, data visualisations and information is design is a rising trend and the depth of information contained in the infographics is staggering and much of this information is generally not visible – which is the beauty and purpose of the graphics David creates.

As an example, David once decided to try to grasp the concept of ‘billions’ – David struggled with the media dealing in billions like they were common to everyone when in fact “they’re mind-boggling and near incomprehensible without context” so David set about comparing various billion dollar values to provide a context for understanding.

The creation process involves four steps:

  • Stub – an idea, image, question, dataset, problem or subject
  • Concept – an idea you can explain to someone
  • Sketch – free hand to explore the concept
  • Design – the final infographic – sometimes requiring many drafts!

An important key is to remember that “Relationships are Beautiful” and related information/data can provide a great basis for a infographic.

Once complete an infographic should be:

  • Self-sufficient
  • Optimized (not to be confused with simplified)
  • Revealing
  • Relative

The ability to display complex information and relationships in an engaging and easy to understand format in my opinion is a true talent – though that said I plan to give it a go so keep an eye out over the next few weeks.

In the meantime tomorrow’s workshop gets me into HTML5 so a bit of a change of pace I am sure but no doubt just as interesting as today.

Another milestone!

While we were busy getting our new website together we also passed another significant milestone with Cadimage.

$1,000,000 USD in Online Export Sales.

While this milestone has taken longer than we would have hoped the graph below shows that sales are growing at an increase rate.

You can also see (as would be expected) that sales jump everytime there is an ArchiCAD Upgrade.

Note: The graph above shows till the end of 2010 hence the flattening off!

My team and I are extremely proud of this achievement and it is especially rewarding knowing the revenue is 100% export based which complements our existing New Zealand business well.

Big week – Big Milestone!

It’s a while since I did a 80+ hour week but this last 7 days once again cracked that number (and yes that means I worked most of Queens Birthday Weekend.)

Over the last week we have put the finishing touches to our new brand and website.

It has been a long project with the inevitable last minute rush but we hit our target date and we can now all breathe a sign of relief!

The new website is only the beginning and we have a whole host of projects we will be working on through-out the rest of the year.

Great news… Pacific Fibre announced

UPDATED: 12/03 Full Press Release on Lance’s Site + Technical Details

It is great to see a lead being taken with regards to New Zealand’s broadband (and over at Stuff)

This is exactly what we need to get New Zealand business competing on a world stage.

I can’t say I am too surprised to see this as Rod @Xero has been advocating this for a long time, obviously to the point of him saying – well no one else is doing it, we might as well do it ourselves. Sam Morgan also eluded to it in the latest issue of Idealog.

Lance Wiggs (who is now also part of the Cadimage Team) is also part of the group behind Pacific Fibre so I look forward to hearing first hand how this progresses.

I can’t wait for this to come on stream so thanks to the group for doing what Kiwi’s do best – just getting on with it!

Twitter and Business

Twitter is certainly getting a huge amount of hype at the moment as it makes the transition from gimmick to becoming a core part of  business and their social marketing plan.

Twitter to many seems like a waste of time and as many tweets revolve around what I ate for breakfast or what my dog just did. As a result of this and not surprisingly there is a lot of scepticism as to whether Twitter is a fad and how long will it last. I myself have times where I tweet a lot and then days go by without a single tweet.

Many smart businesses are now finding that Twitter is a great tool to communicate with customers, make offers and answer support questions. This is based on Twitters ability to connect quickly with a large audience that can see your messages on all types of devices from Internet cafes, to computers, to phones. While I cannot mention the exact number Andy Lark recently told me how much business Dell does via Twitter which was simply astounding.

While we are starting to use Twitter increasingly for our Cadimage Tools business (@cadimagetools) initially we have also found it beneficial as a way of receiving information. *

For those who want to read more here are some recent links that may be of interest:

Twitter 101

Twittering on about Business

Twitter marketing tool of the future

Seth Godin outlines on his blog he doesn’t have time to Twitter but does at least have his blog ‘hooked up’ to Twitter so that a Tweet is created everytime he posts a blog item.**

Twitter and Business

* There are many ways to receive Tweets I find Seesmic Desktop particularly good as I can easily create different lists or groups of tweets so I can easily review them.

** There are a number of ways of having Tweets automatically created when a blog article is published. I use Twitter Tools, Seth uses twitterfeed – there are many more but once set up it is a great way of publishing content to multiple sources in a simple and efficient way.

A few interesting things…

Over the last few weeks I have been taking care of Customer Care for our Cadimage Tools International Customers. It is certainly a job where you get right down to the detail and consequently you may have noticed a drop off in my blog postings!

I have also fallen behind in reading everyone else’s blogs but I have come across a few things that are either great, cool, I agree with or just plain weird!

There is the recently released Dell Adamo which is a pretty cool looking, extremely thin laptop.

Xero has made two great announcements – Xero Personal and a massive increase in Revenues

Andy Lark has a good point about Rugby going globalit must be tough being in the US and not being able to watch the All Blacks. I also though his post on Critical Non Essentials was interesting.

There are the Mindflex puzzles where you use your brain power to move objects!

Lastly there is a post about 10 Secrets To Staying Informed About Web Design – I think this could help me keep up with all my blogs not just those on Web Design, but I haven’t yet had time to read it!