During lunch today I was discussing web applications with a friend and started thinking about some of Google’s products that are used widely today. I realized that before Google Docs there was writely.com – and I had an account with them. Before Google Voice, there was GrandCentral – I had an account with them too.
This trend is not limited to Google products though … I remember using ZohoCRM for a freelancing writing business several years ago before the whole suite of Zoho products existed.
I tried out Freshbooks when they first launched …
And don’t get me started with to-do apps or other productivity products.
I watched the launch of Android and could not wait for my contract on Verizon to complete so I could get my first non-blackberry smartphone … in my haste, I purchased the Droid Eris which had so little staying power that the first major update release it received caused it to morph into the most annoying phone in the world – random crashes, freezing when a phone call comes in, applications taking so long to open that I would forget what I was opening them for – I loved to hate that phone.
With all its problems, most people still did not have smartphones and those who did had iPhones, so it was still special.
I have even extended this trend to my job where I enthusiastically volunteered my time to help with the launch of the collaboration platform, Jive, into our company. What drives this constant need in me to become a user of applications that are just starting out – or implementations of established applications into spaces they have not been before?
It usually starts with the following phrase in my mind:
“There has got to be a better way…”
When I come across a problem that theoretically could be solved with technology, I imagine the solution in my mind and rabidly search for a solution. I sign up for the free trials of services. I kick the tires of many potential solutions – usually getting more and more frustrated, until I settle on something that meets 60-80% of my needs with the hope that the solution will evolve and one day fill in the gaps. Sometimes the thing I am looking for seems outright silly and feels like something only a handful of people will buy. And then a few months (or sometimes years) later I see it as a product or service.
Until today, I thought this was a weird quirk in me, but then it occurred to me that it is actually a valuable thing to be somebody who so viscerally feels these gaps. In the past, I have looked for a solution built by somebody else – but today, I asked myself, why can’t I be the one to build it?
I had a crystallizing moment for several threads of purpose that have been floating around in my head and settled on a unifying idea for them.
In no particular order, the threads are:
- my desire to demysitify application development for myself by learning web development
- my realization that I have reached the limit of self teaching regarding graphic design and need to become more serious with turning raw talent and interest into mastery
- my total buy-in with the Lean Startup principles I read in this book
- my fascination with web and mobile apps
- my constant search for new revenue streams to make my family’s dreams reality
- and my early adopter bias that I described in the earlier part of this post
I formulated the unifying idea when I read the following description of a business model by Clayton M. Christensen in the abstract of an article he wrote for Harvard Business Review.
A business model has these key compnents:
- a customer value proposition that fulfills an important job for the customer in a better way than anything competitors offer;
- a profit formula that lays out how the company makes money delivering the value proposition;
- and the key resources and key processes needed to deliver that proposition.
So my early adopter bias is driven by identifying ‘jobs‘ that I want to do, and what I need to start doing is doing is before I go on an extensive search for a solution, I should design my ultimate service or product that would meet the need and then move into ‘testing mode’, first by searching to see if a solution exists and if not, finding ways to identify if there are other ‘beta guys’ like me that are trying to do the same ‘job’.
In parallel with this, my desire to become an accomplished web developer now has a purpose – because even if I may not e able to build a whole solution myself … I most certainly can put together a minimum viable product if I can learn the basic skills and start using them.
Today I begin my journey and I will post on this blog to take you along on the ride with me.