Where lifestyle business means doing something in a similar, twisted, or better way than it’s done everywhere else off- or online (like a shared hosting provider); and startup means disrupting how an industry has been known to operate or creating an entire market altogether.
With all the songs of (deserved) praise to the likes of Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey, Aaron Levie, Drew Houston and David Karp many entrepreneurs are now convinced that to be worthy of a National ID document they need to disrupt something otherwise they cannot “change the world” or “live a legacy”. What you will notice is that these ambitions just in themselves are focused on the exterior person and the fictitious “end” person (because it’s the journey), not the interior. The big names we fame are people who in the process of working on their interior self arrived to where they are and the “exterior” person that we on-lookers see. The “exterior” mindset that the wider media has imposed on us has made us to, at a subconscious level, define technology entrepreneurship as being only about disrupting and we have overlooked the other equally important kind of entrepreneurship which is just as rewarding if it meets your interior self’s goals and its name is lifestyle entrepreneurship.
To say lifestyle entrepreneurship is easier than startup entrepreneurship i’d be lying. It may actually be more difficult in that there are chances you have small differentiating factors from competitors but like most other markets it is always too wide and large to have a monopoly. To take a recent example, the NY Times published an article on Brian Lam’s journey as a media entrepreneur. Having taken the lifestyle route he can now focus on his own inner goals and interests which are in this case outside of his profession. If his figures aren’t big enough then you can take Noah Kagan’s businesses AppSumo & Gambit that he grew into multi-million dollar establishments (he teaches how too). There’s also the likes of TechCrunch, Neil Patel and HubSpot. The list goes on and on.
Interior and exterior interests aside, there actually really is an opportunity for business on the lifestyle side of business but be warned the work to be input is no different but usually the legal and logistic challenges you face aren’t the “world is recoiling to change” kind. The key here is to not ignore this other side of business when you are looking at the world through the glass of opportunity.
But no one explains the two better than Corbett Barr who’s founded both kind of businesses in his post here, Startup vs. Lifestyle Business.
So yes, i am asking you to be very selfish. Look to what makes you happy as a person inside and then go the path you need to: startups, lifestyle businesses, heck both. Metro Man found his calling as Music-man, it’s time you find yours.
Posts on why Africa’s startups & development scene is not moving at all have been making rounds on the internet and most of the reasons cited were valid but made by people who have “crossed the chasm” in some ways and are now sitting on the other side of success. (Un)fortunately the greater part of my acquaintances are the hipster incumbent entrepreneurs and they have a mindset that would be comic if it weren’t disturbing. If i were to add anything to the lists describing why our startups are failing it’d be “The founders think they are special. They are worryingly confident that the universe will serve them success on a platter”
There’s now a whole industry around Entrepreneurship & Motivating publishing. The movie industry has also caught onto the buzz around entrepreneurship. Has anyone watched “The Darkest Hour“? The ill-limbed aliens joined the script but what glued the cast was the lead roles’ startup. Maybe it’s because entrepreneurship taps into everyone’s dream life: a huge office where you potato all day while the bank account magically inflates. Forget sex sells, entrepreneurship sells. The social dynamics around entrepreneurship have changed significantly and the bar has been raised sky-high because once anyone says they are an entrepreneur to anyone the names “Mark Zuckerberg” spring to their minds, and then your name (ugly picture). With publications such as Young Fabulous & Self-Employed young people are now being drawn into startups for the wrong reasons and that has unforgiving repercussions. The constant bombardment of success stories, motivational quotes, freedom (wonder where they get that because founders work pitifully harder around the clock even when they are not physically working) and money that comes with entrepreneurship there’s now a new generation of entrepreneurs that are – for lack of a better word - deluded. Even those who at heart are entrepreneurs can fall for this masshipnotism around startups. The problem with the overnight success illusion that comes with the hypnosis is that after a shot at it and failing it is not always easy to collect yourself, accumulate capital (Venture Capital’s still a dream) and hop onto another roller-coaster when the last one threw you off at the first bend. Read here a recent example.
Let’s delve a moment into this new age entrepreneur’s mind.
They love startup porn. They feel a connection to these successful people. They believe they are special, they see flaws everywhere and are convinced they can do it better than everyone else who’s tried. They are thankful when they are walking in the street, that they are not like the guy selling vegetables by the corner. They will be self-made successes.
Nothin’ to it
This collective delusion means they are not afraid of competition no-matter how small. They look at their competitor’ efforts and chuckle: i’ll do a better job than them when i finally move. They don’t realize that “out there” off the seat of delusion things are very difficult (almost impossible) and you move one foot in front of the other. Even those “startups” they look up to. Go to Archive.org and see for yourself. Or here about Twitter’s early days. It has taken years to get where they all are today because when you’re building a pyramid, it really is one block on top of another and the bigger it gets the more difficult it is to put a block atop another.
They also believe the customers will love them and their products straight away and will send competitor’s products out of the window.(The beaten path)
Most of our developers believe they too are “special” and this has also affected the rate at which regional technology products are evolving because of this ego. I remember one going:
“Ha! The only thing standing between me and doing that also is a blog post. Just that i don’t have time to spare now but there’s nothing to it”.
It’s not to do with a lack of programming know-how that developers aren’t able to create killer features for the startups they found/work for. A very contemporary example is Stripe. Quoting it’s 22 year old co-founder in a recent interview:
We lived in a very small and rural area, but one advantage to learning something like programming is that there are enough websites online and people in chat rooms for people not in the “in” place to pick up the skill.
So rule that excuse out.
Everyone is special in their own way but the kind of special that the next generation of entrepreneurs has embraced is the wrong one. If we were that special then we wouldn’t have the need to go “higher”.
You’re not special and will probably fail (definitely fail) at this rate, you can’t do everything, you don’t know everything. Your competition with their ugly looking product and snail-speed “progress”: are actually moving at lightning speed. Join the race and see. you want to break the balance of the universe by crossing that chasm and expect the universe to fight back. Think of equilibrium reactions in chemistry, that is exactly how the universe fights back. When it does so successfully this is what you read on TechCrunch. You can have the perfect solution to a real nagging problem but fail to at finding a product/market fit.
I remember some colleagues chuckling at Buffer’s monthly revenue ($70k) and they couldn’t understand why such a meager figure made so much noise. (I’ll leave you to be judge on this one)
I hope not
I hope you didn’t read this and your special alternate self came and said “He’s probably telling the un-special ones to clear way for me the special one”. Next time you see an “unspecial person”, however you define them, and next time you see a “wacky product moving slow” or a “fail” know that that’s how life actually is
The smart folks at Mozilla know and are trying to beat Google Chrome’s speed. Nokia is aware that Android is gnawing away more developers from them. The engineering failures that cause airplane crashes are not because the engineers are dull when they make the airplanes in the first place (I can barely make a paper one). In the real world, beyond your delusion, you’ll see it takes a lot of hard work and collaboration to get anything done. It’s not the “mindset” or “conviction” that wins the battle and the war, it what leads you in battle and urges you on when you know you’re clearly lost because you’re in the war for the love of it. Need i mention proper combat training before you go in?
Ok you got me
Developers build things. That is why it has that name. With the media hitting us from all sides the subconscious bottom line message becomes “You can build things, so start a company”; which is a great thing if entrepreneurship is what you want where programming is 15% of the job. The rest is sales, begging, negotiating, (s)weeping and marketing.
Just because you build apps doesn’t mean you have to build a company. Read GitHub’s Ben article on that topic here.
But if entrepreneurship is your thing in the absence of all the media’s noise: Great! Wonder how to get startup ideas? start a million dollar business in a weekend? test ideas quickly? Then change your mindset first, move relentlessly and enjoy each phase of your years-long overnight success because when you look back at life, good things always happen.
PS: During the QAs no interviewers were injured. Just thanked actually
The Hub has launched Culture Shift is a 6-month ideation and support program for innovators from the creative, commercial and digital sectors. Its overall objective is to develop and realise practical solutions for sustainable impact. Starting off with a 3-day Innovation Weekend on March 23rd to 25th, Culture Shift provides:
R50,000 seed funding and mentoring by seasoned entrepreneurs and investors. During the Innovation Weekend, 35 participants will go through the following intensive process:
• Friday 23rd March (from 2pm): Ideation Day | local needs analysis, idea generation and team formation
• Saturday 24th: Hack Day | concept development and prototyping solutions
• Sunday 25th: Pitching Day | pitch to investors and awards Awardees will subsequently benefit from a 6-month ‘Mentoring & Fruition’ support program designed by the Hub Johannesburg, consisting of mentoring, building investor relations and opening opportunities through relevant networks.
Culture Shift is an international initiative and will concurrently take place in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos.
What’s in it for you?
• Connect with inspiring like-minded people
• Access to an Ideas Lab with impactful innovations
• An opening to access seed funding and business mentoring
• Access to a high-energy, collaborative and funInnovation Weekend!
Who should participate?
• Technologists, such as web and mobile app-developers
• Social entrepreneurs and institutional changemakers
• Creatives from the arts, design and cultural sectors.
As a participant you share the following characteristics:
• You have a deep passion for your work
• You are excellent at what you do
• You are committed to making a positive impact on society
Johannesburg: Apply Here
Zing, a mobile instant messaging client from South Africa have recently launched. The service was developed by Blazing Chili. Check out the video below, the video below. If you have ever played the game little big planet, you would think this was a promotion of an LBP game/level. They seem to have taken quite a bit of inspiration from LBP, even the voice over sounds like the guy who does LBP.
Impressively, zing have launched on the following platforms:
- Java Basic (feature phones, i.e Nokia S40)
- Java Advanced
Zing changes thing up a bit on a tradditional MIM, by adding a few additional features such as a gamification features (Points etc). It also adds content delivery, in a concept called “Zones”, i.e users can subscribe to content about subject x. I think of it as way for brands/news organisations to distribute content via mobile.
While RIM may be loosing ground internationally, it is one of the biggest platforms in South Africa and other emerging markets, one of the main drivers in ZA has been BBM.
The difficulty with MIM, is achieving consistency and reliability with millions of users, not many company’s can claim to this. Last year Live Profile went viral, with millions of users signing up in a short period of time, however the platform could not scale. I tried it out for about a week, attempted to use it, but had to delete the app. The number one issue with LiveProfile, you never knew if your message was actually delivered. Sometime’s it took several hours before a message reached it’s destination.
Mxit and what’s app are quite reliable, it remains to be seen if Zing will be as well. The gaming elements are interesting, and if well thought out could result in people sticking around just long enough to ensure some amount of success (see foursquare)
SAINE (South African Innovation Network) is an non profit organisation dedicated to encouraging innovation in South Africa. The event will feature the board game “Superprenuer”
SuperPrenuer is a board game that aim’s to use fun to teach and assist SMME entrepreneurs. The board game aims to encourage good business principals and values while at the same time discouraging behaviours that limit productivity. The ‘game’ takes approximately 2 hours to play, however it requires the use of facilitators who assist with your learnings.
You could learn quite a lot with the right board game, for example some argue monopoly teach quite a few principals that could assist any entrepreneur. While others argue that monopoly actually teach you bad economic principals.
What are your thoughts, would you consider playing a board game to learn?
Date: 24 February 2012
Time: 9:00am—12:00 am
Venue: The intelliLAB at the University of Johannesburg
Cost: Free for SAINE members, R95 for non members
Last night I attended the inaugural Angelhub founders dinner. Other than some amazing and inspiring stories from all of the founders there, i learnt quite quickly that including the word ‘snap’ seems to be very popular amongst South African entrepreneurs, We previously wrote about snapplify , we also have snap-bill and snapt-ui.
I have to say the event was extremely useful, the entrepreneurs shared a whole lot of information they would not usually share in a large room with 50 people in it. Several times we heard :
“Don’t quote me on this”
I dont know if it was the small crowd, the intimate lighting but it worked. Richard Dewing’s story was truly inspiring, how his first deal went horribly wrong, the ups and downs of his business.
Some interesting quotes from the night:
“I’m not telling dad his pension money is gone! We’re gonna do this!”
“Your customers may like your software for a completely different reason than you do.”
“Co-founders are not about having expertise, it’s about someone who’s with you when it gets dark!”
“Your projections are almost always wrong”
“It is up to us – the SA entrepreneurs – to turn things around in this country and catalyze growth”
Do your self a favour, and the next time this event comes around snap (see what i did there?) up a place as soon as you can. You will not regret it.
Some of the guys in attendance were:
- Andy Hadfield
- Brett Commaille
- Dave Blakey
- Doug Vining
- Jaco van Wyk
- Jan-Jan van der Vyver
- Jason Norwood-Young
- Keet van Zyl
- Richard Dewing
- Styli Charalambous
- Tyler Reed
- Wesley Lynch
I have tried to get everyone’s twitter handle, if i missed yours send me a tweet @ismail.
p.s I hear rumours of a new start-up called snap-tube, check back here for more.
* Shout out to slow in the city for hosting us and keeping the place open later then usual
* Pictures from Jaco Van Wyk & Brett Commaille