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Evan Williams, the co-founder of Blogger and more famously Twitter, is a fascinating case study on the power of side projects.
You see, Blogger was a side project of Evan’s first company, Pyra Labs, as reported in a recent Forbes article.
Odeo, his second company, was built to create podcasting. It ultimately failed because iTunes literally killed them. Twitter, was a side project and is now a billion dollar company, at least in valuation.
In both cases we find that there was an initial idea that later created opportunities for much more successful ventures. These so-called side projects eventually became the core product and eventually the business.
I believe that everyone should have side projects. I believe that every company, both small and large (especially the very large Fortune enterprises), should require that every employee have a side project.
Most companies look to their right and to their left when considering what they need to do to stay innovative and ultimately more profitable than their competitors.
Their competition and their competitor’s products become the focal point of their innovation and business advancement. In high tech this is often a logical fallacy, a red herring, and the ultimate distraction for disruption.
Creating a new disruptive and innovative technology requires you to look outside the obvious technological realm and discover technological solutions for non-technological problems and/or challenges.
Last week my team moved into our new office space and I provided a number of images and even a few videos. I particularly like the original wood floors which are marred and beat up after years of use. It shows character and if it could speak I’m sure we’d hear some very fascinating stories.
This isn’t my first startup and it won’t likely be my last but it is the first time where I’m moving into an office space with my best friends that we can seriously call our own. There’s something categorically different about that than the previous “move in days” and I couldn’t be more happy with who I’ve chosen to spend a significant portion of my life with.
But perhaps the sweetest part of this is the fact that it was my choice.
I’m wireframing a small iOS app that I want to build (sometime in this lifetime) and I’m using Apple’s Keynote to do it. Imagine that.
Of all the great mockup and wireframing utilities and apps out there I’ve found a soft spot in my heart with Keynote – it just works and there isn’t anything incredibly complex about it.
I found that this template called Sketchit works just fine and is everything I need to get these basic concepts out the door.
The difference between success and failure is indistinguishable in the moment. In fact, what might be perceived as one may in fact be leading wholly in the opposite direction.
The ultimate indicator of success actually lies in the individual person, not the circumstance or even the product, company, or financial mile markers. I’m being reminded of this as I read biographies of once-heralded heroes in my industry who are now no longer with us – not dead, but simply forgotten because of colossal personal failure.
10 out of 10 times it’s almost always a moral failure closely aligned with pride that blind a person into making terrible leadership decisions. I told my team recently that I’m studying these leaders and their patterns of behavior so that I might identify them in myself in order to avoid those well-traveled paths.
It takes a long time for individuals on a team to gel – in fact, it’s precisely this fact why most organizations, especially startups, fail because they aren’t interested in waiting that long for things to work out.
The initial buzz and excitement of working with new individuals quickly gives way to annoyances, arguments, and fundamental differences that if not managed well or generally accepted will tear a team a part.
Most startups never get to a point of really performing as a team because they drive each other insane and don’t stick around long enough to see the positive side of these stormy events.
The history of the internet can be summed up easily into four different stages, or waves:
For those that have been around for a while you know this to be true. Yahoo! and a few other sites started out by simply creating a massive directory of sites – this was the first web and it’s what made Yahoo! such a large player in the beginning. Then, the directories became too large to manage and so search was born, the second wave.
Then, people got tired of that and realized that there was a social layer of interaction that was possible. The rise of “Web 2.0″ was born as the third wave. Facebook, Twitter, and an infinite number of social networks suddenly showed up and only a few remain of those originals today.
Finally, we are currently in the wave of mobile – it’s mobile everything as it’s the most progressive and exciting technology crest that we’ve seen build. A “computer” in every pocket and a browser just arms-reach away.
As I’ve shared previously my family is going through a big “offloading” event as we are affectionately calling it and being incredibly strict with what we are going to keep and what we are going to sell or simply donate and giveaway.
We’ve expanded our efforts to go beyond just books – anything goes at this point. Furniture, clothes, and whatever else that we’re simply not using and don’t need.
But one of the interesting things that’s happening as I’m vetting my books in terms of whether or not I want to keep them is the fact that I’m being a bit introspective and reflective as I walk through all the titles. I’m simply asking myself this very simple question:
Did it work?
In other words, did the advice in this particular book “work”? Did it provide the value that I had hoped it would and was it time well spent?