Monthly Archives: April 2007

Small Business

My wife attended the "Federal Contracts for Small Business Workshop" this morning at TechColumbus, another BUST. Apparently there were a number of other "Small Business" owners in attendance but the meeting was not for us, it was for that group of 5-10 people with money, with connections to the university or some other "connected" people.

A quote from one of the speakers was that before seriously viewing any proposals for SBIR, they actually skip the proposal and go right to the end where the resumes are attached. Another quote was when they are looking at "Small Business" they look for 3 things: People, People, People. Someone asked what about 1-2 person companies, they then said a few things but basically ignored the question…

I also think these people are stuck in the 90s or something, according to "The O'Reilly Radar", one person businesses are on the rise and according to the US Census, 20 million Americans operated businesses with no employees in 2004. Intuit in fact has put together a nice PDF on the subject called The Future of Small Business Report, which states that the "Personal Businesses" will become a lot more popular in the coming years. I am going to attend another talk this Wednesday about launching your website.

Am I Out of Touch?

I have noticed in my past and current ventures and underwhelming at the market place. Why are my products and services not adopted? This is a difficult question to answer some options include:

  • Am I out of touch with the market place?
  • Is my marketing budget too small?
  • Am I not patient enough?

I could be out of touch, my head could be so far in the clouds about some of my ideas that I can't see straight. It could also be that everyone I talk to about these things are just being nice and don't tell you what they will do. It could also be that I have just not talked to enough people. So how do I get more people to look and give me feedback? Marketing dollars are one solution and time is another, both of which I have neither of.

In this process of launching AppGin.Com, I have discovered an interesting funnel via Google Adwords, say you get a 1,000,000 impressions.

  • Funnel #1) Getting people to click on your ad. About 1%, or 10,000 clicks. (how much per click?)
  • Funnel #2) Getting people to register or sign-up. About 5-10%, or about 1,000 registrants.
  • Funnel #3) Getting people to use your application/software. Unknown maybe 5%, or about 50 users.
  • Funnel #4) Getting people to move from the “Free Version” to the “Paid Version”. Unknown maybe 5%, or about 2.5 sales.

So purely from a market research perspective, just going after the average Joe via Google Adwords this yields about 2.5 sales in 1,000,000 impressions. If you spend about $1.00 a click, that's about $10,000 for 2.5 $25 dollar sales, which from a business perspective is horrible.

So before you write any code, before you spend anytime on designing an architecture for your really cool new idea, try this:

  1. Get a cool idea.
  2. Get a few nice pictures and logos (pay to have someone create a cool logo for you).
  3. Create a registration form asking people if they would be interested in being a beta customer.
  4. Start a Google Adwords campaign, spend $200.
  5. If you don't get 10 registrants, think of something else.
  6. If you get 10 registrants, email them asking them about what they are looking for in this product or service, and what they would pay for it.
  7. If you don't get at least 1 person responding back, think of something else.

Kudos Microsoft

Well the trip to Redmond was not a total loss, the MSDN subscription has come in quite handy. The first thing I started working with was Visual Studio 2005 because I had some problems with Suns Implementation of The Communications API for Windows, and the Java Media Framework. It seems that Sun as abandon those APIs and I needed something for my robots moving forward. I was able to do in about 4 hours what I could not do in a few years. You can checkout my stories on ScottsBots.Com, my robotics web site.

Almost done with the garage.

After about 13 months I have just about completed work my workshop/garage. Yes leaving the basement at the old house was difficult, but after selling it in Feb. and with Emily's help painting the walls, it looks pretty kick butt! Now only if I had a fence….

Anyway, back to the garage. I was able to build work benches, a lumber cart, and shelving for about $300 in plywood and 2×4's. It cost almost as much for the paint, but it's well worth it. Stay tuned and I will update with before and after photos.

Zoning Board Meeting Canceled

4:30pm: Yes, they cancelled the meeting… We got a call at 4:06pm today that the 7:30 meeting tonight was cancelled… More to follow…

7:25pm: Well, I had to blow off some steam, so I cleaned the garage some more, and I think we are going to grab a few beers tonight with Ron & Sophia.

I sent the mayor a note to let him know how disappointed I was with the Zoning Board and the city of Grandview for that matter. To think, these are the same people that are going to be deciding the fate of the city. The same people that are deciding on Grandview Ave. 5 story buildings, the same ones that the tax payers of this small town expect to do them justice. But it seems that the lone family does not seem to merit that level of attention.

So what are we going to do? Well, I am going to wait a few days. I told them I would meet any time, any day to get this fence permit. My guess is they will push it until May 9th. Who really knows…

I am waiting to hear from John Kuss tomorrow, but I am not counting on that. I will most likely have to go over there myself in the afternoon to get some answers.

7:36pm, Emily just got back from the council chambers, just to see if anyone pitched… Guess what? 3 people showed up. John Kuss and 2 other people. They are thinking that maybe next Wednesday they might do something. I mean this will take all of 10 minutes and they might… Emily is upset now because of their lame excuses… There was one person from the board even at the meeting tonight that did not even have the decency to look at Emily while she was talking. The person was reading a book the entire time and did not look at her at all… What's that about?

The Great Tech StartUp Lie…

As a start-up entrepreneur I have been led to believe from the books and magazines and the people working for start-up helper organizations that all you need is a solid business plan comprising of an easy to understand business model, solid management team, etc. But they all leave out one very important thing, YOUR NETWORK.

While there might be many companies and people less capable than you, they have a “network” a network of friends, angels, venture capitalist, potential clients with decision making abilities, that you might not have. None of my books or magazines mention this, then again, they might not “sell” as many books or magazines if they did. So when looking at what might differentiate you from another business that gets some seed capital, look at who they know and at who you know. That just might be the difference.

What I find funny is that I just received an email from TechWeek, stating how “Venture-backed Companies Make Formidable Impact on Economy“. As I started to read the article I noticed they are reporting the same lie. An excerpt reads ..”For every 100 business plans that come to a venture capital firm for funding, usually only 10 or so get a serious look, and only one ends up being funded.” They say they look at management team, concept, marketplace, etc, but what do they really look at? None of the above!

Venture capital firms look at the 10 plans of the people they know, then the ones with the the right combination of business and network they pick for funding. For example: one man company with a great product and small network, will not get funded, but 5 people with an OK product and a large influential network will. This is not rocket science and there is no great magical formula, it’s about who you know 1st, and what you know a distant 2nd.

I don’t so much mind the article, the PDF or the whole venture or angel capital thing, I wish they would just be honest about how things really work, rather than giving people hope with a very small chance of success.

Vista Ultimate – Media Center PC for under $400

I have decided to take the plunge and create a Vista Ultimate for my Media Center PC to augment my DVD/Stereo/HDTV set-up. The price of the case to the left was $109 @MicroCenter.

My first attempt to build will be from some left-over parts including:

  • Athlon 64 3000+
  • nVidia 6600GT PCI-E

New parts include:

  • 1GB of PC3200 – $75
  • Foxconn NF4U MB – $65
  • DVD DL/RW Combo Drive – $30
  • Vista Ultimate (Free courtesy of MSDN Subscription)
  • Wireless Keyboard/Mouse – $26
  • Microsoft Remote – $39

Total Price $344

Though I might need to purchase more memory I can get this for another $75 which would put the total price tag to $419, not bad for a new media center PC. I will keep this post updated as to how well everything works out…

Update 4/7/2007

Well I did not check and the motherboard was too large, so I needed to get a MicroATX board from MicroCenter, they did not have any socket 939 boards so I went with AM2 and a new processor and newer memory. The GigaByte board although it came with an SPDIF output, they provided no brackets so this meant I needed a sound card with DOLBY & DTS, which set me back a $100, and of course I needed to get a capture card.

The problems started with these new boards as soon as I installed the new hardware. They (capture card & sound card) said it was Vista ready, but I received a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) while the Media Center was identifying my cable box. Followed by a Black Screen of Death upon reboot. The only way around the Black Screen of Death (Black is the new Blue) was to go into safe mode, remove the drivers for NVIDIA, ATI Capture, and the Sound Card. Remove both PCI cards and add one at a time until it booted without error. I also downloaded some Vista Updates along the way.

I had to manually configure my video card in media center, but it still does not recognize both tuners (Digital TV & Cable) I think there's a know knowledge base article (kb929011) but that does not resolve the issue because they just give a link to tech support. There's another post that people have had more luck with, I will try it and update this post.

But once Vista Media Center was installed, it was VERY COOL. We watched Star Wars EP 1, on it last night and looked at some photos from our albums. One thing that we noticed right away was that all of these digital photos just sat on our PC and we did not look at them, but now we can enjoy our MP3 collection, digital photo collection, and now I can start converting all of our video sitting on 20 some odd MiniDV tapes.

There's also some online movies, online TV, online news that's pretty neat we have not had time to investigate those and we have not tried YouTube'n over media center at this time. The text it still hard to read at 1280×720 (yes you might want to get a 1080p set for this so you can watch at 1920×1080). But most sites are readable, I might just need to tinker with the settings and DPI.

Old PC Conversion

I was going through some old parts today and decided to make a PC.

  • Case - Check, this was my old, loud PC for the office.
  • Memory - Check, 512MB of PC133
  • Motherboard - Check, Asus AK32V.
  • CPU - Check, 1GHz Athlon, no XP, MP, 64, Etc.
  • Hard Disk – Check, a 20GB Western Digital (old Feynman1 Robot Disk)
  • Network - Check, Linksys 10/100 Ethernet
  • OS - Fedora Core 6 basic stripped.
  • Function – I am not sure, maybe CVS, free-up Einstein for more important task, but I really don't know. I have a CVS server, a back-up server, I don't really need DHCP since the router handles this, domain? I don't really want to mess with that. Web? I have about 10 or so web servers in the house. Maybe a robot… Maybe a Linux robot learning platform…

Update: 4/6/07

Well this effort was for nothing. Though I was able to install the OS, the MB/CPU/Etc. was just tiered. It failed to boot after install, so I think I am just going to have to junk this stuff…

Update: 4/8/2007

Given my problems the other day with my Media center PC, I now have a motherboard and CPU and memory for a new computer. I am not sure what to do with it, though I have been thinking about (Network Attached Storage for awhile). Right now all of our back-ups are spread around it might be nice to have a 1TB storage array in the house behind lock & key… Hmm….

Fence Thing…

This really bothers me, so much so that it's 2am working on a fence justification document. This has already cost me about 8 hours today, I wish I could sue for lost wages…

To top this whole thing off, they could still deny my fence, then fine me $100/day and put me in jail and though I said I would not talk about politics in this blog, I am going to talk about them until this is resolved…

I hate the fact that I can not control what goes in in my own house on my own land. The fact that the City can come in and tell me what to do on my own land just drives me crazy. So this leads to something larger which is eminent domain. It makes me take pause at the whole concept, notion that we actually own property.

Fortunately my digging has led me to something else in the code 1331.09(m)(1) this states that it's my responsibility to keep the fence in good working repair, which I will do by replacing the fence…