My 4 hour startup :: tweetmytee.com

Last weekend, I launched an online business. In 4 hours. From idea, to a live website … and all within the comfort of my bedroom. I’m not telling you this to show off. Anyone could have done what I did.

OK sure, I started an online T-Shirt business, not a Nanotechnology business. But nonetheless, it’s incredible how much you can do these days with an internet connection, a laptop, and an idea.

The idea? Users submit memorable / funny / interesting Twitter posts, or Tweets each week. The best Tweet submitted each week is then turned into a real T-Shirt, ready to be printed and ordered online. I figure with the massive growth of Twitter at the moment, it was potentially a good idea.

I had the idea quickly, so wanted to implement it quickly. It was about 11:30 on a Friday night. I ran the idea past my wife. She didn’t look at me as though I was a complete lunatic. So I set myself a challenge to get the concept up and running before I went to bed that night.

(Yes, this post is also an admission that I’m often a Friday night computer nerd, but that’s another story)

I got started. I registered a domain name (http://tweetmytee.com) and a matching Twitter ID (@tweetmytee). I signed up from an account on Spreadshirt, the DIY T-shirt community site. I came up with a design for the T-shirt. I threw a logo together. I chose the T-shirt styles and colours. One style, 3 colours. Keep it simple. Keep moving quickly.

With a short deadline, I found myself in a strange rhythm. I deliberately made decisions in a split second:

How much to price the t-shirts for? How about $2 less than at Threadless.

What colours? The first 3 that spring to mind.

What does the logo look like? How about a simple bird design.

Has anyone done this idea before? Don’t know, no time to check right now.

And within 4 hours, I had the site up and running, with the first set of T-shirts up for sale. And I’d spent a total of $25 US (on the domain name) to make it happen.

indefensible
So, my key point here is … that it’s easy to get a business started? It’s best to move quickly? To launch any idea that springs into your head?

Well, they’re part of it. Regardless of whether this idea will take off, it was a real learning experience to do something like this. To completely avoid planning, and to just jump in head first is definitely worth a try. And to make the most of the fact that it has never been easier to start a business (especially an online business) as it is now.

But my key point, I guess, is that you can’t just launch a business quickly and expect it to take off with only 4 hours of labour. If I really want my idea to gain traction, I have to nurture it like any other business.

I’m now finding myself spending more time than I’d initially planned to get the word out, to generate submissions for the next T-Shirt. Regular readers will know that I have a full time job AND another business, so perhaps I’ve bitten off more than is chewable. If entrepreneurship’s like a rollercoaster, this has been like the Mad Mouse.

And it isn’t easy. It hasn’t become a viral success like I imagined it might. I learnt that others have come up with similar concepts before. I’ve made a couple of major mistakes. And I haven’t sold a single T-shirt yet.

But you know what? It’s been fun. And it sure beats any of the crap on TV on a Friday night, anyway.

The 3 Sentence Strategy

I sat down to write my ivoteforart.com business strategy tonight. You know, really write it. I’ve had most of it in my head, but I really needed to actually document it. Even if just on one page.

I soon realised something. you don’t even need a page to write your strategy. You need just 3 points. In fact, you can only have 3 points.

Here are my three points:

1. Without arists, there’s no website

2. But then, you also need visitors

3. Once you get visitors, treat them right.

That’s it. That’s my strategy.

If I don’t have any new artists on the site, I have nothing. The very first thing I ever did when deciding to start ivoteforart was to contact artists. If there was no art to display on the website, there was no website. But also, good artists beget good artists. Whenevcr I add a great artist to the site, it makes it easier for me to attract more great artists.

My second point, about needing visitors, is the next step. Obviously I need to let potential visitors know about the site. And then visit the site. An then re-visit. And re-visit again. And maybe one day, make a purchase.

And once they do buy something, I’ve got to do whatever I can to make it a great experience for them. And hopefully then they will tell others about it, and the ultimate – word-of-mouth – kicks in.

Sure, mine is a pretty simple website. The content-traffic-customer service business model is fairly straightfoward. But whatever business you’re in – if it takes more than 3 sentences to describe your business, something’s not right. It’s not simple enough.

Forget business models. Focus on ideals.

So the next time you hear an old dude banging the business model drum, or worse, the sounding the “monetization” bullhorn, let him know the 20th century was yesterday. Today’s challenge is building a better economy – not hawking the same old mass-produced, toxic, self-destructive junk slightly differently. Challenge him with this: you’ve got a business model. But do you have any ideals? Because without the latter, the former is worth about as much as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, or Detroit.

Why Ideals are the New Business Models, by Umair Haque. Via my latest favourite Something Changed.

Help me save Twitter!

twitter

This week, Twitter became mainstream. At least in my world.

It happened when Rove McManus – a questionable Australian television chat show host – spoke to Lily Allen about Twitter on Sunday night. And that was that.

Already this week I’ve experienced a surge of new followers to my Tweets. And I’m expecting plenty more friends, colleagues and old acquaintances and others to be on board by the end of the month. Like Facebook did in 2007, Twitter is infecting the internet-enabled world like a virus.

I’m wondering if that’s a good thing. Actually, I suspect it’s not.

One of the many delightful things about Twitter has been that no-one has really known about it. The world goes by, but anyone Twittering has a whole other world going on. Connecting with Smart people. Funny people. Interesting people. Ridiculous people. It really is amazing.

But now it’s getting popular. And you know what happens when social networks get popular – Their value starts to diminish. And once they go mainstream, all hell breaks loose. The spammers come in droves. It gets harder to keep up with your network. Before you know, your mother-in-law wants to be your friend*.

At the same time this is happening, the social networks are figuring out how to monetize. How to build their business model. And since we’re all addicted to free these days, that can be tricky. So, with an influx of new users beating your door down, the temptation to adopt an advertising based model will increase.

And then something happens. The magic is lost. People feel as though they’ve been duped. And they leave.

This happened to Myspace. And I’d argue this it has started to happen on Facebook. How many of us really use Facebook as often as we once did?

It hasn’t happened to Twitter yet, but I’m worried it could. And if Twitter is not careful, Twitter will fall in on itself.

So I’m proposing something different. I have an idea that would put the brakes on Twitter’s enormous growth, before it’s too late. An idea that would give the company a proper business model, not one based on advertising. An idea that may even strengthen the network. Something that I believe could save Twitter.

The idea? No More Twitter Accounts.

That’s right, Twitter should stop giving away new Twitter accounts.

The only way anyone can join Twitter from now on, would be if they bought their account from an existing Twitter user willing to give it up. Twitter should create a marketplace for Twitter accounts. 50% of the sale goes the ex-Tweeter, and 50% to Twitter themselves.

Given the popularity of Twitter right now, there’d be plenty of people willing to pay for a Twitter account to get in. And Twitter users who never ‘got’ Twitter would probably be willing to sell a Twitter account.

After a while, supply and demand would push the cost of a Twitter account sky high, and that’s where the revenues would kick in.

What do you think about this idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts, good or bad. And if you like the idea, why not re-post it? Or re-tweet it? My ultimate goal would be spread the idea back to Evan Williams / Biz Stone. I honestly think it’s a good one.

So, what do you say? Help me save Twitter before it’s too late.

* No offence dear mother-in-law, but that was a Facebook-has-jumped-the-shark moment for me.

Rentoid :: A Recession Proof Business

Not many of can safely say that our business is Recession Proof. My friend Steve can.

rentoid

Steve runs a little website called Rentoid. Rentoid is like the ‘ebay of renting’.

Instead of buying a lawnmower that you use once a quarter, to mow your dining-table-sized lawn, you can rent one for a day on rentoid. And instead of having your drumkit sitting unused in your shed 363 days a year, you can list it on rentoid (and make some money).

It’s a simple idea. Definitely a good one (Disclaimer time – I worked with Steve on Rentoid in it’s infancy).  And one that’s going to strengthen even further, given the state of the economy and the environment.

It’s great to see a lot of businesses finally getting their act together, and making greener products for us all to buy. But rentoid goes a whole lot further, by challenging ‘consumption’.

As the recession kicks in, people are starting to think harder about how much ‘stuff’ they actually need. At the same time, more and more of us will realise that we need to pull the reigns on climate change too. That’s why rentoid.com is the sort of forward thinking business that’s going to suceed; it turns our over-producing, over-consuming capitalistic world on its head. I’ll drink to that.

Anyway, the purpose of this post was supposed to be to give you a link to a cool video that Steve and his team put together to promote rentoid. But as soon as I start thinking about Steve’s business, and it’s potential, I just go off on one. It’s truly a recession-proof business idea.

Here’s the vid:

Business Card for 2009

Business card status updates. What a cool idea.

(via SwissMiss)

Must read business Books of 2006

OK, It’s true – I’m a nerd who spends far too much time reading business books. More so in 2006 than ever before.

My top 3 unmissible business books for the year are as follows:

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Chris Anderson :: The Long Tail

You’ve heard about the Long Tail, unless you’ve been burried under a rock in 2006. But if you haven’t got yourself a copy of this ground-breaking book, do yourself a favour. This, my friends, is the future of business and culture.

It’s a truly mind-altering business read.

naked1.jpgRobert Scoble and Shel Israel :: Naked Conversations

This book is the unnoficial sequal to the Cluetrain Manifesto. Blogging really took off in 2006, and this is the best place to read all about it.

I’m sure that if you are reading this blog you have a pretty good understanding of how writing one can help your business. Nonetheless, it contains great examples of businesses that have benefited.

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Seth Godin :: Small is the New Big

I’ve just finished this one off before the year ends. “Small is the New Big” is a great collection of blog posts, articles and the like. Choc-full of marketing nuggets to inspire you to greatness, as you’d expect from Seth. Whether you read his blog or not, this book is worth reading.