Unless you’re one of the lucky winners of the venture capital lottery, or happen to be independently wealthy, starting a new business is a difficult proposition.
It’s especially tricky for companies in the product business, because so many of their costs are front-loaded — they incur the charges long before they can recoup the money from customers.
Infovark is lucky, because as startup companies go, software companies are cheap to run. Computer software and hardware are relatively inexpensive these days, and you can work anywhere that there’s a decent Internet connection and few interruptions.
Assuming you don’t count the cost of labor, of course.
That’s the reason so many software start-ups are located near universities with good computer science programs. The biggest asset a software company can have is an endless supply of folks that will write code for pizza and beer.
Gordon and I can’t work for free, though. We’ve got mortgages and families and responsibilities and stuff. Which contributes to a problem I call startup schizophrenia.
We started Infovark with money raised from friends and family, but no matter how frugal we are that money won’t last forever. So, starting six months ago, Gordon and I started doing occasional side projects.
On one hand, it’s been a great thing for us, because it’s helped us preserve our cash during the downturn. It’s also kept us connected to the Enterprise Software community, the Enterprise Content Management space, and the larger arena I’ll call “corporate computing”.
We know that space well, and we know that organizations need the help of experienced consultants to keep their disparate software systems working together.
But that space, familiar as it it to us, is not really Infovark’s market. And while we firmly believe that something like Infovark would be useful to a lot of people in the business world, it’s not something that CIOs or IT directors would find very interesting. The folks that manage back-office corporate infrastructure have different concerns from those that work directly with customers or are out in the field.
So Gordon and I find ourselves switching mental models a lot.
Wearing our consulting hats, we’ll talk with companies about security, scalability, interoperability and then we’ll hold an Infovark conference call where we’ll talk about sharing, openness, and ease-of-use. It’s a different set of priorities, driven by different motivations.
It’s a strange disconnect. The cognitive dissonance gets to us sometimes.
While we were preparing for the beta release, we spent a lot of time dwelling on the subject of enterprise software. It’s what we know best. It pays the bills. And we’ll be more than happy to help folks with their ECM deployments or change management initiatives.
But over the coming months, I think we’ll talk less and less about corporate computing and more and more about personal productivity.
Our focus is changing now that the beta has been released. We can now get feedback from actual users that have tried Infovark. We’re hearing a lot about what features work and what things confuse people.
The folks at 37signals call it Getting Real. We had a theory about a personal information sharing application that was easy to install and use. Now we have to put it into practice. We’ll learn a lot about which of our crazy ideas work and which are just plain silly.
And as we do that, this blog will be less and less about the places we’ve been and more about the places we’re going.
In the meantime, enjoy our mental disorder.