Last night, I was at Techmeetup presenting the rough plan for the startupcafe mobile app.
I have to say, I got a bit of a curious reaction.
Let me give a bit of context first … Startupcafe started about a year and a half ago because a few of us were frustrated that we were going to startup events, but there was no central place to find out about them. We thought it would be a good idea to post news and events for other people to hear about, as well as pointing out local successes to help make startup life a little bit less lonely. Eventually, we’ve even gone on to do interviews and write up proper articles – something none of us have trained for.
Like quite a few other meetups in the city, it is really ran by a group of people that are doing it in their spare time. It’s a labour of love. Despite the hours, we love helping people and the reactions that we get when someone has found something of value through us. It’s a side project.
Before the end of the presentation, I was asked why I wasn’t following lean startup principles. Why was I presenting a list of features and not the process by which I will discover what customers wanted.
I guess this was a little unexpected. I love lean startup principles and practice them in my day job at Interface3: talking to customers, spending time understanding their pains and testing out customer validations. But I hadn’t linked them to this side project because the point of this project wasn’t to make money, the point was to learn about how to build apps in Titanium. I rarely get to do any heavy duty coding in my day job any more and I really don’t want to get too rusty. I’m a geek. I like to play with new shiny frameworks. I like to make stuff.
The point of a side project is not to make money: its supposed allow you to learn stuff and have some fun.
There is a time and place for lean startup principles BUT if we followed them for every aspect of our lives, then …. it just doesn’t sound right. Life shouldn’t be that serious all the time. Side projects aren’t meant to go anywhere. They’re supposed to be things that companies wouldn’t invest time or money into. They’re places for creativity and to do something unusual.
A few people suggested that I should set up a survey and send it to the community before coding, and their point was that I shouldn’t cram too much into the app. So I’m going to take that on board. My next step will be to knock together a little survey to find out the top thing that a startupcafe mobile app would do.
But forgive me if I don’t strict startup priniciples for this one. I’m building the app because I want to see how easy it is to build mobile apps quickly and easily using Titanium over writing Objective-C. Not because I think that we’ll get rich by doing it.
Incidentally, let me leave on this one parting shot. I thought the audience last night wasn’t exactly supportive of the projects that were being presented. I know that quite a few people have questioned how to encourage collaborations (and sparks to happen) at Techmeetup beyond the beer and pizza. If the point of the side project presentations was to encourage those types of sparks to happen, then maybe the community could be reminded that side projects are side projects. If you encourage people to present things, then criticise them for almost entertainment value, then people will think twice about presenting again. In the long term it will do more harm than good.