Category Archives: Startup Life

From Non-Technical Founder to Technical

When I last wrote, I was working on a new startup. It did not succeed, but was easily one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in the past few years. Because in this last startup, I learned to code. This is something a lot of business founders are curious about, possibly scared of, and unsure of how to do it or if it’s worth it. So I wanted to share the story of my path from non-technical to technical and some thoughts on the pros and cons of business founders learning to code.

My Story

I started with the [Read the rest »]

BarCamp Ends and My New Startup Begins

BarCamp Boston 7The past couple of months I’ve been busy with Boston’s largest annual geek unconference, BarCamp Boston. A yearly event I help to organize, we had at least 550 attendees this year, despite conflicts with PAX East, Anime Boston, Passover, and Easter. An event where the content is meant to be generated entirely by attendees takes a surprising amount of work to make happen. Arranging a venue, finding sponsors, ordering t-shirts, creating the right structure, planning food, creating web apps that facilitate attendee connections, arranging additional programs like hardware recycling & a programming contest, and promotion, promotion, promotion.

BarCamp Boston … [Read the rest »]

Building a Business in 54 Hours – Boston Startup Weekend Recap

Boston Startup Weekend bannerThis past weekend I went to Boston Startup Weekend, a 54 hour event designed to bring a mix of developers, designers, and business people together to pitch ideas, form teams, and build the core of a startup. From around 100 attendees, 70  ideas were pitched, around 20 teams were formed, and the weekend ended with around 17 teams presenting their work.

I debated pitching a few ideas. A map tool using the StartupsInBoston.com and event data, an infographics creation tool, and various tools using twitter data. Ultimately, I pitched a twitter browser extension that would display a second stream … [Read the rest »]

5 Areas I’m Interested In for Startups

Five areas have been getting me thinking about startup opportunities lately:

Creating value from public content.

Stocktwits is aggregating and providing analytics on tweets about stocks. Major brands have dozens of tools for measuring sentiment, mindshare, and more from brand mentions in almost any online context. With thousands of posts per second to twitter alone talking about products, media, events, websites, politicians, and more… what other opportunities are there to index, analyze, and create value from publicly-posted content?

Life improvement.

Whether the goal is making more money, finding new friends, or just feeling good about your self, everyone has personal … [Read the rest »]

There’s No Off-Season for Boston Startup Events

Boston Startup Weekend - February 24th - 26thBack in Boston after a two-week visit home in January, I’m finding February filled with events for all elements of Boston’s startup scene. The Business of Apps at the Venture Cafe tomorrow, EdTechup on the 15th has a U.S. Department of Education guest this month, Vixmo’s hosting a Mobile Hackathon on the 18th, and Startup Weekend‘s happening again the 24th – 26th.

I’m particularly looking forward to Boston Startup Weekend; I’ve reserved my “non-technical” ticket and have my fingers crossed to find some cool people to work with. It’s likely I’ll pitch an idea that services the Boston startup … [Read the rest »]

What’s Next? The Aftermath of Startup Failure.

Shutting down my startup has left me needing to fill three voids: goals, money, and credibility. I’m fortunate to have steady consulting work, a simple lifestyle with few expenses, and little danger of of not being able to fill my basic needs. But I was drawn to startups because I want to live a life that’s both fun and that makes a difference. So I’m trying to get back on track to doing both; here are the challenges that I face:

Setting New Goals & Making New Plans

The startup provided at least a rough framework for the next year … [Read the rest »]

Lessons Learned from Shutting Down My Second Startup

Two years ago, when I wrote a post-mortem for News Armada, I was an overly-ambitious first-time entrepreneur, chasing dreams of venture funding and changing the world on my first time up to bat. I learned two important lessons from that experience:

  1. Momentum is everything. Lost momentum isn’t just missed opportunity, it’s a weight that slows your startup down.
  2. Value before revenue. Don’t spend all your time working on a plan to generate revenue from a community / product before you’ve proven that it provides enough value to people that they’re willing to use / pay for it. Market traction first,
  3. [Read the rest »]

EasyImpress & Making Every Hour Count

Startup Stopwatch & HandOne of the realities of working on a startup part-time (boot-strapping with consulting & other work to pay the bills) is that you must chip away at things. The caffeine-fueled all-night development sprints you read about are the rare exceptions, that come at a heavy cost to your health and productivity over the next couple of days.

Be As Smart With Time as You Are With Money

One of the best time-management strategies I’ve learned is to divide projects into two categories: those I need long-term focus on, and those I can work on on-and-off. A free 6-hour chunk of … [Read the rest »]

Before You Eat Your Own Dog Food, Eat the Competitors’

dog foodOne of the maxims of startup life is “Eat your own dog food,” meaning use your products / services yourself, so you know what it’s like for the customer. I’d like to add to that: Before your start eating your own dog food, make sure you’ve eaten a lot of your competitors’. We all start with the idea that we’re going to build something better than what our competitors are offering, but too often we miss out that there are at least some reasons why people continue to gobble down that disgusting gruel, and it might not be just because … [Read the rest »]

Self-Knowledge: Good for Entrepreneurship, Excellent for Info Overload

Sign with plastic letters saying, 'we are plastic letters'.Self-awareness is what separates man from the ape. And high-quality self-knowledge is what separates the successful entrepreneur from the failed one. What do you spend most of your time on? What are your weaknesses? Who do you talk to the least that provides good advice the most often? The more we know about ourselves, the better we’re able to spend our time, and the easier it is to identify the areas where improvement will have the biggest effect. This is more than learning from our mistakes (though I’ve been doing that, too); it’s helping ourselves avoid errors and make … [Read the rest »]

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jay [.dot.] neely [@at@] socialstrategist [.dot.] com

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Projects

  • Boston Startups Guide - Directory of Boston startups sortable by location, industry, etc.
  • What To Do Boston - A collection of guides on living in Boston, and tales from my own explorations.