Friday, 14 June 2013

Beau Dimanche - Beginning to learn

Bootstrapping learning


Beau Dimanche co-conspirator Cat sent me the names of a couple of books she was recommended to get me started thinking about starting a startup and entrepreneurship. I am a bit of an academic at heart, and I wanted to get into the groove early with the right mindset and make sure that I had the right tools. The first book was "Lean Startup" (French title), or "The Lean Startup" in it's native form, by Eric Ries. And I was hooked...

Back when I changed directions from Linguistics to IT a little over a decade ago, I did a course on programming focussing on using XP as a programming technique/philosophy with Elizabeth Post. XP is a "Lean/Agile" way of doing things and I was immediately attracted to it. Agile was still pretty unknown back then, and Elizabeth's energy and passion for it meant I was exposed early in my programming career. Thanks Liz! Alas, while I promoted XP in my two main programming jobs after that, I got mainly amused looks (what you been smoking lad?) when I pushed for things like peer programming, tests-first and regular/constant refactoring. The ideas stuck though and the basic concept of waste reduction has been with me since. I moved more into (IT) admin/operations for a while and then into email marketing deliverability. Along the way I came across the DevOps movement (agile operations) and finally discovered Kanban. Many of the basic philosophies came from car manufacturing and many decades ago to boot! There were obviously some very powerful ideas at the root of all this and I definitely wasn't alone in thinking so.

So I bought myself The Lean Startup, raced through it and then bought a few more books from the "movement" (Running Lean, Lean Analytics, The Startup Owner's Manual, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development, for the moment). I have also finally started using my tablet (Nexus 7) - Amazon makes it far too easy to buy books on these things! Google would have been getting my money but they just can't seem to get this strange thing called B2C right... but I digress :-). I want to get a solid base from books and then move on to the plethora of blogs out there. There are heaps of meetups organised - even here in Paris (don't get me started on the anti-entrepreneur sentiment here...) - and I'll definitely be going to as many of those as time permits to share and learn. I am also enrolled in the upcoming Coursera (16/06 start) Startup Engineering course from Stanford. There are just so many really cool ways to learn I'm going to have to start limiting myself very soon or I won't have any time left to actually DO :-).

So I'm still learning about "Lean" but it's definitely how we are going to move Beau Dimanche forward. The incubator we're in is also pushing us that way so it's a perfect fit! We are still at the very beginning and don't have any investors or major source of capital and I'm beginning to think that is a good thing - if you have loads of money (particularly if it's someone else's), then there is always the risk of throwing it at something and not focussing on the rapid experimental learning approach Lean Startup promotes. I'm a geek and love building stuff so there is an inherent risk of me just thinking I know what people want and starting to build it without actually validating our thinking.

I had planned to work in academia/science before moving to IT but I quickly got tired of the Ivory Tower and it's disconnect from reality. So let's bring the agile scientific method into the real world. This is just what I've been looking for!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Beau Dimanche - The Project

In the beginning...


A couple of weeks ago I signed up as a co-founder of the startup project Beau Dimanche. I hope for this to be the first post in a series documenting our learning. I'll try and keep to that!

The project was started several months ago by my co-founder, Catherine Nguyen. She did some great work and was able to get the project accepted into the startup incubator we are in - Idenergie. For me this was a big positive and means we are going to have some great support over the new few months. The programme seems very well done and is going to mean we have some pros help us save those ever so precious resources - money and time (so money and money :-)).

Our idea (ok, hers originally but ours now!) is to create an eco-system for making sure you are never left wondering what to do on a Sunday. Sundays are very heavily regulated here in France and many other places in Europe and most shops are closed in most places. Is that bakery open? Tobacco shop? Mini-supermarket? Of course shops are allowed to open on some Sundays - but which ones? And what about that museum? Ch√Ęteau? What times are the shows on at X theatre? What about Y then? Are there any other theatres nearby that are showing something? What else could I do? What have my friends been getting up to on Sundays? Can I meet some people while I'm at it? What about some church activities? Can I volunteer for anything? Learn a new pastime?

Particularly for shops, if they are going to be open on a Sunday then it costs them a packet (double-time) so they want to make sure they have as many feet as possible, or bums on seats, or helping hands. There are heaps of other cool ways we can bring value to users and customers but we haven't had a chance to build any testing plans yet so I won't list them here yet.

There will be a site to anchor the project but of course there will be geo-located apps, social network integration, and all the other goodies you expect from today's sites. And being a Google fan-boy and general tech-head, I'll be wanting to get my hands on some AR tech as soon as reasonable and test that out too :-).

So why use Beau Dimanche and not just Google/Facebook/Something else? Noise - if it ain't happening on a Sunday then we won't waste your precious time with it, and if it is happening on a Sunday then Beau Dimanche is where you'll find it!

And thus the learning journey begins...