I left my job at CrunchBase about 3 weeks ago. A few thoughts on my first 3 weeks working full-time on my venture:
– you will have unproductive/unmotivated days. This came as a bit of a surprise to me. I expected that working on my own thing would mean I wouldn’t have a single day where I wasn’t motivated. That didn’t turn out to be quite true. The reasons are not the same though. Motivation in a job is often a factor of how interesting or important what you’re working on is. When doing your own thing, most everything is either interesting or important. If it isn’t either of those, your priorities are probably out of order.
I’ve worked without a break every single day for the past 3 weeks, weekends included. The unproductive/unmotivated day, has been more a function of just a tired mind. Mental exhaustion. In spite of how interesting the work might be, you just need to force a break of hours or a whole day to get that energy back.
– it’s nearly impossible to switch off. My mind is thinking about my venture 16/7. I can’t get away. This is a good thing but it can also get a bit overwhelming at times.
– there is no boss to tell you if what you’re doing is right. You can look to peers, your co-founders, advisors, well-wishers, and friends for feedback and opinion but the final decision still rests on you. And you have no clue if it’s the right decision. You just have to keep making them and keep moving forward.
– it’s energizing as hell. No question about it. I may still be in the honeymoon period of this and the rubber (product) has yet to meet the road (customer) and I am far off from having employee/managerial issues. But it is a different high and satisfaction. I suppose because it’s your own child.
That’s all for now.
I’d wager that if founders were to dig deeper and were to be honest with themselves, they’d find that many of them start startups not motivated by some lofty mission to change the world/make it a better place.
Beyond having an idea and wanting to make a product or sell a service that you think is better, the reasons to start companies can often be more personal (selfish even) – a personal desire to work on what interests you, recognition, success, wealth, achievement, freedom, and ambition. This is not mutually exclusive with your desire to have a positive impact in the world through your company. It is just a matter of what came first.
The personal reasons outlined above are not wrong or bad, in and of themselves — so long as you don’t act unethically in their pursuit.
Companies that solve a problem (regardless of what motivated the founders) generally create net good in the world. But in the spirit of honesty, recognizing what motivated you in the first place could only help.
While thinking about a piece of user experience that just wasn’t lending itself to the “right” solution no matter the approaches, I wished, what if I were to just not have to solve it? Following that line of thinking, I finally arrived on an experience that was much better. How? By not having to deal with it. Well, at least not having to deal with it in that stage of the user experience. I still had to solve it but the problem became much easier by moving it elsewhere.
When solving problems, many will often become much simpler if you just question and eliminate the underlying (often misguided) assumptions. Complexity of a problem drops to 0 if you don’t have to solve it 🙂
This pretty much sums up, in my experience, how ux/ui design has almost always gone.
1) To pursue a unique vision of how you, your co-founder(s), and your team think (some) things ought to be in the world and
2) To create a workplace that people like working at more than any other company they previously worked at.
Simple as that.
PS: as I learn more in the process of starting and working on mine, I’ll keep updating this post.
Many decisions and elements go into making a successful technology product/service.
In my opinion, getting the user experience:design equation right in an app or website is quite possibly the most important first step. I’ve discovered that it’s significantly harder than it seems at first.
A great user experience with mediocre design – useful but it might make your users trust your service less. And leaves room for a competitor to do it better. But this is still much better than…
A mediocre user experience but great design – this is the death knell. Shut shop or fix it. It’s only a matter of time before your users call it quits.
An average user experience with average design – eh, why even try?
Which leads me to..
A functional user experience (one that gets the user to accomplish what they came to your app for) paired with an intuitive (clean, no-frills – the frills just take good design over the edge, imho) design. This is the holy grail.
But how do you get there? And how do you know if you have it?
If there was an answer to that question, we’d all be rich and successful. Most of the time (at least in my experience), you have a faint idea that you have something good but won’t find out until the rubber meets the road, i.e., you put it through user testing and get feedback. That is when your approach is reinforced or you go back to the drawing board.
That’s how many working days I’ve spent over the past 5 years and 3 months working at CrunchBase and TechCrunch.
Today is my last day at CrunchBase. It will be the final time I walk in and out of the building (at least to “go to work”).
I came to TechCrunch by a stroke of fate. I was living in San Diego working for a big corp and wanted to move to the valley. It’s a story for another time.
I joined TechCrunch to work on CrunchBase (CB) but ended up developing for the TC blog while advancing CB development. For the first 7 months on the job, I was the sole developer (which led to lots of “pulling my hair out” moments).
Over the next two years, we grew the team and I got to take on challenges and experiences that I’m grateful for. I had a ton of fun and learned a shit ton.
Fast forward to January 2013 when CrunchBase spun into it’s own unit within Aol and I got a chance to lead the engineering team. I’m proud to report that in a span of 14 months, we hired and grew the engineering team from 2 (incl. me) to 8 and launched version 2.0 of CrunchBase from the ground up. Those months couldn’t have been more intense and yet the most fun I’ve had in my work life. The next year and a half at CrunchBase has been just as good and all I can say is this team seriously rocked and I hope some of us can work together again some day.
Today marks the end of an era for me and I’m about to embark on a new venture of my own making. It’s something I’ve envisioned and worked towards and it’s now time to make it a reality.
Like someone said…
And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.