Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

A New Experiment : eXperts UnLimited

I love technology watch. I could do that all day. Browsing my RSS feeds, discovering new technologies, reading strong opinions, commenting here and there. And I love answering questions too. Do you know a way to download any Flash video? Which solution would you choose for our messaging problem: Oracle queues or a custom messaging system? What are the pros and cons of Flex, Silverlight, JavaFX and AJAX? What do you think about Unit Testing? I would love to answer technological questions all day.

But I’m a geek. I don’t do that all day. My day job is to develop software. And even though I plan to change that very soon, more often than not, I’m not really convinced what I’m doing is needed. And a lot of customers I work for wouldn’t think that reading blogs, writing articles and chatting with fellow geeks is valuable work… that is until they come to me with a “what’s the better way to …?” question.

What if I could do that all day, or at least earn some of my living doing that? And I know a few guys who would really love to do that too. That’s why I’ve just launched a new public experiment called eXperts UnLimited (XUL). If you want to know more, or if you have questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment there.

MooPlan 1.0 is out!

Yesterday evening has been  quite a night. I was watching a movie with a friend of mine when my cell phone rang, with a US number on screen.

Hi, I’m calling from Apple. I’m finishing the review of your MooPlan app. But I just miss a few things before it can go on sale.

I sent the application for review about a week ago, and 24 hours after that, I received feedback from Apple requesting me to modify 2 icons that infringed Apple’s trademark. No big deal, the app was resubmitted with the hour. And then I didn’t have any news for a whole week, and I was not worried because I had read so many people complain about the slow review process and the impossibility to get in touch with anyone inside Apple.

And then BOOM! A guy from Apple calls me twice the same evening, just to get my application in store as fast as possible. And a few minutes after the second call, TADAAAA! MooPlan 1.0 is ready for sale. Isn’t it great?

So ladies and gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to announce that my first iPhone application is on sale, and you can get it here for $0.99 or €0.79. If you want to know more about what it does, head to the official website.

Just a few thanks:

  • Special thanks to Groovy and Grails communities for producing such a great productive Java platform that allowed me to focus on the iPhone side of things. Grails was really ideal for me: RESTful services are so easy to build, and scaffolding is just great to quickly produce an administration interface. And it was so fast to learn! I didn’t know anything about Groovy and Grails 6 months ago. And thanks also to Guillaume Laforge and his buddies for the tweets.
  • Thanks to all my friends and colleagues who tested the app: Frédéric Navarro, Mounira Hamzaoui, Clément Mary, Geoffrey Bogaert, Thomas Le Goff, Quentin De Mot, Louis Jacomet, Jérôme Vanden Eynde.
  • Thanks to my employer, Axen, for supporting me in this self-training effort.
  • Special thanks to my Geekette friend, who beared with the movie interruption and supported me for the final steps. Hopefully in a few years, we’ll laugh about this screenshot.

So that’s it. I have the feeling that this release could be the beginning of something big. I feel it in my guts. Now it’s up to you guys. And as I read it in a German restaurant last week-end.

If you like it, tell others. If you don’t like it, please tell me.

One more thing…

I just read this amazing article by Semyon Dukach and all I can say is that it really reinforced one of the values I want to put in my new project. But since I wrote my first post about it, I realized there is another one that is even more important to me (like all one-more-thing‘s are, right?). But instead of just adding it to the list, I want to take the opportunity to rephrase all of those values a little bit, agile-manifesto-style!

  • Being rich by what you realize over valuing yourself by what you own
  • Bringing progress to the world over protecting markets
  • Intelligence of the crowd over over “wisdom” of the expert
  • Investing in value creation over growth potential
  • Focusing on well-identified problems over imagining all the solutions in the world

And last but not least:

  • Turning your dreams into projects over dreaming about projects.

But contrary to what they say in the Agile Manifesto, I see no value in the items on the right.

Now all I have to do is to initiate this thing, bootstrap it so that it’s easier for others to create companies with those values at heart.

There’s gotta be a better way!

entrepreneurIn 2008, I tried to create a startup around TagSpot, a mobile service. And it didn’t work (so far), partly because of me and my own weaknesses, but also because it’s far too hard to create such a company in Europe, especially now.

Obviously for us, the first breakpoint was money. I don’t have any savings, so I can’t quit my day job, even for a few weeks. And I’m a tech guy so I’m not particularly excited by the idea of spending too much time on a business plan to attract investors. The only things I’ve got are ideas, skills and passion. And in my humble opinion that should be enough. And I’m fed up with all those people trying to convince me that there’s no way around, that you have to think in business terms right away. And where is the room for intuition and iterative realization? Why are so many projects with good business plans and big investors failing? There’s gotta be a better way!

Let’s invent it. Let’s create an alternative way for entrepreneurs to get started. And more importantly, let’s do it by leveraging the current financial situation instead of whining about it. There are thousands of people out there looking for better investment opportunities, disappointed by the stock market, willing to get back to a system in which they can sponsor entrepreneurship and innovation rather than participate in speculation. Banks cannot offer that kind of alternative, they are far too entangled in the current state of things. But we, entrepreneurs can do something about it.

Consider the example of MyMajorCompany. Those guys created a marketplace where music listeners can become producers and allow artists to get started. My idea is to adapt this concept to the IT entrepreneurship sector by developing a marketplace allowing startup creators to propose their ideas and prototypes to small investors willing to participate in collective funding efforts. The idea is not to replace business angels, venture capitalists and banks, but just to offer a complementary alternative for idea-stage projects.

There are a lot of details to figure out, a lot of things to set up, and all I have for now is a set of guiding values:

  • Money is merely a means to an end: entrepreneurs, investors and we have to agree to that. I don’t think “money first” is a good strategy.
  • Innovation is our end: it will be the main criterion by which we’ll select projects to sponsor. It should be our primary concern, and it will drive everything else (profitability, employment, etc.)
  • Transparency: the key to reassure investors is to give them maximum visibility of the projects they invest on. And we have to be transparent about this platform too, it has to offer the best possible alternative.
  • No speculation: investors will not buy shares but interest participations, that they won’t be able to sell. I firmly believe that buying potential value is what led us to the current crisis, and I want to allow people to invest on value creation, period.
  • Focus on software: this collective investment platform can certainly be adapted to many different sectors but software-based projects seem like the best option to start with, because they don’t require too much money to start, and because it’s the sector I understand best.

We need a name, we need graphics, we need a first site, we need ideas, we need all those who agree with the values above, who are willing to change things and have skills, ideas and passion to put in this project. I’ve started to work on a first prototype but I want to involve more people because it’s the best way to make sure that we will develop the platform WE all need.

So if you have questions, ideas, suggestions, if you want to participate in this project, whatever your background, if you know someone who shares our values, use comments on this post, or drop me an e-mail. And when I say “whatever your background”, I mean it. Of course, we will need software developers (notably Grails/Flex), graphics designers but also accountants to figure out how to make our investment system fit into existing laws, small investors to let us know what they expect from such an alternative. At the very least, let’s start a debate about this idea.

There IS a better way, and we have the power to build it now. So bring it on…