After two long hours communicating over skype with a friend of a friend who is a developer in Budapest we finally managed to upload the beta test of our site on the port : http://126.96.36.199:61008/ . There is still much more to do before it becomes mildly useful such as populating the backend database with providers and courses. We want users to actually browse courses using the search function. Whilst this looks like a naff website, considering what’s under the hood in terms of data models it feels like a massive leap for me and Shubz. We’ll toast a scotch to this when he gets back from France. The world I see now is very different to what is was 3 years ago. Having ago at business has changed my outlook on the world so much, I’d seriously advocate it to be considered as a mandatory project in education. Here’s two life changing concepts I’ve learned so far:
Execution by a thousand cuts
Whilst films like the social network make entrepreneurship look glamourous we have to remember, film’s aim to entertain. Jan Cavelle, an award-winning entrepreneur, recently wrote a post pointing out that the “younger” generation has an unrealistic expectation of entrepreneurship. Because of this, society has underestimated the complexity and flat out grind successful entrepreneurs endured. This has resulted in a resentment towards them as they got rich “quick and easy”. She concludes with the following:
“Their egos combined with this sense of entitlement leads them to believe their idea is justification enough to have a business and be guaranteed funding.”
Whilst I wouldn’t be so strong there is a valid point. Coming up with a brief business plan and conceptualising our data models, mobile app extensions, website and services was fun and exciting. You need to have an idea. However, at this stage, it was nothing more than idea. Taking steps towards execution resulted in a bombardment of technical errors. Coding was partly stimulating and challenging but can got frustrating at times. The Structural challenges were rarely fun, you’re not creating much, just mainly getting it to work but they still took up a fair amount of time. And the business side can only be described as a jungle. Our website would be useless if we didn’t sign up providers and start listing courses. Shubz knew that private hospitals provide free courses in order to advertise their services as a private hospital. As we were new Shubz rang up a number of hospitals, we thought that if we listed their courses for free they would bite our hand off. Who turns down free advertising? Whilst some did take up our offer others simply declined. Considering that we didn’t know their business plans or their affiliations/partnerships with others we shouldn’t have expected everyone to jump.
Chances are, these technicalities won’t diminish if we expand. We’re more likely to agonise over more and more trivial technicalities the more resources we have. Google started out in a garage. However, when it became successful it started focusing on marginal gains as well as cutting edge tech. The blue button you see on Google was a result of testing 40 different shades of blue. These shades were randomly assigned to visitors and they ran stats on which shade got the most clicks. I doubt selecting the right shade of blue was the vision or passion of Google. It like many others does what it needs to do in order to make it’s vision a success. The more I get exposed to this the less I buy the overly simplistic analysis offered by the newspapers on why a particular project or company failed/succeeded.
You have to take risks
During my time I have met a fair number of doctors and nurses who have an idea for a company, want to learn a tech skill like coding, change career or build a brand. They can be split into two groups, those who take risks and those who don’t. The ones that have taken risk have always gone part time in their clinical job, they have sometimes taken up extra study in a different field and they no longer spend any time trying to get promotion in their clinical field. All the people I’ve met who have done this have at least one tangible product that is at least in the testing stage. Considering my fees for an extra degree and postgrad combined with loss of earnings for going part time, I’ve given up on a minimum of £70,000. Luckily I have absolutely zero debt so it’s not all bad but I have clearly taken a risk.
In the other group, they are still working full time. They express interest in learning how to code, develop a website or run a business but they rarely make any headway. It’s not that they’re stupid or lazy, it’s because they’re working full-time and they don’t have the pressure of the risk they took looming over them. When I catch up with them they usually say stuff like, “It’s interesting but I just haven’t had time”, “I’ll look into it properly when I’ve got to the next stage in my career”. You may think that they’re not interested but they approach asking for advice and purchase learning materials to learn the technical skill they want to develop.
So my advice, take a risk, mainly work with other risk takers and get prepared to do some tedious, frustrating grunt work. Why do it? You get to create something, solve a problem or both, and that’s an awesome feeling.