This weekend I decided to do something bold. I decided to do something crazy. I launched a startup.
Before I go into the details of my new startup, UseYourDeals, I want to share how I’m launching it lean…like beef jerky lean because I want to win!
I am now competing in the AppSumo Lean Startup Challenge because I want face to face mentoring time with the biggest names in the startup community like Dave McClure of 500 Startups and Hiten Shah of Kissmetrics!
How can you help?
Click this Tweet button to vote for me!
Update: Personalized thank you. I will do a thank you video naming everyone who voted for me on Wednesday!
Update: See Tuesday’s blog post for step-by-step instructions!
Everyone is always talking about great ideas. Some run with them. Others complain about all the obstacles they face in getting traction. I was pushed to take action by seeing a new startup, GoKit, come to life before my very eyes at SXSW.
Google Apps For Business
If you’ve ever struggled with setting up domain email on a Microsoft Exchange server or tried to get your work calendar to sync on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android smartphone, worry no more. Google Apps for Business has a free version perfect for startups to deliver top notch email (minus the spam) with mobile friendly versions for all your favorite phones. I’ve been using Google Apps since 2006 and it’s been a killer office productivity solution for small business and now they’re moving into the enterprise market quite nicely now that Google has released the Google Apps Marketplace.
Now you need an easy way for customers to contact you by phone. It should be flexible so your staff (lol, what staff?) can pick up if they’re available. No need to get a land line or even call your cell phone carrier! Simply head over to Google Voice and pick up a free phone number that can ring several phones at once! I’ve been using Google Voice since 2007, when it was Grand Central. Although not perfect, it’s pretty darn awesome for being free. And don’t forget that Google Apps for Business will now come with Google Voice. Awesome!
Grasshopper: Google Voice For Grown Up Startups
As much as I’m a fan of Google Voice, there are places where it falls short, especially when it comes to portability and sharing access. This is where the awesomeness of Grasshopper comes in! I decided this year with the growth of Freshworkshops, my technology training for cloud apps startup, that I would buy a toll free number to encourage people from anywhere to reach out with questions. I ended up buying my toll-free number for $50 from (although I come to find out later I could have bought it with full ownership directly from Grasshopper for $30) and then activated an account at Grasshopper. For less than $30/month, I can have calls from my toll-free number routed, sent to extensions, converted to transcribed notes just like Google Voice and much more!
So deciding to birth a startup over the weekend means you can’t just call up your good designer friends at 11pm and ask, “Hey! Could you whip together a fabulous launch page for me that looks awesome?” (Well, maybe some of you can but I decided to call in my favors for when I’m really in over my head!). I had seen GoKit launch overnight at SXSW and recently saw Jes Carter bring to light her new iPhone app called Toour. Both used launch pages so I headed over to Themeforest and picked one up for under $10.
I’m no graphic designer. I’ll say that upfront. I’m a logical, helpful geek with a God given talent for solving technology problems and explaining them to people. I’ll also admit that I’m not so good at fashion. That said, I decided the best thing to do for a logo was to not sweat my lack of design skills and outsource it. Now again, since I was doing this over the weekend, I needed instant turnaround so websites like 99designs or Elance wouldn’t work for me. I opted instead to buy a Photoshop ready logo from Smartertemplates.com and replace the text with my startup…for now. It cost me less than $25 at templatehelp.com.
I’m a big fan of function over cost. I’m willing to pay more for something that works well or will last longer. This applies to things like computer hardware, fleece jackets and well-bred dogs (different than, “My dog has AKC papers” since simply being born isn’t a sign of quality…guess that could apply to humans too!). That said, sometimes you can find the perfect combination of both in the same product. Such is the case with domain names at GoDaddy. You can buy domains cheaply, easily manage them, have flexible DNS options for subdomains and forwarding plus get notifications well in advance before your domain expires. I’ve been using GoDaddy for domain registration since April 2001. Now, I don’t agree with their tactless objectification of women but in this very rare case, product trumps values. I registered http://useyourdeals.com for just $7.67 instead of $11.99 because I Googled and found coupon code: cjc749fat
Now when it comes to web hosting, I have a lot of to say. It’s extremely important that you don’t scrimp on this, especially if you’re a new company that could potentially get a huge rush of traffic from being mentioned on a website, in a news article or even retweeted. It was “cute” to experience the Digg effect a few years ago but today customers and VC’s expect more. Your hosting provider needs to proactively monitor your hosting environment, be concerned about performance as well as profit by not crowding websites because slow website equal slow business for their customer and offer you the option to scale bandwidth when necessary. I’m a huge fan of Rochenhost because they retain Red Hat certified engineers, offer twice daily automated backups and actually take the time to proactively monitor the environment. I’ve been buying hosting and reseller hosting since 2001 and they have been the best to date. Been with them over 2 years and love it! They have hosting plans starting at $8.95/month.
So, with spending less than $50 out of pocket so far, I’ve birthed a startup.
From the SXSW Lean Startup Bundle From AppSumo, I’m looking forward to using:
Pivotal Tracker: Bug Tracking & Project Management
I’m a fan of Pivotal Tracker after hearing the story of how they work in a hands-0n way with their clients to help them adopt and embrace agile development which includes rapid, frequent changes to the code vs long, drawn out (think quarterly or yearly) changes. This allows a company to quickly adapt to a changing marketplace. They also focus on team based programming which means you’re not operating in a vacuum. You’re accountable to someone else and they can give you instant feedback as a peer.
I am excited by the startup books and magazines I’ll get including: Running Lean, Hacker monthly, VentureHacks and LeanPub
I just switched from 37Signals Highrise to Batchbook earlier this year.
Now I’ve got to get this blog post submitted for the contest so you all have time to vote for me (waiting for the link!) but check back for my recommendations on:
- electronic agreements
- online invoicing
- real time web analytics
- email newsletters
- code repositories
- text editors
- data backups
- CRM contact managers
and more for for lean startups!
My Startup: UseYourDeals
Problem it solves: Keeping track of all the deals you buy on Groupon, earn in Foursquare and find in your email. All in one spot with an awesome dashboard.
I know that I am the perfect founder for a tech startup because I’m:
- Flexible thinker
- Focused on the customer experience
- Deeply skilled in understanding complex technology relationships
- Able to communicate between technical and non-technical folks
- Have a personality that’s upbeat, enthusiastic and contagious
- Ongoing track record of breaking away from the sheeple heard to pursue my passion
If you want to support me, go to the site and sign up to get notified about updates!
This is my first startup ever. Am I nervous? Heck yes!
My Startup Pitch
Do you find amazing deals on Groupon
…and forgot to use them?
You’re not the only one!
UseYourDeals will empower you to stay ahead of the game! Redeem those cupcakes! Get that 70% off back massage!
Track your deals in one spot.
Use our deal dashboard to see everything on one screen. No more searching through emails.
Near a deal? Get notified!
Enjoy push notifications to your phone when you’re close to a deal you already have a coupon for. Don’t let those cupcakes get away!
Keep your deals fresh.
Every day people are buying delicious dinners, relaxing massages and earning rewards they never find time to use.
Currently being developed for:
with more services coming soon!
Boom! I destroy you! (my competitors that is…except if GoKit applies to the contest. I would not try to destroy them!)