Live blogging my work at FlockData

FlockDataFlockData is going through the startup journey

The journey is a long and complex one. It’s a mix of:

  • Long nights and sometimes lost weekends
  • Interesting conversations, but also difficult conversations and some that lead absolutely nowhere
  • Trying to talk to as many of the “right” people as possible. I put “right” in quotes because frankly, we don’t always know who these people should be.
  • Finding great projects with companies, non-profits, social organizations, media organizations and others who are looking at ways to learn more from disconnected data sets that span systems
  • Working through those projects to refine what the product needs, has and will have
  • Stress, excitement, satisfaction, relief… basically almost every emotion, in large quantities all at once

I’ve been spending some time also reading and listening to information about startup journeys from places like Gimlet Media and GrooveHQ. I’ve recognized so many of the conversations and challenges identified there. I’ve been through them myself, both with FlockData and with other companies.

How is FlockData’s journey different?

In truth, a lot of it isn’t different. This is why the lean startup movement has validity – startup companies go through many of the same challenges again and again.

  1. Identify a problem you believe exists
  2. Start 2 parallel tracks: customer discovery/development and MVP (minimum viable product) development
  3. Refine the product via those discussions with customers
  4. Change the company vision, messaging, marketing, branding, pricing, etc as necessary
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat

Of course, this is a set of guidelines, and YMMV (your mileage may vary).

But what is unique about FlockData’s journey is what makes it specific to FlockData – namely the problem itself, the conversations we have, and what we learn. We’re going to start sharing what we can on the FlockData blog. If you’re looking at interesting questions around data integration, logical data warehouse structures, data workbench and information management platforms, maybe you’ll find it interesting. For us, it’s about learning and sometimes the best way to learn is to think about what you’ve learned, summarize the messages in your own head, figure out what you can (and cannot) share, and then do that. We hope you’ll find it useful.

a troubling topic on my mind

it’s been over a year since i blogged, but i felt compelled to get back into it, after some reading i’ve been doing in the past few weeks.

every day, i wake up, get my kids off to school, and then try to get some work done. on a good day, i manage to sneak in a workout or get a good long walk going.

but in reality, work takes up most of my time. and what is that work? i split time between a few projects. like almost all work, these projects have cycles – some days are more interesting; some are less. some projects can be more interesting than others, while some are commercially phenomenal, but hold little interest for me outside of the pure work function of them. my work is almost exclusively in software, specifically web-based software to solve business problems.

and this is where the troubling topic first emerged.

if i’m only helping to solve business problems, am i ignoring the world’s problems?

it turns out, i’m far from the first person to ask this question. people on quora have been debating real-world problems since 2012. the summary arguments basically come down to:

  • not interested
  • there’s no money in it (cf. silicon valley people are just in it for the money, and are just greedy)
  • some companies are, but aren’t talking about it or aren’t on the web
  • silicon valley companies are solving real problems, just not the problems of the poor

and this last one really bugs me. consider, for instance that:

  1. mPesa is definitely helping solve a real problem for disadvantaged people.
  2. it’s a technology offering that clearly could have been built by silicon valley people (or this type)

in fact, while silicon valley is kind of ignoring these problems, it has gone ahead and made itself a bunch of enemies. what should be expected? trickle down clearly doesn’t work, as pointed out by planet money on npr. so while silicon valley continues in the newest bubble cycle, those working in lower-wage service industries are suffering from the overall price increases brought by new wealth.

and yes, i am, in a way, part of the problem. this is why my most interesting and exciting project is open-source data tracking and analysis. our goal is that any organization, from the poorest municipality to the wealthiest corporation, can learn from data to improve lives, outcomes, experiences, processes or whatever.

guest appearance on this week in asia

i recently did a guest appearance on this week in asia, episode 116. topics discussed included:

  • samsung galaxy launch
  • a bunch of google stuff
  • some pan-asian consolidation in online travel
  • a couple of investments
  • echelon conference coming up

and of course, i got a chance to plug my startup, the sharing engine – the best way to build an online marketplace.