Friday, June 6, 2008

Starting a Startup

As has been recently established, I have been working full time at my new company for all of about two weeks now. I remember reading many an article and blog about how much work starting a company is. Those authors are not lying. There are many, many things that need to be done. When working for other people, there were always other people to do those things and make sure they got done. Nice how that works out.

But I'd like to talk about the opportunities that having so much to do affords you. You get to learn so much more about a much wider variety of tasks. And you get to try doing all of it for yourself. If you read that last bit and understood it as, "You have to learn how to do everything and and there is no one else to pick up the slack," while you would be correct, it is also obvious that you don't have the mind set to be an entrepreneur. Learning and doing many different things is an opportunity, not a chore. I think the greatest thing about having a list roughly 44 square feet of whiteboard area to accomplish is there is always something else to do when you find yourself grinding on something. Maybe that's procrastination speaking, but if what you are working on helps get the company off the ground, it can't be that bad.

For instance, I learned that you can make yourself a great 8' x 4' whiteboard for only $11 U.S. To all you companies pushing 3' x 4' whiteboards for $70 at Office Depot I say, "Shame on you!" I learned that there are at least five different ways to create almost any visual effect in Silverlight. I learned about, and continue to learn about, and could probably receive a masters degree in the difficulties of naming a company. I have learned that every VC firm out there seems to want a different amount of detail in your business plan; from 3 pages to 50 and different details about each and every facet of a business. And I have learned scads about the new business space we are writing our software for. I guess what makes the entrepreneur types different is that we find it all fun.

Naming My Company

So I've been working at this "starting a company thing" full time for the past two weeks now. Well, I suppose it's more like the past three weeks. But last week I went camping for three days so I won't count it. We got thunderstormed and flooded out in case you were curious.

Back on topic. I've spent some time going over the business plan, learning a slew of new technology and coding up a prototype as well as many other things. Nothing, and I mean nothing has been as hard as trying to come up with a name for this thing. Deciding on a company name is the subject of many an article on the web. This article has some to say on how and how not to name a company; "go medieval" and "if it sounds like someone that William Shatner would wrestle" being some of the best advice I've hear so far. If you're really lucky you can find words like scramasax that fit both criteria. (Already registered by the way.)

Other, often times contradictory, advice I have heard includes:
  • Pick a name that begins with letters at the beginning of the alphabet so your company shows up at the top of alphabetical lists.
  • Pick a short name of three to four syllables at most. This makes the name easier to remember, say and type.
  • Pick a name where the domain is available. This one is obviously very important and can be very hard if you are adverse to appending redundant qualifiers like "technologies", "services", "company" or "gorilla medical supply" to your domain.
  • Pick a meaningful name. This will help people remember what you do.
  • Pick a name without any meaning. This will prevent you from having to overcome unfortunate connotations and also allows you to define exactly what the name means over time. What did Xerox mean 100 years ago?

The only advice I can add is that if you think of a name that would be a great name for your future company. Go ahead and register it now. You can do so for $9 or $10 U.S. Yes, it has been that hard for us. No, I'm not going to share our top potential name list on the big, wide-open web; at least not until after we register the domain and create the company. Yes, I am that paranoid. And in the interest of perpetuating some contradictions of my own let me just say that all you domain name squatters and parkers should be ashamed of yourselves. =P