Features as Apps

One of the most important things that I’ve learned when it comes to building technology products, especially at the super early-stage, is the reality that designing a real MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is incredibly difficult to do.
I’ve already talked about this once or twice on this blog before…

The challenge of keeping things MVP-ish is real and they mostly stem from these two issues / challenges:

The availability of robust frameworks and APIs make it far too easy to (accidentally) scale a simple experiment based on a simple hypothesis into more than just a simple MVP.
It is psychologically difficult to minimize, constrain, and limit our “vision” of what could be with what should be, especially with so many existing examples to compare to (and the availability of great tooling – see #1).

Practice, a shit-ton of discipline, and a hyper-judicious pragmatic framework are necessary to stay trim, stay lean, and to execute the smallest technological experiment possible.
And having an exceptionally-focused cofounder / partner / team is also a very useful and practical counterweight to keep one from moving beyond what is absolutely, fundamentally necessary.
Consequently, in my own practice, I’ve started to internalize a particular mantra that I haven’t really heard before… maybe I’ll coin the term and see if anyone challenges me on it… 
The term is “Features as Apps” and it is the philosophy and practice of building single-serve apps to see if real users will, in fact, use that particular “feature” that might exist in the much larger, future-state application.
I’ll give you an example…
After we had built a small-yet-growing community @ The Bitcoin Pub we began to hear from our users that they wished “this” and “that” existed within the forum itself. Some examples were:

Charting tools for technical analysis for cryptocurrency
More communication tools (e.g. real-time chat)
Notification systems for pricing data
Deeper integration with news sources
Calculators and conversion tools
Buying / Selling of cryptocurrencies
And many, many more…

Instead of spending a significant time building additional features within the larger framework of software we decided to deploy “Features as Apps” into the wild, putting together much smaller apps and websites to validate if these requests were real and true.
As a result, we built things like CoinPuffs and CryptoYum (soon to be released) and even experimented on the “Features” themselves, essentially, Features of Features as Apps.
A great example is CoinPuffs where we recently added a small site off of the main site that allows users to create and establish email alerts for cryptocurrency pricing:

You can easily create a new email alert via the button and then manage them in a simple backend interface:

The question, of course, is whether folks would actually use it (or not). If they do, then, we can roll this feature into the much larger application layer of either CoinPuffs or even The Bitcoin Pub.
There’s not a lot of risk associated with creating these super-small, single-serve apps that serve as features for much bigger software projects. It just takes time and a serious commitment to testing one’s hypothesis over a given amount of time.
If it works out well then you’ve created more goodwill with your customers, deeper lock-in, and hopefully a high return on investment.
I like this model and it allows us to experiment with high-velocity too which, in turn, creates a lot of momentum. These things, of course, are our greatest strengths and it is our greatest asset as a early-stage startup.
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Ideas and Your Health

One of the first tweets that I ever “liked” was this one via Aaron Levie:

via @levie
People’s reaction to ideas:
Bad ideas: “That’ll never work”
Good ideas: “That could work”
Great ideas: “That’ll never work”
I’ve seen this play out many times in my short professional career and I imagine I’ll see this dynamic many times over before I’m done.
I ask myself all the time which reaction I’m getting the most from folks (and how quickly those reactions change). Particularly, in bitcoin and blockchain, I’ve seen this switch happen at lightning speed.
Seems all too crazy one day and then the next day folks believe that it could be possible. Maybe we’re all mental.

Or, at least I am.
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The Bigger Man

I spent some time mentoring a younger gentleman the other day and he’s in the middle of some tough professional choices.
He’s a founder of a company that is having gasp … founder problems.

We chatted for quite some time and one of the things that no business school could teach you is how to be the bigger man and walk away.
And I know that it’s never “that simple” and there are a ton of (somewhat) legitimate reasons to “fight on” and ensure that everyone gets their fair treatment and outcome…
… but my counsel to him was to consider the cost, especially as wasted resources of time, money, and energy, and emotion that would / will inevitably rob him and his next project.
In other words, the time he would have to spend working through these seemingly-irreconcilable differences could be better spent recovering, reflecting, and then investing in the next thing.
I’m trying to teach my kids to do the same; this idea that we’re not responsible for how other’s react to us and their judgments to or against us. Our job is to focus on what we can control, our emotions, our attitudes, our actions and how that effects other people.
We can only look ourselves in the mirror, every single morning and every single evening, and ask ourselves if we behaved in right ways and thought honorably about those we worked with and served. We can’t ask that for others, despite how much we may want to.
This pill is tough to swallow but I felt it was an important alternative-route, perhaps, for the gentleman to consider and take. Moving toward any form of litigation or arbitration will only get more messy.
The folks who end up being the bigger men (and women) ultimately are the ones who grow faster and who accelerate harder toward their next project and season of life. This is because they are also, simultaneously, folks who can make hard decisions, decisively.
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Illusions, Destroyed

A friend of mine is going through a divorce and we spent some time together talking through it. Or, perhaps, I just listened… a lot.

The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that I simply do not have as many answers to really anything. I have many more questions at this point in time.
As my friend begins to pick up the pieces and start a brand new life we talked about many things, but perhaps most of last conversation centered around the fact that much of what we believed to be true did not, in fact, end up being true at all…
… and how sometimes life has a way of making us destroy those illusions for our good.
But a lot of people don’t want those illusions destroyed and I though immediately of a Nietzsche saying:
Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.
The truth is like surgery, it cuts and harms to do good. The scars will remain.
I’m praying for my friend. This is going to be an incredibly important year for him.
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Teenagers and Porn

I’ve never seen a girl in porn who doesn’t look like she’s having a good time.
This article is worth reading for any parent with kids:

My oldest daughter and I have already talked about pornography and how it changes the way we understand people. But this is one of many, many conversations that we want to have.
Sexuality is something that we should continue to chat about for the rest of our lives. I was talking about this with a friend just yesterday (and half-way to 40!).
Keep the communication channels open folks. This is the only way this works out well in the end.
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Never Over-Optimize

An infographic listing the top 20 reasons why startups fail:

I can understand most of these but, to be honest, there are so many overlapping circles about these things so it’s never just one thing… except team.
Another way to think about this is essentially the fact that despite great market and a great product, the team can end up destroying all that good fortune by simply not working well together.
It’s just that simple.
If you’ve been around long enough you’ve seen exceptionally talented individuals totally blow it because they can’t get their relational shit straight. Happens more often then we talk about.
I think about team performance and effectiveness more than really anything else when it comes to building a product and a company. It’s the thing that I can never over-optimize on.
In fact, team dynamics directly influence most of the things on that top 20 list.
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Footprints in the Sands of Time

Projects come and go but names seem to last a lot longer, at least in my book.

via Dilbert
I have, for instance, re-used a number of domain names in my life when the original idea didn’t actually pan out.
What does this mean for the power and importance of names as they relate to projects? Or, does it mean anything?
Honestly, I think the output (i.e the results of the creation(s)) are infinitely more important than the name itself. Does it really matter if one used “eHarmony” or “Match.com” or “Tinder” if the end result was a successful partnership and/or marriage?
Does “getting credit” really matter all that much as well?
I’m spending a lot of time thinking about “names” right now as it relates to some of the new projects that I’ve been putting together. I’m not sure they mean all that much as long as they create value for others.
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Buy Girl Scout Cookies with Cryptocurrency

From a friend via The Bitcoin Pub:

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On Startup Competition

Worth a repost, for sure:

How much should an entrepreneur worry about competition in an early-stage startup?
The short answer is easy: Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Spend none of your time  worrying about competition.
But, if that’s not enough for you… Jason shares a few more meta-levels on why this makes sense:

First, markets get redefined by new entrants that change the paradigm. Who saw that Zoom would rocket to $200m+ ARR in a crowded space that seemed to be a commodity going to free? Or that Slack would remake chat apps?
Second, it’s often ok to just be 10x better at something that matters a lot to paying customers. You don’t have to better than Salesforce at everything. You can be Pipedrive, and simply be the best CRM that’s super easy to use. That’s enough to get you to $100m ARR right there.
Third, super happy customers win. Yes, winner-takes-most is true in SaaS and frustrating. But if you are growing at a healthy clip and have super happy customers, you will probably still do fine. It’s almost impossible to kill a SaaS company at $10m in ARR with super happy customers. Those happy customers buy more and beget more customers. Even if your competitor is 3x larger.
Fourth, everybody lies. Be wary of your competitor’s press releases and fancy venture rounds. They matter. But everyone exaggerates a bit, and hides the tough stuff.
Fifth, competition is part of life. Very few spaces in B2B and SaaS in particular lend themselves to true monopolies. Instead of sweating competition — get good at it.

Love it. And… after having done this a few times myself I have the scar tissue to prove that worrying about competition does no one any good.
The greatest strengths of an early-stage company is nothing more than speed. If you can move faster than the rest, working harder and smarter than anyone who might be deemed a “competitor” then you’re already in a good spot.
But, that suggests that that even matters.
A good startup isn’t trying to compete. They are trying to annihilate the market and move towards a monopoly. Peter Thiel says this best in one of my favorite business books out there.
Own the space and you can become the “competition” that everyone is trying to beat.

Two great posts that appeared in my inbox this morning:

The World Needs More Modest Linear Growth Companies

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On Startup Integrity

When my brother and I first started putting things together for a new project we didn’t sit down and make any grand mission or vision statement(s)… we didn’t right down any value systems or anything that you could print out on paper and hang on a wall.
We didn’t do any of that… instead, we just started building.

Along the way we began to build out systems and processes and workflows that mirrored the what we each brought to the table. These include both our strengths and our weaknesses, naturally.
The beautiful thing about super early-stage is that you both know what you’re doing and you also understand that, at the exact same time, one does not really have any idea around what one is doing.
All you know is that you need to survive the experiments through sheer force of will, execution, and patience. The results will illumine themselves in time and if they don’t then you try again, or, you try a different approach.
And hopefully, in time, one approach will actually end up working.
You know it when you see it.
Along the way, of course, you do everything you can to maintain your sanity, your health, and a lifestyle that’s meaningful and presently rewarding.
You do what you can do maintain (and even build and solidify) the things that ultimately matter and the underlying principles and philosophies that govern your behavior.
As an adult, most of these things have already crystalized – not completely, perhaps, but, the foundation(s) are certainly already there. The unspoken mantras and internal dialogues that dictate one’s behavior, attitude, and treatment of others.
Not all of them are good or useful to building a business and some of them, at times, can seem to hamper or even “get in the way” of a startup’s velocity. One of the most common startup “white lies” is to inflate statistics of growth and reduce (or simply omit) any of the hiccups that are always occurring.
We have grown 100% week-over-week!
This feels very different than the more complete picture which might be:
We have grown 100% week-over-week but we are also paying for this growth and at this rate will be out of cash in 30 days.
The problem is that both statements are true… it’s just the second one is more true.
What we do in private will eventually, inevitably, appear in public. This is just the nature of integrity. No, not the moral uprightness but rather the state of being whole and undivided.
Even a convicted murderer has integrity when they have fully embraced all that is required to commit those acts and is also wholly aware of the costs of their behavior. The national sovereignty of North Korea and their leader act in full integrity as governed by their history and culture.
Our seen behavior is a reflection of our unseen behavior, attitude, and principles. If a startup founder and their team act one way in private but in a distinctly different way in public then it will not end well. There are too many examples to give here that most of us know about.
When you start a company you bring all of those things and they become the internal engine that powers the system. The more you know about the engine(s) themselves the more you can operate maximally as you know the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement and growth.
This is why it’s paramount that you choose the best people to work with and that’s why I make it a point to decide and commit to a person(s) before a project. If I can’t get along with my cofounders or early team members then my life will be nothing short of miserable.
This is also why I take time to work with folks before the commitment is finalized. These trial periods allow me to observe and understand what lies beneath the surface before I sign my name (and life) away for a season with them.
Why? Because integrity is much easier to say than to actually understand. I have met a lot of people who, at first, seemed amazing. A few months later (or even weeks later…) I have a much more empirical and educated perspective.
I don’t leave these relationships too disappointed; I’m just glad I didn’t commit too early. The metaphor of dating and marriage as it relates to startup founding is apt because that’s exactly what it is. You’d never marry someone you just met… or at least without dating for a serious amount of time, right? Then don’t do that with a startup!
As you grow and build out your product and services you begin, hopefully sooner rather than later, to also acquire customers and a larger community.
They will also, in time, see what’s really going on under-the-covers and what was once just private dialogues seem to magically manifest themselves in how the startup treats these customers. Again, I believe this to be inevitable.
Peter and I are not even a full year into our new venture but we’ve got a fantastic group of early customers and community that has begun to see the “cracks,” the behind-the-scenes of what’s really going on.
And we’re so grateful that they do because if it’s inevitable then I’d rather have it come out now instead of later.
Startup integrity is not a hard thing to understand and it’s not a complicated set of rituals or practices. It is simply you, as an individual and then the aggregate of the other founder’s beliefs and behaviors.
This “soup” mix is all you’ve got and you hope and pray that it’ll be enough to get you to the very end. The choose is, as always, yours and mine.
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Wouldn’t Sit for a Month

Sometimes (most times…?) the reason we struggle so much is because we can’t seem to get out of our own way.

Theodore Roosevelt once said:
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.
It’s funny but true.
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I’m actually quite enamored with this fun little marketplace built on the Ethereum network:

But perhaps most important is the implications of what this could do for our technological universe. I also share a personal story of how something similar in my own past lead me to where I am today.
It all starts off as “play” and “games” until it becomes very, very serious. This is how it always works.
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These Dreams Lie

It’s been 365 days since I’ve tasted alcohol… and my life has been infinitely better for it. Last year, on December 4th of 2016, I made the commitment to stop drinking booze and to begin my journey of being sober.
As I take a moment to look back on this decision I get a bit emotional… so much of this calendar year in 2017 has, I believe, been made available to me because of my sobriety.

Even the opportunity to welcome a new kiddo into the family would have been an absolute catastrophe if I was still medicating at night. The joy that I have and the clarity of mind, body, and spirit is difficult to understand or express.
I’m still an alcoholic and will remain one until I die. I’m fine and very comfortable with that. Alcohol doesn’t define who I am today but it does represent a person that I was and is a reminder that I can overcome even the most difficult of odds.
Why? Because I had zero plans, ever, to give up booze. I still think about it and I even dream about it, one year later. The dreams are exciting and remind me of all of the fun things but none of the bad.
These dreams lie… but, I see them for what they are now. I am no longer deceived. I see the light.
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Change is Hard

I’m sure I’ve written about this a number of times over the many years that I’ve been writing but it’s really the only thing that I can think of writing today because I’m so fucking tired.

Real change is hard, harder than we care to admit to ourselves. It’s easy to tell others to change but it’s infinitely more difficult for ourselves to undergo change.
The resistance is absolutely real and it’s substantive and it’s difficult to overcome. It can literally keep you from getting up in the morning if you’re not aware of its presence.
Even the more positive things in life will force you to change and it’ll be a painful transformative process. A perfect and contextually relevant example of this is the introduction to the fifth (and final) human being into our household.
It is great joy that we welcome him into our family but the consequence of his existence in our family routines and behavioral patterns and systems has not been small.
We have all had to pivot and change and evolve our individual and collective schedules. We have all shed tears because the change that is demanded upon us is nearly unbearable at times.
This feeling, of course, is amplified due to the lack of sleep and the general moodiness of all people in our household. There’s nothing to do but to put one foot in front of the other and not kill each other in the process.
And not that we’d do that (or even close) but the feeling is there that we’re damaging our existing relationships to accommodate and adjust to another. It feels wildly unfair but we willingly endure it for the greater end.
Change is hard, even when the results are so fundamentally good.
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On Small Projects

I credit my entire software integrationexperience and skill to the fact that I have constantly experimented, built, and launched small projects.
Sometimes I wanted to explore a single programming concept and/or element or sometimes I wanted to see how potential customers and users would respond.

Eventually, of course, these projects would become much, much larger in scope and scale but I would attack them in the same way and fashion: Execute quickly and see what the market would say.
Some (most) of the these projects died without much fanfare and without much use and occasionally they’d get a little bit of attention.
What’s fascinating is that it was, and still is, impossible to know what would work and what wouldn’t work and there was no obvious correlation or relationship between investment of time and customer resonance.
Sometimes, a throw-away piece of software would blow up and people would really care about it and it would get a ton of attention and sometimes I’d spend an entire year (and then some) on a project and no one would show up.

I found an older script that I had created in a few hours of time many years ago which was essentially my own version of lightbox (remember those?!).
I named it after my kiddo at the time and I put it together as an experiment for a larger project that I was working on. When I released it to the public it got a lot of attention and I was shocked.

I couldn’t believe that a handful of hours would garner so much attention… but I realized that it also created a lot of value for a ton of people as they were looking for a quicker and more lightweight lightbox solution.
I learned a few things from this simple yet successful software project: My job is to create and then leave the results to the internet.
Final note… my daughter is now 11. Yes, this was nearly 10 years ago.
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Highly Unreliable

A startup, by definition, is speculative, an investment of time and resources and emotion that involves a high risk of loss and/or failure.
It is one based on conjecture and zeal for the improbable (or impossible); but you do it anyway because you believe that the future that you see can be achieved.

In this way, then, one might find them right on track, despite a highly unreliable forecast. This is because it’s really about the journey and not the end.
I was reminded of this when I watched these stories from Professional Scabble Players (I had no idea this was a thing but I am not surprised) as they shared their own, sometimes humbling experiences of playing the very best:

I love some of the stuff near the end:
Even though I lost the championship, I realized at that moment that I could be as good as anyone else.
The game is so deep I could never finish learning about it.
Nobody likes to lose, everyone likes to win… it’s really about the journey than the end.
Of course it is, of course it is.
You see, the highly unreliable nature of a startup is what makes it so darn exciting. You wake up not entirely sure what you’ll encounter and not entirely sure of how you’ll feel about those encounters.
But you do know that it’ll be exciting and rewarding, even if you don’t get to the supposed “best” end game.
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Two Old Business Cards

It’s interesting to think that at one point in my life I thought that I needed these types of things.
How times have changed.

This one was actually kind of fun:

Too clever for my own good.
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mailto: for Google Apps (Not Gmail) in Chrome

You can change the default mail client to use gmail via your browser pretty easily and you can follow these instructions to get it started.
But, since I’ve moved from the free Gmail to a new email address, this function no longer works and it’s been really frustrating.

Oh yah.
Thankfully, I found a simple Chrome Extension which allows me to use a Google Apps domain like saddington.vc and I get the same behavior!
You can install it here… and I’m a much happier email user now.
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A Focus on Blockchain

I shared this with my newsletter subscribers today… I thought I’d share it here as well, especially since I’m tired af and I written way too much copy and content for one day.
So, here it is…

If You Could Invest in “The Internet”…
… before it became a huge thing… knowing what you know now… you wouldn’t hesitate, right? Same thing might be said of mobile (or the iPhone and/or Apple) before it took over the entire world and accelerated our world into a mobile-first culture.
You’d go all-in, right? I mean, you’d drop everything to be part of that movement, correct?
Well, this is exactly what I feel about blockchain (and bitcoin and cryptocurrency).
Consequently, I’ve decided to share some pretty big news today, which is this: I’m working with my brother on a collection of products and apps in the blockchain space. These include a mobile app, a vibrant community, and a brand-spankin’ new YouTube Channel called “Decentralized“.
And I couldn’t be more excited. Truly. Blockchain may very well be the most significant technological advancement that I will ever have the pleasure of experiencing first-hand.
So, as I mentioned, I’m going all-in on this project and it’s going to be my singular focus for quite some time.
The timing is great too, by the way, as yesterday I finished my 365-day vlogging experiment… that was a great mental and physical exercise (and thanks for everyone who followed along!).
So, anyways, I hope you join me on this exciting new adventure. I’ll be sharing more along the way, as I typically do, and I’ll be spending more time on this brand new YouTube Channel as well.
Finally… if I can say anything (and I think I’ve said it already at this point… beating dead horse…) you should seriously take a look into Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and perhaps most importantly blockchain technology.
It’s going to change all of our lives for the better… might as well get a piece of the action, right?
Love you all. Let me know how I can serve you!


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More Robots the Better

I’m excited about having more software (i.e. ‘bots’) take over more of our existing jobs as this is the purpose of software and technology.
Automation is one of the best things that we’ve ever created.

Dilbert and jobs
This means that we’ll be able to spend more time doing the very things that robots can never do which is to empathize fully with another human being.
This means more time us to build healthier relationships. This was the crux upon which a previous project of mine was built.
The way I see it is that the more robots we have the better our lives will be.
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