No One Pays for Dancing Monkey Screensavers
How accepting bad news is your fastest way forward
3 min read
The foundation of all planning - to include business planning - is your intel picture. What do you know - your facts and assumptions. What do you not know - those things you hope to find out along the way to inform your plan. And based on these knowns and unknowns what do you think - why will your plan succeed.
The area where most of us fail in planning is not that we don’t recognize the initial assumptions, it’s that we fail to check them along the way. When any of your assumptions turn out to be invalid then your entire plan is also invalid - you have to re-group, adjust, maybe even start over.
Not exactly something that’s easy to swallow.
When you’ve so thoroughly committed to an idea it can be very difficult to hear what you need to hear and see what you need to see. Humans are emotional ego-driven creatures. We like our ideas. And we tend to see them as an extension of ourselves.
If my idea is shit what does that mean about me? My idea can’t be shit because if it is then everything I’ve been doing and telling people and dragging people along with me for has been a huge waste of time and money.
Of course you and those you drug with you probably learned something along the way. Hopefully you learned a lot of somethings.
But “learning something” was not the goal you had in mind - it certainly wasn't for me.
Having a winning idea that helped lots of people and made your family financially independent and the world a slightly better place, that was the fundamental goal.
When we began CrowdCrunch it was a truly audacious plan. Here’s a quick excerpt from our Executive Summary for the 2018 36-86 Entrepreneur Conference.
Crowd is the new Cloud. CrowdCrunch is a decentralized cloud services platform that crowdsources computing power from individual computers scattered across the Internet. We are a high tech version of AirBnB or Uber. Instead of unlocking the value of a backseat ride in a car or the room above a garage we are unlocking the excess computing capacity in the 20+ billion devices projected to be across the planet by 2020. CrowdCrunch proprietary software harnesses the aggregate computing capacity of Crunchers (“hosts”) and sells that capacity on demand as Cloud Services to application developers (“users”).
Anyone want to invest?
Let me do the quick math - if the underlying facts and assumptions about CrowdCrunch were indeed true - this is easily a multi-billion dollar opportunity. Notice I said “if”. That’s a big “if.”
You’ll notice our entire excerpt talks about what “we” are doing and says nothing about what “we are doing for our customers.” At no time have we touched on why someone would buy CrowdCrunch’s cloud services.
An experienced investor could pick through this pretty quickly. We were not experienced investors or entrepreneurs. In those early days I would get frustrated when my dad - who is an experienced investor and entrepreneur - would tell me, “You guys are just figuring stuff out.”
Surely, I thought, we were doing more than “figuring stuff out.” We had an ambitious plan, a white paper, even a patent pending. It wasn’t the first time my dad has been right.
We were just getting started on a very long road to figuring it out.
I remember distinctly when it hit me that CrowdCrunch absolutely was not going to work. It was a Friday afternoon three months or so into our venture. We had acquired some low rent office space in East Nashville and a nice big white board for our world-changing brainstorming sessions. With an intern and a new hire we had prototyped a very rudimentary version of CrowdCrunch.
Our new developer - “Ken” - sat back and admired the work. “This is pretty cool.” And then I asked the question, “Okay, so it may be cool - but why is someone going to pay us for this?” His response is seared in my memory, “I don’t know man, cause it’s cool and people like cool things, I mean people will pay to have dancing monkeys on their screensaver.”
It was 3:30pm on Friday. I started to pack my things. Nashville traffic can be bad, I mentioned. The reality was that I needed to get out of there so I could start figuring out how to dig out of this massively deep hole that I had so willingly leapt into.
Our potential product was worth no more than a dancing monkey screensaver.
The good news here, of course, is that we did indeed learn a few things and most importantly we learned them quickly. As painful as it was, we acknowledged that following the CrowdCrunch road any further was a lost cause.
Ironically enough at about this time we had somehow managed to hire employee #2 who after a long transition vacation was just coming into the office. Try tap-dancing your way through explaining to your new employee that the idea which they signed up for is no longer the idea. (For more on hiring check out my blog “Why you can't hire for your startup.") Quite fortunately employee #2 is still with us; thank you for believing in us, Adam.
So what did we learn?
1. We started thinking less about what we were doing and more about what we were doing for our customer.
2. We learned that when a business wants to host their app in the cloud - they want three important things. They want their cloud environment to be reliable, scalable, and secure.
So out of the ashes of CrowdCrunch we set the pillars upon which Uffizzi Cloud would be built. We would give our customers the easiest path to host their applications in a cloud environment that was reliable, scalable, and secure.
Now we were getting somewhere.