BETCHYU

Beautiful new landing page

There has been dead silence from the Betchyu team over the past couple of months. But do not fret, we have been busting some serious moves in the background to release a new version of the Betchyu app.

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This launch is happening in the first week of July!!! The app is undergoing a major make-over. we’re implementing a complete redesign. We’re adding a payment system. We’re making the app more social by adding a comments section. Lastly, the new version is going to be a heck of a lot more responsive, with push notification and auto-updates. More on this topic at a later date.

Today, we’re so excited to announce that we have a new landing page. I must say that it is really beautiful.

CHECK IT OUT: http://www.betchyu.com

Because we want the launch to make a splash, we need an epic landing page to be the cornerstone of our marketing efforts this coming month. The landing page is where everyone goes when they hear about Betchyu. We worked really hard to make a page that works, adopting techniques and styles from other beautiful landing pages.

The only missing piece (coming this week) is an email input, where we can get a list of people who are interested in downloading the app.

Main point, check out the landing page and get stoked for our launch in July!

 

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Betchyu Demo Day

A few weeks back. Betchyu presented at Bizdom’ Cleveland’s Demo Day. We met a lot of fantastic people and are excited to see where the conversations go. Check it out yourself.

Betchyu Video!

Hey guys! So the accelerator that we’re a part of just made a cool new video on Betchyu. You should definitely check it out!

I’m in a podcast

Yessir, I was recently interviewed by my good friend and fellow entrepreneur, Chris Tysh. We discussed Betchyu, Entrepreneurship, the Lean Startup, and other stuff. #goodtimes

Check it out at here: http://blog.feltpad.net/podcast-2-betchyu/

Workaholics

I recently read a fantastic book called rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier . It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s quick. I like this book because it throws ton of recommendations at the reader. You can pick and choose which recommendations you like, and which you don’t like.

 

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The book makes some points that are spot on. As I’m going through the process of starting a company, many musings have crossed my mind. However, because I’m a busy bee, I haven’t taken the time to write these thoughts down. Luckily, many of my observations have already been recorded and developed by other people (Jason and David being some of them). As I read this book, I felt like I was reading I book that I could have written. It was a great experience.  

There are many points in the book that run counter to what standard business schools would have you think. The whole book is actually pretty disruptive in its outlook. I thought I was the only guy who was shouting that the emperor is naked. Maybe I’m not so crazy after all.

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In any event, one of the sections that I found especially valuable was about WORKAHOLICS. The premise of this subchapter is that people, especially us Americans, really like to overwork themselves. Workaholism has become a badge of pride. We wrongly assume the harder you work the more you will succeed. Jason and David tear apart this philosophy.

Working night and day doesn’t get the job done. All it does is create irritable and inefficient workers who stop thinking about how to efficiently tackle the problem. The authors write,

If all you do is work, you’re unlikely to have sound judgments… you stop being able to decide what’s worth extra effort and what’s not… workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up.

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I could not agree more with this simple thought. In order to be an entrepreneur, you need to know how to be smart with your time. This is not an excuse for entrepreneurs to be lazy. Starting a company is an incredibly rigorous and intense affair. But it exactly, because of the intense nature of the entrepreneurial pursuit that being a workaholic is especially dangerous. Working 24/7 will wear you down and make you ineffective.

I’ve seen people who spend hours and hours slaving away at tasks that are unimportant. These folks might even give a disparaging look at an entrepreneur who goes home at a reasonable hour. I feel emboldened by this book’s outlook.

In the end, it’s the results that matter, not the hours put in. 

The Lean Startup in Action… So much harder than they told me it would be!

We’ve been working on getting an MVP out for the past couple of months. We finally have a product that works! It’s really exciting. Now, as we are about to submit it to the Iphone App Store, it’s time for some reflection. The Lean Startup approach lies at the heart of our strategy in building and releasing Betchyu.  So how are we doing at applying this approach?

The Lean Startup is an approach that has really caught on over the past last few years. It encourages startups to use experimentation, iterative development, and incorporating customer validation as early as possible. The approach is based off of Eric Ries’ book which is called; you guessed it, the Lean Startup. Ries has become a big deal in the startup community.  The Lean Startup is to young startups what the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was to teenage girls in 1963. The approach is hot these days.

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When we started Betchyu, applying the lessons of the Lean Startup seemed straightforward. What could be so hard? The available books provide a rubric for how to move forward. The steps: 1) Build out an MVP, 2) design tests to prove assumptions 3) Get feedback, 4) Make informed  changes 5) Repeat. Boom Bada Boom. It sounds so easy.

In fact, our experience at Betchyu has demonstrated the opposite is true. Not only is applying the Lean Startup a challenge, but there are many forces that are an anathema the lean startup. We soon learned that Iphone development had some built in characteristics that make it difficult to apply the Lean startup methodology.

  1. Its incredibly difficult to distribute a beta version. The app store doesn’t accept products that are in beta. Instead, you have to invite your beta testers to jump through a series of hoops to get your app on their phone via testflight. This is bad for a few reasons. a) This process is makes it difficult to get people to sign up. b) It vastly limits the number of people who can participate (Apple only allows 100 testers. c) Lastly, for our specific app, it makes it impossible for users to invite their friends to bet against them on their goals, which basically ruins our beta.
  2. When you submit your app, it must be ready for launch. This means that the app that you are creating needs to already have bells and whistles that are totally irrelevant to the MVP. This wastes precious time and resources that could be used to test and iterate.
  3. It takes 2 weeks to update your app. This means that the whole process of testing and iterating takes a lot longer. It’s SUPER ANNOYING!
  4. No marketing push during our initial launch. We know that the app still has a long way to go before it becomes really successful. We need to test a number of assumptions. Therefore, it’s inappropriate to aggressively market the app once it gets on the app store. We are therefore missing out on a major marketing opportunity.

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This is not to say that the Lean Startup is a bad methodology. It just means that it’s really difficult to implement. This is especially true in the mobile space where there are a lot of factors working against the “lean” approach.

The Upcoming Beta!!

Hey everyone,

I know its been a bit of a while since my last post. The Betchyu team has been incredibly busy building out our app. Here’s a quick update on our goings on! We have been in the middle of an intense sprint to get a beta test ready for the Iphone.

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Its therefore valuable to explain what a beta test is and why we are doing it. A beta test is a step in the cycle of a software product release. Its the first version of the app that early adopters try out. The word beta comes from the Greek alphabet (first alpha then beta). The only reason we use Greek letters is because beta sounds much cooler than the letter B.

Building betchyu is a complicated affair! We need to do a lot of testing in order to make sure that the app is working well. Typically, alpha tests are conducted internally (among the inner team of people involved with the development). The purpose here is to ensure that the nuts and bolts of the app are functioning. Once the Alpha is completed, it’s time to add some aesthetic touches and go to beta!

A beta test is one that is opened up to a limited number of users. These are the BETA TESTERS!  This test is the first opportunity that folks from the public sector to check out your product. Its pretty exciting to be allowed to test our an app that is in beta. The beta testers have a critical role in the development process. Their job… play around with the app!

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The benefits of Beta testing cannot be understated. The Beta testers are a group of people who understand that the app is still pre-launch. They are therefore less likely to abandon your product the moment they experience a glitch. In fact, if you play your cards right, the Beta test creates a group of advocates for your platform. These individuals will have a sense of ownership over your app. They want you to succeed and can help to spread the word about what you are working on. You can use the beta test as an opportunity to forge long-lasting relationships with these users. 

There are many other important benefits to the beta test. Most obviously, the beta testers can will help you ID bugs. Testers will use numerous devices, some of which might not be compatible with your app. They will try  things that you did not think about trying. Its great to find these bugs out before you release your product it to the larger audience.

The last thing you want is to do is release an app, do a ton of marketing and outreach, and then find out that your app was not ready to be released.

Perhaps most critically, the Beta testers help you understand whether you are moving in the right direction. Are your assumptions proving to be true? This process prevent you from being caught off guard.  Inevitably, there are going to be many considerations that you forgot to account for. The beta test is an opportunity to answer important questions. Most importantly, is this a product that people even want to use?

One of the best parts of the beta test is that it gives you control. You can reach out directly to those people who are really passionate and involved in your space and engage them directly. Moreover, the beta allows you can build up the app in a more gradual way, without having to worry about being overloaded with too much traffic and data.

We can’t wait to share our beta with you…. expect an update soon!

Our designs and the lessons learned from them!

Today I would like to share some awesome slides. This is a great opportunity for me to share what we have been working on. Also… It’s really cool to see how the idea has developed from its infancy to its current manifestation.

Step 1- Test out idea on paper! No technology needed. I first  gather a lot of friends together and we challenge each other to succeed in a range of personal goals. This helps us: 1) Prove that we are addressing an actual need 2) refine and adapt our idea 3) get feedback.

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Step 2- This is our first wire-frame. At this point, Betchyu is still intended to be a website.  I use an app called Balsamiq. http://balsamiq.com/

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Step 3- We decide to transition into the mobile space. This time, I wisen up and do the drawings on paper. This allows me to be a lot faster in my iterations and imaginative in my design. I then use a iphone app called POP. At POP, you take photos of your drawings and then link your sketches together with “link spots.” Its Awesome. https://popapp.in/

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Step 4- John, one of our trusty co-founders, makes a wire-frame of the app. This version is a lot cleaner and helps us focus our energies.

John Screen

Step 5: Daniel, our coder in chief, then builds out a rough version of the app using meteor, a relatively new programming platform.

Daniel version

Step 6: Eric, our design guru, works hard to improve the User Experience. He improves our branding and design to make the app as aesthetically pleasing. This will definitely improve our conversion rates!

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Main lesson learned: You’ve got to be fast! We took waaaay too long in our design process. Here are some things that can be done to work faster!

1) Start by drawing on paper. Do not…I repeat… do not start by using computer mockup programs. These tools take up too much time and limit your imagination. Making sketches allows you to quickly refine your idea and get the ball rolling. Your original conception of your product will definitely change. Because it takes so long to make mockups on the computer, you will be less willing to implement the necessary changes.

2) Be quick about defining whom actually designing for. Find a single niche and move forward. We spent 1.5 months working on a responsive website (a website that looks good on phones). This meant that we were essentially designing a website and a mobile app in conjunction. This was a major time suck and prevented us from focusing on the really important tasks. The moment we focused on mobile development, things accelerated forward.

3) If you are building a functional prototype, don’t worry about the design. We spent too much time doing design work on our prototype (Step 5) . We didn’t even have a designer at the time. We should have only focused on the functionality. First off, all of the design work that we did got scratched. More importantly, I believe that users are more forgiving of an app that is completely functional (with no design) than an app that has a half-assed design. Your users will assume that you don’t take the design process seriously.

4) Find a great designer and do it fast. Finding talent is always a challenge. We probably took, 1 month to find a designer. You have to be really proactive in your search. What is essential is that you identify the need before it comes up. If you are doing mobile or web development, I can guarantee that you WILL need a designer. You might as well find your guy early on.

Lastly… I have an action item for you readers out there. I would love to get your feedback. How does our brand look? Do you agree with my lessons learned?

Fearless Entrepreneurship

One of my guiding mantras is to “live a life that is not governed by fear.”

We all have a myriad of dreams and life is too short to let our fears get in the way. This approach has been central in my entrepreneurial pursuit.

Starting a company for the first time is scary business (no pun intended!). There are so many unknown unknowns.  

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When working on Betchyu, I’m in over my head. I have so many questions and so few answers. Starting a company can be paralyzing. We simply do not have the tools to make informed decisions. Naturally, we revert to a state of indecision. We move back and forth between the costs and benefits of an action without understanding that inaction is the most destructive path to take. Entrepreneurs need to learn to feel at home with uncertainty. We need to transition away from being afraid of the unknowns and learn to embrace them.

If you are going to make a mistake, you might as well be quick about it.

I have adopted a new approach in my work. Unknowns are not obstacles but learning opportunities. In fact, the entire entrepreneurial experience is about learning. Instead of being paralyzed by the uncertainty of it all, I try to make informed decisions in short increments of time. I recognize that I have already made mistakes. I will continue to make mistakes in the future. I will not be defined by my fear of making mistakes, but my ability to learn, adapt, and grow from them.

Louisa May Alcott puts it beautifully when she writes, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

The very act of becoming an entrepreneur is a step into the unknown. I don’t know where this path leads to. What I do know, is that I am learning, adapting, and growing with each step that I take. 

You Vs. You

I want to start today by telling the story of Zelda Gamson. Zelda might seem like your typical 80 year old grandma, living an idyllic life down in Martha’s Vineyard. However, Zelda’s had a pretty radical life. She served as a civil rights activist and was really involved with the Congress on Racial Equality in the 1960’s. For a while, she even went undercover to combat housing discrimination. I am sharing this with you because; starting in the 1960’s Zelda developed a pretty bad smoking habit. Her story is an awesome example of how we can get motivated to achieve our wellness goals.

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In the heyday of her addiction, Zelda smoked upwards to two packs of cigarettes a day.  She smoked everywhere: in the car, in the house, and around her kids. Zelda felt really bad about her smoking habit and decided that she would quit.

We know how this story goes…. Zelda would toss the cigs, go cold turkey a few days, but no matter how hard she tried, she would ultimately relent. Zelda knew how bad smoking was. However, the urge to smoke always won out. Zelda would start out with resolve, and end with failure.

This is an age old story that we all confront. We have a long term interest that is subverted by a short term urge. Zelda understood that she was of two minds. There was one part of her that was rational and understood the destructive nature of her ways. However, there was another part that was driven by urges and was completely addicted to cigarettes. This short term self always won out in the battle to quit smoking. She was embroiled in an epic internal battle!

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Zelda was so frustrated with how things were going that she came up with a diabolical scheme to get herself to quit. Zelda made a pledge to never smoke again. If she did, would donate $5,000 to the KKK, an organization that she abhorred.

After making the pledge things were different. Every time that Zelda got the urge to smoke, visions of the KKK and their dastardly deeds would appear in her mind. A single cigarette would mean that the KKK would get her money. Zelda had found a thought that was hotter, than the urge to smoke. She never smoked again!

In this situation, the rational part of the mind was able to beat out the part of the brain that was governed by urges. This story reaffirms scientific research. Neuroscientists have found that we make poor economic decisions if something is offered now, vs. later. The now parts of the brain almost always beat out the “later” parts of the brain.

Image The tug of war of the mind!

Zelda’s pledge to donate to the KKK was able to level the playing field. Whenever Zelda had the urge to smoke, she would have the immediate feeling of disgust because of the KKK.

I like this story because it captures what we are trying to do at Betchyu. I know from personal experience that when a friends says “I bet you’re not going to do that,” I’m going to do all in my power to prove them wrong. If I have a friend betting against me on a personal goal, my immediate desire to succumb to my urges will be counteracted by my emotional drive to not be proven wrong.

BTW: I got Zelda’s story from a radiolab podcast from a while back. You can check it out at http://www.radiolab.org/story/117291-you-v-you/