Startup products and community

This week is Phoenix Startup Week. Even though it’s only been a couple of days so far, I’ve talked to some great people, attended some good presentations and panels and even had a short session with a business mentor who gave me a good perspective on better presenting my Blocks Edit startup.

One of the daily panels Phoenix Startup Week has is called “Founder F Ups” where a moderator just talks to startups about mistakes they made while starting their business(es). Blocks Edit isn’t my first app startup. There was another app startup I ran called Indie Aisle which was essentially a failed attempt at “product market fit” — that is, finding the right people that I was solving a problem for. While I did go through a couple of iterations that got closer to a real solution, by the time I got there, I discovered there were other products available that I thought were doing a better job at solving the problem and I couldn’t come up with a “unique selling proposition” for it, another big word phrase meaning: what made it special; and it eventually began to feel like I was hopelessly forcing it to work.

Finding a problem to provide a solution for

So have I learned from my ‘f up’? I certainly think so. In the process of trying to make Indie Aisle work, I got a better sense of how solve a problem with a product. Along the way, I wrote a couple of comic books, and became my own target audience for the Indie Aisle tools I was promoting. And Blocks Edit came out of working with my business partner on client work and experiencing first-hand the problem we eventually set out to solve with the product! Another thing we did right is we showed the work in progress to our clients, who’s enthusiastic responses signaled that we were on the right track.

Marketing a product business

At a certain point, I started working on the marketing site for Blocks Edit (another thing we did right by starting early, before launching) and came across StackingtheBricks.com, a website and podcast that not only helped me write better content and sell my product, but better understand my audience and have the right mindset for running a business, including a sobering look at what a startup means. Ultimately, Stacking the Bricks taught me that product development and marketing go hand in hand and creating a product business cannot be done well without doing the work of both in unison. It helped me learn how to properly validate ideas to know whether they should become products.

A startup for startups

The best thing I’m getting out of Phoenix Startup Week is the sense of community. “Let’s make our mark” is the Phoenix Startup Week motto. Lifting my head up from work to hear other people talk about their startup journeys while sharing mine helps me be more mindful of the ups and downs of running a business, appreciating the things that work well and making the stuff that doesn’t feel less frustrating.

While dividing my time on Blocks Edit and still doing client work with my business partner, Steven Douglas, there was another startup idea that Steve had that we worked on putting together this past year, a community of our own that we wanted to create: basetime, a network for developers, designers and project managers who want to work on their own terms. And in time for Phoenix Startup Week and in the spirit of launching a startup, we’ve launched a landing page this week to start promoting it. And I’m looking forward for a great rest of the week to talk about it!

As if I didn’t have enough projects on my plate, I’m also working on an upcoming ebook I’m calling ‘Webspace’, which is a guide to putting stuff out and promoting it on the web. Sign up to get email updates on it.

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