Loic is a good friend of mine. He’s had me to Paris to speak at his wonderful events, I’ve had him stay at my place (and take video), and we spent some time over Thanksgiving together. I think the world of him, and love his family. He’s just a great guy.
That’s why it was so difficult for me, when we sat down to go over his startup, to give him my honest feedback on the pre-launch Seesmic. I hated the name, I hated the design, and I wasn’t big on the concept of a “video version of Twitter.” He smiled when I told him that and said I was right in some of my criticism but that there was more coming.
To be honest, I wasn’t so sure. It’s tough when you see someone you think is very smart doing something you think isn’t going to work.
Today I’m glad to say I was 100% wrong about Seesmic. I still hate the name, but I love where he has taken it. Video comments on blogs are brilliant.
On TechCrunch today I was reading a great post by Mike Arrington about the importance of competition in the search space given Google’s inevitable climb to 90% marketshare. In the comments was a video post from Tim O’Reilly with replies from Mike Arrington. Two of heavy hitters taking time out of their day to chime in with raw video responses–empowered by Seesmic.
There is a huge lesson here for entrepreneurs: it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
Three examples from my life:
- Silicon Alley Reporter started as a $90 a month newsletter, but I shifted it to a glossy magazine with trade shows and an email newsletter. The original newsletter concept would have become a $500k a year business, the business Gordon, Xeni, Karol, Joanne, Keith and Brian and I built become a large business with $11.6M in revenue in the biggest year. Thank God we switched models.
- Weblogs, Inc. was building an about.com style model with subdomains (i.e. wireless.weblogsinc.com, gadget.weblogsinc.com, etc). We switched it to a branded model with Engadget, Autoblog, and Joystiq and thank God we did.
- Mahalo started as human-powered, top down search a year ago with 95% links and 5% content. Now it’s 50% content and 50% links… and the content part is still growing. We might end up 90% content and 10% links at this pace.
Bottom line? As an entrepreneur you have to follow your nose and don’t worry if you dump or change your original model. Evolution is the revolution.
However, it you don’t start you can’t iterate. Loic started and he’s evolved the model. I still hate the name, I still hate the destination website with back and forth 15 second videos from people in creepy lighting… but love the comment product. If I was Loic I would put 110% of my effort into the comments product. It’s a huge winner.
A friend of mine recently told me that smart people have a million dollar idea every week or two, but there are many smart people who are not millionaires. Why? They don’t start.
Just start…. it’s all about starting. Then, of course, it’s about finish. And starting, as hard as it is, is easy when compared with finishing. I’ll save that for another post.