Showing posts with label venture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label venture. Show all posts

27 December 2009

Flightwish Reboot

Restarted working on Flightwish today. A lot of background stuff... seeing that the DNS is correctly set up for all the FW domains... getting Subversion properly configured on the dev server... restoring the old FW software trove... all the dirty little details of permissions, software configuration and setup that don't usually get mentioned in software development plans, but eat into your time in such a big way.

I've installed the Pebble blog engine on the server, and I have to say it looks pretty nice. Far more impressive than the Blojsom engine that I'm still using for my personal blogs. Simpler to use and customise, and performance feels somehow snappier. The only real snag I hit is that Pebble is supposedly able to interpret WikiCreole - not my wiki syntax of choice, but better than no wiki syntax at all! - only it doesn't seem to work. At least I couldn't make it work. Well, it was pretty late in the day, so maybe my brain has simply had enough for the day.

My idea is to first just get a Flightwish blog up and running so that I can get some content up on the site, and update it reasonably regularly so as to improve its pagerank. I was a bit surprised to see, though, that despite having only reactivated the site a few days ago, its pagerank is 3. Not bad for a dead site! I guess it must be because it has been a real site in the past, and also due to its age (several years.)

After that my next priority will be to get a forum system up and running and looking reasonable so that people can start to sign up and chat. Yes, it would seem to be Yet Another Social Networking Website. Hopefully we'll have enough of a real focus to make it a bit different. The idea is (as it always has been) to do something in the travel space, with a strongly social slant.

As soon as the forum is set up I'll focus on writing a bunch of content - to be released at several-day intervals - telling the stories that drive/drove the initial concept of Flightwish. Those stories (you'll have to subscribe to the Flightwish Blog and wait a few days if you're interested - there's no content there yet) will explain the shape of the Heart of Flightwish as it exists in my head. I'll probably also reminisce about some of the experiences we've had with this thing in years past... the long, long road we've travelled to get here.

Lots of work for a one-man-band! But I think we can do something really interesting, different and meaningful in the travel space. Certainly I'd love to visit Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Belgium (for the beer) and loads of other places, but I don't think I can do it without a bunch of help!

08 May 2008


My week for being haunted by old ghosts.

A bit more than a week, actually... It all started last Thursday with a call from a lady working with a lot of organisations that support HIV counselling, treatment and management. A lot of organisations. She had tripped (how?) across a product/project that a few of us put together some years ago that we called Projectory. Projectory is a collaboration and communication platform, specifically aimed at software-development organisations and teams. Think of CollabNet. But better, of course! ;-) Certainly quite different in some key ways! Except we never got the business off the ground, mostly through an unlucky turn of events that resulted in us losing key sales people at a most critical time.

My caller was wondering whether the Projectory platform could be adapted to help them to communicate, collaborate and coordinate better with a couple of hundred other organisations. Well, we've set up a meeting for next week, and we'll see... What a blast from the past, though! I had all-but-forgotten about Projectory... Thankfully I have the code archived away somewhere safe.

And then it happened again. A call from an ex-colleague a couple of days ago: Could we put together a rough estimate and proposal for a social-networking platform for World Cup 2010. In case you're living in a cave (or the USA where "football" means something completely weird) South Africa will be hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and, for South Africans, it is a very big deal. This is, after all, the second biggest sport event in the world after the Olympics. (China get the hell out of Tibet!) The weird bit is that what's being asked for is very, very close to the project we called Flightwish -- a social-networking platform centred around group travel opportunities and concepts. We failed to get funding for Flightwish, though we tried hard. Normally I would favour a small-start, organic-growth, little-or-no-funding startup model, but that path is clearly a very poor fit for a Grow-Big-Fast webalicious venture. Since then, a few others have started playing in that space, but I have yet to see any of them put together the exact combination of ingredients we planned. Would we have done better? Who knows?

But now we may just get a chance to try it again.

Key takeaways:
  • I suck at Sales and driving Sales, therefore I am a poor fit for CEO of a startup.
  • Flightwish taught me a deep hostility to the idea of a single "window of opportunity"; it's rubbish.
  • Beware the Websites Of Yesteryear! You put up a website. It's out there. You forget about it. Google doesn't! Fix them up or shut them down.
  • The "social" potential -- the ways that the web opens-up for collaboration and group communication -- we've barely scratched the surface of what's possible.
  • VC people in SA are mostly bankers with fancier job titles. And we all know the collective noun for bankers, don't we...

19 July 2006

When Funding Falls Through

Just received email to the effect that the funding deal we were hoping for has fallen through.  Again.

I confess I'm rapidly losing faith - not to mention running out of money to keep the roof overhead.

We've been trying to get funded for about six months now, with a conspicuous lack of success.  I freely admit that for part of the time we were simply not trying very hard: the deal on the table was too tempting for us.  We were close enough to the investor that we had no need to draw up a very formal business plan for pitching (though we certainly did have an internal operational/development business plan) so we were pretty lackadaisical about the whole thing.

A couple of months into the negotiation it became apparent that the amount of money we were negotiating would be insufficient to get the business as far as "revenue generating", and the amount we would really require was more than the angel-group were willing to invest; "Too rich for our blood!"  Fair and reasonable; indeed the right decision for all concerned, since we would otherwise be throwing money at a venture doomed before it started.

So we then had to spend considerable time working up a reasonable (I think!) "pitch" business plan for another angel investor.  They're the ones who have turned us down this morning, and I can understand and sympathise with their reasons - essentially they feel that the market we wish to tackle is just too tough, and we are neophytes in the space.  We agree.  We've known it all along, and addressed those problems in our business plan, but evidently it wasn't enough to convince them to part with (about) USD 1million.  That amount will get us about to public-Beta in a timespan of about 4 months.

So.  Anybody know of an angel/venture group wanting to get into the social-web space in a venture that has real-world revenue streams (i.e. We're not planning on ad-revenue) in a USD45billion/year industry? (And Yes, that's a "b", not an "m".)

23 June 2006

The Next Wave in the 'Net

A new idea is blowing around in the (cold!) wind: A community blog/newpaper for the South Cape region.  Do a quick search on any search-engine of your choice to see what is happening in the South Cape.  Good search terms might include "South Cape", "Garden Route", "Knysna" or "Outeniqua".  The overwhelming majority of links that come back are tourism-related, and almost all of the rest are real-estate advertising.

Almost everything on the 'net about this region is outward-facing; there's next-to-nothing there for local people to find out what is happening where they live.  Caveat: There is a small quantity of inward-facing content in the 'net for South Cap locals, but it is certainly not well placed in the search engines.  Perhaps I should try one of the local (South African) search engines, but they all suck.

My initial concept is more like along the lines of a "community blog" than a conventional newspaper.  It has everything along the lines of bottom-up content, community-driven development and community-managed editing, etc. that I think are good things to foster.  Think along the lines of Slashdot for ordinary people, and with a regional focus.  But, given how limited access is to most people in the area, it makes sense to me to try and find ways to tie the "bits" world (the 'net) back into the "bricks" world where most people live.

It's also a fact that, even people who /do/ have some level of 'net access, also run Real Lives(TM) and don't spend a major amount of their time in the 'net.  Mostly those who do "live in the 'net" are hacker types like me, or retired people with time on their hands (and the money to fund it, and lower levels of real-world energy).  (Note: That's "mostly", not "all".)

I have come to believe that the next wave in the 'net (and most of the real world, or "bricks" world, hasn't yet caught-up with the current wave) will centre around tying the bitworld back into the brick world, and an application of the same bottom-up notions to brickworld.  My startup venture (if it ever flies! :-) is a direct application to test the theory.

The news thingie is a sharper application of the same question: Can we get the real news from ordinary people who "see stuff happen" instead of an "ordained ministry who pre-chew our pap"?  Including those who lack the advantages of decent 'net access!

If we can be modestly successful at that, then, along the way, we will surely make some money, too.
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