The best idea’s are hard to miss. Their brilliance stares at you. That’s what I used to think anyways. Now I’m not so sure. Let me quit rambling and explain this slightly depressing mini epiphany.

The back story: I selected an entrepreneurship module for my second term of my MSc Computer Science degree. The thinking was it would be an exercise in attempting to launch a real product. Unfortunately it descended into what these things normally do; business plans. A complete waste of time. Anyways I digress (There’s probably a blog post in there somewhere titled ‘the structural failings of higher education’).

I and my merry band of teammates did the usual brainstorming. We came up with a list of ‘start-up ideas’, ranging from the completely ridiculous, to the somewhat plausible. After ruling out our more wacky ideas (try to find ‘Airbnb for private toilets’ on the scribble below if you can), we settled on something that would be later dubbed ‘Game On’.

Brain Storming

Essentially it’s a match making mobile app that pairs local amateur footballers, with local teams short of players. All players would have a profile that would feature Amazon style five star ratings based on ability and reliability. Think ‘dating app for footballers and football teams, with a dash of Uber thrown in’.

Frankly, I didn’t think this thing had any legs. Yet (some) people I spoke lit up in a smile that said  ‘oh that’s actually really cool’. Maybe I was speaking to the wrong crowd. Most of them were in the same class. They too had sat through countless sh*t ideas, so perhaps anything remotely interesting was probably bound to produce a positive reaction.

Don’t underestimate the power of great design as well. Our resident designer Adam Noden mock-ups made the idea only seem even more credible to our peers and teachers. Just even looking at them makes me forget my initial skepticism.

iPhone Mock Upmockup-1

mockup-3

mockup-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

mockup4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even more baffling the ‘amateur footballers’ I spoke to seem to murmur ‘good idea’. I was stumped. Would people really turn on an app in search of strangers to join their game and visa versa? Would players rate other players honestly? Was there enough people/games going on to make this a viable market? I say market, like there was a credible way you could monetize this thing? Isn’t this all too niche? All unanswered questions. The reality is only a prototype would have allowed us to really find out. Harsh truth is without one our business plan was nothing but fiction

None of this is super profound. Or even really new to me. It just happens to be the clearest example I’ve come across of the worthlessness of a ‘good idea’ sans execution/testing. People telling you your idea is good is a world away from them putting their time and money into your ‘product’. 

To note even though I was never sold on the concept, feel free to run with it and prove me wrong. When I read of you million dollar exit to *fill in company* in tech crunch, I’ll produce a wry smile (after a few tears of course).

 

 

Just a quick one. The ‘Valve Checker’ app I’ve been working on has a basic pre-launch YouTube video demoing its features. In terms of when it will be released, the app has been sent to our client so its at their digression, I’m hoping for sometime February.

P.S The video was meant to fully embedded into the post, but for some reason WordPress is acting up. Please click on the link instead. Thanks.

I mentioned in my previous post that I started an MSc in Computer Science at UCL. Hows it been I hear you ask? Both exhilarating and challenging in equal measures.

We’ve been programming in ‘Java’, which is new to me, but having had some experience in ‘C’ definitely helped (via an online MOOC ran by edx.org). I would note that the course was fast paced, and you could tell which students had minimal to no programming experience once we got into the thick of it. (Something to consider if you wish to enroll into something similar).

I’m currently doing an assessed internship, building a HTML5 web application which will allow heart surgeons to select the appropriate sized valve during aortic valve replacement surgery. Check out the poster below, which features a mock up. I hope to have it finished shortly. team22ucl.com has a more in depth look at the app, from idea to execution. The actual calculator is completely built on the client side, but using Node.js, the Express web framework and MongoDb, I was also able to build real time analytic’s based on the user data for the benefit of the client (also a heart surgeon).

Team22-poster

I’ve never been able to drop the entrepreneurial bug, so even this year, working with UCL advances and Nauce, I was able to get a few of GFMB (my old e-commerce business) products retailed at Shoreditch Box Park late Nov/December. When I started that business, one of my goals was to have some kind of legitimate brick and mortar presence, so I’m thankful for all the institutions involved for making that happen.

2013-11-17 17.02.52

(Me on the right)
2013-11-17 16.58.17

 (Some of the goodies on sale)

All in all its been a fun ride. The only professional regret I’ve have is that I didn’t build an Android application on the course, which may have to be a side project in the next few months. Anyway’s that’s it for 2013, fingers crossed 2014 is just as interesting.

 

 

Its been a while since my last post. Last April in face. I’m slipping I know, but please forgive me as I’ve been rather busy. In the mean time a lot has changed. I’m a student again, which initially felt extremely surreal. University at 25 feels a whole lot different then University at 18, or even 21 for that matter. The gist of it is, I’m doing a Computer Science MSc at UCL. Its only been a month, but I’ve built and learnt a whole ton of stuff, some of which will be on my Github account shortly, the rest on the web. Unfortunately its meant that GFMB (my eCommerce business I started a while ago) has gone on the back-burner, but I have no regrets. I once saw Steve Jobs on my favourite TV channel (YouTube) say that building a great product is all about trade-off’s, you emphasise certain features over others etc etc, and I guess life is like that too. I went for education, for the investment of a year to learn what I could, and return stronger. Lets see if I’m right…

P.S You may have noticed that the blog look a tad different, I’m going for the basic look intentionally I can assure you!

Why eCommerce is great but can sometimes suck.

1. Easier to monetize (The Good)
Versus building a trendy iPhone application with a million users and no way in hell of monetizing (and probably praying for an acquisition), eCommerce actually allows you to get paying customers relatively quickly (something of a novel idea to most ‘start ups’).

2. Low barriers to entry (More Good)
The barriers to entry have never been lower. The technology to showcase your products (via WordPress, Shopify, Magento) are readily and cheaply available, as our payment solution (PayPal). You can leverage social media to amplify word of mouth, as well utilize third party platforms such as eBay & Amazon to reach millions.

3. Competition is rife (The Bad)
An iron law of economics (putting on my business student hat on now) is that lower barriers to entry increases competition. Profits in certain product categories are non-existent, i.e. electronics. (What is known as perfect competition in economics).

4. Scaling is tough (The Ugly)
As opposed to software, eCommerce has what is colloquially known as strong laws of gravity. Which basically means there is still a lot of friction in achieving rapid growth. Purchase the wrong stock, and your stuck . Iteration? Practically forget it. If your a re-seller one way to mitigate this is risk, is to perhaps use the ‘drop ship’ model. If your a manufacturer however, you’d be well advice to prototype, and test demand.

This is a post for those without access to the bank of mum and dad. If you’re already wealthy feel free to ignore and click away. If however those fee increases have you sweating, then this might be for you. I wouldn’t say this is a one size fits all; some of you may be in situations where my suggestions are futile. But if you fall into that small percentage of people this could apply to, I hope this helps.

This will mostly put you into two camps. Camp A – ‘isn’t this just common sense’ and camp B (which I suspect will be the majority) ‘this takes away from the experience of university’. If you’re in former, I’d have to disagree with your assertion, common sense isn’t that common. For the rest, fair enough, we just have a fundamental disagreement about what to prioritize in this current economy.

1. Don’t Live Out.
I can hear the groan’s already. But I recommend that if live within a reasonable distance (let’s say an hour + commute), don’t bother. The difference in the debt you accumulate living out is considerable.

2. Work Part Time
Again, rather obvious, but it has to be said. Earning some money on the weekends will help considerably, and ties in too what I’m about to say next.

3. Save Like Crazy
If you’ve been able to follow the first two steps, and then you might have been able to stash away what you can. Avoid temptation, don’t splash your student loan/grants on a new wardrobe (or insert whatever your vice is). Save it. Put it into ISA. The interest rates available right now are crap. But it’s a whole lot better than seeing zero after your 4 years.

4. Do The Work Experience Year/Get Practical Skills.
If you didn’t know by now your actual degree isn’t worth anything to your future employer. They couldn’t care less how much you know about 19th century French poetry. Practical skill’s is what counts. (If your degree teaches you something practical and in demand then this need not apply)
The work experience year also neatly ties into point 3.
Make yourself valuable to whatever industry you want to get into. It’s basic supply and demand.
We have an abundance of free information around us online. There are now practically no barriers to learning something new.

5. Get a 2.1 or above
Self-explanatory. A lot of employers won’t even look at with less unfortunately. If you think there’s a chance you won’t make it, a small hack is to apply for jobs early that way your grades will be less of a factor. Also look at smaller companies that are less inclined to be over concerned with academic credentials. If you followed the previous steps in terms of work experience you should be okay.

Follow any or all of the above and you’ll be a thoroughly tired and miserable graduate with minimal debt and good job prospects.