entrepreneurship

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Who do you want to be?

When I was 14 at the end of junior high school, I was asked to decide what job I wanted to do after school. Like that: enter a class room, sit down, take a pen and a piece of paper and write down who you want to become.

I remember I asked the teacher if I would be able to change my mind after. She said “maybe”.

I was so fucking stressed. I haven’t thought about that this seriously. So since I liked watching stars I wrote astrophysicist. The teacher took my paper, filed it and the next year I studied more science. That’s it.

A couple of years after before getting to university, same question: Who do you want to be? What? again? Can’t I just figure this one out later? I had several friends who wanted to study electronics so I said electronics. And I went studying for two years in the electronic department of the university.

At the end of that again, same question: what do you want to do? work or study more? I got an appointment with one teacher there. He told me: ” you’re not ready to work but you don’t have the mentality for engineering school”. It was a nice way to say “you’re fucked buddy“. Anyway I applied for an engineering school in my hometown. They told me I had no chance to be selected because I sent my file too late. It was basically that or nothing. I was a little desperate… But in the end they took me. Seriously engineering school was hard but not that hard. Basically sometimes, I couldn’t party for 3-4 days because I had to study. This kind of hard. I got my engineering degree, I honestly think I did a good job and also I  went to all the college parties and concerts I could during these three years.

And after that, nothing. I went out of school and nobody asked what I wanted to do. Hey guys, where are you? Are you kidding me?

I looked for jobs in high-tech companies, the kind of companies who judge you on the way you tied your tie, not your qualifications, I did some interviews… I couldn’t stand it. I had no desire to work for people who wanted to make me a robot. I wanted to create stuff, not being told what to do.

So I worked in a hardware store. I was being told what to do from 5 am to 1pm and after that I was free. I’ve always been a morning kind of guy anyway.

One day I met a friend in this hardware store. When I was in engineering school I did an internship in the company he worked for. He told me the company decided to hire an engineer. The next week I was working for them.

And the same thing happened every year: What do you want to do? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I want a raise. I want more responsibilities. I want to go to Canada.

So they sent me to Canada (in case you don’t know, I’m French). I worked for them for three years in Montreal. But, hey… I was still not free. I was still doing what I was being told to do. I was not creating stuff at all. It was not the company’s fault, it was mine. I was not doing what I wanted. I was a robot. And in some ways it was comfortable because I just had to follow, tell some people what to do, tell other people what I had done. And it was ok but not really.

The worst was that I could see myself doing the same job in 20 years. And I got scared. So I quit.

And now I’m on my own.

It’s hard to know what you want to do. When you have no clue, people decide for you. You think you had a choice because people asked you but in fact no, choices are really limited… What if you want to be a fisherman in Alaska or a shaman? There is no school for that.

Now I know who I want to become. I know that I want to be on the edge. I don’t want to be comfortable.

And I’m the only one who can make it happen. It’s liberating.

I’m working on this right now.

Do you?

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This app business project

Hello, and happy Labour Day weekend if you’re in US or Canada (or any country that celebrates Labour Day now)!

Since it’s a time to reflect about work, I thought I had a little word on where my business is going and mainly my app business project… It’s kind of a long post so grab a cup of green smoothie. Actually I was writing to a friend and I thought it would be a good post (excuse me if there is any typo).

I was on vacation for 2 weeks in August and honestly I did not do as much as I expected this summer. Actually I really focused on my yoga teacher training this past year and it was one of the best decision I ever made. I really did it for my own personal development. Seriously, if you are still wondering why all these self-help development books and blogs haven’t work, try a yoga teacher training (really!). I won’t teach though, but in a way I believe that if you are a better person you end up showing a good example to others which is a good teaching.

So, now that I’m not studying and writing yoga reports (I think I was too much of a perfectionist on these sometimes), I have more time to invest in my business. I opened SPARQ Studio a little more than a year ago. It was really more a way to do all kind of freelance work, mainly websites and consulting behind a business name ( I could have name it Manuel Loigeret Consulting Company but SPARQ sounded better…). Now I want to step up my game a little because website and consulting can be great but it’s definitely not my dream job.

This App Developer thingy

For a long time I said I was an app developer. It’s true and false. It’s true because I’m a computer engineer, I programmed quite a lot of desktop applications (mainly image analysis / artificial intelligence softwares). I also did a lot a php/mysql programming and also other network, linux and web stuff. And yeah, I also worked on a lot of stuff not at all related to computer science. And it was great but not in term of “apps”… So when I say I’m an app developer it’s not completely true because, people automatically think iphone apps (and this is what I wish I meant too). I worked on many “test” iphone apps but I didn’t publish any yet. And I feel bad about it. I always had a “good reason” to do something else – because website design and consulting pay the bills faster than trying to understand the App Store business. So in the past year I spent a lot of time on some short-term projects that didn’t bring me much instead on focusing on the app programming. Now my goal is to make this app thing work. That being said, I’ll still dedicate some time to work on some side web and consulting projects on the way because it’s not too difficult and it pays the bills.

What I’m working on now

Right now I’m working (almost) like a maniac on a meditation app I started a while ago. It’s a project I had for a year and along the way I came up with all sorts off ideas to make it really satisfying and yet simple. So what was supposed to be done in a couple of weeks took me a bit longer and I’m really happy with what it became…

I’ll write more about it and make a small promotional site when I’ll have a beta version, hopefully in September. The app should be on the store in October if everything’s ok. Since it’s the first app I will publish on the App Store, I have no idea how it will go with Apple review. I think I did everything right but perhaps they will come up with some coding norm that I wasn’t aware of. Surprise, surprise…

After that, I have a couple of other apps on paper. These should not take as long as a year to come. The more I code apps the more I feel comfortable to make them quickly. I also have some kick-ass designer friends who give me great insights. It helps… I can easily convince myself that what I do is awesome when in fact it’s total bullshit. Dear designer friends, you piss me off sometimes but I’m glad you do.

App marketing

I made some research and a lot of reading on app marketing. There’s a lot of ‘get rich quickly’ formulas around that sound more like big scams when you start to make research in this area. But I also found some stuff on how to make apps that make a difference and how to optimize your keywords, title, screenshots, etc…I’m really excited about that actually. The App Store is a close system so it seems a little more feasible to follow a couple of rules to get into the game. (oh yeah… when I say “App Store, I mean, the Apple App Store… I want to focus exclusively on iphone/ipad apps. The Android platform is kind of mess for developers from what I’ve seen and I don’t want to waste my time figuring it out)

Also, even if a revolutionary idea will make you rich, it’s really really (really!) hard to come up with one. And it’s funny actually because when you talk about app ideas with people, many of them think that it’s easy to have a really unique idea and get rich. But believe me, try to have an awesome app idea and then make some research and see how millions of developers already executed your idea. My plan is to make a good amount of apps during this coming year (what “good amount” means? We’ll see…) and test different kind of apps and marketing strategies to see what really works.

Getting better

Finally this App entrepreneur ambition might seem like a big dream, but I see a lot of guys who are not smarter than anybody and manage to make a decent income from the App Store. So I’m asking myself “Why not me?”. I believe it really is artificial limitation. I’m not really surrounded by truly awesome entrepreneurs who did it and it keeps my reference system pretty low (see this post by Niall Doherty who expressed it better that I can). Actually if I didn’t focus on this project it’s surely because the task seems kind of too difficult. But in the past I surpassed really difficult challenges and now that I think about them they were not that bad. I definitely need to put a little more energy into this.

So yeah… Will this App thing work? Will I be able to make some money from my apps? Will this project evolve into something else?

Keeping reading the blog if you want to know 🙂

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The worst case scenario

What is the cost of failing? I don’t know… It seems big, right? When I think of failing, I think of this homeless guy I see near the metro station. It scares me. There’s a good part of decisions I didn’t take in my life because of that feeling. I think it’s mostly because of education. I’ve been raised to live in a world with some kind of boundaries that we are taught not to cross. If we cross them, we get the image of the homeless guy. Although these boundaries are not here to keep you safe, they are here to keep the system you live in safe from evolving. It’s just some kind of self-preservation mechanism. I don’t really understand why it is like this, some people must have a lot to lose. But that’s not your problem…

It would take a lot of failures to become homeless. Even if I had no job, no one and no money I know I could still find some kind of shitty job and it would actually be ok. I did it before. I worked for a little more than a year moving boxes in a hardware store. Honestly I kicked some ass at this job and it was not that bad. Actually if I didn’t have this job I would have missed a lot of opportunities. Perhaps it would have been better, perhaps worse, I don’t know. But I’m happy where I am.

The only thing that prevents me from taking a risk is the fear of losing my current status and for some reason find myself in an uncomfortable situation (and uncomfortable is the word… in most case the worst situation would just be “uncomfortable”). Here’s how I think about risks before I take one :

  1. What is the worst case scenario?
  2. What would I lose?
  3. How could I come back to where I was before?
  4. What would I learn in the process?

(full disclosure: as far as I can remember in my adult life, I had this idea of what would be the worst case scenario when I made an important decision. It’s not new. But I watched an interview with TIm Ferriss recently and he had formalized these questions – I think he only had three though…)

This is what went through my head when I decided to move from France to Canada, when I quit my job or when I chose to invest a whole year in my yoga teacher training while starting to work for myself. Every time I was scared, but when I thought about it, the worst case scenario was still ok.

Right now I’m trying to reduce my client work to focus on apps I design myself. I still do some client work though and it’s easy to keep doing it and forget about my personal projects. Because my personal projects are risky, they might not work. What would be the worst case scenario actually? I would lose a couple of months of income. This is a pain but it’s not that bad. If it really doesn’t work I can stil work on an other product or do more client work. And actually I’m always more efficient when I do something for a second time, knowing what are the traps I must not fell into.

I don’t know about you but I have no interest in living a normal balanced life. I don’t want to have a boring job and go to the mall on Saturday to buy stuff I don’t need. I don’t want to watch CSI Las Vegas because my brain is too tired to enjoy a better activity. I don’t want to go on vacation in these big concrete resorts somewhere in the Bahamas and get smashed to forget about how stressful my life will be when I’ll go back to work.

What is the worst case scenario of running a normal life? Well, you might just have nothing interesting to tell your grand-kids. It sucks.

On the other hand, the other worst case scenarios (or scenarii) might just make you a little more exceptional and bring you opportunities you would never had otherwise.

When I think about it even seems safer and more clever than the normal life, doesn’t it?

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The good guy strategy

I have this draft post about all the lessons I’ve learned while working for myself. If you are interested in reading a 1200 word boring-as-hell post, I can send it to you. But actually I can sum it four words: stop being a dickhead.

Seriously… Nobody think highly of you when you act like you fucked everybody to get in the first place. This is not success, this is actually failure. I know people who did it, they are rich, they have a big house and two big cars but they are miserable.

Let’s just talk about entrepreneurship a little because this was my prior intention. If your business is just to make a shitload of money it doesn’t serve any purpose. I can’t count how many people gave me “good tips” to make more money. Some of them include promoting illegal or totally immoral activities for the sake of “success”. I might as well become a pimp or a drug dealer if morality doesn’t matter…. Half of “entrepreneurs” who tried to help me mentioned deducting more business expenses (that were actually not business expenses) to get higher tax returns. And honestly, I tried because it sounded like a good idea but it takes a great amount of time to cheat, so I gave up. And also I was feeling really bad about myself. I’d rather invest this time into doing awesome work.

It’s like they are thinking money and not good honest products or work. Actually I’m really surprised by the number of people who don’t give a fuck about the quality of their work. And that does not apply to entrepreneurs only. It’s so bad that we almost find this normal to get paid for doing nothing (actually people just sat behind me in the café where I’m writing this and they are complaining about their jobs and also discussing how they can get more time off this summer by faking being sick. You see what I mean?).  

You won’t get far with this way of thinking… And this is not the kind of person I want to become even if it means more money. This sums up my values as an independent worker (and more generally as a human being): don’t try to fuck the system but make the system better. Don’t try to screw others, give them an awesome experience instead. Don’t do shitty work, do work that matters.

And stop being a dickhead, be the good guy. It always (always!) works…