Draft! Revised version to appear on NWEN’s blog.
In the first three parts of the series (1, 2, 3) we got to an initial version of an executive summary and begin iterating on it. This installment focuses on improvements in a couple of individual sections. For impatient readers, here’s the tips:
- Get feedback from a lot of people — they’ll see different things
- You can get great feedback even if people don’t read the document
- Iterate repeatedly. Incremental progress adds up.
- A picture is worth 1000 words
Read on for more …
After the flurry of revisions following the intense phone call, I had what I felt was a decent starting point, so began talking with a lot more people. Only a few of them read the executive summary; instead, I’d cut-and-paste a paragraph or two to start off a conversation in chat or email, or talk through it verbally. Still, most people had something useful to say. For example:
- On Facebook, I saw that Giovanna was starting up a new business in Ottawa focusing on crowdsourcing and communications so asked for her input. She was intrigued, and we spent an hour on Skype where she had some great insights on SEO and how useful this approach would be for political advertising.
- On a mailing list, Marci saw something I had written about diversity, approached me for some input on her startup . When we met for tea we realized that the approach I was taking to advertising was a great match for their business model — and other political advertising situations as well. Hey wait a second, I’m noticing a trend here.
- Josh, a designer, politely hinted that the logo needed a lot of work. So did Sonya, another designer. I got the message.
And the list goes on … After each conversation, I’d write down some notes and update the document. What’s fascinating is that while there was some stuff everybody liked, they also all saw different things, bringing their own backgrounds and experiences to bear. Opportunities that I hadn’t thought much about before started to look like intriguing early targets. Conversely some of the possibilities I had in my first version (enterprise sales for example) now started to look like distractions, and I realized that some of what I was discussing was too tactical to be in the summary. Incremental progress started to add up.
For example, here’s what the Competitive Advantage section looked like when I started these discussions:
Diverse participation is key for effective crowdsourcing. [Reference: Scott Page’s The Difference.] Qw3ries founder has years of experience in diversity in technology, and a track record of building highly diverse communities. Conversely, competitors like Quora and StackOverflow have a primarily techie-oriented and overwhelmingly male, and ignore the needs of multi-lingual speakers and people with disabilities. Diversity is like security: it’s extremely hard and expensive to add in after the fact if you don’t design it up front.
Also: usability (current bar is very low), brand (positive, inclusive, happy), IP in crowdsourced ranking techniques, designing in privacy up-front, understanding needs of activists and non-profits, advisory board. And most importantly, of all our parties will be better than anybody else’s in the space.
Question: the space is extremely cluttered, and in many cases there are significant company-specific competitive advantages – e.g., unlike Mahalo’s our cost of content acquisition isn’t obscenely high; unlike Demand Media we don’t exploit our community members. How to fit those in?
A week later, it had turned into this:
Diverse participation is key for effective crowdsourcing, and integration with social media is the key to involving more people in the process. qw3ries’ team has years of experience in diversity in technology and social network activism, and a track record of building highly diverse communities. Diversity is like security: it’s extremely hard and expensive to add in later if you don’t design it up front.
We are also on the path to patentable IP in several areas: crowdsourced ranking techniques, privacy-friendly advertising, multi-perspective user experiences and troll-reduction. And our parties and shwag will be a lot more fun than everybody else’s.
Still far from perfect, but a lot shorter, clearer, and more active. Instead of focusing on specific competitors, it’s now much broader. “Patentable IP” is the kind of thing investors loooooove to see. And what’s that they say about a picture being worth a thousand words?
To be continued …
If you’ve launched an innovative business with growth potential, you’re looking for expert coaching and some exposure to the investment community and you have not yet presented your plan to an angel group membership or VC partnership, then NWEN’s First Look Forum could be the perfect opportunity for you!