Saturday, January 19, 2008

Happy Birthday Rubyred Labs!

January 15 marked the second anniversary of Rubyred's official launch. Woohoo!

The original vision for the company was to do whatever we thought was fun, and that vision is still very much alive.

We also have a policy of implementing the dumbest ideas we could come up with. Here are a few examples:
  1. Start a company with no real plan.
    Back in the fall of 2005 Thor, Amy, and I decided that we wanted to have a company but we weren't sure what kind of company. Instead of figuring out what to do we concentrated on how to do it. We started by making up a name, hiring employees, and getting an office. We figured the rest would work itself out.

  2. Have a party every Monday morning.
    There was already a South Park area happy hour on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evening, so we decided to have a party first thing Monday morning to beat everyone else to the fun. We didn't expect it to make the international news or anything. But it did.

  3. Seek out clients with no money.
    Our first consulting client was Yahoo, but we quickly got bored working for a company that made success so easy. Instead we sought out startups that could barely scrape together enough money to get us started working, and it was way more fun.

  4. Go to parties instead of working.
    We didn't feel like overworking ourselves in typical startup fashion so we went to every event we could find, starting with one of the first TechCrunch parties. We thought we were going to parties because they were fun, but it turns out we were working every night. All of our employees and most of our clients were found at/through parties and happy hours.

  5. Launch a schwag subscription company.
    What should you do when you assemble a great software development team? Start a business mailing people stickers and t-shirts, of course! Valleyschwag was a huge time sink but it made us famous in the web world. It was on track to be pretty profitable, but it was way too hard to keep up with the customer service issues. So what did we do?

  6. Cancel the revenue stream and concentrate on the hard annoying part.
    When we realized that customer service issues were killing our profit margin and distracting us from consulting we shuttered the Valleyschwag service, took a break from our profitable consulting business, and focused on just doing the hardest thing we'd encountered. The idea was to pick the most troubled company around and spend our time/money providing great customer service for their products by, in Lane's words, "enabling the customers to service each other." We spun-off Get Satisfaction in early 2007, and I took over as CEO of Rubyred.

  7. When all is going well, switch industries.
    Now I've moved to Los Angeles and have plenty of client work coming in, much of it with the great designers at 17FEET. It's a good time to be a consultant, and the years I've put into my personal specialty of mobile interaction design are really paying off. Clearly the smartest thing to do is to keep up the consulting. So I'm forced to ask myself, what's the dumbest thing to do?

  8. Announce new ideas before they're fully baked.
    I'm not one for secrets or big surprises, and Rubyred has always tended toward transparency. We figure the input we get will be more valuable than any mythical "first mover advantage," and if someone steals our idea it probably won't make a difference anyway. Ideas are free, execution is everything.

    So, as a prize for reading to the end, I'll tell you that Rubyred is putting together a plan for a new service. It would help professional actors, musicians, politicians, and other public personae use the internet to connect directly with their fans. It starts with consulting, moves into software integration, and finishes with a full web product with broad appeal. I'm not sure that we'll actually do it, and the plan will change every two weeks if we do, but I'm pretty excited and ready to talk with all who are interested.


Anonymous techustle said...

I would think one possibility is to build and market a personal forum. But this forum would only have one "channel" or section. I guess that would be twitter.

I think the number one hurdle is to overcome is having those artists, stars, and so forth to provide immediate update. They will basically open up there private life and hopefully become a reality type media source.

11:11 AM, January 20, 2008  
Blogger Jonathan said...

The personal privacy issue is key. Some celebrities have shied away from the web because they feel it violates their privacy and encourages stalker-type behavior. They're smart to be afraid of some fans, and a constant status/location update is out of the question for most public people.

So the question is how to use the internet, specifically social sites, to connect with fans while maintaining personal privacy. Some people will want to share everything, but most people want to be more selective about what they share with whom. This is possible with the right strategy and technology -- it mostly just requires a thorough understanding of how the internet works on a technical and social level.

3:50 PM, January 20, 2008  
Blogger C1arky said...

I think that the "VR" type sites, like Second Life or The Lounge could provide a really interesting way for famous people to connect with their fans, or make appearances, political speeches, whatever, while maintaining their privacy (and their immediate physical safety - more so than actually going out in public).

Imagine meeting David Byrne, or Barack Obama in Second Life, you'd actually get the charge of being near a hero, maybe get to interact in a way that would be impossible or improbable in person.

Having the experience be an immersive one that resembles human interaction - rather than primarily profile-based like many social networking sites - gives an immediacy to the interaction, and takes the emphasis off of bits of information that you assemble to represent yourself.

I know the Lounge has "appearances" of the recording artists on certain labels that it has relationships with. The fans are in there all the time, chatting it up with each other, kind of like Get Satisfaction, and then the superstars drop in for a disco visit with their most rabid fans. This keeps the buzz going, and keep s the kids coming back.

I fully expected to see that in the political arena by now, seems like the next logical step after Howard Dean broke blogland.


4:30 PM, January 23, 2008  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Great points Dan. The feeling of being next to a real(ish) moving body is better than looking a photo and reading some text, especially when you know the avatar represents a real live person who is looking back at you right now. Second Life still has a bit of stigma for its nerdiness, but like all new tech that will change over time.

This also makes me think of U23D, a new 3D IMAX recording of a U2 concert. I haven't seen it yet, but the reviews make it sound pretty cool. You get a view of the band that's much closer than a live concert, the sound is better, and there's still the immediacy of a live crowd. Not the same experience as a show, but a different one that is totally new.

11:37 AM, January 24, 2008  

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