Happy Birthday Rubyred Labs!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.