Archive for January, 2011

Product Development: Going “Old-School” with Paper and Pencil

27 Jan

Okay, so I should know better. If things are going too slowly, you gotta shake it up. Forget about the technical challenges of getting a product implemented, if you cannot communicate effectively with your partners and collaborators, then you are wasting the potential of your organization. When you are a company of two, you cannot afford to waste any potential. Despite the abundance of new tools, sometimes the tried and true tools work best.

Pen and paper mockup

Pen and paper are still effective.

One of the great things about our partnership is that we are both open to adopting new technologies to see how they might be beneficial. There are so many great tools out there: Google Docs, WordPress, instant messaging, Skype, Google Wave (sigh)…. Sometimes they work and are beneficial and sometimes they get in the way.

It is too easy to get caught up with all this new-and-shiny technology; it is useful to stop and contrast that with the old solution, “What was wrong with the old solution?”  There are a lot of advantages to using Google Doc’s spreadsheets, for example, but they still fall short of Excel, in many ways. Make sure you keep sight of your needs rather than compromising the outcome by the limits of the tools you use.

Step back ever further and recognize that good ole pencil and paper can be the most effective and expedient way to communicate.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Startup Life

17 Jan
Startup Workspace

Waterfront view from my desk (West Seattle, WA)

Do you ever wonder what your entrepreneur friends do all day? Here’s a typical day in the life of a startup entrepreneur. (Cheryl’s day) I like to include a fitness factor in my day to break away from the computer. I normally go to sleep around 2 or 3 am and found out recently, that this isn’t a sustainable long-term practice. I ended up catching a cold/cough over the weekend which forced me to slow down and catch up on much needed sleep.

January 12, 2011
9 am: Coffee and Cache Crew status  mtg.
10 am: Follow target demographic on Twitter 50/day, respond to @mentions and thank RT, create content or RT articles relevant to busy moms on Hand Things Down
11 am:
Engage with law firm and email decision to other law firms we didn’t hire. Promote the blog of another entrepreneur on Hand Things Down Facebook fan page. Like their fan page.
12 pm Hit the gym – spin class today
1 pm: Split lunch with Bill and catch up on email via the phone during lunch.
2 pm: Shower and get ready for afternoon meetings.
2:30 pm: Work on founder homework
4 pm: Brainstorm blog posts
5 pm: Napped for 20 mins to try to get rid of migraine
6 pm: Drive to Meetup
6:30 – 8 pm:
WordPress Meetup – Seattle to learn how to drive more traffic to the Hand Things Down website using SEO techniques.
8 pm: Skype call for Founder Intitute working group
9 pm: Drive home then make a sandwich
10 pm: Listen to gamification webcast while working.
10:45 pm – 3:00 am: Continue to cross items off TO DO list.
3:30 am: Eyes closing as I draft this blog post.
As an entrepreneur, what does your typical day look like?

Snowing in Seattle

12 Jan

Cheryl walking around outside the apartment on experiencing her first snowfall in Seattle.


Did You Already Quit on Your New Years Resolution

09 Jan

Create goals instead of resolutions

We are a week into the new year, have you started working on your New Year’s resolution(s)? If you have started working on your New Year’s resolution(s), are you still following it?

Give up making New Year’s resolutions, they never work, join me in my movement. I’m not a quitter, I just don’t see the point in creating a promise at the beginning of the year that you will break within a week or if you are an over achiever, within a few months.

The problem is that most people make grandiose plans to do a 180 in some area of their lives and this never works. Yes, I’m talking to you, so pay attention. The only way to achieve big goals is to decide on a goal then break it down into little bite size activities which can be done either everyday or a few times a week. The cumulative effects of these baby activities will add up over time and bring you a step closer to achieving your grandiose plan.

Business Goals

  • Graduate from the Founder Institute on March 14, 2011 by launching Hand Things Down as a web and mobile app for busy moms to give away or trade the precious things their kids have outgrown.
  • Build a solid startup team.
  • Grow the monthly active users in the Hand Things Down community to over 50k, within 6 months of launching.
  • Generate $250k or better in net income in the first year.

Personal Goals

  • Get in bikini body shape by June 30, 2011
  • Blog everyday

Be Specific & Give Yourself a Deadline

It’s important to know exactly what you want to accomplish by a given deadline because if you don’t know what you want something to look like, how can you develop a plan to accomplish those goals?

Next up
Plan to accomplish business goals.
Plan to accomplish personal goals – will post this to my personal blog.

Image credit:


Interviewing Lawyers: The View & Cookie Factor

08 Jan

View from Perkins Coie

Mission: Choose a Law Firm
As homework for the Founder Institute this week, Bill & I had the dreaded task of interviewing law firms. This homework isn’t busy work or assigned for the sake of getting experience in interviewing law firms but rather to decide which firm, we would engage to incorporate our company. I was not looking forward to this task because I didn’t know what to ask the lawyers or even how to determine which ones would be better.

Getting Ready
To prepare for our meeting, Bill wrote up a few points to keep in mind, we had a brief animated discussion about the list he created because I was looking for 3 questions to ask each law firm to determine a base of questions we would ask all the firms that I could put in a comparison spreadsheet.


  • We want to form a Delaware Corporation because investors and lawyers know Delaware corporate law.
  • Discuss what is included in the incorporation package and how much it would cost.
  • Discuss “F” class stock.
  • Discuss whether the warrants we need to issue to Founder Institute would be included in the incorporation package.

Law Firm A: Small & Focused on Startups
Our first meeting was at One Union Square in Seattle. It was a rough start because we got a bit lost. After much swearing from Bill, we consulted my iPhone to find the entrance to the parking garage. I could only read the directions because I don’t have any map reading skills; GPS was invented for people like me. Luckily, we got to our meeting with a few minutes to spare and upon entering the conference room; we were treated to a breath-taking view of downtown Seattle. We started the meeting answering questions about our company, then we had discussion about various things we needed to consider around incorporation, assigning intellectual property to the company, terms of use, the lawyer’s experience with startups and of course how much it would all cost. At the close of the meeting, we talked about blogging since we read his blog to get a sense of his personality.

Law Firm B: Big & Well Known
Our second meeting was a few blocks away. After checking in, we were offered coffee and cookies…score! We were directed to go to conference room 4 to wait since we arrived a few minutes early for the meeting. Upon walking into this conference room, I was WOWed by the view of the Space Needle; I wonder if all law firms in Seattle have great views. The receptionist informed us, the lawyer was running a few minutes late so we treated ourselves to a second cookie and took pictures of the view like tourists. At the start of this meeting, we gave a quick overview of our company then had discussion around what would be included in the incorporation package. Since this law firm represented larger companies that could potentially acquire us, I asked what would happen if there were a conflict of interest. This would be a concern for us as the “little guy” because we do not want to be out on the street looking for a new law firm if we were fortunate enough to be in talks to be acquired.

Postmortem: Interviewing Lawyers is Hard Work
We have 2 or 3 other law firms to interview in the coming week, I told Bill I was making my decision based on the quality of the cookies and coffee we are offered. All joking aside, this is a serious decision, much like entering into a marriage. All the law firms and lawyers we scheduled to interview have been recommended by a respected entrepreneur or mentor in the Founder Institute. On paper, they could be equal; we have to determine which law firm is “the one” who can help us push our company to its highest potential. Since we are bootstrapped, we don’t have the money to pay lawyers all sorts of money that could be better utilized to attract rockstar developers to join our team. Another consideration is which law firm could help us secure the most favorable terms in financing rounds and eventually help us with an initial public offering or to be acquired.

It is easy to be seduced by the beautiful views (equal between the law firms we met thus far), the cookies, and the coffee. We need to decide which one will be the best partner for our company in the early stages and throughout our growth. I will release my decision table once we’ve concluded our interviews in the coming week.

As an entrepreneur, are you ready to incorporate your company and start fundraising?

Law Firms – Links to Startup/Business Formation

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