We exist to build. Our job is to solve problems through the practical use of technology, developing well designed and expertly crafted applications that provide a useful and positive experience for their users. Although we are always refining and improving our process and approach we know how to do this and do it well. We have figured out this side of the equation; the phases between signing a contract with a funded idea owner and launching the application. The messy part is the other side of the equation, where founders with great ideas are scratching and clawing to get to market but may not have the resources or connections necessary to get to launch.
I have met many people with solid, focused business ideas that have a good shot at returning capital but are not within industries or themes that have the possibly outrageous returns that are so coveted by VCs. Not a lot of great options exist for professionals that are not in the tech industry but see a way that tech can solve a problem they encounter on a regular basis. My hunch is that a lot of these ideas die on the vine or end up getting built by cut-rate development teams because the founder did not know any better. Alternatively, some products falter because their founders can build the basics but lack the resources or experience necessary to bridge the gap between what they can do alone and what is required to reach their market.
We launched our $50,000 competition In an effort to solve this problem for one person while doing what we love and growing our presence. Although this may not be a lot of money to a profitable company it is potentially life changing for someone that is cobbling together their product but needs a big push. When we announced the competition the thought of actually sitting down with a founder and getting to work was pretty far off, but we are now only a few weeks away from knowing who will win and I couldn’t be more excited.
On the whole I am impressed by the quality of the submissions and encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response we have received. We have enjoyed receiving notes from various entrants about how happy they are to have this opportunity and I am so glad that people recognize and are on board with the spirit of this competition. We are providing something incredibly meaningful to the winner and we are ready to get to work.
This is not to say that the Competition has not come with its issues. We have had some people trying to cheat (removed from the competition) and a few technical issues (resolved by the team), as well as numerous individuals humorously trying to pick fights with me on the internet. Like anything bold done in public we have had our share of detractors and skeptics, with some thinking the marketing aspect of this detracts from the positive impact we will make on someone’s life, which is crazy to me. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation was founded, in part, to establish Bill’s reputation as a great humanitarian and not just the CEO of a software company. Does the calculated branding angle detract in any way from the good the foundation does? (no, I am not equating what we are doing to feeding people and curing disease, it is just a big and ready example)
As far as marketing goes, I would call this a huge success. We have met some interesting people and potential clients/partners, heard some great ideas and will launch a new product. This is a hell of a lot more fun than buying Facebook ads or handing out trinkets at trade shows. My only hope is that every outbound effort is as tightly aligned with what we are as a company, and who we are as individuals.