It’s much easier when you’re into it

thoughts startups  Its much easier when youre into itTechnology makes it really easy to start projects. We’re often tempted to jump into projects that seem like good ventures. In reality, it’s pretty hard to work everyday on stuff you do not like. I’m not talking about a regular job where you get paid well, learn a lot and have a good team. These things can compensate for working in industries you like a bit less. I’m talking about projects you’ll end up spending your Saturday nights on.

You kickstarter idea is probably a good one.
Can you turn that into a startup that you will work on everyday ?
Will you have the patience to find a business model that will make it a long-term project ?
Are you ready to build a company around it ?

I think a good exercise to test your idea first:

  • Write one short article (250 words) a day about that topic, during 2 weeks.
  • Then go talk to 5-10 persons that are really into that stuff. See if you get along with them.
  • And if you have some pocket change, buy 5-10 products related to that venture.

Have fun.

We All Need A Breather

When I visit Starbucks, it is never for their bold pick of the day. It’s usually to enjoy their services. I find Starbucks to be a good place to meet someone new, wait between two meetings, draw something, start an article, ect. When I do that, I usually get an Americano, decaf, that costs two dollars. It’s a living room, we know that. They know that.

It got me thinking that bars and fast-foods serve the same purpose. You need to meet with your friends so you go to a bar and end up buying overpriced, poorly made drinks. But you get the space. After the bar, you want a casual place to have a laugh so you hit the nearest fast food and grab a slice of pizza. And you get the table.

But sometimes, I need calm, on demand.

That brings me to Breather, a Montreal based startup founded by Julien Smith. Breather is a new kind of calm-on-demand service. Through a mobile app, you can unlock private, quiet spaces to work, relax or meet a friend.

thoughts startups montreal  We All Need A Breather

I had the chance to test one of the first rooms Julien and his team set up. I used it to have a good discussion with my friend Alex about our new web project. We enjoyed the fact that it was for a limited time and in a minimal space. It forced us to attack our challenges, everything around reminded us of why we needed to meet in the first place.

Breather also feels like a mini hotel room where you can lay, relax and work in an environment that you control. It´s yours. For a few hours.

Just like a “stay focus” computer tool, but in “real life”.

thoughts startups montreal  We All Need A Breather

Paying for calm and privacy

There’s a huge market for calm and privacy. Cafes on the low-end, hotels on the high-end. Breather seems to be in the middle and instead of selling you cafes or jacuzzi, its tackling the problem directly: we all need a bit of time off. It will be interesting to see if people actually pay for Breather or if the service will need a physical product like the cheap players of the calm industry to hit the mainstream.

Unfortunately, I think people who really need to calm down and enjoy some time alone won’t. It seems really easy to get people to pay for stressful experiences (movies, sports, news) but much harder for relaxing ones.

More at breather.com

Craft Coffee: a new kind of coffee-of-the-month subscription

Originally, milk needed to be delivered to each house in the neighbourhood because of the lack of good, reliable refrigeration. While there’s a growing consumer desire to connect directly with the producers, buy local, and, in some cases, opt out of plastic, we don’t see a lot of milkmen in our streets. But there’s a new kind of milkman around : the coffeeman.

Craft Coffee : coffee-of-the-month subscription

Craft Coffee is a new kind of coffee-of-the-month subscription. It brings you coffees from dozens of different roasters with a strong focus on quality.

startups coffee  Craft Coffee: a new kind of coffee of the month subscription

For around $20/month, you’ll receive three 4-oz. bags each from different roasters. Coffee’s curated by their experienced team of coffee professionals. Along with the coffee, they include cool stats and extra infos: tasting notes, country, producer, varietal, elevation and wash process.

Craft does a lot of work for you (searching, sourcing, tasting, quality test, shipping..) for about the same price as going to your local coffee store.

I’m impressed.

Design For Children (And You Too)

I recently had the chance of attending Planning-ness 2013, an un-conference for creative thinkers who want to get their hands dirty. I attended eight sessions in total but one really stood out for me: “HOW TO DESIGN FOR CHILDREN” by Ben Durrell and Megan Dickerson.

Why play ?

Play is the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem solving (Henry Jenkins, New Media Literacies). 

As children we spent most of our time playing, it’s like a daily job. We lose that growing up. Playing makes people happy. Happy people develop stronger communities. Adults deserve creative time and places to play. We do not get enough. Creating “playgrounds” enable connections between people and lead to playtime.

Where can we play ?

Historic sites, housing projects, museums, public parks, universities, coffee shops… at work!

Who can design ?

Artists, graphic and video games designers, urban planners, social workers, psychologists, marketers, teachers, strategic planners. Anyone.

Let’s do something.

One of the exercises we did was to draw a map of one of our favourite space we had as a children. It could be a park, a room, a building or a particular street. It’s surprising how well we all remembered the details of each space. Objects surrounding us seem so big. Every corner was a hiding place. Every obstacle was a new challenge.

For more, or to attend to the next workshops, visit Planning-ness. This is Ben and Megan full presentation.

Small guys / big corps: we’re the judges.

More now than ever, people and SMB are leveraging technology to innovate and grow. Small teams are now able to disrupt huge industries. Entrepreneurs fuel job growth and economic empowerment worldwide. Small guys can finally compete against the giants.

Less big brands. That’s what we asked for.

Technology makes local advertising much more accessible for small businesses and entrepreneurs. We arrive in a new city and we don’t need to hit a known restaurant because Foursquare tells us where are the good local spots.

Craft. Handmade. Local. Artisans. No more big brands. But wait. All of this might cost a bit more.

Big company usually make production of goods more efficient and cut costs. If the price of their goods still seems high to us, they’re in reality, most of the time, lower than what a “small player” could afford.

Pay more ?

We’re the judges.

Yes it’s going to cost a bit more. Fortunately, we decide how we spend our dollars. So it’s time to vote for what we prefer. It’s up to us to decide who’s going to have a storefront downtown or be able to rent a nice site in our favourite neighbourhood.

We’ll have to choose between that brand new IKEA sofa and supporting our local coffee shop over the year. Can’t blame it on the big guys anymore.

Prices are up. Quality is up. Cut the crap.

Are we ready to pay more for basic commodities ? Prices are up. But quality is too. If we want the small guys to win, we’ll need to cut the crap.

So it’s a trade-off between standard and quality of life.

 

Make 10 things happen

Can’t do it 10 times ? You won’t do it a Million times.

Cross-10 is simple exercise for startups. It basically says that you should “cross 10″ or “make 10 things happen” before you start building anything. The concept emerged in an article by Pablo Fuentes on Pando Daily.

The 10 things you should make happen depend on your type of project.

Are you starting a marketplace to sell gummy bears? Then Cross-10 means to have 10 different people sell gummy bears to 10 different buyers. Are you starting a tutoring platform? Have 10 different tutors conduct a session with 10 different students.

It’s easier to work on stuff you’re really into. And it’s also easier to work on stuff that actually have a chance to succeed. Cross-10 is just another way of saying : make sure it works before you jump in. It’s different from a business plan or a market research.

Scenarios where cross-10 seems like a good idea.

  • Want to open an non-profit for parents who need guidance with kids ?
    Find 10 interested people and have a session with each one of them.
  • Want to produce a film ?
    Write 10 scenes and film them with your iPhone.
  • Want to start a blog ?
    Write 10 articles and get 1 comment on each one. Or get 10 subscribers to your feed.
  • Want to have your own art gallery ?
    Find 10 interested artists and get them to promise you one exclusive piece for your project.

Can’t do it ten times ? You won’t do it a million times.

After weeks, if you can’t even “cross 10″. Just move on.

Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco

Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco

Through Vimeo, I recently discovered Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco. They’re dedicated to sourcing the best seasonal beans from around the world.

They’re not a coworking space (i.e. Starbucks). They focus on coffee only, no WiFi, barely no tables. There’s also the idea that less distractions will allow people to connect together.

“Coffee gives a reason for people to come together and hangout.”

The following video is a collaboration with Tellason Denim and profiles The Mill, a joint venture between Josey Baker Bread and Four Barrel Coffee. We also get insights from the busy life of Jeremy Tooker, the hardworking entrepreneur behind the project.

Keep on grinding folks.

Tellason Stories: Meet Jeremy from Vertical Online on Vimeo.

Bill Evans – The Creative Process and Self-Teaching

Extracted from the movie “The Universal Mind of Bill Evans – Creative Process and Self-Teaching”. In this part, Bill talks about how to deal with obstacles, and how to build one’s vocabulary step-by-step.

It’s better to do something simple that is real. It’s something you can build on. Because you know what you’re doing. Whereas, if you try to approximate something very advanced and don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t build on it.
See, when they try to approximate the other thing, they do it in a way that’s so general that they can’t build on it. If they do, they’re building on top of confusion and vagueness, and they can’t progress.

Short Fiction Stories. On demand.

I’ve been thinking of a new type of service: one that would propose me a short fiction story, when I need to escape for a few minutes.

Simple things, on demand

I’ve been using a new service quite a lot in the past few weeks. It’s called Calm. It’s basically few minutes of calm, on demand. I will use it while I work, for a 2-5 minutes break on the computer. I drop everything and concentrate on the short audio-video sequences the website proposes. I really like the beach scene. I also use it on my phone, through their official application, mostyle at nights when laying in bed.

ShortFictionStories dot com

I would love to have similar service as Calm.com but for short fiction stories.

You would choose a theme, a location, a time period or even a certain lenght to get access to a short fantasy story. The format could be a picture and a voice-over. Or a movie with subtitles. Or a timed slide show with written words.

The idea is simply to get away for a few minutes. And in the process, discover new writers or photographers. Both could work together to produce new stories.

I’d love to use that. I’m sure my parents would. Kids too.

I’ll draw some mockups in another post.

Coffee Gear Suggestions by Reddit

With brands taking over all our favorite online spaces (social media, search, even Forums!), it’s hard to really get good, non-biased information about certain topics. Reddit is still full of gems, you just need to look a bit further.

I just found this coffee gear suggestions wiki on reddit.com/r/coffee. It’s essentially coffee-related items, broken up into price points and with links where you can buy the products. The list is curated by a moderator, with the help of the community.

So, what coffee gear should you buy ? This is a good place to start.

This is where I’m starting anyways.

Coffee Gear Suggestions by Reddit