All Posts Tagged ‘startups

2015_07_16 Dresden
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Open for business

It feels like a long time since I’ve rolled up the sleeves, dusted off the text editor and put pen to paper here. Yes, yes, I know — we’re all very busy. But it seems that 2015 has been the year of unsurpassed leaps and bounds, taking me deep into vast and uncharted territory. The best part is, I have no idea how we got here and no intention of ever seeking a way back!

In short, dear friends: I have much to report.

Let’s start with the farewells. After roughly two years at the helm of BrightHearts for iOS, in July 2015 I resigned as a company Director & will no longer be actively involved going forward. This was a tough decision to make for several reasons, the biggest being that I felt that we simply hadn’t reached our goals for BrightHearts & this kind of unrealised potential can weigh heavily on the mind. I was also concerned that leaving the company at this stage would place a burden on my co-founder George, potentially crippling the app further still.

I’d been mulling these factors over for some time when I understood two key insights that helped me realise I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.

  1. By considering myself irreplaceable, I’d placed an artificial barrier to the app’s growth and success. Why should the app be fuelled by myself alone? Developer talent is indeed hard to come by, but I don’t hold any hidden secrets or magical powers to make great things happen; and
  2. Over time I’d noticed myself feeling less driven to create new features, to fix apparent bugs, to explore new approaches to the app or it’s business model mechanics. I found myself letting go, explaining away small problems or lamenting the amount of time I was pouring into a project that wasn’t growing as fast as I thought it could.

I had fallen out of love with the project. These insights told me something important – that I was certainly not helping BrightHearts achieve greatness, perhaps that I was even hindering it’s future.

Time to say goodbye.

Given all this, I’m very pleased to say that my former business partner George has found a bright young developer to help him build the next phase of the app, Trent Brooks. I worked closely with Trent during the handover period.I can see him taking the app into new places I might not have even imagined. George is an incredibly driven guy, curious and insightful and I look forward to watching the next chapter unfold.

***

Now to new beginnings. Over the past 18 months Bruce Jeffreys and I have been building a new company, from scratch, that is literally changing the face of eyewear in Australia.

We’re called Dresden and we’re here to make eyewear simpler and more affordable than ever before.

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So what’s the deal with Dresden? I’ll give you the skinny: for too long, too few players have dominated the global optical industry. We’ve become accustomed to spending a lot of money on fragile, easily lost spectacles that are also rapidly out-of-season. We thought this was madness, when we were customers. We thought surely it doesn’t have to be like this. We thought we could do it better.

The irony is that the benchmark for a good eyewear customer experience has been set so low by the major retailers, that industry novices such as ourselves have a real chance to shine.

At Dresden you don’t buy a pair of glasses, you buy into a system of eyewear unlike any other. Our frames are designed with interchangeability at the core: we’ve simplified eyewear into four sizes (XS, S, M & L), which can swapped with ease.

Let’s say you have what’s known in the biz as a fat head*. No sweat, our Large frames are exactly that, Large. If you also happen to need shorter arms, we can swap them for you in seconds.

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It really is this simple

Best of all, a pair of Dresden prescription glasses will only set you back $49 AUD.

Also, if we have your lenses in stock, we can make them for you, while you wait. Yep, brand new eyeware in just minutes.

All of our frames are made locally, at a manufacturing facility in Lakemba. We found a partner who saw something great in us and wanted to be a part of our story – Astor Industries. For Astor, we’re another small thread in a growing tapestry that spells the resurgence of Australian manufacturing. For us, they’ve opened our eyes to a world of self-sufficiency and locally sourced products that we never dreamed possible.

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Since opening our first store in Newtown four months ago, the response from the public has been phenomenal. Before launching, we shared as much as we dared with our friends and family members. But opening doors to the public – to random strangers – is another thing altogether. It really is the litmus test of the business concept. Will people accept the premise? Will they find our colours appealing? Will they want to tell their friends? Will they be nice to us? You can never really know how a retail concept will work.

Needless to say, it’s going very well and we’re already planning the next phase of Dresden. I have some pretty special news for you on that front – but I’ll save that for another time.

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Dresden is something truly special. We spent the better part of a year perfecting the design of our eyewear range, choosing the perfect materials to use and honing our skills at high quality manufacturing — right here in Sydney. We’ve been remarkably fortunate to have met an incredible group of people who believed in the idea from the very beginning (even if they thought we were a little bit nutty) and who have done everything they could to shape Dresden into something special. Lucky is not even an understatement.

Dresden simply wouldn’t be what it is today without this small group of yeasayers who dared to dream big.

It’s not often that a startup can enjoy the luxury of three key ingredients: a hungry market, an outstanding product and a truly kickass team, but we’ve been able to do just that. As our systems guru Isaac would say: it’s “oh my god” stuff. We’re just having too much fun with this company.

***

As I’m writing this, I can’t help but notice a difference in mood, in timbre, between the first part and the second. The truth is that I’ve found my calling in Dresden, it’s grown from simply being a project to being the project, one that I look forward to building, learning growing for many years to come.

If you’ve recently wondered, “where’s Jason hiding?”, well now you know.

I’m not hiding, I’m open for business. Come say hallo, one day.

The first Dresden workshop can be found at;
417A King Street, Newtown NSW 2042
Our phone number is 1300 535 110, or email newtown@dresden.com.au if you’d like to learn more.

Check out Dresden Optics to see our range.

*seriously, people confess these things to us, openly

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How to overcome entrepreneur loneliness

Curse this modern work-lifestyle. At first it seems too good to be true, the freedom to work wherever you want, the autonomy to dictate your own hours, the liberty to create the work environment most likely to see you flourish as a professional. And yet, despite having this expanse of work place luxuries, you feel a cold, dark emptiness which gnaws at your subconscious. You’ve made the leap into the new workforce, the empowered remote professional, the cafe-dwelling urban nomad, but something just doesn’t quite feel right.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

This is actually a big part of the problem, though you won’t understand it until you’ve taken the plunge and gone solo. The work life of a freelance professional (consultant, photographer, designer, developer – you name it) can be remarkably isolated. Beware, the grass is always greener, especially when you’re stuck in corporate-land and dreaming of a life outside of the 60 hour commute-toil-commute nightmare. Solo work can seem like the solution you’ve always longed for, but never found. The elusive silver bullet.

That’s what makes the reality of solo work so much more of a shock once you do take the plunge.

The truth of it is that solo work – startups, freelancing, passion projects – can be a lonely endeavour. There’s a reason why two-founder startups are more likely to succeed compared to solo-founder projects. It can be remarkably isolating to leave the corporate team and go it alone. Gone are the basic infrastructural luxuries of an office, the camaraderie of the team, the water-cooler politics, the pleasures of explaining why you’d do things differently if you had the power. Life as a solopreneur (yes, it’s an awkward term, I’ll admit) can unlock a whole range of beneficial life habits, opportunities and experiences – but it does come at a cost. The solo life is, in a word, lonely.

There are other pressures you’ll face, but let’s focus on this one issue for now – isolation. It’s the single biggest emotional challenge I’ve faced, working on my own. Being so disconnected from people on a daily basis can become a burden. Instead of spending 40+ hours a week with a team of peers, you’re suddenly your own best and worst company. You may find yourself second guessing thoughts and ideas. You may find yourself obsessing over unimportant details. You may even find yourself procrastinating on small jobs or chores that you don’t want to do. The solo life isn’t always laptops on beaches, it can get ugly.

It doesn’t have to be. Here are my top 3 tips for avoiding solopreneur cabin fever:

  1. Find a co-working space. Most cities in Australia have co-working spaces that are located near public transport hubs, come well furnished and are very affordable. This is the most efficient and effective way to avoid loneliness, as it brings you into contact with other people like you, helps you to find your solopreneur soul mates, gives you access to a support network & may even provide you the missing link in your entrepreneurial journey (be that users, co-founders, money, inspiration or – simply put – good advice). Being part of a community goes a very long way to maintaining your sanity. You don’t even need to become a full time member of co-working communities (especially useful if you live far away or can’t bear commuting anymore) you can join them and enjoy the benefits of these communities online. You’ll be invited to meetups, to events, receive resources and more. It’s such an investment, I could even stop here and my job would be nearly done.
  2. Join an interest group. Meetup groups are increasingly common, cover a wide array of interest areas and often don’t come at any cost to join. You could join an interest group for personal reasons, getting connected to a wider community of people who share similar goals. Alternatively you can join an interest group for professional reasons, finding new client or networking opportunities. I’ve also found interest groups are an excellent way to find incredibly talented people, all of whom I’d love to work with.
  3. Which brings us to our third tip: find people to collaborate. Common goals and passions can unearth collaboration opportunities & these are very valuable for undoing the harm of isolation. A common goal is very effective at bringing people of different backgrounds together & the future network benefits of great collaborative projects are endless. Surround yourself with smart people, find worthwhile projects to work on & you’ll soon realise you’ve kicked that isolation to the curb.
  4. One more tip for good measure: there are literally hundreds of resources for entrepreneur lifestyle success. Podcasts, blog posts, books and more. Don’t stop at this blog post, dig deeper. Find the voices you aspire to emulate, the people who’ve tackled the same challenges you face, or simply find someone whose message resonates with you – and hit subscribe. It’ll make a big difference.

Loneliness was the last thing I anticipated, when I went solo nearly two years ago. It hit hard. It took me a while to understand what I was going through & to find the right balance for myself. I found a co-working space (hat-tip to Fishburners in Sydney), joined a community of entrepreneurs, met some incredibly talented people & found projects to collaborate on. You will build momentum, so the sooner you take the first step, the better.

Just remember – you’re not alone. We’re right here with you.

Note: this article was originally posted on tklr.net

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Be frugal!

You know, the people who are downloading your app, they don’t see your fancy desk. They don’t care!
@jason, sharing his advice on how to save money in a startup.

Put the money back into the company, put the money back into the product. Be frugal! The WSGR Startup Basics series on TWIST is well worth the listen. Frank advice, from someone with experience.