July 17, 2011
The Starting Line…

With my first product launch imminent, I gaze out the Caltrain window and reflect upon the journey thus far.

Five months ago I arrived in San Francisco with little more than a laptop, a camera and a pile of sketchbooks; the assorted remnants of a few years’ worth ideas that I had happened to remember to archive on any particular day. It was these and a fascination with the internet that had led to my arriving in San Francisco on that particular day - a measure of blind optimism certainly helped.

My network of the time was zero; a circular, though not particularly useful number. My formal experience: also zero, although I had been exposed to the vicissitudes of product development through a good friend and many nights spent imagineering over beer.

The number zero thus became a concept and a challenge. The concept of being disconnected from the startup world - the source of tomorrow’s ideas - and the challenge to rectify this predicament, not through small incremental steps, but in a manner that reflected the timeline under which I was operating: December 20, Judgement Day Visa Expiration Day (VE day?).

With little funds and a distain for spending them, I leveraged the most valuable tool I had: a Canon 7D, a beautiful camera the size of which carries sufficient gravitas to say "I’m a professional, I belong here”. And so off I went, exchanging my services for entry at events, conferences and parties; all good occasions for finding large numbers of like-minded people with one primary objective: to network.

For experience, I sought environments with the greatest learning curve. Recruiters, habitually prioritizing master’s theses over life experience, were a foregone surrender - that left competition. So I hustled my way onto The Startup Bus (scholarships from Capgemini’s Accelerated Solutions Environment & the ANU School of Business helped defray the costs of competition & SxSW entry, respectively), launched headlong into a Startup Weekend (special mention, it is here that I found my current team) and stumbled across The Lean Startup Machine (builds your customer development chops). Each event with different challenges and benefits and all sharing a common theme: actors who thrive under pressure.

They are a special breed, these startuppers. They crave the long hours, shitty pay and high levels of uncertainty - all for a shot a making it their own way and the allure of a “non-linear progression curve”. The culture in the startup world is not a normal one: security is sacrificed for self-sufficiency, obsession is encouraged and long hours are almost a competition in itself - especially with the perennial deadline approaching (death). 

After some time of being embedded within startup culture, interaction with “regular” folk is often interjected with outbursts of “what the f*#k is wrong with you?!!” and “this is fun how??”. But the reality is that it IS fun, at least for the right kind of person -my personal motto being move or explode. In fact, if I weren’t doing this I would most likely be miserable or dissatisfied at the very least. I am a firm believer that we make our own destiny and opportunity comes to those who seek it. Hard work is just preparedness for the luck we may find along the way.

A special mention goes out to the United States Government, whose immigration policies consist of a myriad of obstacles designed to thwart even the most conscientious entrepreneur, whose only crime was a desire to create a viable business which in turn would create jobs. You are my greatest stress factor and my biggest motivator, so in the most perverse sense of the word: thanks.

So here I am, at the edge of the abyss. My camera sold for stickers (3000. Vinyl. Die-cut: the best that my money can buy) and what little reputation I have is on the line. 4 days until launch. 4 days to make an impression, validate hypothese, get sign-ups, prove traction, refine monetization strategy.

I have bootstrapped my way to the starting line.

p.s. To the friends and family who helped me get this far, thank you. Your continuing encouragement means more than you know.

—-

[See our product at picture.ly, network with us at facebook.com/picturely and tweet us @seepicturely. The Picturely team consists of myself, Hadiyah Mujhid, a stellar engineer and Bosco So, who is coding away from his hotel room in Bali as I type. A special mention also goes out to Chris Bennett who was with us for the beginning at Startup Weekend SF but has since withdrawn to focus on running his startup, Centrally, and Black Founders]

[If you would like to see our original Startup Weekend project go to imaiku.me]

March 27, 2011
A colored love story - by Eoin McMillan

Color, a social networking and photosharing app, launched this week to intense media scrutiny, most of which focused on seed funding ($41mm), valuation (+$100mm) and doubts over the viability of social data as a monetization strategy.

That an unproven concept was able to secure such a juicy seed funding round has fueled chatter that The Valley is once again in a bubble. But the general vibe of “what the hell were they thinking!!?” has downplayed the formidable leadership at the helm of Color (Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham) and has entirely missed the point of their imaginative product:

It’s FUN!

[postscript: Color is best thought of as a networking and technology company. Photography is just one mechanism through which to achieve a larger goal: revolutionize mobile networking - akin to Facebook’s impact upon the Web]

June 2, 2010
Structural Serendipity: A Prelude

(Please note: this article is a work in progress and at this point represents the hashing out of ideas. I welcome any comments or feedback. eoinmcmillan@gmail.com)

[Postscript: accidental SEO benefits accrued from writing such a scrappy post! eoinsblog = no.1 Google response for Structural Serendipity.]

Serendipity (n):  A propensity for making fortuitous discoveries while looking for something unrelated.

Structural Serendipity (n): A framework wherein the occurrence of serendipity is sought and leveraged through bridge building, permission giving, open exchange, wandering and group exploration, passive facilitation, and play. It utilises quasi-random cycling for the purpose of accelerating the creation or discovery of new ideas, markets and models.

 

Structural Serendipity manipulates the circumstance of creation.

Structural Serendipity is a balance between intentionality and randomness. (An example of intentionality may be the alignment or grouping of synchronous interests)

Structural Serendipity is having a prepared mind (or organisation), ready to pivot towards opportunities that may arise suddenly and unexpectedly.

Structural Serendipity is having an open mind, free from the intended direction and the assumed knowledge.

Structural Serendipity is a wandering and exploration which may be directed.

Structural Serendipity is embracing an element of randomness in an “ordered” world.

Structural Serendipity is making time for the unexpected, seeking out the unknown, and connecting the unlikely.

Structural Serendipity is creating connections that bridge social distance – it’s having a drinks party for the Art and Physics Departments (in a room conveniently decked out with drawing implements).

Structural Serendipity is the leveraging of chance; it is making time and giving permission to make mistakes. [blog topic to follow: Structural Serendipity will involve “gearing” to maximise creation cycles.]

Structural Serendipity is embracing failure as the majority that won’t “stick”.

Structural Serendipity is recognising a calculated gamble that yields greater mutual understanding of other’s skill and interests (though perhaps no tangible results) is a beneficial outcome.

Structural Serendipity is the facilitation of a utilitarian intersection between functional alignment and necessary randomness. It is the bridging point for ideas.

Structural Serendipity is enabling creativity and innovative activity through providing the freedom to extrapolate and engage in interesting thought processes.

Structural Serendipity is permission giving. It’s saying “go, do whatever you like”.

Structural Serendipity exists to create new models and markets. [It exists separate to competitive individualism within pre-existing frameworks for predictable gains.]

Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures is a practical example, if not the epitome, of Structural Serendipity. See link. [I would like to see the creation of something similar in Canberra due to its concentration of the smarts at the ANU and CSIRO. They may be on the same campus, but scientists social distance can be worlds away.]

The Startup Bus is another example of structural serendipity. The crazy and intense conditions act like a filter. The unprepared and uncommitted don’t even bother applying so your applicant pool is thus reduced to quality (as stated by @Jonas). + Time Boxing is exists in the extreme, which is perfect! (though a lack of external facilitation could permit ideas to wander astray, or a bad idea to surge forth.)

Guess Who is another example of Structural Serendipity.

Structural Serendipity involves leveraging systemic stress points to achieve radical outcomes. You want creativity, luck and resourcefulness? Impose limitations, certainty and constraints.

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