A couple of months ago I heard Lior Zoref talk about Crowd Wisdom at the Open U’s Entrepreneur’s club. Lior, who was VP Marketing for consumer & online services at Microsoft and now has his own consulting business, has focused his academic research on crowdsourcing. The subject was Lior’s fulfillment of his dream to talk at TED, which came true on the 29th of February, 2012. The man brought a live bull onto the TED stage, and his talk was a massive success.
Besides being one of the most engaging and amusing speakers I’ve heard at the forum, his words rang true with me. As I listened I considered the past few months and realised that I’ve been using crowd wisdom as research for my project.
When I first starting working on the venture seriously, I started talking with as many people as I could: consultants, investors, other entreprenuers, lawyers. Anyone and everyone. I was surprised to find how remarkably generous so many people are with their knowledge. To illustrate: a few months ago someone recommended that I meet with an accountant from a certain firm.When I arrived there I realised the meeting was with the VP of the startup dept of a truly massive firm, along with another accountant and an assistant. We were clearly not a match at this point – I knew it the moment I arrived and they realised soon after I started talking. But the VP very graciously spent an hour with me giving advice – how to set up the venture, what kind of accountant to look for, tax issues in the US, tax issues in Israel. The cynical amongst us will surely say that I represent potential business in the future. If that’s the truth, I think it’s only a tiny part of his motivation. I believe most of it came down to him just being a really nice guy wanting to help a girl out. And I’ve got tons of examples just like that.
At first, it was confusing, especially after I spoke to about 10 people. Everyone said something different. But like Lior says, when you’re crowdsourcing you need to talk to many more than that, and I have. And after a while, after you’ve spoken to 30, 40, 50 people, read 30, 40, 50 blogs and articles, you start to see three to four common threads running through it all – kind of like main pathways you can take. Things become clear, and you can start to navigate the paths according to your needs.
For example, I learnt the main pathway to an Israeli startup is this:
- 3 – 4 founders, which include coders
- Usually young men, occassionally you’ll see young women (very few mothers)
- The product is very often an app, a device, or software that can be patented
- They sit in one of their grandmothers’ apartments in Ramat Gan (the Israeli version of a garage) for a couple of months coding furiously away to get out a beta/prototype
This is the most common model, and the kind that most often gets funding.
So where does that leave me? I’m in my late thirties, married with two young girls, for whom I am the primary caretaker. I don’t time for cofounders besides my husband. I don’t have time for endless meetings. I can’t code, and I can’t afford an Israeli development company.
Luckily, like I said, there are alternative pathways that come into focus. For one thing, there was the possibility of outsourcing abroad. I’ve been using Elance for over a year to outsource small projects, so I knew it was a good place to start. I did some research and found out how people have launched startups using Elance.
There are startups founded by 1-2 people, and I researched the different ways the founders did it.
So here’s where we are:
We (my husband and I) are using our own capital to fund development of the first version of the site in India, for a fraction of what it would have cost to get it developed here. There are drawbacks, and I would have liked to leverage Israeli brainpower, but getting it developed in India makes the project possible.
How did I find the development company? From about 30 proposals on Elance I narrowed it down and interviewed about 20…slowly eliminating companies until I decided on the company that had the right combination of experience, knowledge, and the ability to communicate effectively with someone on the other side of the world.
If all goes according to plan, the site will launch mid-July. At this point we are looking for both mentoring as well as seed money to finance marketing efforts. Once we’ve got nice traffic numbers, we hope to get bigger funding so we can increase the scope of the site and move forward towards my vision.
We found our path. While we sometimes need to take an unplanned detour or climb over a few rocks in the road, it seems to be the right one for us at this point.