One lesson I’ve learned is that launching always takes longer than you think. If I got paid every time I heard a founder say their product was “two to three weeks away from launch” I could start angel investing.

Case in point: it’s been over a month since I said I was almost done with my cool YC-related project.

Well, better late than never is my motto. Last week I put up what I called the Unofficial Guidebook for Y Combinator Applicants at http://guidetoyc.com. In it, I shared everything I’ve learned from applying to Y Combinator, getting in, going through the program, understanding more about how the YC partners think and connecting with other founders.

I had friends who were applying to Y Combinator and asked for my advice so I would review their application. But I felt like most of my best advice was about how think about applying rather than specific feedback on their application. I wrote up a Google Doc on my thoughts on each section (team, idea, distribution, video, etc) and over the past few months have fleshed it out to what it is now – a 20,000 word guide on every aspect of the YC application process.

I put it up on Hacker News and in 24 hours got 6,500+ unique visitors spending over three-and-a-half minutes per visit. It was really great to know that people were digging my stuff.

After that, I worked closely with the awesome team at Hyperink, (a YC company that’s transforming publishing) and we were able to put together a beautifully laid out and carefully edited 92 page document that’s available as a free PDF download and also in mobi and epub versions in just 10 days.

It took longer than I expected – because I went through and re-edited several sections to make it as clear and readable as possible. I also integrated feedback from various YC partners who commented on the content. The Hyperink team did an amazing job turning things around quickly and professionally.

The result is something I’m proud to share with you.

Get your free copy of Guide to YC here.

I hope you enjoy the guide and I’d love to hear any feedback you have on the book. Please rest assured: regular blog posting will resume shortly.

Photo credit by Nils Öhman

Photo courtesy of R’eyes.

Whenever someone signs up for my email newsletter, they get a personal email reply from me thanking them for signing up and asking them if there’s something I can do to help them. I get to meet a lot of interesting people that way, learn new things and hopefully provide some value.

A while back I got an email from a reader who works as an analyst at a multi-national bank and asked me this:

Quick question for you. A lot of times I come home from work and I’m too exhausted to work on my side projects. How do you manage your energy to get the most out of your day? – Thanks, Josh

With his permission, I’m reprinting his question and my response. I thought readers of this blog would find in valuable since I find that many of you have very cool side projects that you’re working on.


Great question. I think there is something about people’s baseline energy levels that plays a role here – some people are just naturally more energetic than others. But outside of that, here are a couple ideas to have the energy to work on your side projects:

1) Reduce your commute.

Commutes add a lot of stress to your life and suck up your time. Instead of driving, could you take a bus or train and sleep / work on your project? Or work from home one or two days a week?

2) Wake up earlier.

If you’re tired at night, why not go to sleep earlier and wake up an hour earlier than normal. Take that 1st hour to work on the things that are important to you. It’s like investing in yourself before paying others.

3) Exercise.

Are you working out consistently? I know that if I don’t work out, I can start feeling sluggish and slow. Taking the time to work out might feel like it’s detracting from your time to do stuff, but it can add a lot more spring to your step later on in the day – and if done consistently over time, give you more energy on a regular basis.

4) Quality food.

What kind of food are you eating? I know that when I get stressed, I eat a lot and mostly junk, and it tends to make me feel like crap. Drinking lots of water and eating more fruits and vegetables, and being *slightly* hungry (instead of stuffing yourself) can give you a lot more energy.

5) Energy “vampires”.

There are certain people that we hang out with (boss, coworkers, friends) that can really suck all the life out of you. If you’re hanging out with a vampire, see if you can reduce the time you spend with them or maybe even cut them out of your life.

6) Better projects.

Maybe you’re just not that excited about the side project you’re working on. I know people often will “want to want” something but not actually desire to do it. Be honest with yourself and see if this is something you’re really passionate about doing and enjoy the process.

7) Get a partner.

If you can partner up with someone, it makes the project a lot easier and more enjoyable (if you find the right person). See if there is someone at work, or a friend, or even an online contact who might want to work with you on the things you’re doing. That startup post is 10x better because I coauthored it with another guy, Derek, who I first met on Twitter and now is a really good friend.

If you can’t see the video, click here to read this post on the web.


We have a lot of big news happening today at isocket. Check out our blog for all the announcements including the launch of BuyAds.com, the premium ad marketplace. We’re also covered in VentureBeat, TheNextWeb & Tracking202


(April 2012 Update) isocket has refreshed the video and added one for their marketplace BuyAds.com so I thought I’d include the new videos. They still keep much of the same feeling and style as the original and I think a lot of theses rules still hold true.

isocket

BuyAds

I don’t blog much about my work at isocket here but I think you’ll like today’s post on how me and my coworker Ryan (I really don’t ever stop talking about him do I?) put together this sweeet video with our production team in just four weeks.

Please actually watch the video before reading the rest of the post – it’ll make me feel good and you’ll get more out of it. =)

Startups (and bigger companies like Google and Facebook) have to work hard to explain new products or major refreshes to existing products. While you can do a lot with copy, diagrams and photos, sometimes it’s not enough. Video can be a powerful way to engage, entertain and education your customers and get them pumped to use your product.

First off – let’s get it out there: Getting a great video done is not cheap.

Epipheo Studios, who I consider to be one of the industry leaders (along with Picturelab), charges $15k for 90 seconds of video and it takes them 8-10 weeks to do it. We paid roughly the same amount for a three minute video with a turnaround time of four weeks.

The kick-ass team we worked with is MediaSauce.

They are a Indiana based creative agency and Ryan had actually once worked there selling creative engagements – so he trusted the people and the quality of work they could produce. But neither he nor I had ever handled an engagement like this from start to finish and it was definitely an eye-opener for us.

We are very happy with the final product and have been pleased with the initial response. One customer even emailed us saying how they pumped themselves up by watching the video a couple times before applying join isocket. That kind of feedback is what makes videos so awesome.

So without further ado, I offer some things I learned through our engagement that I hope helps you understand more about the creative process and how to structure an engagement if you ever decide to do a video for your product/startup/company:

Continue reading

(Photo credit: One Too Many Dices by centralasian)

Got a reader question the other day and I thought it might be valuable as a blog post. Devan writes:

QUESTION: I currently run some drop-shipping sites, and I have 100’s of ideas for start-ups but I feel overloaded with ideas, and never actually just do one. If that makes sense. So if you have any experience on that a post would be cool.

Great question Devan and thanks for reaching out. I have some thoughts on this issue that I’ll try to share. I know you’re talking specifically about startups, but I’m going to broaden this to “projects” in general, because I know there are a lot of people out there who might “grok” it better with this phrasing.

The truth is, this is a really tough nut to crack. My computer is littered with folders filled with half-started ideas and PDF’s to be read and podcasts to be listened to “someday”. I think it’s not uncommon for people who are naturally curious about variety of things to have challenges focusing on one particular “thing”. Luckily there a couple of solid ways of addressing this issue that you might find helpful.

1) UNDERSTAND THAT YOU’RE A SCANNER

There’s a great book by a woman named Barbara Sher called Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams (affiliate link) that talks about people she calls “Scanners”. Here’s her description for them:

Scanners love to read and write, to fix and invent things, to design projects and businesses, to cook and sing, and to create the perfect dinner party. (You’ll notice I didn’t use the word “or,” because Scanners don’t love to do one thing or the other; they love them all.)

Our society frowns on this apparent self-indulgence. Of course, it’s not self- indulgence at all; it’s the way Scanners are designed, and there’s nothing they can or should do about it. A Scanner is curious because he is genetically programmed to explore everything that interests him. If you’re a Scanner, that’s your nature. Ignore it and you’ll always be fretful and dissatisfied.

Sher’s book is great – it really helped me appreciate and come to terms with my has a number of exercises she encourages Scanners to pursue and the one I’ll share here is about capturing your ideas.

2) CAPTURE YOUR IDEAS

In Refuse to Choose, Sher tells Scanners that it’s important for them to embrace their nature and integrate it into their lives, rather than blocking it out and being miserable, or indulging in irresponsibly and suffering from the adverse consequences.

One of the most important things to do here is to save all your ideas. Every time an idea pops into your head about a startup, save it. Write it down somewhere. Email it to yourself. I like to use Evernote to track blog ideas, startup ideas, project ideas, etc.

I think part of the anxiety around “never executing” is that you become afraid these ideas are fleeting and if you don’t do something about them right away, you’ll lose them. Well if you save these ideas, then they’re yours forever. You can go start a company around one (if you think of something really really good) – or you could take your time, combine good ideas together, and just feel more secure, knowing all your good stuff is safe.

3) KNOCK OUT STEP ONE

Often the reason why we don’t do anything with our ideas is because we start thinking about all the work they’ll entail. We get discouraged and scared – and that’s never good. So don’t do all the work. Start with something super simple.

In the design world this would be called “prototyping” and in the lean startup lingo it’s building an “MVP” (short of minimum viable product). It’s good for idea-prone folks to think through what they’d have to do to nail step one of the project. Maybe it’s doing some research and writing a couple paragraphs on why the idea makes sense. Maybe it’s sketching out some outlines. Maybe it’s making a few phone calls to potential customers. Go do something that’s simple yet core to the idea.

4) TAKE ON PROJECTS THAT ARE INHERENTLY VARIED

Looking back at the things I’ve really stuck with, I see that variety is baked in. As a gymnast, you have six different events to compete on and a huge multitude of skills to learn. That kept things fresh and interesting for me. In writing this blog, I am free explore variety of topics – startups, gymnastics, rejection therapy and other personal experiments, interviews, etc. However, I can bucket all these things under “blogging” and it’s part of a single project/endeavor. I love that.

I’d encourage people with a range of interests to look for things like blogging or running a business or hosting a series of meetups as a way of exploring a variety of interests while sticking to “one thing”.

5) ENGAGE OTHERS

I think the projects and endeavors that have been most successful for me (What’s Next: 25 Under 25, the Rejection Therapy Podcast, or even finding a new roommate) have involved other people. It can be easy for me to get demotivated if I’m slaving away by myself – and it’s a lot easier for me to get fired up when I know that my work is going to impact others.

So next time you come up with an idea that you find particularly exciting, email a friend or two who you think might be interested. Propose you two work on it and nail a step one (or step one, two and three if you’re feeling ambitious).

What happens if your friend isn’t interested? No worries, email some other people. What if no one’s interested? It’s certainly not the end of the world. Maybe you should rethink the idea – or at least how you pitch it. Or maybe you need to get new friends… ;-)