1. Foundering myself

Ever had those evenings where you have a few drinks with friends and, before you know it, you’ve worked out a way of saving the world? Just one simple little invention that so many people could benefit from and hey, in the meantime, you could probably retire off the back of. Most often, that’s as far as that conversation goes. In some ways that’s great. You have the warm feeling that you had a great idea that would have made a difference but, even if you can remember what the idea was, it’s left there in the pub with no one questioning its credibility. There’s no need to go back and test the idea and see if it would really work. It’s another day now and you’re back at your job, so onward and not upward I guess.

Except that this time, the conversation I had happened to be with the wrong person. And by the wrong person, I really mean that they turned out to be the right person as they run a company that delivers solutions in the area my miracle idea would sit and they contacted me the next day to follow up. So, from the point of view of being able to continue through life blissfully unaware of why my idea might not succeed, they were definitely the wrong person.

Six months on and I’m three weeks in to a course with the Founder Institute, a global pre-seed accelerator for start-ups, founded in Silicon Valley.

The course runs for fourteen weeks and it’s on the brutal side of demanding. Two weeks ago four cohorts totalling nearly 100 people came together on Zoom representing London, Silicon Valley, Toronto and Singapore. Within the first ten days around a quarter to a third had dropped out due to the demands of the course. The Institute sees this as a good thing as it’s better to find out quickly that your idea wasn’t going to work than to continue to waste time and effort on it. And that’s why I’m here, writing a blog at 2am as I can’t sleep for my brain circling the drains and torturing me about the remaining seven deliverables I’ve got to deliver in 38 hours’ time. If I fail fast, then at least I’ll have the reassurance of knowing I tried and I can put this, and myself, to bed. If I succeed, then I guess that would be pretty cool too.

So, what’s the big idea? It’s not big, it’s not completely new. I just wanted to make my life easier…which is how the problem started. I want to take the best bits of organising activities with friends that exist today and put them into one place from a technology point of view. I want to stop the back and forth on WhatsApp when you’re organising, trying to work out how many people said they were in or out for an activity. It should be easier to see how many are up for it and how many you need. It would be better to have automatic rules that easily handle last minute drop outs and that encourage fence-sitters to commit one way or another so you know your numbers. It would be great to be able to capture all costs as you go along and divide those amongst the people that did that particular activity. “So you want to do the paintballing but not the quad bikes…You can make the dinner but not the night club after…You were hoping to make the football but had to cancel.” That should all be fine. The app should work it out, allow you to split costs correctly and pay up without having to email sets of bank details to each other. And for those that don’t pay, the app should help with the social awkwardness that comes with having to chase up a friend of a friend that only owes £23.75. It should be fair, and you shouldn’t be organising, chasing up, and then being seen as petty for doing so. So that’s the current focus anyway. This week the Founder Institute has our lenses targeted at the two main customer problems we’re trying to solve. For me these are:

  • When organising events or fixtures for clubs and teams I find it difficult to keep track of who is coming and track any changes to planned attendance as the event nears.
  • When it comes to collecting money for events, as an organiser, I often end up short changed chasing people up for amounts of money owed.

And yes, there are apps already that deal with these problems individually to varying degrees. My aim is to add more value by bringing them together all in one application; A11IN as my current branding says (allin.com was already taken, unsurprisingly. I did get allindar – “All in, and in your calendar”, but it has felt a bit wordy in the weeks since I splurged £1.99 on it).
And how can you help? Well, firstly, a thank you from me as simply by being on this mailing list you’re helping me achieve my target number of people to send my first blog to in order to complete deliverable #11 this week and keep me treading water on the course. But secondly, the current focus is on validating ideas with customers. That’s you one day, hopefully. Please feel free to tell me any stories where you’ve experienced the above customer problems. What has frustrated you? What have you done or what technologies have you used that worked well?

All input will be gratefully received. I just want to push this journey forward and right now that means listening, testing and learning. It doesn’t matter right now so much as to whether that confirms it won’t work or whether it will. I’m just looking forward to finding out.