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When I met Steve Poland at SXSW, he mentioned a new way of starting a startup which he called RingsideStartup. He was planning to bring on a panel of experts from the VC and startup world, ask people for donations and walkthru every aspect of the startup process. He let me know this weekend that he is shifting directions and is actually going to begin the process and will still use the panel for guidance. To find out more about both RingsideStartup and the new startup, I chatted with Steve. The transcript is below.
Allen: Where did the idea come from?
Steve: I've been brainstorming a lot of my web-based business ideas over at my Techquila Shots website. About five into it, I came up with this idea — only it was a slight variation. The original idea was to raise contributions from a panel of Angels/VCs, but run with one idea per month. The first week of the month would be a voting phase by readers, then the next two weeks would be my working on "pitches" for each, then the last week would be a meeting with as many of the Angels/VCs that could make it (for one night) somewhere close to them, where I'd pitch all the ideas and the panel would rip them all apart and then vote on which one to move forward with. The problem with that idea was that running with twelve ideas in a year isn't very realistic — and there's not going to be the passion behind each one of them. Thus, I talked the idea out with some people I trust and it eventually turned into raising contributions online from readers and engaging the readers more during the start-up process — with the ultimate value behind the initiative being the panel of start-up "experts" providing their two-cents along my journey.
Allen: Why the name RingsideStartup?
Steve: My idea is to give my blog readers "front row seats to a start-up", thus I starting to think of a boxing match — because a start-up is somewhat of a boxing match where you get beat-up a lot, it takes a lot of stamina, and you have to be agile.
Allen: How did you decide who to ask to be part of the panel?
Steve: I started reaching out to VCs and such that I've noticed are big on educating entrepreneurs through their blogging efforts.
Allen: What has the feedback been like so far?
Steve: The entrepreneurs who "get it", love the idea and are willing to throw a few bucks at this in hopes of learning a few things along the journey from these VCs and seasoned entrepreneurs. Then there are the others that are primarily thinking about when I get rich off this idea and where's their cut? I'm not giving away any of the equity, because it gets very messy with the SEC.
Allen: I see you have decided to change directions, what is the reasoning behind this?
Steve: The goal has been to raise $20,000 to run with this start-up — at the very least, $10,000. Maybe that can happen, but it's not looking good so far with only $580 raised after nearly 2 weeks. So like any start-up, you need to be able to change course quickly when you feel it's necessary — and that's what I'm doing. I've hooked up with Dave Squires, a programmer that believes in one of my ideas as much as I do. The preliminary title of that idea was LikeLoveOrHate.com (see #1 here). We've changed the name of the business to WeBothLike.com.
Allen: Where do you see things moving now?
Steve: Originally the readers were going to vote on which idea of mine I was going to turn into a business. I've eliminated that now and thus WeBothLike.com is the business I will be blogging about. I would hate to see this excellent panel go to waste, so the blogging will begin immediately and the advisors will be posting their insight along the way to educate everyone.
Allen: Any input from the panel on the directional shift?
Steve: So far it's been very positive — they have all been excited about this initiative, so now we can start moving!
Allen: What is the direction for the startup?
Steve: Basically the idea of WeBothLike.com is to connect like-minded people — people that have the same interests. You'll go to the website and answer questions, as many as you want. The more you answer, the more profile data we have on you — and the more we can contrast you with others in our system, and match you up with them (not necessarily for dating, but just to find new friends or for business networking). The simplicity of the question/answering system will be like HotOrNot.com — but you're not judging people; you'll be asked like "What do you feel about College Football?" with options of 'love', 'like', 'hate', 'don't care'. You'll click an answer, then on next page you'll see another question — with the left-column showing you how others answered that question [37% love college football; 12% hate it; 15% don't care; 36% like it] and it will then show you some profiles of people that matched up with your answer.
The viral effect is that people will grab a widget and put it on their webpage — then if someone is browsing the site, and is also a member of WeBothLike, then it'll show.. "We Both Like…" with different things that both users like, love or hate.
Allen: Aren't you worried about telling the world your start-up idea?
Steve: No. Did I use to? Oh heck yes. For many years, I've had many ideas that I've not talked about to people, because of fear that they would steal them. These days, I'm a bit smarter and truly realize that ideas are a dime a dozen — executing an idea into an actual business is a whole other ballgame. Also, no one is going to be as passionate about my idea as I will be. I originally blogged the concept for WeBothLike.com back in January and to my knowledge, no one has run with it yet. During the start-up journey I'll be blogging about various obstacles I encounter and ask for feedback from readers about functionality and features of WeBothLike.com. My belief is that the more minds that are giving me feedback on how WeBothLike.com operates, the better of a consensus we'll have on tweaking this into something that people will actually use and be benefited by.