Sixteen months ago when I started my company I wrote about how I wanted to change the way SME’s use data. A few emotional roller coasters later I no longer think of my small business as a startup and I prefer the term Freelancer to Entrepreneur. I have also gained some appreciation for what I was getting myself into. If you asked me about my plans that first month I probably told you I was going to build a product. Obviously. Maybe even an app.
It is funny to me looking back because I can’t possibly imagine myself saying this. I hate products and I especially hate apps. I am not really the biggest fan of technology in general which I usually don’t tell people because they have trouble reconciling that with my career choices. The fact is I like people. And I like creating value. And well, you need a hammer and nails to build a house right? But it doesn’t mean I have to obsess over the tools, or talk about them.
For the past year I have had the pleasure of freelancing for two SME’s, helping to nudge the adoption of Apache Spark to improve the way those firms leverage their data. I talk to users and analysts and IT folk daily and get a front row seat on the adoption curve. I get to deal in people and value, the things I love, and hell if Apache Spark is your hammer who is complaining.
But inevitably at the end of each day I would find myself wracking my brain. What kind of product could possibly solve all these problems that we tackle every day. What kind of generic solution could hit all of these edge cases in a simple and elegant way so that tons of SMEs would hop on board. Nail it and scale it right? Every idea I had would fall short. There were a million questions; what is the market, what was the niche, who is the customer, how will it be different than ZoomData or Platfora?
Right around dinner time I would be absolutely lost in thought pondering these deep questions when my wife would remind me that she has to throw away the lettuce and onions because we didn’t use them in time YET again.
“Damn refrigerator, I hate you”
has always always been my immediate response. By now my wife knows not to query further as she can hardly contain herself when she hears the answer (I don’t blame her). If the lettuce and onions had been sitting on the counter where they belong I would have seen them yesterday and known to make a salad with balsamic pickled onions for dinner. But instead they were hiding in the back of that drawer that I never look in and I ordered a pizza. I have wanted that refrigerator gone for two years minimally. But I have bigger fish to fry; my business needs a product so I can afford the food in the first place!
Rinse and repeat. This has been the last sixteen months. Amazing freelancing that has continued to let me become intimately and deeply familiar with the problems that I want to help overcome. Self actualization spurred by the stress of entreprenuership and work\life balance. Mind numbing and physically exhausting mental gymnastics. And a shockingly consistent abililty to make poor food choices at family dinner time.
Until last week when I was strolling the halls at Spark Summit East looking for a bigger nailgun that would help me build a more beautiful house, at the same time listening to Getting Unstuck by Pema Chödrön. It finally hit me. I think it was the juxtaposition of walking through yet another tech conference designed to be like all other tech conferences while listening to audio that instructs you to reject pretty much everything about your reality. I definitely recommend you try it. I realized then and there that my damned refrigerator is literally my biggest problem in life. Not only for dinner but also lunch and breakfast as well as for my business and probably your business.
I now believe that if I can succeed in ejecting this refrigerator from my life it will be the first step towards fundamentally improving how SME’s leverage data. It is a stretch I know but stick with me. The next several posts are going to lay out how and why. And it won’t be easy. Afterall I have a wife and four kids. I hope they don’t read this for at least two weeks while I plan my attack.