The Package Guard has been my passion project for over a year. It all started when Patti, my wife, and I were expecting a delivery of coats for the homeless to our home in Seattle over the 2014 holiday season. We run a nonprofit, Survive the Streets, where we give out cold-weather gear to the homeless. When this particular package of coats was stolen from our front porch, I was pissed! I thought that there had to be an easy solution to make sure this didn’t happen again, but I couldn’t find anything reasonable. So I invented one and it’s live on Kickstarter right now.
In the beginning, I researched package theft crime and what I found was appalling:
First off, about half of us have had a package stolen
If you have ever started a company you know that founders can’t do it alone. You can start working on the idea and get customer feedback but you can’t go very far with a new venture without help from others.
And, it is best if the help you are getting is from people smarter than you or who are coming from a different perspective. If you are solving a problem or creating a new product without different ideas from others who have different backgrounds than yourself, then it just won’t be as good. Any founder who has tried to get a product customer-ready without other people’s feedback turned out a product that was really only 50% of what it could be.
Talk To Smart People
Yes, I know you have the great idea and no one knows the customer’s problem like you do but you (the founder) are too close and can’t see all the opportunities or possibilities of your new product. Go find people who know more, or at least as much as you do, about your products or services. When you talk to other smart people they may bring up ideas that you can expand on to make your product exponentially better. It doesn’t matter where the kernel of the idea comes from, it just needs to be talked about and discussed in detail. That can help you visualize your product being used in ways that you may have not even thought about.
What I’ve Learned
I am bringing this up because I am doing exactly this with the new TV talk show I am working on. I have never done a TV show before. I have never written for a TV show before. I have never designed a TV show’s set before. But, what I can do is look for people who have done all of these things before. I can ask around and look on LinkedIn for people who have done some of these things much better than I can even imagine. I can meet with people who have been on talk shows and get the tips and tricks they used.
So, I am bringing all of these people together to fulfill the vision I have of helping startups in Seattle be better so they will have a bigger chance for success. My job is explain where I think the show should go and listen to the feedback. I have told the story many, many times over the last several months and I have learned a lot about what people want to see.
I’ve changed the segments. My original idea was not to have two founders compete with their one minute elevator pitches. I originally thought of showcasing one founder but, as I talked with others about the idea, people told me that they wanted to interact with the show. That’s the reason we have two founders competing; it allows the audience to engage and be part of the show.
People have helped write for the show, designed the set, directed the show and I obviously had a crew of professionals to shoot in the studio. There are ten experienced people doing different jobs when we shoot the show.
I have been lucky to get smart people, who have done this before, to give me their ideas about how to create, deliver, and promote Start IT Seattle. I sit down and explain my vision and then shut up and listen to these smart people. The result, hopefully, is a great product.
Get Feedback to Improve Your Product
This should be true for all products or services…surround yourself with smart people, ask questions, listen to the feedback and do your best to incorporate what you hear into your vision. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but that is why you are there to guide the creation of the product.
My big lesson is…seek out smart people, ask them questions, and then SHUT UP and listen. Take their feedback and make your product better. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It isn’t. But it is possible.
Start IT Seattle premieres Saturday, December 12th at 7:30 p.m. on KIRO TV 7 and will be streaming on the KIRO website. Maveron’s Co-Founder Dan Levitan is my first guest. We’re sharing resources for startups on our Facebook page in in our Twitter feed @StartITSeattle. Additional parts of my interview with Dan that we didn’t have time to run on air will be available on our YouTube page. And, here’s the show’s video promo.
Starting a company is not easy. Period. It doesn’t matter if you are a solo consultant, a dry cleaner or a fast-growing software as a service company. And, it doesn’t matter if you have done it before or not. It is just very hard to be successful and anyone who has done it before knows this. That’s why many previous founders are always willing to help others. (I am in this bucket.)
Get Your Business Off the Ground
People all around Puget Sound need a hand getting their businesses off the ground. Potential founders in downtown Seattle or Bellevue have access to many events that will help them meet, learn, and gain insights from experts. But, that doesn’t support the millions of others who are not within 5 miles of downtown or who don’t know about these events.
We are founding Start IT Seattle to help everyone with an idea for a business to connect with the encouragement, support, and tools they need to get their companies started. This half hour program will be broadcast on KIRO TV 7 and we’ll have additional material available on the web. We’ll provide tools and tips plus learning sessions with previous founders, funders of startups, and supporting service providers. We also will present some of our region’s inspiring founders and highlight innovative products and services that are being created here in the Northwest.
The show will enable you to hear directly from people who have been successful founders and have learned the many things that will help you get your idea off the ground. You will hear from people who have gone from working as a lawn care professional to CEO and from a one-time engineer to co-founder of a multibillion dollar company. Because we know you can be more successful when you surround yourself with smart people and learn from others who have already pioneered that path to success.
Many of the startup ecosystem leaders in the Seattle area have been talking to me about having a way to showcase and support all of the great companies that are being born here each month. Start IT Seattle will be filling that need. Our show will also be helping first-time entrepreneurs gain some level of recognition or exposure that they just can’t get by going to local pitch or demo events. Everything about this new project will support local entrepreneurs and inspire potential founders.
A Top Place for Starting a Company
Seattle is one of the top five places for starting a company in the United States and Start IT Seattle will help bring some recognition to the region by letting others see what is going on in the great Northwest. It is time for Seattle to standup and be recognized as a leader in both technology and as a terrific place to start a business of any kind. Sure, we have a high percentage of software and technology focused companies and we have an extremely talented tech workforce that can be hired to help grow your business. But, we also have a fast growing population that needs services to support all the wants and needs of the urban dwellers. Take a look around downtown and Capitol Hill and you can see what I mean. The building cranes are like rabbits; they just keep multiplying.
We are going to have fun, learn a lot of things and see success and failure along the way. We are going to treat the show just like you would a startup. We’ll try things that sometime don’t work and really listen to our audience so we’re making changes based on your feedback . We will make a few mistakes, tell you how we learn from them, and we will share insights from the very smart people we find to help us. I’m excited to start sharing the stories of amazing entrepreneurs.
Watch, Learn and Participate in Our Empowering Startup Culture
Oh and one more thing, we will be sharing this process of building a successful show with everyone via our Facebook page and here at michaelgrabham.com. We will be listening to your comments and ideas plus providing resources for budding entrepreneurs. This is going to be a fun journey giving thousands of people a front row seat to watch, learn, and participate in this empowering startup culture. And, it’s just going to be darn fun no matter which way you look at it. I am both excited and proud to be able to show the Northwest what it means to Start IT.