Trigger: We had iPods, but we wanted immediate access to any song at any point, we didn’t want to look for downloads, put them on computer and only then transfer to iPod. We wanted a piece that streams music to a cellphone, caching only the recent songs and the most probable to be listened next.
How: Flextronics would build our music phone by our specifications and design, music.net would provide us with huge content of songs for which we would pay per stream, and then we would partner with one of the cell phone carriers to provide the wireless service for a flat fee of $5 or $10.
Mistakes: We wrote too much that in the end no one would want to read, and at the same time did nothing. We also overestimated ourselves and were overly optimistic about “killing the iPod”.
The story: We knew what we wanted, so we set off to make it. As we have studied in Junior Achievement class, every business starts with a well written business plan. Ah, yes, Business Plan! We had just won the national competition for business plan so now we were confident and wanted to create a real business. Oh boy was it writing. We ended up writing a plan close to 50 pages describing everything you could imagine – market, future competition, financial information, technical details… Anything you can possibly brainstorm.
It looked great (to us). As a matter of fact, we were high on our own project. We valued the company to 100million and were planning to quit college. It was all set up, we didn’t need crappy classes anymore, we were rich. But were we far from truth! Long time we kept thinking, rethinking, and tweaking it. Every so often we would decide to send it to an investor and worked for another week of improvements before that. But there was another problem that we didn’t realize at the time: no one that had money to invest had time to read anything more than 2,3 page executive summary. We had close to 50(with financials and other stuff)! It was an endless writing of a story, that would never become true.
We also didn’t really quite get the scale of our venture. There was just no way we could get such big players in our game. We were just two college (freshmen) students that wanted to create something better than iPod. I laugh now at myself and my foolishness.
Also, a major issue was that we ourselves didn’t do anything really. Everybody on the line of ‘killing the iPod’ had a practical purpose- Verizon provides the wireless midium, Flextronics builds the phones, Music.net dumps terabytes of music on our server and what are we doing? We are connecting them. Making phone calls. That mean that even after incredible and impossible amount of work to make this happen, we were easily cutable out of the deal. We didn’t put any real value in providing the service.
One more problem that didn’t really become very clear from that project alone, but you can definitely mark it out: its not always about creating the best and newest. Sometimes the technology is not ready. We wanted to use 3G back in 2005, but there was barely any implementation. We thought of WiMax, which is still not out for consumer products even today! And what’s more subtle: sometimes just the market is not ready. You can introduce a brilliant product, but if its not the right time for the right price, you will lose because people will not be able to understand how good the product is. Its also not about efficiency but about money. Why would Apple provide flat fee for all their music, if they are milking you $.99 per single song! Of course this will be the model until people are ready to stop paying for it.
– Don’t write huge business plans, 2 pages is more than enough for investor. Actually don’t write business plan at all. Thinking is easy but it probably has 2% significance, the rest is DOING IT. Also, things change as you go along, so wasting 2 months of brainstorming, for an idea that will change later is pointless.
– Make sure you pick up a REALISTIC idea. Don’t fly in the sky, because you will fall sooner or later.
– Don’t talk too much before you do anything. People can mock you for a long time how instead of being a millionaire that took over Apple you are still a college student, writing some anthropology homeworks or some crap..
PS. Alek wrote about his KillPod experience on his Bulgarian blog.
Here is a link to our bplan…if anyone is interested.