We’re currently on a mini-tour giving a talk (“How not to start a startup“) where we try to be self-deprecating and talk about the (many) mistakes we’ve made along the Droplet journey of the last 4 years.
After the talks I’ve ended up talking to lots of people – mostly other founders in the early stages of their startups – who excitedly tell me what they’re doing.
What they’re doing is often a variation of the mistakes we’ve made.
Some of these hard-learned, painful and often expensive lessons include;
- Build the most basic (MVP) version of your product you can to test the market and discover users’ needs – before you spend a lot of money and time building the wrong thing
- Avoid the sunk cost fallacy: no matter how hard and how long you’ve worked on something – you have to be prepared to throw it all away
- Don’t spend money on advertising until you know users actually want to use your product
It occurred to me that you can’t teach this stuff.
You can preach and evangelise, you can show real-world examples, you can give brutal and frank advice. It will all be ignored, just like we ignored it.
This is the stuff you can’t teach: you have to learn these lessons for yourself.
Wikipedia works because the number of people who wish to make the articles better outweigh the number who wish to vandalise them.
Democracy has a problem: disengagement. There are too many levels of abstraction between the citizen voter and the decisions being made that affect us citizens.
- The voter votes for a constituency MP of a party
- The balance of MPs determines power in the House of Commons
- MPs votes affect decisions and law-making
Citizens have to hope that the person they elect has broadly the same views on a wide range of topics – and that those views will also be upheld at a party level.
Imagine if democracy and government decision making could work in the same way as Wikipedia.
A bit like this;
- The party fields a candidate who, if elected, will consult the crowd on decisions they make
- Party members, and the wider electorate, can take part in ‘controlling’ the decisions of this MP via the web
- An online tool would democratise access to the MP to everyone who can get to an internet connection
- This avatar politician would act only in the express interest of the crowd who elected him or her
The engagement with this politician’s decisions would probably work a lot like Wikipedia;
- Most people would ‘consume’ – checking the online tool to see the politicians voting record, and maybe add bits of feedback with comments
- The less-engaged would feel empowered to participate in important decisions, votes on big issues, or issues that concern them deeply
- The very engaged few would be checking daily, adding comments and influencing day-to-day decisions of this avatar politician
Multiply this up by hundreds of MPs and maybe we could have a crowdsourced democracy, removing the layers of abstraction and making government fairer and more transparent for everyone.
Droplet is the startup payments platform I’ve been working on with the team for nearly 3 years now. We’ve grown to over 600 merchants in five cities and we announced on Friday that we’re raising funding by selling equity in Droplet – to our users first.
We announced to our users on Friday via a mailout and we’ve already seen over 100 investors come on board, pledging nearly £20,000 in return for actual shares in Droplet.
We’ve put together a simple page which allows visitors (whether or not they’re investing in the round or not) to promote our raise on social media sites.
The /crowdcube page has been viewed over 1,000 times and generated nearly 900 social shares on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so far.
It’s simple, but a really effective way of helping our supporters to help us.