Anthony V. wrote a kickass post about excitement around new businesses/products/ideas. Several people have posted follow-ups and they’ve been totally fascinating reading. And it’s Friday and it’s raining – an excellent time to be introspective.
I think it’s important to first differentiate between products and ideas. I am focusing this post around products because there are so many poorly-implemented great ideas and equally as many excellently-implemented shitty ideas. This is all implementation.
So what makes a new product great? Here are my thoughts:
1. Products that make a difficult process genuinely and obviously easier.
Something that makes some process exponentially easier is bound to make people excited. I remember when Amazon came out with 1click – they took a multi-step process and made it a single click. That, to me, was super exciting.
There are so many examples in this category, but three that I use every day are Dropbox (sharing and syncing!!), Gmail (speed!!), and Grooveshark (playlists in my browser!!).
2. Something that makes me want to come back.
“Repeat Visitors” is an interesting concept because so many products force these numbers with annoying emails, push notifications and spam.
You should come back because you want to – because there is some feature that is calling you back. It is a rare, rare thing when you return to a site organically. I am totally fine with reminders (bacn, etc.) as part of your product, but just make sure that the reminder has value to the end-user and not just to your traffic stats.
This is the hardest quality to articulate – the one that so few services actually deliver on. Showing me information or giving me an experience not previously accessible or possible is part of magic.
Maybe an anecdotal example is better. I remember the first time I looked at Twitter, I felt like I could see INSIDE A PERSON’S BRAIN. At least, the people who were doin it right.
Flipboard. Delicious. YouTube. You get the idea.
These products are magic.
I don’t think there’s really any ideas that are truly new — “magic” is all about the technology itself or a new way to layout information or a color scheme or a new twist on a very established idea.
True excitement takes all three – not just one. But it’s also extremely difficult to architect and can’t be manufactured because of all the circumstances that are out of the control of the founders – market timing, early users, etc.
When I am using something new I try to think about it in terms of these three qualities.
While it is extremely difficult to create excitement and amazing experiences, the upside, satisfaction and potential impact are nearly infinite. And that’s why we all keep trying.
MIT is a totally amazing place for startups and entrepreneurship. It’s one of those places where ideas and talent and super-slick technology lives in the floors and walls and hallways.
I heard the other day that they had created a position within the Entrepreneurship Center called an “Ecosystem Hacker” – essentially someone whose sole job it is to hang out at the E-Center and help startups flourish on campus. While long overdue, it seems like a sweet gig for the right person (also one of those positions that never gets advertised).
I sent some questions to the current Ecosystem Hacker Elliot Cohen to find out more details. See below. I wish more universities would create positions like these to help startups grow on campus.
Hope you find this useful. They are hiring someone new this summer I believe, questions/applications go to email@example.com.
What does the Ecosystem Hacker do all day?
We organize new classes to fill gaps in the current curriculum. We create new programs to connect young entrepreneurs with mentors and other resources. We organize events to help those entrepreneurs connect, get inspired, and launch new companies to solve the world’s biggest problems. We provide students with the mentorship and resources necessary to succeed.
What kind of programs have you helped organize?
T=0, Festival for Entrepreneurs: for the first time this fall we will be throwing a full-on entrepreneurship festival at MIT. Like Burning Man or Woodstock.
Entrepreneurs in Residence: We recruit the best entrepreneurs, angels, and VCs from the community to provide open office hours for students on campus as they work through early stage ideas.
Digital Shingle Project: Designing a dynamic web experience to showcase the wealth of MIT alumni companies – to help them “tell their story”. This is part of inspiring and informing the next generation of entrepreneurs with real stories.
What was the experience like?
I am entrepreneur at heart and always will be. But this has been the best year of my life, as I’ve been able to simultaneously learn a ton about entrepreneurship, build my own network in the Boston area, and more importantly give back by helping to nurture and educate the next generation of entrepreneurs at MIT.
I could have learned about Product Development, Sales, Marketing, or Operations at another startup. I could have learned about deal flow and investmenting at a VC firm. But MIT is the only place I could have learned how ideas and research go from the lab, classroom, or a coffee shop into the world. How do people vet their ideas and decide when to actually take the plunge? There is no other place where you can see 50 different new “projects” every day and watch which ones succeed in turning into companies and which ones fail before launch.
Can I be the next Ecosystem Hacker?
To do this job right you need three things: a technical background, entrepreneurial experience and a PhD in GSD (Getting Shit Done). We don’t care what technical discipline you come from, but you need to have chops in whatever your domain.
If you have any questions or want to apply please send us mail at ecenter at mit.edu. A successful application can come in any form – portfolio, resume, video, or a github ID, but make sure you are proud of whatever you send us! Don’t tell us why we should hire you because this isn’t a job and we don’t hire people. This is a mission and you need to convince us why we need you to succeed.
Thanks Elliot for taking the time to enlighten. Heart u MIT.