Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pain & Price

Last night 13 area tech founders met to talk about our businesses. This time we focused on two things you need to address in your startup: what pain are you easing, and the business model you think will fit with that.

The first part--easing pain--was the topic of a SkillShare event I attended last week, and it's a good one. But it's not a question the founders of Twitter could answer in its early, or Facebook.

Fortunately our crew solve some specific pains. Dave Weaver's startup Loggr makes application analytics in realtime very simple yet comprehensive. What's the pain? It's time-consuming to build your own application analytics.

Loggr's model is freemium: free to developers up to 100 events per day, with 7 days of storage. After that plans start at $15/month.

Clint LeRoy has a tough problem because his solution eases a number of pains, and focusing on the one that will float the business is tough. He's working on a compelling algae output thing that I won't fully describe here, and one of the pains it can solve is to cheaply generate oil.

The customers would be any energy company. The project is still in development, but it looks more and more promising every month.

Mike and John showed up with their new lead developer Dan, and all of them were able to articulate the pain their trying to solve: artists have a tough time monetizing their excess capacity.

Meaning they have free time they'd rather be paid for; these guys are working on something compelling (that I can't get into here), and taking a small piece of each transaction. I'd call them market makers, certainly. They have plenty of seed funding, so this will be exciting to watch.

Ben Donahower talked about his app, which came out of a hack event in Philly. It's a simple way of getting notified if your train is going to be delayed so you don't waste time ro get stuck. He's done A/B testing on pricing in a Steve Blank-approach to customer development, and it looks promising: people will pay something for it.

The last (we're ignoring mine) startup, led by Francis, is working on a way to build better teams. The pain they are addressing is the cost (time, money, and culture) of hiring the wrong person for the job. It's definitely compelling. The model I'm not so sure about, but it's pre-beta so it's highly likely they'll nail it by full release.

So I came away with this feeling: we have 4 viable technology startups, right here, right now in the Lancaster area. Plus mine, so that's 5 (yeah, yeah, it's viable, just gimme a bit more time to over-analyze everything).

Plus several more that weren't there.

It's very possible to have healthy tech startup ecosystem in Lancaster, PA. And I bet within 18 months we'll be there. We've been holding these meetings for 6 months, and it seems a though it's having a positive impact, helping founders think through things and learning from each other.

What we need next is a better flow of capital, and talent to build the teams, aided, of course, by Francis's app. We'll get there.

Press on :)


  1. A note from JLM in a recent comment on my blog came to mind..

    'One is often disappointed with what they accomplish in a single year but astonished what they have accomplished in 5 or 10 years. Keep on working.'

    Press on indeed. :)

  2. It really does take several years to figure things out and make it happen. I just read an article about the trough in between the excitement at the start and the satisfaction toward the end (end being stable growth, proven model), and that's the toughest part psychologically...

  3. There's an interesting concept that comes to mind when you say that.

    IDEO has something called the IDEO innovation curve which describes every design project. This is a U shaped curve with 'hope' in the beginning as a high point. This goes down all the way to despair at the worst point and rises up again to happiness.

    Essentially every design project/initiative has deep lows. I think it applies everywhere, really.

  4. yeah--that's what they were talking about...