Apr 14 2009

Where do Value and Cost Meet in your Business Model?

Jeffry

This post comes out of a conversation that John and I had a while back.  We thought it would make a good post here; so this is my attempt at ‘summarizing’ the discussion.

We were discussing potential topics and sponsors for our podcast, The Flex Show and that led to a comment on pricing of various conference tickets.  Obviously that is a topic important to John.

Jeffry Said:

I don’t have the magic wand to tell us where the value / cost line should meet.  I do tend to agree that some conferences have crossed a line, where their cost no longer matches its value.

I think I read a blog post that made me think 360|Conferences was struggling with the same cost vs. value issue.

I was reading something about the down turn of the newspaper industry.  A lot of people complaining about the downturn seem to say that the newspaper “business model” was to sell news to people.  But, I read something that said the real business model was selling the access to people (community) to advertisers.  It makes a lot of sense to me.

The [current] business model of The Flex Show is to sell our community to advertisers.

The [current] business model of Flextras is to sell software to the community.  I worry it is not a long term sustainable approach, though.  I believe the real profit benefit to customers is going to be selling access (support) to myself [and other Flextras employees.  Plenty of companies (Redhat, MySQL) have had success with the “premium support” style models.  A lot of my support option ideas don’t apply to a company w/ no proven record and/or only one component, though.  This comes back to my theories on the difference between digital / infinite goods and scarce goods.  Many of these theories were fueled by reading techdirt commentaries.

I think the business model for a conference (such as 360|Flex) is to two fold.  You sell access to the community to advertisers. And to attendees you sell access to the experts.

John responded:

We’re actually in the opposite problem as some other conferences  (IMO). We offer way more, but charge too little. We’re realizing that we’re so bent on two very counter ideas. We’re obsessive about being less than everyone else, and equally obsessive about offering the most value. If we were wal-mart and conferences were made in China, that might not suck, but for Tom and I, it sucks.

We’re not thinking of raising prices, but realize our current pricing model’s biggest flaw is our price/attendee mix. we can’t do enough shows at that level to really be profitable. beyond paying our phone bills, writing a check here and there, but nothing FT Salary level.

Yeah I agree. it’s more about connecting sponsors to community, while providing community a reason to be there. That’s what I’m hoping to help us figure out with The Flex Show. we’ve got a very targeted community, there has to be some one who wants to talk to them.

I dunno, but these topics rock!!

Jeff Responds

I’d always recommend focusing on adding value and less so on cost through the door.  Companies who compete only on price die.  Because there is always someone who can come in and do it cheaper.  When I was doing focus groups for Flextras, no one blinked on pricing [as long as the components would help them get their job done].

I struggle with the difference between providing a discount (generally bad) and adding value (generally good).  I’m pretty sure that providing the pre-conference day free to attendees is adding value.  Most other conferences charge for such things.  Charging extra for that day might cause backlash.  But, I wonder if you offer a lower-priced 3 day pass for those that don’t want to / can’t make the pre-conference day?  I’m not sure.  I’m entering a realm where I don’t have experience to back me up; and I always have a sense of discomfort telling other people how to run their business.

Maybe we should turn this into an OurStartupStory post somehow.

John Responded:

Yup, exactly, wish we had realized it sooner, but yeah. We’ve woken up and realized low price is fine, but better value is better, and we have that in spades.

Shoot, Tom and I ran head first into a realm we had no experience with :) I actually prefer that, since experience leads to more of the same in my opinion, LOL

Jeff Responded

It is often hard to get out of the “more of the same” thinking, that is for sure.  Reminds me a bit of Courtney Love’s now famous article about the music industry.  Around that time she was quoted as saying she would hire non-entertainment lawyers who could offer a fresh view of the “indentured servitude” of musicians and songwriters.  Hard to believe she wrote that 9 years ago.

And for our readers, here is the post.


Apr 3 2009

It’s nice when you find out you’re not alone

John

I got a message from Val yesterday on facebook. I had posted some info about 360|Flex Indy, and stuff. She saw our press release or the post we wrote about our changing how we do sponsorships, and wanted to let me know that Tom and I aren’t alone. When I sent Tom a copy of the message, his first thoughts were “It’s nice to know someone actually noticed and cared.” I have to agree, it feels good when people notice what you’re doing.

Val’s message really brightened our day. Val runs Flashpitt with her pal Joe, and they’ve been trying to figure out how to change things up as well. They came to the same conclusions as Tom and I, change sponsorships, make them easier to understand, and custom to each sponsor. Val you’re on the exact same page as us!

The Press release mentioned is here if you’re curious. It’s our first!

It’s nice to know the things we do get noticed. Sure there’s a bit of ego there, but hey, humans do most of what we do, so that it’s noticed (at least IMO, don’t lie to yourself). There’s so many other events around us, big and small, that we sometimes feel lost in the sea of them, even though few if any are direct competitors. We’re definitely in the David class right now and the Goliaths don’t notice us much.


Mar 9 2009

How Google can and does screw small business

John

One of the worst things that could happen to 360|Conferences, happened the week leading up to 360|iDev. Another site on our shared hosting server, had some sort of vulnerability, and let in a script kiddy who hacked our index files. Weak sauce for sure.

The first time we caught it. The next we got an email from Google telling us about it, and bam, we’re listed as malware.

We fixed the problem, (3 times, thanks to our hosting company not detecting the problem, :(  ) and that wasn’t enough. When your site is marked by the Goog as being an “attack site” Safari, and Firefox (probably IE I guess) all throw warnings up and do their best to keep users from entering your site.

what could be worse for a developer conference, than it’s website the week before and during a conference? mmm Not much. Attendees couldn’t download the schedule or the session description, without trusting that Google was wrong and that we weren’t an attack site. That sucks!

We’re still trying to get things right, our Hosting company has re-submitted our sites for re-scan, we’ve done it, we’ve even tried redirecting to blogpost sites, it’s been partially successful. Oh and according to Google’s webmaster tools site, “Please allow several weeks for the re-evaluation process. Unfortunately, we can’t reply individually to reconsideration requests.”

It’s kinda weak that Google can flag a site as malware, and in a matter of hours, it’s black listed, and unavailable to most (or all) browsers. Yet getting “reconsidered” can take several weeks, and they can’t be bothered to respond individually, to help the company who’s business they’re impacting to solve the problem as fast as possible.

What really sucks, I don’t know how to get around it :( we’re planning to move our sites to a hosting partner that we can use wordpress on, since blogger is the suck, but that doesn’t lessen Google’s impact on our business whenever they choose to act.

Weak google, really really weak. Guess causing harm to small businesses, isn’t included in “do no evil”


Feb 19 2009

fighting brain crack

John

Brain Crack is bad, mmkay.

I’ve had a similar conversations with Tom many a times, He’ll chime in, I’m sure, but the two of us are very different when it comes to ideas and execution. He enjoys having them, even if he doesn’t act on them or observes from side lines. I do not, either act on it or drop it.

Brain crack, according to Ze are the ideas you have, that you never act on (so they can’t fail) that you keep rattling around as your “When I have time” ideas. The trouble is, there’s no time like the present, if it’s a good idea, do it. Don’t wait around, who’s to say you’ll ever have the time? All you end up doing is refining the idea in your head, until it’s perfect and you’re make believe successful.

I think as an entrepreneur brain crack is especially dangerous, it gives you a false sense of security, “Well come what may, I have this idea to work on.” or “I’ll write when there’s more time later in life.” except there’s no way to know what “Later” will hold. The other downside to brain crack is, it’s distracting. Why work on the hard or boring things, when you can day dream or putter on an idea you have no (let’s be honest) intention of ever pulling out of your head and putting into the real world.

I’m all for instant gratification, and the high you get from doing something. As I do more and more startup’y type things, I find more and more ideas bubble up. If I can start working on them, I do. If they’re not something I can do, they go away, or get recorded, either way, out of my head and off the table. Good or bad, and Ze is right, usually bad, it’s better to throw something out there and do it, than plan and plan, until the time to execute has passed. But at least your idea is safe in your head, where no one can hurt it.

Don’t let brain crack ruin your life.


Feb 17 2009

The Power of the Partnership

John

Partnerships often suck. There I said. Tom and I often fight like an old married couple, in fact we’ve been called that by our wives, and even attendees of 360|Flex.

But I have no doubt in my mind, and have told Tom as much, that our strength is our differences, and that neither of us, could succeed without that other. Sure I don’t doubt that both of us could part company and be successes in our own right, but we’re like the wonder twins when together, an unbeatable force. We’re still interviewing for Gleek.

The number of business ideas Tom and I have bandied about are inumerable (freed, AntiMBA, more books than I can count as well), but the one that stuck was one that both of us were passionate about and could work together on. Conferences. It’s also the thing neither of us ever thought would be our ‘thing’.

I’ve tried being a software consultant (what developer hasn’t), and Tom fired me from Freed and went on his own, and well it didn’t go very far (I’m sure Tom can expand on Freed in his own post). But together we’ve not only taken the Flex Developer community by storm, but we’ve fired a warning shot across the bow of other tech conferences, putting them on notice that they cost too much, and offer too little.

What makes us work so well together is our differences; Tom is a planner, I’m not. I’m a risk taker, Tom tends to not be. I’m guided by my gut on a lot of things, and Tom likes proof/research. We balance each other out just enough so that we’re not paralyzed with “what if” but also not running off half cocked.

I think the true strength of a partnership is the same as a marriage, opposites attract. If you’re partner is on the exact same wavelength, there’s really no point in having a partner, you don’t need someone having the same thoughts as you, reinforcing each one. You need a partner that has the same goals but a different outlook, to act as a counter point.

Many business folks will poo poo the partnership, but I’m convinced that despite our differences and the shouting matches, 360Conferences, wouldn’t be what it is (or even exist) if not for the combined efforts of Tom and I.


Jan 26 2009

7 Sins of Success, or even close to success

John

Jeffrey posted his 7 sins of success, and they really hit home.

Gluttony

This one I find I’m ok with, mainly because I don’t take on too much. If there’s one thing I’m acutely aware of it’s my limitations, and how much I can take on. I find at 31 (hell at 21) I don’t have the energy for all nighters, and working like crazy all weekend. I’ve come to terms with it, and try to only take on what I can accimplish inhe hours I’m awake. So far so good.

Greed

This one I find myself struggling a bit with, but Jeffrey’s advice is spot on. My wife and I have an idea, and I’ve been trying to vet it to see if it actually makes sense. One opinion so far, that it doesn’t. I’m not 100% convinced yet, but open to feedback.

Sloth

This one Tom and I struggle mightily with. We seem to go in fits and starts, where one of us is super motivated for a week, firing emails like crazy, making calls, etc then there’s a lull of a week or two where the business seems to be the lowest thing on the priority list, sadly. I’m not a slow and steady person, but I am a moderately fast and steady person, so Tom and butt heads often as our two motivation/energy levels don’t often mesh.

Lust

Tom may see it differently but this is a big one. There’s tasks that each of us don’t like to do, and fall squarely to the other. It mostly works, until one of us suffers a Sloth moment, then that set of tasks doesn’t get done. Be it blogging, replying to emails, invoicing sponsors, paying vendors, etc. It sucks for sure.It’s frustrating when we don’t send invoices that will be net 30, or don’t follow up on emails and stuff, it’s one of my hugest pain points in our model.

Once we’re our own FTE’s I hope, this problem fades, my fingers are crossed.

Pride

Not a problem for us. It was earlier and who knows may come back, but right now, it’s not a proble. Italy taught us that “we are not as hot as we thought”. We thought our brand would precede us across the pond, and found that while a few knew who we were, most did not. The community wasn’t big enough or interested enough in us, and overall we just got our teeth kicked in. It was one of the best learning experiences we’ve had so far.

Wrath

Tom is a planner too. I’m not, not much at least. I’m more of a “set the larger plan, and move towards it”. Some of our biggest fights have been around this. Tom wants to plan, so he tries to extract a plan from me, which is about as easy as getting blood from a turnip. What sucks is without a plan, Tom get’s discouraged, and his work output drops to nil, and he’s in a funk.

I’m not complete anarchy mind you. I try to be about GTD, I use OmniFocus, but in general, for a phone call, I just do the call. If some new technology is available or something, i just try it. It’s the early adopter in me. Tom and I struggle with this since he’s more the “late, when it is free” adopter which I think doesn’t mesh much with being an entrepreneur. it’s tough some times.

Envy

From time to time, I find myself envying another event. Mainly it’s for their having more funds, or being FTE. But I’m working on realizing that in every case, they’ve been around a bit longer than me, and in every case, their event costs more, and offers less of what is important to me (and Tom), so it’s not a fair comparison. That helps, but I agree with Jeffrey, envy is the fast track to losing focus.

I also think there’s reverse envy. “we’re already better than X so let’s slow down and not innovate as much” which goes against my grain. I know being over innovative (over engineering) isn’t good, but I also know that when you slow down, and rest on your past successes, you’re over taken.

So those are my thoughts, I linked to Jeffrey’s, what’re yours? Have you experienced any in your startup?


Jan 15 2009

Getting guerilla at Macworld – 360Conferences marketing

John

Tom and I have almost no marketing budget. For each event we spend, maybe on the upside, $4,000. That’s it, and that’s the upper boundary of our spend. That’s not counting shirts and stuff, I’m only thinking pre event stuff; stickers, fliers, etc.

Typically our marketing money goes towards fliers. Fliers that we send to Adobe Flex User Group Managers to hand out, when they raffle off a free pass to 360|Flex. For 360|iDev, there aren’t as many User Groups, and really there’s no official groups, just meet ups.

So we did a little guerrilla marketing, we went to Macworld.

Other than actual event days, the day spent at Macworld was the first day Tom and I have spent doing physical, 360Conferences, work. It was quite exhilarating.

We went to every booth that looked like it was iPhone software related, spoke to the folks at each, invited them to speak/sponsor.

We dropped fliers on tables, every table we saw actually, LOL.

It was pretty sweet! Once we’re full time, i can imagine a lot more guerilla warefare taking place.

It’s pretty nice to be doing something like that and knowing it can have an impact on your business.


Jan 5 2009

Cuil – a case of what not to do.

John

For those that have already forgotten, yeah that’s like everyone, Cuil launched in July 2008.

No one cared.

Cuil launched, and didn’t work, results sucked, the site went down, etc. As launches go, it was a dud.

Being stealth in general, is LAME, IMHO. No idea is that revolutionary, and hello! Cuil was a search engine! Stealth just raises the bar high, higher than you probably want. How about you embrace the web, stop being so secretive? Get the community behind you?

Techcrunch has a good write up on Cuil’s loserness.

From time to time Tom and I have thought to keep something underwraps, save it up for a big announcement, etc. It always blows up in our faces, without fail. Some one will call us out “I was going to blog about your event, but you had no sponsors up” or something like that, when in fact we had sponsors, but were waiting to announce on a certain day, whoops!

This is short and it’s my take, but don’t be stealth, and don’t be lame, and don’t rely on hype to define your value. Be worthwhile, and be something people will want to use. Don’t be a 33mil money trap, “Google killer”, don’t be an anything killer! Just be. Be good, be a venture that meets a need, not a venture looking for a problem.

Buh bye Cuil, it was an uneventful life, and you’ll be remembered… ok well you won’t, but thanks for all the fish.


Dec 26 2008

What should a startup focus on: profits or expansion?

admin

This post is in response to a recent article on Businessweek, entitled “A Wrench in Silicon Valley’s Wealth Machine“.  It’s our first panel style post where we ask our startup contributors to give their views on a certain topic.  Let’s hope it works out. :)

-=-=-

John’s Thoughts:

VC’s seem to be largely morons and most startups seem to be the perfect match.

Only a startup would exist and not have a plan to make money. Only a VC would give money (large, large sums of money) to a startup that would “Make money in the future”, if everything goes according to plan.

That’s not to say startups have to be profitable or even bringing in money when they start, but Digg is what? 2? 3 years old? And not making money still.

From Businessweek

Jay Adelson, Digg’s chief executive, says it’s clear the environment has changed for all startups. With venture money harder to come by, entrepreneurs have to concentrate on building their businesses. He says Digg is dialing back some expansion plans and trying to reach profitability as soon as possible. “All I care about is making sure the business foundation is solid,” Adelson says.

Really? Now the focus is on profitability? Now that they’re being seen for what they are? Just another over hyped startup with no clue how to make a dime, hoping that profitability will find them on its own.

What really amazes me is that all the Digg fanboys and gamers of the system singing Digg’s praise etc. are simply filling Digg’s DB with data that they [Digg] intends to sell. Sell for a retardedly over valuated price of 300m! Holy crap! Smooth move guys, give your meta data and attention to Digg so they can hope to sell it. NICE!

One reason may be that Digg’s public profile is much larger than its financial might. Last year the company lost $2.8 million on $4.8 million in revenue, according to Digg financial statements reviewed by BusinessWeek. In the first three quarters of 2008, Digg lost $4 million on $6.4 million in revenue. Adelson declined to comment on the figures.

Those better be some damn good Christmas parties, and some 70 and 80’s style whoring and coke snorting, I’m talking Studio 54 here. Lost 4 million? On what? It’s a site that people give content too, they don’t pay for it! Oh wait, Diggnation probably isn’t cheap to produce, that explains it.

As some one who runs a business completely in boot strap mode, it’s insane to imagine how some of these businesses can exist. Tom and I started ’08 owing 15k on our line of credit and were contemplating closing up shop rather than continue moving into debt. Startups seem to have mastered the art of spending money that isn’t theirs in exchange for retarded amounts of their company and probably a sizable chunk of soul.

Is it worth it guys? You couldn’t have done with out millions of someone else’s money?

-=-=-

Tom’s Thoughts:

I wouldn’t say all VCs are morons, just the dumb ones.  :)  Perhaps that should read the greedy ones.  I understand VCs provide more than just capital.  Take a look at eBay.  It was successful, but Pierre realized that he didn’t have the knowledge needed to take the company to the next level.  VC investment helped him get Meg.  Then there are visionairies that have expensive visions but the visions have profits in mind ala Bezos.  Amazon took what, 4 years to reach profitability?  But Bezos had the system worked out in his head to reach profitability.  Heck, at least it was a goal for those 4 years.

Article Snippet 1: With venture money harder to come by, entrepreneurs have to concentrate on building their businesses.

Now, that could just be poor writing on the author vs something dumb Jay Adelson said, but that line just blows me away.  What the heck kind of statement is that?  What entrepreneur doesn’t concentrate on building a business?  And what kind of people give that entrepreneur millions of dollars?

I’ll be honest.  I thought about approaching investors to help us grow 360|Conferences in the early days.  However, I realized we had no street cred. We had never ran a conference before, much less a conference business.  Even now, John and I are contemplating approaching angel investors, but I still tell John, “We’re profitable, but I don’t think anyone will care.  We’re not trying to take on the world and we’re definitely not sexy.”  John and I have spent a lot of time making our business what it is.  Sure it’s been tough, but we went from no money investment on either of our parts to making some money in less than 2 years, part-time.  People think we put on the best conference they’ve ever been to and are shocked to find out it’s just John and I doing the biz, part time.

The reason I think we make money and why people love our events is because from day one, we’ve always concentrated on building our business.  John asked during year 1 of our biz,  “Why didn’t you quit this idea like you did many others in the past?”  My answer came swift and still rings true to this day, “Someone trusted me with their hard earned money and it is my duty to live up to that trust by providing them the very best service.”  The only way you can provide a great service is by building your business.

Article Snippet 2: [Adelson] says Digg is dialing back some expansion plans and trying to reach profitability as soon as possible. “All I care about is making sure the business foundation is solid.”

Here’s where millions of someone else’s dollars makes you delusional.  Whereas Digg is now gonna focus on profitability vs expansion, John and I have been focused on profitabilty and are now looking at expansion.  I didn’t go to business school, so maybe that’s why I’m lost.  But don’t you usually test an idea out first to make sure it makes money?  Then once you’re profitable, you move on to expansion?  Like I’ve always told John, “Our profit model depends on x number of attendees per show.  If we don’t get those numbers, that means people don’t like our show.  We either need to change to get those numbers or leave the biz as our ideas obviously are all wrong.”  Now x is not in the millions or billions, we’re talkin roughly a few hundred.  But if there is no profit in sight, then you may have a good idea, but you surely don’t have a good business.

Article Snippet 3: In the first three quarters of 2008, Digg lost $4 million on $6.4 million in revenue.

Now, I won’t make accusations about what Digg did with that money.   John could be right, but I’m sure there’s some costs we’re just not seeing.  Some people accused us of throwing an “orgy” when we spent $90K on food, but after you realize a 6 oz soda costs $4.  You can see how fast things add up.  One thing companies should do is be more transparent.

I’m not saying throw your quickbooks file on the net. (Yes, I know they don’t use Quickboooks, just work with me will ya.)  But lay out what gets spent where.  Show people what you’re doing with the money.  If nothing else, your customers will tell you what your spending too much on.  Though I’m not sure that would work for Digg.  They have users and not customers, i.e. no one pays them to do a service.  Maybe that’s the problem then.

Can you be defined as a business if you don’t have customers?  Or more importantly can you be called a business if you don’t focus on profits?

-=-=-

Andrew’s Thoughts:

My preference in starting a new business would be the conservative approach.  Save up money from a standard W2 job until you have a nice emergency fund before going for it.  Focus on those projects that get you to profitability the quickest.  Anytime you take money that you haven’t earned whether from a bank or from a VC, you’re giving up some control of how your business runs.  Unless the idea is truly revolutionary and needs to explode quickly, I’d stay away from taking VC or bank funds and doing it the old-fashioned way.  Having excess VC funds around is just plain distracting and a false sense of security.  It doesn’t make sense to have all those parties if you haven’t earned a dime.  Having a tight budget early on also forces you to find unique and cheaper ways of doing things.  One example would be a VC-funded startup throwing servers at a scalability problem whereas a self-funded startup would be forced to re-factor and optimize their code for maximum scalability.

-=-=-

Jeffry’s Thoughts:

Are VCs Morons?  I don’t think so, but I do get the impression they only expect 1 in 10 of their ventures to be succesful; kind of like the traditional record company model.  That 1 success makes up for the 9 failures many times over.  With that in mind, I may consider factors other than the business plan when investing in companies such as enthusiasm and adaptability of the owners.

Cash flow is king, especially in a down economy.  Generating profit should always be a much higher focus than expansion.  Build your profit model right into the business from the start.  Think it through before you start coding or building the service.  Controlled growth is the best way to build.

-=-=-

Ben’s Thoughts:

I have to say, I think this is a trick question. Let’s look at it this way, “What should a baby focus on: feeding itself or growing up?”. I guess the answer would be “yes”. Startups, like babies, require further growth by definition; otherwise you’re just running a business. So if a startup focuses solely on profit, it may never take the risks that are required to grow. By the same token if a startup focuses only on expansion fueled by VC money, it may not have legs to stand on when it needs to back up those extravagant claims it made (a la Digg). I’m not saying that VC is invalid or that projects with big ambitions (like mine) are dead, but I do think that inflated egos, hot-air pitches, and over-valued stocks are being market-corrected in short order. Hopefully that’s a good thing.


Dec 19 2008

John Wilker – The Impatient Entrepreneur

John

I’m John, Tom’s business partner in 360|Conferences.

As a kid, I had visions of running my own company. It was a company that made robots; robots of all kinds. I was the CEO, and I had lots of robots. It was an awesome fantasy life I had, started in the 3rd grade, died as I went into college.

Turns out, I’m not very engineeringly inclined, or rather I’m not the Uber genius I fancied myself. I fancied myself a theoretical engineer, turns out you have to do the other stuff before you get to start dreaming up new things. I changed my major during the summer before my freshman year to Computer Science.

The story goes a bit sideways for a few years. I flunked out of UCI’s computer science program, and since they didn’t offer business as an undergrad, I dropped out.

I got a job as a computer tech (Screw Turner), and that was ok. I coulda seen myself doing it for a while, until my boss informed me I’d be taking over as purchasing department. I had never bought anything other than things for myself before, so it was a new experience. I liked it. It was fun, wheeling and dealing with vendors for a better price, riding the edge of what we could charge and what we couldn’t.

That same boss, about a year later came back again, telling me that our hardware business wasn’t really doing as much as he’d like, and I’d be a web developer starting Monday. Turns out, even though I flunked out of school learning to be a programmer, I was pretty good at it in practice.

For the next 10 years, the closest to being an entrepreneur I came was incorporating myself for my consulting business, to help out on my taxes. I never imagined I’d do a startup. I’m not patient, and frankly I thought I didn’t have any ideas to start up with, and I had no funds.

Guess I was wrong.

I’m not a big business book reader. Most are crap written from the perspective of the successful. It’s easy to throw out “I was lucky, I worked hard, this that and the other” when you’re rich,  successful and don’t really have a clear clue how you got there, but someone offered you money to tell your story.

I spent some time reading the Rich Dad books. Same thing, what works for one, doesn’t make it a gold standard to be put into a book, but the business press is funny like that.

One of the few business books that really resonated with me was In the Company of Giants (so much so that Tom and I tried to pitch a sequel, and lame publishers never “got it” despite the success of the first, oh well), mainly because some of them were completely honest, admitting that they were in the right place at the right time. That means a lot to me.

Tom and I met while working for Ameriquest Mortgage. Yeah the one that destroyed the home financing industry. Our first run at a company was a product to make restaurant waits not suck, and work better. He fired me, and our friendship almost came to a complete end.

We salvaged our friendship and went on with life. I moved to Denver, Tom to San Jose.

I was telling him about a conference I had attended and how much it had sucked, we were talking about whether or not to attend another large conference that generally is not very meaty and not much ROI learning wise. Then it occurred to us to have a conference that we would want to attend, one that I could afford as an indie developer, and one that actually had awesome sessions, that weren’t at all aimed at marketing. 360|Flex was born.

Tom tends to be more ‘blue sky’ than me, thinking we should be free, barcamp style. I was able to convince him that free is not a model that works, ever, unless you’re Google. Ted, Tom and I settled on a price, location, etc and off we went.

The first 360|Flex was an outstanding success, and Tom and I realized we liked doing it. We liked the feeling of community, we liked being surrounded by so many cool people.

We formed a company, and kicked Ted out :) It wasn’t personal, Ted rocks, but we knew that we couldn’t ever do a Microsoft or Java Conference with an Adobe evangelist as a partner.

Here’s where the impatience comes in. We’ve been doing 360|Flex for 2 years now, as part time jobs, which were really full time jobs on top of our paying full time jobs. It was exhausting. Tom thinks that’s how company’s should be, I don’t. I’m sure there’ll be posts on this later. I’m firmly of the opinion that you work to your obligations. If you’ve got a mortgage, car payment, etc, you do what you have to do to meet those obligations. If you’ve got a job that meets those, then the other job is just a hobby, and since we haven’t yet drawn a salary: 360|Conferences was a hobby. A very time consuming, and expensive (for me as an indie consultant having to take time off projects and such) hobby.

That’s finally changing! Tom is going indie, and I’ve got a Full time job that endorses my conference company activities. Tom will be working on the conference in a more full time capacity and consulting to fill the gaps. I expect (hope) that sometime in 09 I’ll be joining him, and 360|Conferences will be a full fledged, salary paying company. Tom likes to say we’re in the black. That’s easy if you don’t pay your founders. However we’re now getting to a place where we’ve paid ourselves a little, which ROCKS!

We’re also growing finally, adding another event to our roster, and even contemplating looking at Angel money to get us through the critical mass we need to go full time and really conquer the event space.

Wish us luck.