Archive for March, 2007

conferences and confidence

March 28, 2007

We just got back from the <a href=”;SXSW interactive conference in Austin, Texas. 

Because we work remotely many of us had never actually met each other, let alone shared a time zone.  Being in one place meant we could match faces to voices and raise a glass.  It was great.  Handshakes when we got there and hugs when we left.

The sessions themselves were good but the highlight is always the hallway.  Meeting people in person, looking them in the eye and shaking their hand. 


Over the last few years I’ve met a few of my heroes there, the people behind some of the products or blogs I love.  It’s one of the reasons I go to conferences.

While you shake their hand and tell the OMG! in your head to shut up, a part of you realizes they’re not actually 7 feet tall and made of bronze.  And as you realize they’re not so different and they gingerly step off the pedestal in your mind, something shifts in your self-confidence.

That confidence shift is a big deal for entrepreneurs, because the limiter on what you can accomplish is what you believe you can accomplish.  You are your limit. 

Whether or not you believe you can do something is based on your past experiences and external examples from people you know.  “Have I ever done anything like this?” … “do I know anyone who’s done anything like this?”  The more similar you are to someone else, the more your brain uses their results as a proxy for your own.  In other words, “if they can do it, I can too!”

In 1953 Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes, something few people thought possible. The world record had stood for nine years, but once he showed it could be done just 46 days later John Landy did it too and five others quickly followed.  Bannister was an inspiration to other runners because they were similar to him. His example was relevant.

It doesn’t make me think I could do it, because I’m not like him. Also because running fast when you don’t have to is for crazy people.

Aaron, Roben, Barb, Ned.

Thanks for making it a great conference, it was great meeting up with you… Grant Storry who’s making RSS feeds do cartwheels, Scott McDaniel and Christian Vanek from Survey Gizmo, Derek Scruggs from Enthusiast Group, Henry Copeland from blogads, John Unger from Typepad Hacks, Christine Liu who does amazing things with fashion and technology, Kelley Poturalski from puppet show new media, Samantha Warren from bad ass ideas, Dan Drinkard from display awesome  and David Cohen, who created the TechStars project in Boulder.

See you next year!


on finding a designer

March 1, 2007

We recently posted a job looking for a designer for our startup.

We wanted a design geek who could banter usability theory on the phone, then hang up and make magic happen in the code.  Not an easy person to find, and ultimately we posted this job twice to find the right person.[1]

We received over 250 applications, and going through them was an adventure.  As they came in I checked their portfolios and sorted applications into “oooh”, “maybe” and “no”.  This worked well enough, and I could move applications from one category to another as the process went along.[2]

Along with all the generic “I want a job” applications destined for the trash, we heard from a diverse crowd.  One email might be from someone in New York requiring $120/hour, and the next from a small team in Poland competing on price at $7/hour.

We heard from print designers, web designers, illustrators, several programmers and a project manager at Microsoft.  Twelve people ended up with a the label “interesting”; not right for the job but I’d love to have a beer with them someday.

In the end, Roben Kleene impressed the heck out of us and is already doing great work.  Welcome aboard sir!

Hopefully this review will help other small startups when hiring a designer.  Happy to answer questions in the comments.


Results by site

Cost “Oooh” $/”Oooh” Notes Rating*
$185 1 $185 Not sure why we didn’t get more applications here.  I think they’re quite popular in the UK, perhaps time zones got in the way.
$200 1 $200 I had some initial trouble posting the job (my fault), but Michael Arrington took care of it right away.*

(Authentic Jobs)
$250 2 $125   Designer found here!
5 $110 Great quality, very targeted.

$100 2 $50 Posted in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles ($25), San Francisco ($75), Boulder, Austin & Seattle.   Craigslist reaches a lot of people, but the average application isn’t very good.
$52 1 $52 Many applications, slightly more qualified than Craigslist.

(Joel on Software)
$350 The designer jobs section is tiny but I tried it anyway because of their guarantee.  Indeed the response was small, and I got a prompt refund with a smile.   Impressive.*
free Posting process was frustrating.

(Programmer meet Designer)
free Neat concept and targetted to designers. Medium volume.
Totals $1,312 12 $109.33

*Ratings are based on both the quantity and percentage of high-quality, targeted applications received.  Some of my favourite sites didn’t rate highly, simply because they’re not targeting the design crowd.  I expect the ratings would be quite different if we were posting a programming or marketing gig. 

[1]  In theory, if you can’t find the perfect person you should walk away.  Hire no-one.

In the real world that’s not how it works.  Even if there are no candidates that make your heart race, you will hire someone.  The solution is to manage the process with this reality in mind, and attract as many qualified applications as you can.

Volume is the answer.

[2]   Next time I’ll use a separate email account to receive applications.  That way they’re not mixed in with all my other email, and it enables sharing when appropriate with relevant team members.