Victus Spiritus


Balancing Bricks and Balloons

06 Jul 2010

The following post is another brick in the road to becoming real series*. Although I've managed to discretize the phases below, in reality they are often convoluted and delightfully intertwined

Phase 1 - A Balloon Finds You

New ventures can be traced back to a far out idea that is just plausible enough to capture our will and imagination. The idea balloons into a challenge that proves irresistible, seducing our creative energy with a siren's song of potential. Small balloons are fragile, yet capable of radical direction shifts with the slightest change in the wind. Soon enough we find ourselves working frantically to help inflate the balloon in the hopes of taking flight.
- notable catch phrase of this stage of lunacy (a good time to run if you hear me saying this)

"I have a marvelous idea, we can ..."

Phase 2 - Laying Disposable Bricks

Bricks are the foundation of larger structures. They're physically hard and very real. They're modular building blocks used to construct all manner of dwellings. But in the beginning, it's best not to become too attached to your bricks lest they weigh you down. At this point your working to discover a high value or socially attractive offering, and users don't care much about the bricks, they care about how your product feels and what it does.
-notable catch phrase of this building and discovery phase

"Mark, that sounds great. How about you code that up" Tyler Gillies

Phase 3 - Hype Bubble, Make Your Balloons look like Brick Buildings

At this point you and your team have hacked together a functioning prototype and are working to over support any early customers and users. If you don't have critical supporting user metrics, hop back to phase 1. If you can grow a big enough following or land a few key customers, the financing phase (if applicable) will be much smoother. 100,000 users or a wad of cash from revenue goes a long way to convincing outside investors of the value of your product->business. You may even begin to believe your balloon is a rock solid brick house that's destined for greatness.
-notable catch phrase of this phase

"We have the perfect solution for your problem."

Phase 4 - Laying Lasting Bricks

This phase is concerned with shoring up any vulnerabilities or bugs that have crept through the earlier phases.

Can your company really scale the tech and execute with very high reliability? If not, it's time to make key hires that will make it happen^.

Is your businesses revenue stream well defined? If not it's a good time to focus your resources on monetization and BigCo partnerships.
-notable catch phrases of this phase of BigCo-isms

"Security and the statistically average user experience are our number one concerns. Simply make a request while using the bathroom app and after our review process we may enable the use of toilet paper"

"Have you read our paper on scaling databases on 10 nanometer holographic chips or used our open source Ruby to C compiler?"

Phase 5 - Mighty Marketing, make Your Brick Structure Look like a Balloon

Early ideas have crossed the chasm from abstract to concrete. What was once a gleam in your eye has grown into a living, breathing, and healthy business. In order to keep the barnacles from growing too rapidly you'll need to continually reinvent how your core business evolves. The marketing challenge now is to convince outsiders that your brick building is really a balloon made just for them, and full of potential.
-notable catch phrase of this phase

"I love it when a plan comes together" Hannibal the A-Team


^= Twitter rewrote some core backend stuff in scala to improve their server handling (from Rails).