The opening keynote for the SXSW meeting comes mid-afternoon [podcast]. Jim Coudal of Coudal Partners and Jason Fried of 37signals say they have pushed their companies in a more entrepreneurial direction over the past two years. With the idea of taking a greater amount of control over the creative they produce, both firms have built products and businesses which allow them a large degree of independence and the ability to apply the crafts of design, writing, and programming for their own benefit. Under Fried’s direction, 37signals has built Basecamp, Backpack and Ta-da Lists, three popular web applications for personal and business organization and communication and project management.
Coudal says moving from in-house to work-for-hire – they ask three things – will it be good, will we make money, and will we learn something new along the way because using your curiosity makes it worthwhile. Fried says how do you take your creativity and skills and do something with it. The how of entrepreneurship is why this group is meeting at SXSW, says Fried. He suggests not to quit your day job, don’t go after big money with investors – try to be creative on the side and see what you can do with it. Obscurity is a good thing, he says. Failure is a real thing and if you do it in obscurity, then you can learn quietly. Eventually you may go big. Less is another goal – it is a huge competitive advantage, says Fried. You do not have to out-do the competition, what you need to do is “underdo” your competition – try for simplicity and clarity and make it easier – it is enjoyable. Three types of less: first it is “time,” less time means that you are working leaner and not spending too much time on extraneous stuff. So look for those five hours and don’t procrastinate and start creating things. The second type of less is less money. You don’t need everything you think you need when you are starting up. The third less is related to simpler products – fewer features. Use less, build less software, less testing and tech support, and the fewer features than fewer things can go wrong. The one thing you want is more constraints – embrace constraints, says Fried.
I like Fried’s philosophy, it could be applied to thinking about innovation and submitting ideas to the FIC’s Springboard program – think creatively and pass it along!