The Best Course You'll Ever Fail

This post is for those of you who are into technology and/or entrepreneurship (and those who take a measure of sadistic glee in my personal failings in life, I suppose). If that's not you, I'll see you tomorrow.

Chuck Eesley is getting ready to start his Technology Entrepreneurship course again. Enrollment is open, the course is free, and the training begins on September 16. If you've ever thought about founding a tech start-up, developing an app, or otherwise making money from technology of one kind or another, you should sign up immediately. But be warned: this course is extremely demanding and will require you to actually start a company if you complete it.

Chuck's course is partially responsible for one of the biggest business failures of my life. It wasn't a particularly expensive failure in terms of money lost, but it cost me more than six months of my life, a partnership with Microsoft, and God only knows how much I could have sold the company for had it worked. I'll explain.

Most of you know that I'm enamored with tech. I'm an early adopter of most things web and I'm a huge productivity nerd. I've seen people go from starting a free blog to a six-figure monthly income in less than a year. And it's hard not to want a piece of that.

So I had an idea for an app. I won't give you the name of it because it would be too easy to identify me if I did. Suffice it to say it was the right app at the right time and there was a lot of demand for it - more than even I realized.

I had this idea rattling around my head for some time before Chuck first offered his course. His course was one of the very first MOOCs available, so being the early adopter that I am, I signed up. I went to work on the course immediately and he laid out a pathway for me to take the app out of my head and put it on everybody's iPad.

The course is extremely in-depth, and one of the first things you do is form a team of those also in the course, flesh out the best idea, and then form a company around it and make it a reality. He incorporates a lot of lean start-up methodology and you learn a shit-ton about starting a tech company every step of the way.

That's where the wheels fell off for me. I'm a finance guy. Hell, these days I'm not even that; I'm a writer. I'm certainly not a software developer. But as I worked with my team on that first project, I grew wary of bringing in an outsider to help make my app a reality. It was a combination of not wanting to share what I was convinced was a great idea and living in France, where whomever I brought in would have a bunch of unreasonable demands employment-wise that I'd be forced to comply with.

So I decided to learn to code the thing myself. In hindsight I see how idiotic this was now, but at the time it made perfect sense. My thinking was: I'm a decent front-end developer, how hard can it be? So I spent the next six months learning app development. And I got decent enough at it, but nowhere near proficient enough to produce the app I wanted.

At this point Microsoft opened a start-up accelerator in Paris and began recruiting their inaugural cohort. If selected, they'd provide me office space and access to the full spectrum of Microsoft development products in exchange for my at least considering using a Microsoft platform like Azure to launch. Ostensibly they'd get first dibs on any partnership arrangements if the company took off as well. It made perfect sense to me, so I threw my hat in the ring.

Keep in mind this is a product I'd had in mind for years, and had been working on pretty much non-stop for six months. Microsoft scheduled a pitch meeting with me. Some of you can probably imagine what a pitch meeting with me would be like. There was no way I was coming out of there with anything but a yes.

I laid out my case for the product and the market size. I had every answer they were looking for at my fingertips, and a few they didn't realize they were looking for. Everything was going great until they asked me who my developer was. They were genuinely shocked when I said I was developing it myself.

"But you're the business guy. Are you saying you're a developer too?"

"Well, I've been teaching myself for about six months and with your help I'll be able to crank it out in the next 90 days."

They asked me why I didn't have a developer and I told them very frankly that France's labor laws were a joke and I wasn't about to expose myself to the liability of a French employee. I said that if I absolutely had to have a developer to get into the program that I'd hire a guy in New Orleans. They told me that wouldn't work because of the time difference and the fact that the program was so intense they needed everyone on the team in the office everyday.

It wasn't a deal killer, though. They told me they'd help to find me an unpaid intern from one of the development schools around Paris and that way I wouldn't have to worry about the labor stuff. I agreed and everything looked set to go.

The next day I was screwing around on the computer and just for shits and grins I Googled the name of the app. I'd done it dozens of times before and nothing had ever come up. But that day the third search result was something in the Google Play Store. I almost shit myself. Then I clicked through and wanted to be sick.

There in the Play store was an app with the same name I was going to use for mine. I already owned all the domain names (and I mean all of them, down to .fr, .biz, .info, .youfuckingnameit). I read the product description. It did the exact same thing my app did. The exact. Same. Thing. So I bought it.

It was gorgeous. It had all the functionality I wanted built into my app, and some of the stuff I hadn't even told anyone about (because my first thought was that they stole it from me). I was literally sick to my stomach. It was exactly the app I'd been developing, down to the same friggin' name, and it was so much better than mine.

The last six months of my life went up in smoke in five minutes. I can assure you that it was not a pleasant call to Microsoft.

I'll be honest: this failure sent me into a tailspin for a good while. It wasn't until Noah Kagan (CEO of AppSumo) put a boot up my ass and reminded me that I had an audience patiently waiting to pay me money for The Best of Braverman that I pulled my head out of my ass and finished the book. When I told him about what happened with the app he said, "Dumbass. You could have accomplished the same thing with a Google Docs spreadsheet and been selling that shit for years." It sucks, but he was 100% right. Sometimes we're too clever for our own good.

Anyway, don't let my failure stop you from jumping in Chuck's excellent course. If you've got a knack for tech and a burning desire to build a company, you won't find a better course for free.

Good luck to you.

 

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan

You're born, you take shit. You get out in the world, you take more shit. You climb a little higher, you take less shit. Till one day you're up in the rarefied atmosphere and you've forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake, son.
 

Great story, although that sucks for you. Through vanity and peer pressure I, too, had come to believe that a "real" founder will do whatever it takes to learn to code like a pro. Thanks for talking sense about this.

 

Guys,

I just got a PM from another user who read this post and is thinking about a software project. He asked me some questions and after I answered them I realized that others of you might be wondering the same things. So here's a copy of my answers, for what they're worth:

He asked:

Where did you start doing a competitive analysis of your product? Other than my own belief how do I check to see if this a viable product for the market? If you find that there is a market opportunity how would you start building the business (i.e. write a plan, find a partner, etc.)? Given that you were recently in the same predicament what other recommendations would you have that you did not mention in your post?

I answered:

Wow. This is really involved. I'll do my best.

First and foremost you must validate. Before you devote any time, money, or energy to the product you must validate. By that I mean you must determine that there is a market for this product before you begin to produce it. And the best way to know that for sure is to get people to pay for it before it even exists. Dane Maxwell is the absolute master of this when it comes to software products. Listen to this podcast as soon as you can:

http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/no-ideas-no-expe...

Once validated, you must break the idea down to its simplest form and use that simplest form as an MVP (minimum viable product). You're looking to strip out features here, not add them. You want this to be as bare bones as possible and still be functional. You then sell it to early adopters and let them tell you what it's missing. Saves you a ton of time and money on development and prevents you from creating useless features. Your customer will tell you what they want.

Business plans in the traditional sense are dead; don't even bother. Use this instead:

http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas

The only recommendation beyond those is to sell what you have as soon as possible. Just get it earning revenue - preferably recurring revenue (SaaS model). It can be ugly and simple as long as it makes money.

 

Yes, both times. I'm not sure what happened to the first team, but the second team I worked with is still together and is developing a big data medical application. These are hard core scientists we're talking about. I was the only business guy on the team, and I expressed my reservations about starting something that audacious in France where there are huge regulatory hurdles (some forms of entrepreneurship are even illegal here - which is ironic considering entrepreneur is a French word). I suggested moving the project to Berlin and I think they're still considering it.

Coincidentally, I was contacted by a Java developer I know sort of tangentially before I went on vacation, and he told me he's got something ready to roll out and needs my help. I'll keep you guys posted if anything comes of that.

 

Excellent post as usual - goes to show that unlike finance, you have to see others as equals and learn to let others shoulder responsibility/play to their strengths; something easier said then done when you think so highly of yourself (warranted or unwarranted).

Calm down.
 

Awesome stuff, Eddie. You mentioned that the course "will require you to actually start a company if you complete it." Could you go into a little more detail about this process? Also, is this course doable while working full-time?

Thanks in advance!

 

I'll answer your last question first: it all depends on how badly you want it. Nobody can answer that but you. That said, I've enrolled twice and haven't managed to finish it.

Now your first question: by the time you get to the end of the course, you're going to have a viable, validated idea and an MVP ready to pitch to VCs. Chuck has had a number of companies come out of this course so far, and I think he's only run it twice (might be 3 times now). So if you stick with it you might be looking at a career change.

 

I think I'll try to do this. Last time to you pitched a service (Treehouse on sale in Feb maybe?) I went ahead with it and it's been great so far. Hopefully this yields a similar experience.

 

Thank you once again for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience, Eddie.

Browsing through all your posts, both past and present, has been an invaluable learning experience for me.

 

I think it's definitely geared more towards teaching nerds the business side of things than teaching business guys to let their geek flag fly, but it really does a good job of making everything collaborative and symbiotic. If anything, I think it's better to take the course as a business guy because there are literally millions of genius geeks with no idea how to monetize who are willing to turn over all their technical expertise to somebody who knows how to convert it to cash.

At least that's been my experience.

 

Thanks for sharing...there is a reason Facebook's motto is something like "break things"...and why we have tried to ask our members what is missing instead of adding useless features (sometimes we succeed, sometimes we dont).

It's not hard to get a splash page up and start charging people for a product or service that is 1/2 baked, but you will save yourself a ton of time and money if you do. If you can't get the sales/marketing right, why bother spending months developing something that may not even sell?

also, don't listen to people if they say "yes, I would buy it"...see if they actually will.

 
WallStreetOasis.com:

also, don't listen to people if they say "yes, I would buy it"...see if they actually will.

This is so clutch. Having someone tell you, "Dude, I would totally buy that." is utterly worthless as a validation. Validation only occurs (in my opinion) when money changes hands. Talk is cheap and time's expensive.

When you're validating an idea, definitely craft an offer where someone can pay you to show that they're serious. It's as simple as logging into your PayPal account and letting PayPal generate a "Pay Me" button or link for you. Hell, you don't even need a splash page, you can do it all by email. That's how I validated the book, anyway.

 
Best Response

I'll be honest, I actually joined the course the first time around and ended up dropping it pretty quickly. Here's why:

1.) At my heart, I'm not some tech guy and I think waaaaaaay too many people fancy themselves as tech guys just because it sounds cool and they see people making money even when they have no clue about what tech is all about

2.) I don't think you need a course like this to start a business and there are a billion ways to make money starting a business (or otherwise) that doesn't involve tech. And if you want to start some sort of tech / internet / software company, you don't need a course to help you do it

3.) The course is loaded with people who have no actual drive and are looking for a template for success without any willingness to put in the work. It doesn't work that way, folks

You might learn some interesting stuff, but if you've got the drive and initiative and maybe some people you'd like to work with who are also very motivated, just go for it and skip the course. All of the stuff they cover can be found elsewhere anyway. And, again, there is no template or roadmap to starting a business, you either do it or you don't.

Not trying to knock the thing, but it does get loaded with tons and tons of clowns that want to make the next Blippy or Bloopy without any effort or real work.

 

Would you recommend it to someone who isn't really looking to create the next google/facebook but rather maybe just a profitable blog or sell digital products (ebooks/guides)?

 

Ab rem cupiditate voluptatem architecto accusantium voluptatum est explicabo. Porro illum accusantium eius eius magnam voluptatum quia. Velit eos autem voluptatem. Culpa fugit aperiam dolorem hic.

Nisi quisquam quibusdam ut. Repellat sed harum officia nostrum. Illo impedit aliquam id sunt cupiditate. Animi quibusdam alias numquam accusamus voluptates. Laborum temporibus iste repellendus autem exercitationem excepturi dolore. Dolor sunt dolore sed nostrum voluptatem deleniti voluptatem.

Career Advancement Opportunities

June 2024 Investment Banking

  • Jefferies & Company 02 99.4%
  • Lazard Freres No 98.9%
  • Perella Weinberg Partners New 98.3%
  • Harris Williams & Co. 24 97.7%
  • Goldman Sachs 16 97.1%

Overall Employee Satisfaction

June 2024 Investment Banking

  • Harris Williams & Co. 18 99.4%
  • JPMorgan Chase 10 98.9%
  • William Blair 02 98.3%
  • Lazard Freres 07 97.7%
  • Morgan Stanley 03 97.1%

Professional Growth Opportunities

June 2024 Investment Banking

  • Lazard Freres 01 99.4%
  • Jefferies & Company 02 98.9%
  • Perella Weinberg Partners 18 98.3%
  • Goldman Sachs 16 97.7%
  • Moelis & Company 05 97.1%

Total Avg Compensation

June 2024 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (5) $648
  • Vice President (23) $378
  • Associates (95) $261
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (14) $181
  • 2nd Year Analyst (69) $168
  • Intern/Summer Associate (34) $167
  • 1st Year Analyst (207) $159
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (152) $101
notes
16 IB Interviews Notes

“... there’s no excuse to not take advantage of the resources out there available to you. Best value for your $ are the...”

Leaderboard

success
From 10 rejections to 1 dream investment banking internship

“... I believe it was the single biggest reason why I ended up with an offer...”