Startup Stuff

A demonstration of what BidSquid’s layout looks like

After the Christmas break, I teamed up with Dave Hachey, a fellow UIT student, to work on the technical side of his startup idea. The idea is a two-sided market for locally produced commodities. Typical markets such as Kijiji only show you one side of the market: the sellers. This idea allows you to view and be a part of both the supply, and the demand. Think of it like a stock market, but totally relative to your location, and for local goods and services (for example apples, firewood, or plumbers for hire).

Submit a bid, asking for a good or service, and name your price. The higher you’re willing to pay, the more likely a potential seller will be willing to contact you. Submit an offer, offering up a good or service, and again, name your price. In this case, the lower you’re willing to sell for will be what attracts potential buyers to your listing.

I signed on as the technical co-founder, to help bring this idea to life. I’ve heard it before, that you need one person with the industry experience, and one person with the technical know-how to make this type of idea work. Dave has the many years of working in the stock market as well as operating a small farm, and I have the passion and drive to build a platform like this. Together, we’re building BidSquid – you can see the simple landing page I’ve put together, which is live today!

Communications Stuff

Another thing that’s gone on at UIT is the communication classes, taught by Ian McNeil. We’ve covered public speaking, dealing with the media, and interviews. There was a lot of really solid advice jam-packed into two months, and I’ve already had the chance to use what we learned in the real world.

Just the other day I was on CBC radio with Mike Targett, to talk about my experience at hackathons, to promote UIT’s hackathon they just had (which I unfortunately missed!). I had the chance to make use of some of the interview tactics I learned in Ian’s class, and there are definitely going to be a lot many more. From doing interviews on radio to just dealing with answering questions in everyday life, I feel like it will be a long-term improvement to how to better answer and ask questions.

Business Stuff

I was always a coder, and I always will be. I always pictured myself working at another company, writing code. But looking back, I think deep down I always wanted to do my own thing. In fact, you can actually still see the website for my ‘company’ I had when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old, called OxygenSoft.

I can’t see myself being some kind of business guru one day, and I know that my domain is in the technical side of things. But as a coder I always preferred to build something from the ground up, rather than starting off from something that’s already established. I always felt more acquainted with the code and the product itself by the time it was working. And I think it’s almost the same way for entrepreneurs – rather than starting off working at a company somewhere, it’s the want to build something from nothing.

lostfortranslationEmployee or startup founder, clear writing is key for future success. Unfortunately, we often write in a style that is difficult to understand. Along the way we evolved (or regressed) away from the simplicity and elegance of clear concise writing. First of all, we often write with too many complex words that don’t add any meaning to our message. On the other hand, we use a cryptic net lingo of txt shorthand for our mobile messages. Consequently, many readers find themselves lost for translation.

In the world technology, clear concise writing is critical for any level of success. Whether it is pitching an idea to an investor or writing a feature spec, clarity and understanding never go out of style.

The book “The technique of clear writing” by Robert Gunning was originally published in 1952. It has been revered by writers and publishers around the world for over 60 years as a must have reference. I became aware of the books principles early in my career and continue to use them today.

The 10 principles of clear writing

  1. Keep sentences short: Vary the length of sentences but remember the longer the sentence the more complex.  On average keep sentences short
  2. Prefer the simple to the complex: If there is a shorter simpler way of saying something, use it.  Complex terms don’t add to the meaning of what you are saying
  3. Prefer the familiar word: Having a well-developed vocabulary is important and valuable.  Choose words that are familiar to the reader and that are easiest to understand
  4. Avoid unnecessary words: Make every word count.  Extra words don’t improve the quality of the writing.
  5. Put action in your verbs: Write in the active voice.  Put action into your verbs
  6. Write the way you talk:  Use a conversational tone whenever possible and appropriate
  7. Use terms your readers can picture: Use short vivid words that your reader can visualize.
  8. Tie in with your reader’s experience: Connect your idea with something or some experience that the reader already has.
  9. Make full use of variety: Keep the message clear, but mix up and use as wide variety of sentence arrangements and words as you can.
  10. Write to express, not to impress. Big words do not convey superior intelligence.   The best writer is the one who can express a complex idea simply.

I’ve practiced and applied these principles over many years. Consequently, I have found a much more consistent response to my writing.  Finally, if you learn and apply these principles, your readers will better understand your writing and be more likely to embrace your ideas.