The elevator test

I think this is a nice way to collect your thoughts about a new idea.

If you can’t explain it clearly using this model then the idea probably needs to be simplified.

Just fill in the blanks …

For [target customer]
Who [statement of the need or opportunity]
The [product name] is a [product category]
That [key benefit, compelling reason to buy]
Unlike [primary competitive alternative]
Our product [statement of primary differentiation]

So, have a go.

Let’s hear how you describe what you’re currently working on.

The Fortune 5,000,000

I really like the idea of The Fortune 5,000,000.

This is from the 37 signals home page:

Who uses our products?
While our products are mainly built for small businesses and individuals (we call this group The Fortune 5,000,000), companies of all sizes use them every day.”

It’s a nice way to describe the opportunity of creating software for the long tail of small- and medium-sized businesses.

But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this much larger group is in any way similar to the handful of large companies or government departments where many technology people spend their careers working on multi-million dollar projects. lists some of the differences.

To paraphrase:

  1. They don’t have the cash to pay big up-front fees for software.
  2. So, you can’t afford to spend lots of money chasing sales (instead, focus on building a great product which people will find useful and tell their friends about).
  3. Compared to the pain and hassle of a custom built application, a simple hosted solution which they can buy and start using right away is likely to be quite attractive.
  4. As such, they will mostly be happy to take the software as-is rather than expecting to have much control or ability to customise to their specific requirements.
  5. They don’t get a lot of love from the software industry today, so there is a massive opportunity to fill that gap.

Paul Graham

A while back Natasha (who works with us at Trade Me and is also one of the people behind Webstock) asked me to nominate my dream speaker for their next conference.

For me it was an easy question to answer: Paul Graham.

If you’re not familiar with his writing, please stop embarrassing me by reading this relative drivel and go and read some of his stuff instead.

His latest article is here:

Why to Not Not Start a Startup

Here is a quote that appealed to me:

“If you took a nap in your office in a big company, it would seem unprofessional. But if you’re starting a startup and you fall asleep in the middle of the day, your cofounders will just assume you were tired.”


PlanHQ has launched

I’m a couple of days late with this, but …

PlanHQ has launched

Congratulations to the team (Tim, Natalie, Koz, Ben, Oliver + Nik).

You have a great v1 product. Now the real fun begins!

Here is a good quote:

“If you ship your product and you’re not a little ashamed of it, you shipped too late”
— Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn


If you haven’t heard of PlanHQ yet, it’s a tool designed to transform your business plan into a living online document which can be viewed and maintained by your whole team. This makes it much easier to keep your plan up-to-date as you go. It’s also great if you’re just starting out on the process of creating a plan, as it guides you thorough the various sections you should include. Take a tour.

I like this description:

“[It’s] a system as flexible as a wiki with focus on business plan development.”

From: A roundup for developers developers developers


Orientation Week

Student life is socially-validated slumming – be sure to abuse this.

— Steve Nicoll, Salient

It’s orientation week around the country.

This time seven years ago Dave (pictured) and I were tripping around the South Island spreading the word about

Later the site was acquired by Trade Me and over a number of years morphed into Trade Me Property, but at that stage it had just launched and was desperately in need of some customers.

We stopped at pretty much real estate agency and property manager we could find, and tried to convince them to use the service, but I doubt we got a single listing.

It was a much better reception at the universities where there were lots more internet-literate people in need of a room or a flatmate who were also poor enough to be reluctant to shell out $30 for a newspaper ad and willing to give something new a go.

In case you’re wondering, Lake Tekapo had no role in the marketing strategy – it was just a beautiful place to visit en route. And the sign is looking a little beaten up after an outing the previous night at Carisbrook for the one-day match between NZ and Australia. At the time having the freedom to do things like that was half the attraction.

Can’t believe that was already seven years ago!