I’m so excited to say that the first official video of Babble Soft Applications went live today on DadLabs – Gear Daddy. I have wanted to do a video demonstration of our applications for a long time now but I was cycling through my entrepreneurial hats so fast, that I didn’t have the time or money to do a really nice one. So now thanks to all the cool dads at DadLabs we have our very first one and it cost me some beers was relatively free!
Go to their site and please Digg/Stumble the post if you like it. They are fellow entrepreneurs and the more hits/visits they get to their site the more loved they feel and more importantly the more cool advertisers they can attract. Sitter City is their sponsor this week. Plus they always make me laugh which is one of my 2008 goals! If you for some reason you need even more incentive to go to their site, I’ve embedded the video below:
I also just found out that it’s on YouTube also. So you can check it out there too:
I plan to raise seed financing from angel investors for Babble Soft, and here’s what I will have in my toolkit.
An Executive Summary. Thankfully people have moved away from the 35 to 40 page business plans that used to be required when I raised money for my first company. Now it’s easier to get your foot in the door with a 5 to 7 page summary. If they are interested, they will ask for additional information. In a typical Executive Summary you will see sections on:
The Solution (i.e., Your Products)
The Market (including Competitors)
The Numbers (i.e., the Financial Projections).
Financial Projections. In my opinion, creating Financial Projections for an Internet startup is often an exercise in futility that shows you have an idea of how you will make money. Most experienced technology investors know that predicting the future is a crazy process at best especially when you are starting from ground zero and success primarily depends on many viral factors. Financial projections for IBM are much different than financial projections for an Internet start-up. The assumptions you make are the most important part of the model as they give the investor an idea of the homework you have done on the market.
Since Babble Soft is not Twitter, I’m not already a gazillionaire, and I have a million things to do, I have a sharp MBA student, Anand Balasubramanian, helping me create an Advertising and Subscription based model. I love energetic, rock star, cheap, student help! He has done a great job so far building a simple, easy to understand financial model for me.
Visuals. Since I’ll be raising funds for products that do not exist yet, I have engaged a great local design, user experience, and information architecture firm, Projekt202, to create a few mock-up pages illustrating both the web and mobile components of our new applications. They seem as excited about the vision as I am and are taking on some of the financial risk with me. It makes me so happy when I find people who get what I’m trying to do! I’ll also have a demo account of Baby Insights and Baby Say Cheese ready to log in to demonstrate our existing applications.
An Investor Leads List. However you choose to keep track of your calls, meetings, and referrals it’s important to do so. I have met entrepreneurs who want to raise funds who aren’t organized about the process and end up looking a bit flighty. Unfortunately the investors are allowed to be flighty but they usually don’t tolerate too much flightiness in entrepreneurs. Remember: “She who has the gold makes the rules.” After a while it’s easy to forget what you promised to get to whom and who referred you to whom. It’s important to remember at what stage of the investing dance you are in with each potential investor. On this spreadsheet I plan to keep track of:
Who Referred Them to Me
Typical Investment Size
What Items They Need From Me, and
Personal Assessment on the likelihood they will invest.
Passion Tempered With Wits. I think that often the big thing that can swing an investor, especially an angel investor who has been in your shoes before when building his/her company is your passion. Why are you doing this when there are much easier ways to make a buck? What will keep you going? What excites you about the business? I am passionate about helping new parents and caregivers connect and find answers. I am passionate about building a business. I am passionate about finding great people to work with. If that passion is tempered with some logical thinking, that’s a big huge ‘ole plus! All of us entrepreneurs are a bit crazy at times so I just hope I don’t lose my wits in the middle of an investor pitch!
Since I am still working on everything above except for my passion which has recently been reignited, I’ve got a lot to do before the meetings I already have set up with potential investors in the next couple of months. If you have suggestions on other things I should have in my fundraising toolkit, let me know by leaving a comment below. It’s been a while since I have raised money and I’m always open to learning new things.
Join me for the journey. Subscribe to the blog and hold on to your stomachs, it’s bound to be a scary roller coaster ride at times!
UPDATE Jan 12, 2007: Found|Read republished this very post on their blog and called it My Funding Toolkit. Check out that post for some great comments! They have many more readers than my blog currently does so I’m delighted that they chose to share it with their readers!
I’ve seen companies doing soft launches of software products which makes me wonder what a hard launch is. So far the main difference I’ve noticed is that the official press release about the new application or new feature doesn’t go out until after the ‘hard’ launch. My guess is that a lot of bug fixing is going on between soft and hard launch.
So, I’m happy/thrilled/ecstatic to report that we just soft launched our new sleep and immunization recording features of Baby Insights Web! We are still working on some development issues on Baby Insights Mobile and plan to hard launch that app in January 2008. The mobile app is not web-based (yet) so we don’t have the luxury of a soft launch.
Babble Soft is offering FREE 3 month gift subscriptions valued at $19.95 until March 15, 2007 to anyone who discovers a software bug in our NEW Baby Sleep and Immunization features of Baby Insights Web. Gifts are transferrable! Sign up for your FREE account today. Happy hunting!
So far the soft launch has been uneventful (i.e., no major bugs), which is nice. Thanks go out to our development team Cressanda and especially our project manager. I recommend them highly. The smoothness of the soft launch is also because we don’t have thousands upon thousands hundreds upon hundreds of users yet. I’m banking on our foray into SEO to help get us there. I mean if the “right people” (a.k.a. target market) don’t know we exist; it’s not surprising that we don’t have thousands of users yet. Even viral marketing takes a bunch of upfront work because you have to get to the right early adopters who have major Internet influence. I need to figure out how to do a video and get it in YouTube.
Given the fact that over 4 million babies are born in the US each year then include Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan and other Internet savvy countries, I’m anticipating that once those new parents and nannies find out about us, the floodgates will open. Babies and floodgates…not sure if the analogy works but I think you get the point.
I’ve been spending my time the last couple of days doing website updates to reflect the new features. And I’m working on pulling the pieces together of a business plan for some potential angel investor meetings that I have scheduled for early next year. If you know an angel investor (or you happen to be one) who likes the baby/new parent/web application/social networking space, please send them my way! The applications we have now are only the tip of the colossal iceberg.
Now for a short SEO break:
Whether you need breastfeeding support, are excitedly following your pregnancy week by week, are experiencing baby sleep issues, or are already under way creating your baby’s first year album, Babble Soft offers unique, easy-to-use Web and Mobile software solutions that improve communication between caregivers about baby’s and mom’s schedules.
Baby Insights helps caregivers keep track of baby’s breast & bottle feeding, sleep periods, diaper changes, medicine doses, and immunization records, as well as mom’s breastfeeding, pumping and medicine intake. Having important information stored in one location makes communication between parents, their nanny, babysitters, grandparents, or doctors seamless and reliable and gives new parents insight into their baby’s patterns to help with crucial baby care decisions. Baby Say Cheese lets you create a wonderful online baby’s first year photo album with milestones and family tree that you can share with friends and family.
If you are interested in reading about how I cope with manage software launches, fundraising, and SEO consider subscribing to this blog’s feed. If you are an entrepreneur, it will be worth your while…even if I crash and burn….which I won’t…because I said so, that’s why. Now go play with your Power Rangers. Sigh.
A couple of weeks ago I was having coffee with a friend of mine that used to work in the digital media division(s) at Microsoft and we started discussing the topic of set top boxes and PVRs. During the conversation he suggested that I try out something called the VUDU box which is a set top box that connects over the Internet to a proprietary movie-on-demand service that has over 5,000 titles available that you can either rent and/or buy depending on the title and have them displayed on your TV. Movie prices are about the same as what you would pay at your local BlockBuster store but with VUDU you don’t have to deal with the trip to the store and the return.
The box uses a proprietary video codec implementation and some nifty BitTorrent-like download technology that allows you to select a movie and start watching it almost instantaneously. The box is expensive ($399) for something that only does movies (unlike a TiVo, for example, that can handle Amazon Unbox movie downloads in addition to being a PVR) but my friend let me in on a program that makes me one of VUDU’s “Evangelists” and get the box for $99 plus get $99 in free movie downloads. I should also note that there are no ongoing membership fees once you buy the box, unlike Netflix or BlockBuster’s equivalent DVD-by-mail program.
One of my responsibilities as an Evangelist is to tell everyone about VUDU (hence this blog post!) and to host a “VUDU Party” where I show off the gear to others that might be interested. I’m actually having my first VUDU Party at work tomorrow! We normally hold a Holiday Party (a lunch really) every year and watch a movie. Well, instead of bringing in the DVD player and a movie this year I’ll be bringing in my VUDU box and showing it off to everyone. I work in a place with quite a few techies so I think that the VUDU Party will be fun. One thing worries me though: I have not yet used the VUDU box so the party tomorrow will be my first real experience with it. I hope it all goes well!
I’m a bit behind on posting about this video, and I know everyone else and their dog blog has already posted about it, but it is just so funny I figured it was better late than never. It’s the Here Comes Another Bubble – The Richter Scales You Tube video that is set to Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire” song.
A technology bubble may be coming and maybe we learned from the last one. I just hope there are more women (and not the line of men as they show in this video) that get a chance to play this time around and gain experience, money, and respect for surviving the the next big one! Let’s just hope it’s non-toxic like kid’s bubbles are. OK, I’m rambling now….here it is:
Amazon has released a very interesting new wireless reading device called Kindle. It retails for $399 and is apparently currently sold out. I think it uses Sprint as its wireless network. If you happen to have the urge to purchase one of these devices and you use this link: Kindle or click on the image below then I will get a little commission on the sale that I will put towards developing new applications for Babble Soft.
Keep in mind that Sony also makes a portable wireless reader called PRS-500 that is currently retailing for $279.99 plus service. My husband and I saw this one on display few weeks back at a Border’s Bookstore. I don’t know how to get any commission if you buy the Sony wireless reader PRS-500 after pressing that link, but I thought you should know about it in order to make the best purchasing decision for your situation. Although it would be great to make a few bucks, I believe it’s more important for you all to be aware of the options.
Unfortunately since my blog is not one of the “More than 250 top blogs from the worlds of business, technology, sports, entertainment, and politics, including BoingBoing, Slashdot, TechCrunch, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, The Onion, Michelle Malkin, and The Huffington Post” blogs I won’t make anything if you subscribe (assuming you even can) to my feed like Scoble will if you subscribe to his feed.
I have not used either of these devices but given that people and companies have been trying for years (actually decades) to build something like this that the masses will use, I thought it was worth mentioning here. Hey for those of you who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or can’t sleep when the baby is sleeping and have nothing better to do (yeah right…) being able to read your favorite baby related book, parenting book, business book, how can I survive without sleep book, or romance novel with one hand could be quite useful!
Check out some of the posts on Kindle on these blogs I read:
So now I’m at it again because we are about to release a new feature for Baby Insights…which is very exciting because I’ve wanted to release one of these features pretty much since we began Babble Soft. In fact the pain we experienced from this particular issue when our son was born 5 years ago was the single driving force for creating Baby Insights. Hint: the lack of this much needed activity (or inactivity) in our lives was often used as a means of torture back in the day.
Erin (my husband who works full time elsewhere and couldn’t help me with this particular issue) strongly suggested we do this feature with an expert in the field. I slowly realized that given that I’m wearing a gazillion different hats, finding an expert (who is super busy but would still somehow want to partner with an unknown company) was not going to happen. So I figured I’d do it backasswards and build something and then let an expert discover us and tweak the feature later. Doing this violates pretty much most of what I’ve studied, been told, and read about when starting a business which is “This ain’t the Field of Dreams honey…you can’t build things and they will come.” To them I say “Um…well…we’ll see about that!“
Now for a couple of great comics from Blaugh which I discovered from a post written by Pelf on Pearl’s Interesting Observations blog. The first is funny and it’s even funnier because I can’t fire myself for being honest about my distaste for software testing and my ‘build it they will come’ frowned upon strategy. The second is funny (to me) because when you test software you are pretty much glued to your computer and dream about anything endorphin related! But oddly enough, I don’t drink coffee.
For those of you interested in venture capital, you should definitely check out Fred Wilson’s blog called A VC – Musings of a VC in NYC. He’s been doing a series of articles on Venture Fund performance that is very interesting. Although I’m not currently looking to raise venture capital, it’s good for entrepreneurs to understand the history of venture financing because these venture funds might be investing in future partners or competitors.
I am currently evaluating the opportunity to raise angel and strategic financing to take Babble Soft to the next level. I am reaching near the end of my pocket book (or purse strings) and I have so many ideas that I want to implement that will mostly likely require outside capital. The interesting challenge I have with Babble Soft is that we are not only a Web 2.0 (ACK!$%#) play but also a web portal, thingamajig, mobile application, [invent new word here] play. Most of these plays are in my mind, scratched out on paper, or mocked up in PowerPoint and the only things lacking are the money and the people to bring them to fruition.
A VC – for future posts that I’m sure Fred will be putting up on the subject.
I’m excited about the prospect of raising angel funds because I had a good experience with the two angel rounds I raised for my first tech start-up. However, having raised funds before I know how long it can take and how many doors will be slammed in my face before getting to the right investment partners and I’m not looking forward to that. For my first company, we raised money in 1998, 1999, and 2000 (just a few months before the bubble burst) so I know that things went faster than they normally do in ‘fundraising land.’ Isochron survived because it has a solid product/service that companies like Coca-Cola were willing to pay for but let’s just say we as Founders were washed out when it was sold in 2002.
I’m a little bit wiser now on how to play this game, however, now I’m leading a company that has a Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) business model compared to my last which was purely B2B. Plus even though the Internet has been around for a while, things are evolving at a lightening pace making last years, last quarters, or last months strategies in some cases no longer repeatable.
Interesting times ahead! All I know is that of all the deals out there, Babble Soft will one day be in the top 10% of ‘why didn’t I think of that’ ideas! Ah yes, spoken like a true high-tech entrepreneur who might one day wish she had invented those little, cute Croc shoe accessories called Jibbitz instead of trying to do a high-tech startup! Yeesh…I don’t even own a pair of Crocs, but I know that mom who invented Jibbitz is sitting back laughing all the way to the bank!
We just went live with our new corporate website and since we did it in an unusual way, I thought the bootstrapping entrepreneurs would be interested in how we went about it.In my previous tech start-up when the task of creating a new website surfaced, we usually started with a blank slate which meant lots of discussion and meetings around color schemes, second guessing, back and forth arguments, feature/requirement changes and lots of time and money.
I have a bad eye for colors.I have a very hard time envisioning how things will look when they show up on the page (or on the walls of our house).I’m lucky if my or my kids’ clothes match.So this time we started with a template.Yes, a template.One we found at Template Monster.It was a flash template, but we decided not to use the flash piece because after the first two times you see it and hear it, it’s no longer very cool.
Erin and I attempted to transfer our previous corporate site information to the new site and modify the design and realized it was going to take much more time and skill than we had.So while I was looking for someone to design a new blog theme, I happened upon Swank Web Style by clicking on a link on Mocha Momma’s blog.I filled out their contact form, and was put in touch with Karen who designed our new blog theme (post about that to come).She introduced me to her partner, Vicki, for the corporate site work.
Vicki did an amazing job pulling our new corporate site together in a couple of weeks.It wasn’t as easy as any of us thought because of cascading style sheet (css) issues, alignment issues, tables vs. layers issues, etc.I didn’t know this but apparently most people design their websites now using WordPress so they can easily add/modify pages.Since we are used to the old-school way of designing web pages, neither Erin nor I were comfortable with using WordPress for this particular site…maybe the next one.I can only take on so much risk at one time.
Find a fabulous designer/coder/developer who will work until it’s done right (e.g., Vicki)
Pick some of the most adorable pictures you can find on iStockphoto.iStockphoto is the greatest, most cost-effective site that I’ve come across for illustrations/pictures from anything from babies to lawnmowers.They now also do iStockvideo.The pictures are submitted by amateur and professional photographers and cost anywhere from $2 to $8 each.The pictures of babies and families were so cute/adorable that for about 2 seconds I thought about having another baby but then reality struck and I was reminded that all babies tend to look cute in pictures.
Go back and forth a bit on layout and pictures.
Experience a few late nights and Voila! You now have a great new website at a very reasonable cost in a reasonable amount of time!
Since I’m now home in Austin, it’s back to software testing for me. I subscribe to the Dilbert comics email and I just had to share the last two comics. Oooh, I just love Dilbert.
Updated Sep 20, 2007: Well it seems as if the source of the Dilbert comics I had originally displayed has disappeared so all you see now is a box with a little red x. I have emailed Comics.com asking if I could display them directly on this post, but have not heard back. I’m sure they are probably laughing while reading my email. Suffice it say, I guess you’ll have to imagine what they looked like.
The first one was of Dilbert and his pointy-haired boss discussing software testing. Dilbert asks pointy-haired boss why he took out his entire automated software testing budget for the new project he’s working on. The Boss tells Dilbert that he and his team can develop the automated software testing…since they are after all developers. Plus since the Company already pays him then it should be free.
The second one shows the Boss asking why the project won’t be done on time and Dilbert says ‘because you eliminated our software testing budget.’ Boss then says something like, ‘don’t look at me, I’m not the one who can’t get his job done.’
Well a picture is worth a thousand words and I didn’t memorize the comics so I’ll leave the links up to the dilbert site on the off chance they put the comics back up because I’m sure it will make much more sense than my description!
The always-great tech-blog Global Nerdy has a great roundup of “named laws” of technology — laws like “Linus’s Law” (“with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”), “Occam’s Law” (the simplest explanation is most likely to be true), named for some thinker or technologist, useful in any geek’s daily round. Link
Is there anyone out there who really loves testing software applications before commercial release? I guess there must be because people make a living at it. I have worked with QA testers in the past but I never got the impression that they woke up excited every day about discovering all the things that weren’t working properly in an application. I guess I haven’t been hanging around the right bunch of people.
Personally, although I’m fairly good at catching things, testing & reviewing software is low on the list of things I get excited about. Plus I have this compelling need to ‘leave no stone unturned,’ which means it takes me longer to test and longer to document bugs, findings, etc. And I’m not a very technical documenter (e.g., that thingamabob didn’t work when I pressed this thingamajig – yes I’m exaggerating a bit) which I’m sure drives the developers crazy!
My ability to test (or shall I say audit since I was an accountant in my prior life) software is a blessing and a curse because invariably I find something not quite right and my shoulder and arm starts to hurt from all the typing, cutting and pasting, and moving my hand back and forth between keypad and mouse. Sigh. Thank goodness for Bugzilla. Oh yeah I almost forgot, the blessing part is that I usually find the unusual/hard-to-find bugs which is important to me because I want our customer’s experience with our applications to be the best it can be. Plus I don’t want people posting all over the Internet about how our app doesn’t work properly! So Microsoft and HP can you please get the Vista-HP Printer/Scanner driver issue figured out for InkJets…not just for LaserJets!!
So given my venting/hair pulling frustration about testing you might wonder why I’m heading up a software company!?! Because I find it deeply rewarding to conceive of technology applications that can help make the lives of new parents a little easier. Also, it’s a wonderful feeling when nothing crashes or blows up and you know the fixes can be handled fairly quickly. Thanks Cressanda! Everyone knows that software is never completely done (e.g., Microsoft’s Vista). However, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that our new application will have fewer bugs than Vista! Finally, I am relying on the Law of Attraction and sending out the attraction vibes for one of those elusive folks who truly love software testing to find us at the exact right time we can afford to hire them.
The good news behind all my Testing woes is that it means we are going to release a new application next month! I’ve been testing for the last few days and we have a few more weeks of testing and fixing before it’s available. Anyone who purchases a subscription now will get access to this new feature for FREE for the remainder of their subscription period. Here’s a hint: “Baby, Say Cheese”
The move to our self hosted WordPress blog this weekend went reasonably well. We are still having problems with our feed (i.e., it was not being displayed/emailed with full text and images). For some reason the posts were coming through in summary format without images. After much purusing through the wordpress.org forums, Erin installed the Feedburner Plugin and just made a change to our original feed URL on Feedburner and now it looks like full text and images are showing up in the RSS feed. I’m going to put some images in this post to see if the full text post show up in the email that comes out tomorrow from Feedburner. Since we couldn’t find a lot of detailed documentation on this topic, we are not sure if the Plugin helped but we know changing the original feed URL did. It’s still unclear if it will work on Firefox readers.
The other big issue we are working on now is the Subscribe to Comments feature. I love that feature and first encountered it at the eMomsatHome blog. It’s so nice to get notification of comments left after yours on a post so you know if someone answered your question or asked a question of you or just to see what people are saying so you can learn some new stuff! We have installed the Plugin and we see all the appropriate boxes and fields. We’ve entered what we think is the right information but it still seems as if it’s not working. Apparently, we are not the only ones experiencing this same issue…see the comments on this post. This is doubly troublesome because I’m also no longer getting email notifications when comments are made and held for moderation. If I happen to log in to the admin site, I’ll all of a sudden see that there are comments waiting for approval!
So it looks like we will have to deactivate the Subscribe to Comments feature until the creator figures out what is happening. Darn! Slowly but surely I’m sure we’ll (or shall I say my husband) will figure them out.
So some folks have developed a face recognition system to help read emotions. I wonder what it would register for women who just had a baby who need/want to sleep? Would it be the same feeling as if they wanted “ice cream or chocolate?” I LOVE chocolate but I know my desire for sleep far outweighed my desire for chocolate on many occasions.
Dutch researchers Theo Gevers and Nicu Sebe, known mostly for their work deciphering the Mona Lisa’s smile, have created a face recognition system which can gauge a person’s level of happiness. The scientists, working with the multinational goods-manufacturer Unilever, created a face-tracking algorithm which maps video of a subject’s face into 3D regions, and then uses those regions to determine their level of pleasure. The tests followed European women’s reactions to eating five different foods: vanilla ice cream, chocolate, cereal bars, yogurt and apples. Unsurprisingly, the scientists discovered that women enjoyed eating ice cream and chocolate far more than an apple or yogurt — the latter even evoking “sad” expressions from 28% of test subjects. Unilever hopes to put the technology to work in creating products such as reduced-fat ice creams which elicit the same response as their full-fat counterparts, while the researchers will be launching a consumer version of the software sometime in August, as well as a website to analyze up to 1,000 user-provided photos daily.