Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Maintaining startup energy –or– learning to unicycle together

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Image: ibikenz

Learning to unicycle is really hard. The first time you take hold of the seat of a unicycle you immediately appreciate how impossibly difficult riding one will be. It feels like it shouldn’t be possible, and if you didn’t know by example that it is, I suspect very few people would seriously consider it.

Unicycles have so many degrees of freedom – it’s hard enough even to lean it against something static without it falling over, let alone putting yourself on top of one, with no means of support. As opposed to something like juggling, where any idiot can toss a couple of balls and probably catch them, there’s not much of an in-between zone in unicycling: either you can or you can’t. It’s always a pleasure to hand your unicycle to a loud-mouth passerby who comments how it can’t be that hard, etc.

A funny thing about learning to unicycle though is that you can have two people, neither of whom can unicycle alone, and put them side-by-side holding hands or shoulders, and the two can ride. It’s a great way to get beginners riding and learning together, and in a way it’s remarkable – neither person can ride alone, but they can reliably do it together without much trouble. The reason is that while they’re both having a hard time and are very often unbalanced or somewhat out of control, they’re very rarely falling in the same direction at the same time.

I think that’s a great analogy for how people at a startup can support one another in the very early stages. There are so many degrees of freedom – so many ways in which things can go wrong, from the mundane to the spectacular. Most apt, you may be low on energy or feeling negative or even doomed, but probably not in the same way or at the same time as your partner(s). Together you might each be able to do something that you couldn’t have done otherwise.

I was describing this analogy to Esteve Fernández (not for the first time), Nicholas Tollervey and Jamu Kakar over lunch yesterday, and decided to finally write it up. Without knowing it, Esteve kept me in a positive mood quite a few times as we spent 18 months building FluidDB. Thanks :-)

Cloud storage: the real opportunity

Monday, August 24th, 2009

What’s the real opportunity in online cloud storage?

It’s not that it might be cheaper, or easier, more scalable, or more backed up. It’s not building data silos in the clouds.

The real opportunity, the place where there’s the potential to realize value that’s never before been unlocked, is in using cloud storage to share data. And the best way to share data is to put it together. Because if you put it together, you can do useful things—for example, search across it.

Google and Wikipedia both showed us the value of putting disparate but related data in the same place. Can the same thing be done, at least in part, for databases? Fluidinfo is betting the answer is yes. See my last post for more detail.

That’s the opportunity cloud storage offers. That’s what’s new and valuable. Not just doing more of the same old same old, except in the clouds.

A “private alpha” launch

Monday, August 17th, 2009

babyWe’re launching FluidDB in a private alpha phase. In a way though, that makes no sense. if it’s launched, then how come it’s still private?

FluidDB is launched in the sense that it’s up and running, and we’ve opened up the documentation and discussion groups. Also, anyone can reserve a FluidDB username.

By a private alpha, we mean that you’ll have to get individual approval to make FluidDB API calls. To do that, please email us. In other words, we’re for now restricting the number of people who can write programs that use FluidDB.

We’re doing that because we need to watch FluidDB carefully as programmers begin to use it. We’ve taken the “release something as soon as you possibly can” approach, and so there’s a lot that we’re planning to do to help FluidDB mature.

Think of the private alpha phase as being similar to what happens when a child is born. Only close family members are invited to the hospital to have a first look. Once home, a wider group of friends starts dropping by. With care the child grows stronger and is able to cope with the world at large. FluidDB is still something like an infant. It’s very real: it’s up and it works, but it needs some monitoring and supervision before we can let it go out to play with the world.

We hope this makes sense. Thanks for your understanding and patience.