While having lunch today with rodbegbie we talked a bit about companies we like that we pay to use and are happy to pay to use. I can think of four right off the bat, but I'd love to hear if you have any you particularly like.

These companies are of course a huge influence on my thinking in this post about Simpleform and mlkshk, and absolutely what I am trying to emulate.

@ me on Twitter, I'm torrez.

Update: Some nice companies sent in via Twitter:

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There's a project in San Francisco called The Awesome Project (link to news article) that is actually a pretty good idea—but, San Francisco being San Francisco there is the inevitable project that is creating "audio tours for ferry rides across the San Francisco Bay that address the consequences of rising sea levels." Christ. Or done to death "displays pictures of the sky taken every 10 seconds for a year from a camera atop the Exploratorium."

Anyway, Twitter account here. Web site here. Let's hope there are more "string zip-lines from the Transamerica Pyramid" and less "paint a flower for every prarie dog that will die today."

UPDATE: I just re-read this and I don't know why I'm so grumpy about these ideas. Idea people really should just use Kickstarter though.

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If you were a fan of We ♥ Prints my wife has expanded and moved it to a new site that not only publishes prints, but all forms of art that is affordable and good. It's called Hey Stuff and she's been posting several items a day so be sure to add it to your newsreader.

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Imagesoak is a fantastic application for finding things to read and look at based on the interesting photos and images that accompany them. Nevermind what I just said, just go there and start scrolling. I've already made it my homepage.

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As we get Simpleform going one thing I think I've absolutely settled on is that I don't want to take any investment money from anyone. We have earned (old fashioned LOL!) enough this year while consulting to not have to think about it as we set out to build our product, and I think we'll be fine for next year too, so we have some running room. Plus I can sell a guitar or something if things get crazy.

When I left Federated Media I had this idea in my head of what I wanted to do next. And not just "next" but "from now on". It didn't have to do with a specific product or industry, though advertising* was definitely low on the list. A rough recounting of what goals I wanted to achieve:

  1. Make money (duh)
  2. Like and respect the people I work with
  3. Really enjoy my day and feel like I got something done
  4. No pointless meetings
  5. Making something I'm proud of

I follow a few VCs on Twitter and have talked to even fewer in person. While they have all been extremely kind, thoughtful, and blindingly smart, I came away from any those interactions thinking "I don't see their money benefiting me for anything I want to do" and so I haven't pursued that route any further. I think VCs are great for people who need to load up a factory with equipment or perhaps invest in some serious tech that isn't readily built by a couple people in a room, but I think it's mostly a bit of a cheat that only serves to waste time and keep you unfocused.

That said, having blindingly smart people helping you navigate whatever business you've gotten yourself into is invaluable. As is having a Sacca-like angel investor tweeting daily about using your new wifi-enabled toilet-seat. But I think I've been doing this long enough to have plenty of friends I can turn to for advice or cheerleading, so again: don't see the need.

Another thing: getting enormously wealthy selling your company for ten million or fifteen million dollars is obviously pretty freaking awesome, but having had a bit of money in the bank the past couple of years I have come to realize what I really wanted in life was a job I liked going to every day and people I like working with. Because if I did end up fabulously wealthy that's pretty much what I'd end up doing, so why not just do it now?

Finally, something that has really turned me off of the startup culture in the Valley is what some people here consider "success". I'm sure Ashton Kutcher is a is a nice fellow, but the other day he tweeted something so completely ridiculous that it just sort of hit me like a punch in the face:

APLUSK: I find it interesting that facebooks last 2 moves have been replicating existing successful startups. Vark now foursquare...

The Vark emphasis is mine.

I am going to assume I don't even have to explain to you why calling Vark "successful" is a sad joke on so many levels. Like Vark there will be more companies that will sell this year for several million dollars and no substantial revenue. The only thing they illustrate is that advertising (Facebook, Google) is still funding most of the "successful exits" so many of these companies (read: founders/investors) experience. That is a pretty sad state of affairs and I don't want any part of it. (Obviously this does not apply to Federated Media of which I am a relatively substantial shareholder. Wink wink!)

So that's where I am with Simpleform and our first product called "mlkshk" (pronounced Milkshake, we're in pre-vowel twttr mode). I walk to and from work. We have a nice office with three 8 foot high windows lining one wall. To my left is a friend from FM who is building his own startup and helping me with mine, to my right is my wife who has some lovely screenshots of our product pasted on her wall that I need to share with the Friends of Simpleform mailing list of 227 near and dear friends.

We will build this application. You might use it or you might not. We have an actual plan for making money and we have such low overhead that we can play with that plan until we think it's right. It would be nice if more people did it this way. Life's too short to spend it sitting in a stupid meeting wishing you had more time to make something good.

* actually not anywhere near the list.

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