Lessons Lately Learned
1: Raising Money is Hard.
Nobody told me (until after I launched my campaign, naturally) that successful Kickstarters can take up to a year to prepare for. I had prepared for a few months, not to mention all the effort I had put into networking for months even before that, so I figured I’d be all right. But I’d underestimated how hard it would be to ask for money. This isn’t a personal complex either, it’s a professional conundrum. How do you ask for money without feeling as if they’ll resent you and without burning any bridges? It’s a delicate balancing act you make, and it all depends on phrasing.
So I know now what would need to be done to make a successful Kickstarter, but I’m not planning on doing another soon.
2: In-The-Trenches Management Techniques.
So second week into the campaign, a big deadline at my part-time job at Brown began to loom. I work in the Graphics Lab at Brown (a group of undergraduates led by Professor Andy van Dam) that work on various corporate-funded projects. I had recently taken over management of the team so it was my job to make sure shit got done. But we had to get out the first version of our app onto the Windows 8 store by a certain date and between Murphy’s Law and Zeno’s Paradox, we weren’t getting any closer to finishing. The final week before the deadline was a brutal 90-hour work week for me, although I tried to keep it at 80 for most of the students. Juggling work-induced fevers, RIS, eyestrain and pure exhaustion, the experience of managing a team under those circumstances was invaluable.
From lessons on how to manage different personality types…
To learning how to gauge someone’s capacity with a single look…
To becoming extremely aware of managing my own energy and health…
it was a crash-course in crisis management.
And in the end, what told me I was successful wasn’t that we got the app released and bug-free. It was the fact that not only did my team not hate me for driving them so hard; but that they showed the same dedication and great attitude that they had when we started.
Love those kids.
3: Why Minnows Grow in Mangroves.
When people refer to places like Rhode Island as “small ponds”, I feel the need to correct them. A small pond indicates isolation and lack of contact with the broader lakes and oceans, but that’s not true. With the kind of social media available to everyone now, there’s no isolation. Rather, it’s more that Rhode Island is a mangrove, a slightly convoluted place with a strong sense of interconnected communities. Small non-profits and businesses, branches of larger national non-profits, tech businesses, academics and students… there’s all kinds of fish, and though we each have our mangrove roots that we typically hang out around, we still mingle. And there are larger fish and smaller fish and everywhere in between, but everyone knows everyone else.
Since the Kickstarter started and I had the chance to write an article for Go Local Prov about why I came back to Rhode Island, the Providence community really stepped out to support me and my work. Even knowing the closeness of the business, political, and personal networks here in the state, I was still surprised. And it’s provided huge opportunities that I wouldn’t have had a chance at in another state.
So work moves forward, lessons continue to be learned… the failure of the Kickstarter hit hard at first, but everyone knows you can’t measure yourself by how you fall, but rather how you pick yourself back up. So Alex and I will just need to continue to put in more hours at Brown while we get the first version done, but we’re still shooting for a new-year’s release!