The Moldova connection

In what seems like a century ago I built and launched one of the first peer to peer websites – rentoid.com

In order to build the site, I outsourced the coding on a site called oDesk. This site and others of its ilk are a great entrepreneurial equaliser – for they reduce the barriers to entry. Not just in terms of price for the services, but also by allowing non techies gain access to techie services. They also allow eco systems to flourish across international borders. But they have an added benefit… a real benefit which isn’t spoken about all that often.

They facilitate an important cultural exchange.

Meet Vasilii Racovitsa – Pictured below – sharing a meal with me in my home. Doesn’t seem like such a big deal…

Vasilii Racovitsa

… Until you know that I first met Vasilii via oDesk as a freelanc web developer back in 2007. And that Vasilii was born during the cold war in the old USSR in a province called Moldova. [Moldova is now an independent country] While the relationship with Vasilii started as a commercial one, it is much more than that now. In fact, it has been much more than that for many years… he is a dear friend and business confidant for whom I want family and financial success as much as I want it for myself. But I just met him in real life for the first time last week.

Besides the fact that he made my first web play rentoid.com come to life, he also taught me more about technology than anyone else.  The truth is that the lower labour rates in Eastern Europe allowed me to arbitrage my way into techie / startup land. But most people falsely believe that lower labour rates in developing economies are a one way street. The the people in developed economies are the only beneficiaries, and that we ‘take advantage’ of those in less developed markets. In truth we’ve both benefitted dramatically. Through my local connections Vasilii now generates more that 50% of his business from Melbourne, a mere 14,854km from Moldova. Which is why he is here. He is here on a large project totally independent of me. A project which dwarfs anything he ever did for me.  But it was facilitated through the network I was introduced him to. What’s more interesting is that his business employs more people in Moldova than rentoid ever did here in Melbourne. And his development team now work in every form of coding / language / mobile dev you can think of.

Since he’s been here, it is like hanging out with a long lost relative. He’s just like the guy I used to speak to every day on skype… Which is a great reminder that the on-line and real world should only ever be pre-ambles to each other – seamlessly interchangeable.

I’m  keen to introduce him to everyone in our local startup community who likes to meet amazing, smart, helpful people. In the time and multiple projects I’ve worked with him on, he has never once gone over budget and always delivered to spec. Put simply, he keeps his promises.

This week I’ve shipped him into the abode of big Scott Kilmartin, who he has also done some work for. But if you’re keen to offer:

“a bed for beta”

“divan for development”

“a cot for code”

“a hammock for HTML”

…or a simple welcome to someone from our global community, then just let me know.

While the tools this digital revolution have provided us are amazing, it’s the connection to our world that we should be truely thankful for.

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The future is less

You’ve heard this:

If all you ever do, is all you’ve every done. Then you can only expect all you’ve ever got.

It’s changed slightly, actually it has changed radically:

If all you ever do, is all you’ve ever done. Then you can expect much much less than you used to get.

This is because there are a nearly 2 billion people in the BRIC nations who are prepared to do what you do for around 10% of your price. And in a ‘web everywhere’ world people can find them. Yes this includes nearly all of us – Architects, Engineers, Accountants, Lawyers, Graphic Designers, Coders, Developers, Journalists  – every single task that can be done remotely, and even some that can’t be.

For them 10% of your pay is a 50% pay rise. A pretty good deal from where they sit.

What to do – do more with the stuff that lives around the edges. Make meaning from the seemingly disparate. Add a creative edge by mashing things up in a new and interesting way.  And demand the people near you take notice of your ideas. If they don’t, then find a better place to share your creativity.

The trick to the future is to organise the factors of production, not be them.

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The truth about digital offshoring

BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are the buzz word in business for good reason. In the good news for us small entrepreneurs is that access is no longer limited big players. The internet has made it possible to have a global work force from launch date, and the same cost advantages that multinationals have had since they started exporting labour to China and other parts of Asia since the 1960’s. Anyone can do it now.

Before you worry about the ethics of ‘off shoring’ there’s some stuff we should know. Exporting labour overseas is ethically sound. It is beneficial both to the recipients and the providers of such work (us). The average computer programmer earns around $1000 a month in India. In the USA and Australia it’s more like $7000 a month. Unethical? Not really. The $1000 a month versus the average in India of $85 gives new information workers in India and very high standard of living.

When we inject money into developing economies we are increasing the living standards not just for our employees, but for their economy in general. In addition we have the option to pay them above market rates to create strong loyalty. We have the option  treat our people well and create important cultural exchanges and relationships.

Other peoples time is what we must leverage for startup success. A simple business fact time immemorial. Only now we have both currency advantage and access. The issue of moving jobs overseas is a crock. We live in a global age, an internet economy. We all buy goods everyday from overseas. Geographical barriers simply wont exist shortly. So we should just get on board. Protectionist attitudes are outdated. No one is sending kids down mines with digital offshoring. If local people are getting put out of jobs, then they’ve been earning too much for what they’ve been doing anyway. Their outplacement is inevitable.

Startup Blog says:

• Outsourcing is available to everyone, not just powerful companies
• Off shoring improves living standards
• Off shoring is ethical and important culturally
• We must embrace it, or get left behind. There is no choice.

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My new startup

I’m launching a new startup. For those who don’t know about it here are some of the key points:

  • The brand extension comes from an already successful enterprise
  • The partnership & legal agreements were entered into over a year ago
  • The idea is not an original one, rather a new execution of a proven formula
  • We didn’t pitch the idea or ask for permission, we just did it
  • It’s a brand extension
  • It’s a self funded project with no external capital. But we wont have ownership
  • We will give away the corporation, once it is cash flow positive
  • It’s a very long lead project
  • It wont be cash flow positive for more than 20 years
  • Estimated cost of the project is around $500K
  • We do expect to however, to yield emotional & community benefits very early after launch
  • It’s an industry we’ve never worked in before, but have a natural flair for it
  • Some of the product development will be outsourced to 3rd parties
  • Outsourcing will occur in 3 large segments of up to 6 years each
  • The most important product development will be done in house
  • There wont be any major advertising, brand awareness will be driven through family & friends
  • We already know it’s unique, but wont require any intellectual property protection
  • However, major security measures will be taken to protect the asset, especially in the incubation phase

My new startup is my baby due January 25th, and it’s the most exciting one I’ve ever been involved in. We’re involved in more startups than we think…

Startup Blog says: Let’s not define ourselves by what we own, but the cool stuff we do.

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The white collar reality

It was easy for white collar workers to be smug during the 1980’s. Their blue collar counterparts faced a dire future as hands on jobs increasingly went overseas to low cost labour markets. It even made it possible for information workers to extract larger salaries as the profitability of their organizations soared. The white collar desk jockey rode the wave of efficiency as corporations globalized and consolidated manufacturing.

The art of Tailoring

Life has a funny way of going full circle. And now it’s our turn, the white collar worker. We are also an endangered species in developed markets.

Yep, you and me. We too, will be outsourced. All us accountants, IP Lawyers, Engineers, Computer Programmers (insert university educated profession here).

Don’t believe me? Then consider this: In India each year there are over 300,000 Engineering graduates and over 400,000 IT graduates who will happily work for 10% of what conglomerate X pays you right now. It’s only a matter of time before large corporations, who are usually struggling for top line growth, can get over the emotional barrier of having a large corporate head office and go offshore. The spreadsheet will make that decision for them. But this time the barriers will be lower than when all the call center went overseas because consumers wont even notice. Society wont care either. They are sick of people earning well above average incomes in ivory towers. No one will feel sorry for us.

Micro outsourcing as provided by Elance, Odesk and Guru for entrepreneurs is just the test case. The head office is next.

What to do?

Stop being a factor of production and start organizing them. Stuff gets done, things can be built, and anything which is done at a desk is about to disappear to low cost labour markets. The way information workers can survive is through undertaking entrepreneurial endeavors (corporate & private). Be able to manage complex projects and by managing situations and people, not doing stuff. The age of the entrepreneur is about to become something which is so significant it changes work just like the industrial revolution did.

Startup blog says: Are you ready?

Get ready at Startup School.

Startup School

Startup School – 1 seat left

I’m very excited that Startup School Melbourne is this weekend. We still have a single seat left which is currently being warmed by this guy….

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But we’d love to replace him with you. And if you need any more convincing then I’m pretty sure I’ll have done the job once you finish reading this blog entry.

Firstly – here’s a list of topics we’ll be covering in detail:

  • Idea Generating
  • Creativity in business. Creative thinking
  • Raising Capital
  • Art of Pitching
  • Legal tips, shortcuts and administration
  • Successful outsourcing (digital & production)
  • Building an international work force
  • Cash flow for startups & budgeting
  • Simplified project management
  • Personal & business branding
  • Selling like a guru
  • Generating PR and media
  • Building a Team

All of which is fully documented in a take home working manual so you’ll leave knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. Like I have.

We are also being joined by Yvonne Adele – Globally renowned Creativity and ideas guru!

You can’t learn this stuff in school, books or at University. And I should know as I teach Marketing at Melbourne University. You also get me as an on going mentor as a Startup School graduate with unlimited help in your start up. Which is incredible value give what most consultants (with less real experience) charge by the hour.

We are holding the event in the groovy boutique Lindrum Hotel. Where the space is great and the food and espresso is awesome. I tested it.

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All of which is included in the price. You’ll be one of 10 people in an intimate learning environment. Not in a room full of people.

If that’s not enough , Startup School comes with a money back guarantee to blow your mind. I can say this because I know the 2 days will.

No, it’s not priceless – it’s priced at $998.

It will be the best investment in your entrepreneurship education you’ve ever made. it will make and save you thousands. This event is a one off, there is no next chance. If you want to chat about it – call me on the phone number in the right hand side bar of this blog.

Click here to book now.

(Seats still available for Sydney 21st & 22nd of November)

See you on the weekend, Steve.

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