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Responding to Paul – "the Vision Thing"

IMG_1124 L to R: Paul Robinson and Simon Grice at Northern StartUp DEMO 2 on 19th March 08

I cannot exactly remember when I first met Paul Robinson, perhaps at the inaugural event of North West Digital Communities, which was organised by Manchester Digital Development Agency to bring event organisers together every other month or so for collaboration. Since then Paul and I have discussed many issues, but have not yet worked on a single project.

Paul recently published an article titled: The Vision Thing inviting comments from me and few others. Whilst I do not have the same extent of understanding of software engineering nor about computing, I thought of airing my views about Paul and the industry.

First of all, I am a strong believer that computers and software are here to help us improve our lives. They are not here to dictate how we should behave. However, the use of applications, especially those within government sectors have significantly influenced our lives, and in some instances have changed our behaviour. Whilst technology have significantly improved every day mundane processes, it has also created new processes which will not exist without computers. Going forward, more and more new processes will be added to our daily lives resulting in having less time for computer-free relaxation. It will become more difficult to achieve work-life balances.

Whilst most people in this industry have been involved with it for many years, my entry only occurred in 2005 with disastrous consequences. I am not a programmer and therefore do not enjoy the same pleasures as Paul and others. I see a great opportunity and perhaps not burnt out as some of the others. Yes, I lost significant amount of money and time due to appointing affno to develop ebdex Document Exchange, but I do not keep awake at night regretting what I have done. Yes, of course I could have done much better with hindsight, especially by not appointing affno.

But the truth of the matter is I cannot get enough of this industry. When I entered the digital startup world, I saw myself as an opportunist. I still see myself in the same light. I am no longer content with just doing one project. I am interested in doing multiple projects, but all must have some synergies with each other. edocr, eveo and evigon all go hand in hand.

So, what is Paul’s problem? Paul is immensely talented and never short of words. But I feel that he is trying to do too many things which are not interconnected. I believe he should learn to delegate and learn to build teams around him to get his ideas out as businesses. It is always good to learn new skills such as marketing, but not everyone can handle different disciplines, especially those that are alien to one’s beliefs. Paul is also trapped between two worlds, the commercial and freebie world.

In my case, I am only interested in commercial activities. And I also believe I can manage multiple disciplines simultaneously with ease, due to my past experiences with both startups and multinationals. I am not speaking here about civil engineering vs. bio technology, but of all aspects of businesses from opportunity analysis, product development, marketing, sales, operations, customer service, finance, business planning and leadership. I am definitely poor on human resource management. Whilst I included product development here, it is not the same as software development. It is more of defining the product and delegating the development process to someone such as Paul, in the case of software development.

You should not be in an industry you are fed up of. I was fed up of engineering and I moved on. Ok, the results are not so positive, but I believe I can turn things around. And in this process, I have learnt to spread risk by getting others involved. Just look at edocr for example:

  • Built and run Alpha version under £500 (excl team time and my expenses) – to achieve this, I brought team on board on equity
  • Hosting for exchange of ….
  • PR for exchange of …
  • Legal for exchange of …

Now edocr has achieved a status where others want to align themselves with the brand. How can this be possible? Well I build something else that I can exchange with and we got on board of webmission08, which brought new fortunes, higher expectations and more risk to manage. But we are partnering with the right organisations, e.g. Sun Microsystems, NTT Communications, Smith&SmithPR, Aaron&Partner, Amazon AWS. And all of these relationships go beyond edocr, and they are at a very personal level. Could Paul repeat this? Does he wants the same? Perhaps not. More importantly, does he know what he wants?

At the same token, it is highly dangerous to venture into a sector that you know nothing about (as I demonstrated). Paul, the best course of action is to work with a mentor who can provide critical analysis and recommendations. And you should agree with your mentor a firm action plan. And it is ok to have reservations from time to time. But having an action plan will help you get back to the plan once you defeat those short-lived reservations.

I am sorry, but I will not be tagging anyone, as above is slightly off from what you were trying to address.

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