Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Want Help With Your Startup? Let It All Hang Out on Craigslist

It's awfully easy to go looking for folks doing stuff the wrong way ... and to find it. So it's nice to be surprised by someone doing something amazingly, shockingly, frighteningly ... right!

I was greeted by a craigslist ad in my RSS reader today, one of many startups looking for folks to, essentially, work for free. I've written about why this is a bad idea before, and it's still a bad idea.

But there's a little more to this ... the poster (the company's founder presumably) posts a link to a wiki. Maybe it's genius, maybe a trainwreck -- either way I had to look.

On the other side of this link is a company wiki. An explanation of what the company is building; where they are in the process; their calendar; UI mockups with notes and the comment stream by the creators; and other items.

This is absolute genius, and it's so rare. Plus it shows the guts that most entrepreneurs fancy themselves to have, but lack when tested. I'm not commenting on their specific business/tech idea, I haven't thought much about that to be honest.

But it is so refreshing to see someone out there on the beach letting it all hang out as it were.

I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and most of them think that they're the first ones to think up some genius idea, and the best way to be successful is to either keep it stealthy and secret, or to sign reams of NDAs and non-competes with you before disclosing (cue music) their subtle and delicate brilliance.

Just writing that last paragraph, it's a struggle to keep a professional tone. These folks are usually (97%, there are a couple of specific exceptions) complete fools. And truly, they are fooling themselves, unconsciously trying to avoid exposing their idea to someone who might not think it's so good, or who might point them to the dozen other people doing the same thing. Generally speaking, the secrecy ends up being a contributing factor to their failure. Which, since startups are highly failure-prone anyway, they will deny anyway.

That's why I was so thrilled to see this post. The founder is saying, "If you want to try and 'steal' my idea, you go ahead. But if you really believe there's a bunch of money in it, wouldn't you want to work with other people who believe the same thing and who have the will to execute? And if you go off with it and succeed anyway ... you're still helping me because you're establishing the category, while I plan to work nights and sweat blood to execute better and faster than you."

The ad is reproduced below. I was going to link it, but interestingly it has been 'flagged' for removal from craigslist. It's hard to imagine why -- the whole scenario seems rather more legitimate than the typical ad in the category. Perhaps the allusion to potential full-time work disqualifies it from the free "gig" listing ... but I think a startup seeking essentially non-paid volunteers in whatever capacity they can afford qualifies as a part-time or temporary arrangement.

Technical Wizard / Web Developer Wanted | Internet Startup (sunnyvale)

An internet startup is seeking a highly talented web developer

If you have experience with either: PHP/MySQL, Python, or Ruby we would love to talk with you. This a very exciting startup opportunity with massive potential. At this stage, we are looking to bring aboard those who are seeking equity share in the company. We simply do not have the capital to fund salaries.

For more information, please have a look at: http://wiki.kunsoom.com

All of the pertinent information will be included in the wiki page. Thanks for your interest in the project! We look forward to hearing from you.


Kevin said...

Hey Adam. A good friend just linked me to this post, and I'm very glad he did. My name is Kevin Pruett and I am in charge of that Craigslist post in question. I assure you that it is 100% authenticate, although it did get flagged within 1 hour.

It really is exactly how you explained it..."take a look, if you like it great, if you don't fine, if you wanna steal it, well, i can't stop you."

We've had some responses and are looking to further define the scope of the project and move the process along. We really just wanted to open up the project to collaboration. I'll check back and let you know how it's going. Great post Adam!

Shimmie said...

Well done Adam. You are so spot on with your analysis about people and their super secret start up ideas.

I wonder how many ideas die in the garage because the creator didn't want to share and couldn't pull it off on their own.

Bradley said...

Sounds interesting. I've had a similar experience promoting my startup on craigslist. I like using the barter section. You have to be consistent and repost it if you get flagged.

Its' hard finding people who want to help and see your vision. Any advice?



Shawn Hickman said...

I have to say, I have been debating this very thing with myself for quite sometime. I can fully understand why people would want to keep their idea as secret as possible, but there was always something in my head telling me that I shouldn't do it that way. I love your prospective on the situation. I think you have swayed me:)

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