Hours before we formally launch our first product, I am inspired to write about one of the most obvious lessons I’ve had with the many projects Motley Works is currently undertaking. That lesson is, when doing new things, go through a full cycle with a small project, before getting too deep with other similar projects. That’s rather obvious advice when one reads or hears it, but like with most wisdom, it’s often easier said than done.
For me, holding off on going full steam ahead on a dozen fronts is hard as I am the type to be overconfident and interested in many, diverse subjects. I’ve also patiently waited to “do my own thing” for so long—I spent over ten years in private equity, and so, when I left to be an entrepreneur, I couldn’t pick just one “baby.” Rather impatiently, I wanted to use my skills and resources to create many wonderful tools and businesses! It didn’t take long though before I found myself in situations correcting missteps several times over for each project, cause frankly, I didn’t really know what I was doing the first time around. That wasted time and effort made me think about the sage advice to “focus on one thing at time”…that I continue to pretty much ignore. Focusing on one thing at a time IS probably good advice, and many smart people I respect have explicitly given me that advice with regards to Motley Works. BUT…I. Just. Can’t. Do. It. I want to do too many things, and I feel that my powers of organization and irrational entrepreneurial drive will lead me to succeed despite the lack of focus. Only time will tell whether this perspective is hubris or wisdom.
In the meantime, I’ve conceded that what we’ll do as a compromise is learn bit by bit by having a slightly higher focus on some relatively easier/simpler “side” projects while still moving the progress pegs on all our other “experiments.” This does mean that progress on the “real” business experiments will be slowed a bit at the beginning, but I contend that you’ll actually make up for the lost time soon enough. When you work on a side project, there’s still a lot of little lessons and worthwhile investments that cumulatively make for an outsized return for the effort. Things like new (reusable) accounts, discovering the right people to work with, approvals/verifications, technical integrations, new tools, effective internal processes, new templates, management lessons, team cohesiveness, answered business and legal questions, etc., etc..
I would add that the side project should still be something you care about, and will enjoy working on, and will be proud to complete. My view is, you didn’t sacrifice a stable life to be an entrepreneur only to work on things that you don’t care about. So, side project or big project, your heart should be in it. For an entrepreneur or wannabe entrepreneur, this means working on related, smaller projects before diving headlong into their main business ideas. So, while developing new websites and web apps, why not also try to build an Chrome extension with your team first? While building an e-commerce store, why not try to develop a simple accessory through Alibaba initially? Both of those approaches are actually things we’re doing at Motley Works, which is why our first official product launch ISN’T some disruptive platform or technology. It’s just a simple Chrome extension, cause well, we had fun making it; we learned a lot while doing it; and we are proud to have done it.
Anyway, without further ado, we’re happy to announce the launch of TabNudger! TabNudger embodies the spirit of what we try to do at Motley Works even though it isn’t a business. With TabNudger we wanted a simple, but effective tool to help people be more productive. We noticed an annoying and persistent problem in our own workflow, which was that we’d often find ourselves with so many tabs open in Chrome that sure enough we’d often end up “hunting” for some tab we had been working on or now needed. This was wasteful and distracting effort that made it harder for us to be effective when working on Chrome. We looked to natural human behavior in the analog world for a solution. Our proposed solution was, just like when one works on a desk where the papers one works on recently is naturally on top of the stack of work papers, tabs a user works on should consistently move to the top. It’s a very simple insight which we tested over the past several weeks with TabNudger. We were delighted to find that the simple tweak made hunting for tabs a much rarer experience on Chrome. We tweaked and polished the extension, along the way learning some useful lessons for our other projects. And now, we think it’s ready for mass consumption! So, please do give it a try. We hope it will be as helpful to you as it is for us. 🙂
PS. With each completed launch, I hope to write a little something to commemorate the journey. So, hopefully, this will be the first such post of many!