Saturday, September 26, 2009

Strength, Weaknesses, and Desire

"If Keliso is such a great idea, why are you trying to sell it instead of doing it yourself?"

I get that question a lot. Unfortunately, to the people that matter most my answer makes the least amount of sense. The people that could carry Keliso forward, that could make it a success, are the kind of people that enjoy throwing themselves into an all-consuming commitment, that like being rewarded for risk. Quite honestly, they like working hard. I don't. Paul Graham said: "That's the essence of a startup: having brilliant people do work that's beneath them." I fully agree, my first job after college was working for an absolutely brilliant man, trained in geography, doing electronics design for marine research. Well, he spent a lot of time doing accounting, and taxes, and other mundane tasks. He built a successful company, and destroyed his marriage in the process.

I consider myself to be an intelligent and capable person, though I have met people I consider far smarter. I'm fairly certain that I could take Keliso through to completion, that I could do the accounting and taxes, write the code to make it work, hire the right people when it came time, and all the other aspects of building a startup. I just don't want to. I like my life the way it is; I have a great job that I, for the most part, love doing. Certainly, I'm doing less of what I don't feel like doing in my hourly job than I would be doing working for my own startup.

A long time ago, after spending years designing specialised computer systems, I realised that to progress I would have to either move or start my own company. I loved where I live, so moving was out. So, I went to one of those small business development seminars that governments put on. The first thing they did was hand out an "Are You Ready to Start a Business" checklist: Are you willing to work 16 hour days? Are you willing to work 5 years without a vacation? On and on it went. My answers: no, no, no... I switched careers and went into computer maintenance instead; I traded the small-business world for a dependable paycheck and a pension. No regrets at all.

"But surely..." people ask, "if the rewards are great enough, wouldn't you put the effort in?" Honestly, yes, but the rewards of building a successful startup don't really appeal to me. Sure, millions of dollars would be great, and I do think Keliso will make its builders at least that, but - and this may sound strange to people interested in startups - this kind of money isn't that important to me. I make more than enough money with my current job; I don't feel like I'm going without. Yes, I can't go off and buy my own jet or a ticket to the Space Station, but those aren't really life-goals for me. For the life-goals I do have, I'm more short of time than money. I would rather spend my time working on an open-source project, or puttering in my hobby machine-shop, than sweating out a startup.

I am, by nature, a person that likes to fix problems. My nickname is "FixerDave" for a reason. I want to fix everything, from motorcycles to computers, emotions to social ills. My deep interest in philosophy is centred around morality and its problems for society, problems I want to fix. Keliso is the solution I came up with to solve the looming problems that virtualising the distribution of content were beginning to cause, problems that have now been headline news for years. I also come from a family of extreme original-thinkers, people that were never in "the box" to start with. My father build a sawmill out of used car parts, from a design he came up with himself. This seems perfectly normal to me. I can't help but come up with original solutions to other people's problems. It's in my nature. Unfortunately, it's not in my nature to follow the bigger ideas through to conclusion.

Often, like my father's electric six-wheeled stair-climbing hand-truck (that pinned him to the wall at the top of the stairs - he wasn't very good at control systems), I see my ideas being sold years after I've come up with them. Some other person had the same idea and also had the ambition to follow through. I suspect that every good idea has many separate creators, coming up with the same general concept over and over again, until the right idea gets to the right person. I'm surprised that the system I envision in Keliso has not already been developed and put into operation. When this solution came to me, I thought it to be so obvious that other people must be working on it. Years have gone by and no one has even tried.

I've come up with a lot of ideas over the years, as is my nature. I've done a few, the simple ones that solve my own problems, but Keliso is the best. It's so good, and so clearly profitable, that I can't bear to just abandon it, knowing that someday, somebody will recreate it. I also can't bear the thought of just publishing it and walking away. Sitting back watching others profit so much from my great idea would be too much. I've tried to find local people, startup kind of people, to carry it forward, but that petered out. I've been dragged into the startup process myself but, without the drive and commitment required, this too failed, as I expected. I know myself and my capabilities. For years, this has been going on. Keliso has weighed upon my mind, occupying my time.

These years have been productive; Keliso is now a much-improved design. The early problems with scalability are now solved - Keliso can expand exponentially without issue. The original design involved rather a lot of money-handling - now there is none as PayPal does all the work. This rework also created an immediate and profitable revenue stream for Keliso; another obvious solution, when you see it. The original design was vulnerable to fraudulent or illegal content - again solved in the revised design, in a unique and powerful way I might add. Keliso has occupied quite a bit of my time over the years, and I've enjoyed solving the design problems. But, I've gone as far as I can go with it. Improvements in design will have to wait until users point out the unseen flaws. Now, Keliso just weighs on me, occupying my time, demanding that I do something to free it.

The problems that Keliso solves are all around us. Artists, photographers, writers, and even programmers are becoming desperate as the old mode of selling copies of their work fails. Some lash out at those who would "steal" their work, others attempt to gather donations. Musicians resort to live-performance, programmers give up and just work for free on stuff they care about. Everyone wants a better way. The world needs Keliso, or something like it. It solves so many real problems that even a flawed implementation would likely be wildly successful. People are so desperate for a solution to these problems that something will happen soon. Something has to break the log-jam that is building up.

Paul Graham also wrote: "
Going into business is like a hang-glider launch-- you'd better do it wholeheartedly, or not at all." While I would dearly love to see Keliso launch and succeed, I know, in my heart, that I'm not the right person to fly with it. Are you?

You can view more about Keliso here