Confessions and Commandments

  • Posted on: 1 August 2015
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

I have been bad. Everyone has drivers and motivations. These are the variables that make our actions predictable but distinct from the actions of others set into similar circumstances. When I get into business, my motivations and drivers take me to predictable destinations. This is why my business dealings go South. I get into bad business deals and then I react poorly to a bad deal.

In one deal, I worked for $30/hour. That was okay money, but for every billable hour there were two more hours of non-billable dancing. In one month, I worked 300 hours and I could only bill $3000. $3000 is okay, but divided by the work load, I could earn more at 7-11. I couldn't be more lean in my work, so dropped that work.

In another deal, I partnered in a business. I wanted our product released as customers were eager to buy our product as-is. My partner wanted it to be perfect. A product is ready to use when it has passed its "minimum viable product" (MVP) of features. My partner wanted every feature we thought of to be in place before we sold it to our first customer.

I was strident. I was harsh. At the time, I had put hundreds of hours of development into the project. My bad attitude and unwillingness to keep programming brought us to the point where my partner forced me out. I tried to dissolve the company, but my partner was too busy to take part in the dissolution, so I just sold my shares for a dollar and walked away.

In one start-up, I was charged with making our genius product. The problems: no one knew what it was supposed to do. When one potential investor wanted it to enhance remote controls, suddenly our web app was going into remote controls. When the head of the company spoke with a pacemaker manufacturer, suddenly our app was going to predict heart attacks. I couldn't take it. I quit.

In these examples, I tried to tap the brakes and sent off warnings that the dynamic wasn’t working. They were not heeded. I could have sucked it up and kept dancing. I could have quit in a graceful fashion. I didn't. I dropped and walked.

Business per se isn't my thing. Some people take to it like a fish takes to water. I'm an engineer. I'm a market savvy engineer who knows what people like, but that doesn't make me an businessman.

Here's a secret: many business people aren't business people either. They scramble. They evade the necessities. That doesn't mean their sins excuse my skill set. It means that the barrier for business is low. It means that an inventor / business person is uncommon. I am an inventor who is willing to dance with the business side.

I intend to start a new project in the month of August. I am going to dribble our details as I work on this project. When others have undertaken work of a similar scope, one developer got somewhere in three weeks; and another got there in 3 months. I hope to be able to light up the application in a couple weeks and have it ready to show in a couple months.

If this application works, it's going to attract users. If the volume reached a critical mass, it will start to generate revenue. When that happens, I better have a way to collect money. That means I have to juggle a business. Even if I am an engineer, not a businessman, I will have to walk and talk like one for a time.

How will I be able to succeed where I failed previously? Commandments. I will follow these commandments to make this application turn into something different. If I have been tripping myself up in business, these are some tactics that will make a difference.

Go It Alone

On this project, I am going it alone.

Developers fall into this trap: entrepreneurs with great ideas can’t program. They find a developer and offer them 10% or even 50% of the revenue if they code the project. From a developer perspective I say, “I make this real and all you’re giving me is 50%?”

Ideas are cheap. My buddy and I used to concoct several ideas a night. If no one is going to make them real, who cares?

I have lots of ideas. This August, I am running down my idea. I will ask my partner and some contractors for help with specific tasks, but I am alone on this.

Whenever I get something going, I want to include others-- get them in on the ground floor with me for the next Big Thing. When they come in, they are reluctant. It’s my passion, not theirs. When they don’t get passionate, I start to get disenchanted with them. It’s an opportunity for my self-doubt. If I lean on them to fulfill some part of the project, I get frustrated with their performance.

If I don’t invite anyone on board, there is nowhere where I can lean for blame.

If this concept is viable, it will be something that I can develop further. If it is viable, people will like it. To get user uptake, I will be pumping more development time into this.

Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. I will bring other people into the project only after it is well on its way.


This isn’t a new commandment for me. I am big on planning.

In this project, I will take the broad goals of the project and plan to accomplish them. I will break down the tasks into more atomic steps until I have known chunklets of code to write. Then I will write code.

An application with a lot of moving parts isn’t like a plant popping from its seed pod, it’s like an ice sheet. The pieces start out thin and disparate. Then, the bits join together to form a whole solid thing. My project needs planning to know what features go into August and what features arrive later.

Do The Paperwork

This is a two-part commandment.

So often, paperwork shows up from the government and I freeze. I hate forms. This time, in all things, I will do the paperwork. For this project in particular, I will fill out everything that needs filling out. But I will engineer things so that there is a minimum of paperwork.

I am going to get the MVP going before I even remotely entertain business formation.

Following that, if my business makes less than $30,000 per year, I do not need to register for the GST. If this sputters, I didn’t have to do the registration. If this takes off, then it’s worth the effort. Do the paperwork (when necessary).

I don’t need a bank account on the first day of doing business. I need it when the first cheque shows up. I have set up bank accounts for businesses, to never see one dime arrive. All that did was give the banks $100.


While I am going alone, that doesn’t mean I should be deaf. Anything but. I want to make my project eventually appeal to millions of people. I will need input and a diversity of opinion. I will need to get surprising input to make this what I want it to be.

When I get suggestions, I will take them under advisement: I will never disregard an idea; I will never auto-accept an idea. What I hear will shape my project.

Be Passionate

I have had some success with really dry projects. This project is a combination of passions. I will be able to present this with a strong narrative as to why my project has a role in the marketplace.

People get jazzed about a project that exists for a reason. My project will be that. To attract attention, I will evangelize about it. I will keep a passionate voice available to talk about why this project is remarkable from technical, social and investment perspectives.

Another side effect of passion is authority. To be passionate about this project, I will be on top of the project: its stats, its niche, where the project can go and how I can capitalize on the dynamics of the project and its place.


I will finish what I start. Abandoned and semi-complete projects litter my hard drive. This may not get to its penultimate state (yep “penultimate”) before I pause work on it, but I will get it to its minimally viable state. I do finish projects, but I also abandon some. This one is going to be finished.

Last updated date

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 01:50