Hi Grandma

July 6, 2006

For whatever reason (probably because I’ve yet to tell my grandmother that I’ve quit my job) I was reminded of the conventional startup wisdom: your idea should be simple – something your grandmother can understand. And if grandma can understand the business idea, and it’s a good idea, shouldn’t she be able to recognize that and give me a high-five?

But really, this whole thing got me thinking about different people’s reactions to my “I’m starting a business” news. The first response is almost always positive: “Wow, that’s great! Good for you!” Sometimes the conversation ends there. My guess is these people were expecting a “Nothing much.” response to their casual “What’er you up to these days?” question and are just too lazy to pursue further discussion. At this point the conversation has become pretty uncomfortable and we both just wait silently until the elevator door opens or the burgers come off the grill.

Cheeseburger(chomp)

But if the conversation gets past the congratulatory hey-you’re-not-in-a-cubicle-anymore, there’s the obvious question. “So what are you doing?”

“Well, let me tell you! We’re building an online community for aspiring filmmakers.” Here’s where things get interesting:

  • “Wait, what line is this community on?”
  • “Oh…”
  • “So you’re making a website? Is it on myspace?!”
  • “That’s really cool. [A relevant question regarding the business.]”

Thankfully, I’ve received an overwhelming number of responses similar to the last item in that list. But whenever I get the other responses it makes me think. I usually go on to explain the idea in more detail, but to no avail. Why aren’t these people excited about the idea? There could be a million reasons, but I can’t help myself from trying to figure out exactly what it is that’s stopping them from kissing me on the lips and proclaiming that I am indeed a golden god – or at least saying, “Hey, that’s not a bad idea.”

It’s easy enough to rationalize. Yeah, this person doesn’t understand the markets involved. This person isn’t in touch with what’s happening online. This person isn’t even close to our target audience. But given the facts, shouldn’t grandma be able to think for a moment and then exclaim, “What a brilliant idea! Sounds like a great fit for the market and good timing too. Now you boys just need to make sure you do this, this, and this and you’ll be all set.”

Well, we’ll see, I’m going to call her later this week and break the news.

Brendan

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