My 2009 in review

I was just writing an update to some great partners of mine and realized I needed to include a recap of 2009 for some context on what’s next. That of course reminded me that I’d yet to post one. So here goes.

Into the wild.
Into the Wild

2009 was a pivotal one for me – a year of transition. It was full of new adventures and an unexpected closure of an old one. 2009 started with a bunch of excitement and energy around the Social Venture Commons, VenTwits, and A group of us had come together and were sweating out an experiment in peer-producing some apps that we thought could help people come together and build a better world by using public micro-messaging. We had some encouraging feedback on the concepts but we missed the mark and didn’t get enough traction (users or funding). We had felt we were constantly 2 weeks ahead of ‘everyone else’ and when we took stock of what we felt we’d need to get to a viable venture, we just couldn’t do it with what we had. I had failed at guiding us through to a viable product and estimating what it would take to get us there.

At the same time, my past life in energy and finance rose up and I became engaged in designing a financing framework around what the Green Energy Act Alliance hoped would make Ontario North America’s leading jurisdiction for renewable energy (it did) and particularly community power. The Act was tabled in May which then prompted another engagement to help the CPFund plan for a transition to the new reality. That plan, if successful, stands to be a great example of social finance and turn the renewable energy finance sector on it’s head.

Closing out the summer, my social finance sojourn continued with the opportunity to co-lead a Canadian contingent to the Social Capital Markets conference. Next came the privilege of doing a review of Vartana – an ambitious project that aimed to change the way the charitable sector banked in Canada. And then things shifted.

On my birthday I learned that a company I founded was in discussions on being acquired. Those talks came to fruition in early October, and while not a big exit by many standards, for our lean life it was/is a big turning point. It meant taking a breath and taking stock. It meant getting ‘our house in order’. It meant saying thank-you to those who’ve supported me.

An adventurous chapter with an unexpected plot twist was over. Thankfully it’s part of a book that I love… one of those books I just can’t put down.

Alpha, Beta… Public

In this world where web apps can be built, launched and iterated quickly we’re seeing more and more of the perpetual beta. Even most of googles apps carry the ‘beta’ tag long past when my usage experience seems to be bug free.

One side of me says, forget the distinction… of course it’s always beta… if it’s not it’s not evolving. Another side, says it’s about managing expectations, as in “Don’t throw things at your computer (or me) if this doesn’t work as you want it to.”

As we work onBy launching I’ve been pushed to figure out some sort of rationale for our ‘readiness status’. In trying to balance our desire to iterate rapidly in public and at the same time indicate what users can expect from the service, here’s what I think we’re going to go with:

  • Public Alpha: We’re got some minimum basics but are still working on our core tech and interface. We prefer ‘public’ so we’re opening it for experimentation by anyone who wants. Expect frequent #fail.
  • Beta: Here we’ll have developed our core tech and features and will be  working hard on scalability and prioritizing new features. Expect the occaisional #fail.

For sure we’ll be going live early. Earlier than I’ll probably be comfortable with but I keep finding that every time I push something to the public I get benefits that outweigh the costs. I wonder what’s ‘too early’ – I just hope we don’t find out.