Inspired by a recent blog post from the folks at PMRobot - titled "The Truth about PMRobot" - I was motivated to write something in a similar vein. I was particularly struck by what PMRobot said here:
I recently watched an excellent talk by Jason Cohen from the Business of Software conference in 2011. He talks about the importance and value of being honest about your product's strengths and weaknesses. I’m putting this into practice by being brutally honest about our product in conversation with people I meet.
My experience is that people find honesty refreshing, even disarming. By being upfront about your shortcomings, you give them a reason to trust your claims about your strengths. Honesty, also makes you more human and relatable. It makes you the kind of people others want to see succeed. It opens you up for receiving honest feedback, which is essentially to any lean startup.”
When I read this, my immediate reaction was to think (and post to Hacker News) something like:
Love it, love it to death! There is so much truth in this article, on both a meta level and the obvious level. In fact, you have inspired me to write a similar post for Fogbeam Labs.
I sometimes feel torn when writing about us, on our blog, our website, etc... trying to choose between "generic corporate voice" where we try to sound like a typical "big company" and something more "down to earth, folksy and honest". And, truth be told, I think I sometimes default to "generic big company" because it's actually easier in some perverse sense. Figuring out how to write simply, directly, and honestly, while preserving the underlying message and not sending a different message, is - IMO - a non-trivial thing.
We want potential customers to know that we're a small company (2 people at the moment), that our products are unfinished, immature and buggy, and that we can't provide some of the things that IBM or Oracle can. But we also don't want them to think that we're a bunch of rubes who don't know what we're doing, or to think that we'll do anything less than bend over backwards to provide the best possible support to those who take a chance on us at this early stage. We also want people to know that we genuinely believe that we have what will be the best product offerings in our space, as things mature and we finish fleshing things out.
So what is the truth about Fogbeam Labs? Well, quite simply that we are an early stage, bootstrapped startup, self-funded so far, and comprised of two people. We were three people, but one co-founder had some really difficult issues going on in his personal life and chose to step down. And the truth is that our products are buggy, immature and unfinished. And the truth is that we don’t have the resources of an IBM or an Oracle or a Microsoft, to promote, support, build and enhance our products. And the truth is truth is that not everyone is a potential customer for us right now. Running as a lean startup, we are focused on conserving cash and minimizing overhead as much as possible, so we are focusing on serving customers in North Carolina first and foremost, then other Southeast states (VA, GA, TN and SC in particular) to minimize travel cost, and to allow us to be as responsive as possible to our customers. Simply put, we are small, so we can provide better service to a company in NC than we can to a company in Seattle, WA or in London, England.
We are also mainly interested in a certain type of customer. Because our products are buggy, immature and incomplete, but will - as we flesh out our vision for them - eventually be leading edge and offer some real competitive advantage to our users, we are looking for customers who fit the mold of what Steve Blank calls Earlyvangelists. An Earlyvangelist is aggressivly seeking to be on the cutting edge, and is looking for technology as a means to a competitive advantage. Earlyvangelists will work with unproven startups, pay money for unfinished products, and provide feedback and input that helps the startup flesh the product out into it’s finished form. They will also evangelize for the startup (assuming they deliver on their promises) and promote them to their peers.
So why should a company take a chance on Fogbeam Labs and our products? Simply, because we believe we have a broader, more comprehensive vision of how certain types of software products, coupled with new approaches to management and organizational structure, can allow a firm to develop a real, meaningful competitive advantage. And we believe that, in the hypercompetitive times we live in, many firms need what we are offering.
We also believe, very strongly, that proprietary software is a dead-end, and that enterprises have begun a slow, but steady transition to favoring Open Source Software, developed in an open and collaborative fashion, and released under a liberal license.
Finally, because we are not just “in it for the money”. At Fogbeam, our Mission and Core Values statement is not just a bit of glossy rhetoric or a marketing gimmick. It defines why we are here and how we do business. And we believe we are advocating a better way of doing business than many (if not all) of the traditional, big proprietary software vendors.
So, if you are looking for an Enterprise Social Network, an Enterprise Search engine and a novel Information Discovery platform which can provide the plumbing for improved knowledge management, knowledge transfer, innovation and productivity in your enterprise, give us a call.
Whether we wind up doing a deal or not, you know you’ll get one thing from us at a minimum: the truth.