Was your first idea HAM or SPAM?
Today’s post touches on one of the ideas from yesterday, “celebrate the beginning more than the end”. It got me thinking about my own entrepreneurial beginning – you know the bad idea part. I found myself thinking what was the first “startup” I was involved with. My first job following college graduation was that of a political research analyst for a “Guy” running for governor. How did I get this job? Well, I had interned in the office of the Speaker of the Georgia General Assembly (quick history note, Tom Murphy was the longest standing Speaker in the history of the United States). How did I get the internship: grades, knowledge, wisdom, nope, I ran a basketball camp that his grand kids attended.
I will get to the idea in just a second. This is a funny story, so I am working for this “Guy” doing research on policy, etc, and I get a late night call that says “hey, we need someone to drive this “Guy” tomorrow, my response, I am not the driver, I do research, the campaign manager started laughing (at me), and said, great, get your research and the keys”. That story still makes me laugh. If I ever write memoirs I am going to entitle the book, “The Day I got Promoted to Driver”. It is still one of the best career things that ever happened to me, the second best, he lost.
So I leave my political career exactly where everyone should leave it, in the car. Next up, I go to work for Ben Dyer, former co-founder of Peachtree Software, and here is where my first startup experience happens, the idea, get ready, it is called “HamNotSpam.com”, yep, dot com, I am laughing out loud. Did it work, no? Why?
Quick summary on HamNotSpam.com:
– Year, it is 1999. (I am laughing, 1999, that was 1000 startup years ago).
– The website provided coupons, basically, daily deals, via email.
– Launched in partnership with 96 Rock (local Atlanta Radio Station).
– Mascot was a big pink pig.
– Formally launched at Music Midtown.
Key lessons learned (why did it not work):
– Timing killed this deal. Groupon and LivingSocial actually worked after “spam” got cleaned up, I know you think you get spam messages today, but you have a bad memory, in 1999 the email inbox was full, I mean full, of spam all day long.
– We did not have control over email address (customer) acquisition. We should have gone direct. Always have a direct customer acquisition channel.
– It was part of another business, we were not completely focused on it.
Several good things came from this experience. First, Ben Dyer has always been a good mentor and began showing me the ropes of how to launch a business. Second, I quickly realized that I had a natural ability to “sell an idea” to paint a picture that didn’t exist, but everyone could see it. Lastly, and most importantly, it introduced me to email marketing (enough said). As I stated in Saturday’s blog post, no one, I mean no one, has ever called me and said hey, can I interview you about HamNotSpam.com (that thing was awesome) – but I learned a lot from it and it helps me every day.