Recapitulation, not capitulation

Open source Locify was a big decision for me. I've thought a lot and made some recapitulation. It's not just about open source. And it's a little bit personal, of course and it's a little bit unstructured. I will take it from the ground up, as usual.

Just basic facts:
  • October 2007 Locify founded
  • April 2008 first public beta
  • October 2008 we run out of (my own seed) money
  • All of us had to search day job for money
  • still approx every 6-8 weeks we release new version with a lot of new features (see changelog)
  • today - February, Thursday 12th we released Locify as open source in version 1.0
  • version 1.1 with offline map support scheduled on the end of February
Small addition: Locify is founded in United Kingdom but all developer team (and me) lives in Prague, Czech Republic (Europe).

My initial idea

Simple idea about mobile application as a browser with the ability to get and sent users' location. We will be open, we can attract attention of web developers which want to create location based applications for mobile phones. It will be interested for mobile operators, big sites, broad range of webservice providers. We'll get a lot of users and after that we will add some business models - basically transaction support (if the developer of some service on Locify wants to bill for his service or data) and custom branding (create branded clients for network operators etc.). This can be interesting to some investor or angel. We planned to get investment of approx. $100K to work for 1 year and to show that it is really sustainable idea and that we are able to develop business model. And then get bigger and ..and.. and.. (you know).

And there my mistakes begins

I was not able to explain SIMPLY what we are doing. I hear you saying - "Get out of the business! This is prerequisite condition for a company founder!" Oh yes, you are right. But can you say "I know how to do it (or I will learn it)" or "I cannot do this"? If you fall back on the second "I cannot..." you will never do anything. The Path is the Goal (I think I've first heard it in conjunction with Steve Jobs and Apple and then from reading about Zen).

Back on Simplicity. In fact we thought that we are explaining it simple. Maybe sometimes too simple. But it STILL was too difficult. We was inside and did not see that even "GPS" is not the common term.

The second mistake was, that we promoted "framework". What?! We did not package our "framework" to something which can respond to basic questions, such as "How can I use it NOW" or "What exact benefit can it have for our users NOW". Locify is too general, too adaptive and that's not advantage if you talk to potential investor or device manufacturer or network operator. Better to say - it IS advantage but you have not to make it a key (selling) argument. Like computers on the begining - "can do anything" is blahblah, but "can help you write letters and count taxes" is interesting (for majority or people).

I know that I made all major mistakes entrepreneur has not to do. I do not want to compare but nice article about FluidDB from Robert Scoble and about why they are unfundable remind me that many others have similar experience.

I mentioned this mistakes (above many others) just to demonstrate that "it works" (read it as: "if you do not do some of this basic rules right - it works and you will not get funded" :))

It's not so dark

When we spent all money I've invested to Locify, my first thoughts was: it's the end. I am not programmer and now I do not have money to pay them. But I work with extraordinary people. Especially Destil, Menion and Fabian. They believe to Locify and stayed. They had to find other day job (the same as me ... still searching) but are still very committed to Locify and I think that their day has to be 30 hours long at least. Destil orchestrate open sourcing and client development, Menion is now finishing support for offline maps (will be released on the end of February) and Fabian is playing with geo-location API (GLA) so services written for Locify will be compatible with GLA supported browsers. Thanks to them! Locify is about it's people.

With such breaking point as a "no money" we had to re-think our strategy and goals. And we recognized that our planned business models (as I mentioned above) are not in conflict with opening the source of Locify client. In fact - many benefits are here - for both sides. I suddenly understand much more from The Cathedral and the Bazaar from Eric S. Raymond (introduced to me by Roman Stanek, great goal-focused and open-minded entrepreneur, and I wasted the opportunity to learn something from him 9 years ago.)

Locify helps to add location to web services for mobile users and make it pretty easy. And still there are more than 70% of users which does not have smartphone. Locify means no risk when you consider to develop service for your user's. Locify has a great people. All these facts make me sure that it was not wasted time and Locify has a future.

Locify lives on enthusiasm. But still there are business plans and models. Locify is not slowing.  Just take breath for next challenge.

David Cizek, founder

PS: Please share your opinion (but not on my english :))

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3 Comments:

  1. OpenID tomsoft said...

    This is in all cases some bad news, as for many companies (but not all) the path to open source was for some the last step before shutting down.

    The locify problem is where is your value? The idea? The technolgoie? The services?

    As you know, idea has no value as long as it's not executed

    The technology? This is I think where is most of the work have been done on locify, good achievement, but not enough to obviously generate commercial interest

    The service proposed as "locify": this would be a core value if you had enough service integrated with a huge community.

    But I understand you, it's usually hard to create such service

    If some of you guys want to join us on some project both on the lbs mapping side / widget side with our "Mapz", which are in fact geolocalized widgets written in JavaScript running in a J2me environment (that's the technical description) but also a way to deploy any mapping content on mobile (the marketing view) we would be happy!

    So feel free to contact us a t.landspurg@8motions.com or through http://j2memap.8motions.com

  2. Blogger dadc said...

    Hi Tom, thanks for your comment.

    We are not shutting the door. As you said - a lot was done (technology) and a lot is still missing (show the money).

    But we do not sell or promote concept any more but functional technology and services ready to be deployed. That makes us optimistic.

    (eh... I should say something like "we offer geo mobile community accelerator" or so? Silly I know. Still lacking simple but catchy explanation which can associate for example the pattern "geo community, more users, higherARPU" for mobile operators.)

    We will look at your site and product, definitelly.

    Thanks, David

  3. Blogger comet said...

    Hey, I am a chip design engineer and know nothing about programming. But I think this is a cool idea. I want to try building an app using your service. Keep going!

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