It's the beginning of the year, and time to figure out where to steer my little company, Knowscape. When I say steer, I don't mean as in planning out large market conquering strategies, or whatnot. This is a small company. Steering Knowscape pretty much means steering my life, that is trying to find some path to happiness.
I'm not exactly sure what I want it to be yet. What we do with my partner when we're trying to figure out where to take the company next is that we write each other memos. It sounds stupid but it actually works out well because as we try to formalize our thoughts into something cleanly laid out general directions shape out. Then, of course, we go to a nice little parisian restaurant and talk it over a nice little meal and a few bottles of Bourgueil.
This time around, I'm finding it difficult to know exactly where to take Knowscape. I guess I'm a bit burnt out in a way, notably for ideas of wild things to do with it (like moving to NY from Paris when we were completely broke). I'm also apprehensive of the fact that on March 15 it'll be Knowscape's 5th birthday (though the first incarnation was called Koncept), coinciding with my 25th birthday. Many times I told myself that if it hadn't worked by the 5th year I'd do something else. The problem is, I'm not sure whether it'd worked or not. There were good times, there were bad times. If we sign the two contracts that we're hoping for right now, I guess we'll see good times ahead. If not, things are a bit dimmer.
One thing I'm clear on is that I don't want Knowscape to be a "big company" anymore. Not that it ever was really big, but it damn well managed to give the impression that it was, and people bought it. I learnt that that wasn't so cool when things went wrong last summer. We had a team of 6 in the Paris offices, a very good team. Working with such a good team was great, especially working with the dangerous SVG kid-guru Antoine Quint (those that have met him at OSCon will know what I mean, if you like graphics go see his talks next year!).
But then partner number three fuxored up, we found ourselves out of money (paying him large amounts for him to leave) and had to fire the team. The months since have pretty much been pennyless and we're in rather bad debt. That's why we want those two contracts so bad, because they'd clear the debt and provide some stable income for a while. It would be an occasion to rebuild a large team, but I sure don't want to. So long as I have regular income, I think I don't want Knowscape to grow.
So that's one thing, but what then? If we lose the BigCo approach what's the new angle on reality? Right now I'm thinking that it would be very cool to make the programming part of the company only take ~1/4th of the time, and steer the rest to other activities, such as art and journalism.
That could be fun. And knowing what can be done in those directions, it could be pretty wild at times. At any rate, surely wilder than bank applications we've been approached about recently.
But should I not consider that having one's company do more or less wild and/or irrational stuff for five year simply to satisfy my whimsical nature, survive the dotbomb, gain large accounts and some credibility is enough and that it's time to become a bit serious, and act as if I were 25 and about to settle down?
Gah, no, sounds awful
I guess some traits never die. I read a comment somewhere here about smart kids that grow up being used to being the smartest kid, and then turning into very boring people because they expect you to immediately recognize them as bright. I'm a bit like that. I don't expect people to recognize me as bright because, well, I don't think I really care that people think I'm bright or not. I mostly care whether people I like like me or not. But one thing that it did leave is the idea that success is easy. Throughout my entire school days, I don't think there ever was an exam that really scared me. The process was pretty much: play instead of learning, walk into exam, write or talk, get a good grade (or good enough). In later years, "play" became "hang around in café and be interested in girls", but the idea's the same.
Of course, after having met with reality, after having been broke to the point of not being able to pay for the basics (being kicked out of flats, not having heating or warm water, or food sometimes) simply because running a company (and prolly life in general) is nothing like passing an exam or test, you might expect me to have changed. You might expect me not to want walk into new stuff that can potentially bring the same amount of trouble to me all over again.
Well, I don't know. I don't think I'm courageous or adventurous, or anything like that. I just can't resist walking down the path of whatever it is that interests me, with pretty much the same innocence that made me totally immune to stage fright when I was in a theatre group.
Innocent. Yes, that could be it. This year I'm going to steer Knowscape in a blissfully innocent way. Whatever that means, time will tell. With any luck, it'll be fun.