Startup School 2019 begins today!

Startup School 2019 has begun! Today we basically just got the orientation video (which is not private, so I can embed it):

They tend to make all the lectures public on YouTube, so I should be able to embed them all as they are released! And there’s still time to register, as they mention in the video. Looks like the meetup for the DC area is on August 14th! (Or the 24th? Website and video don’t agree.) I hope to make it there.

They mention that the weekly updates should include some measurable metric. Since I haven’t launched yet, I suppose my metric will be “weeks until launch”, which I am nervous to estimate because things always take longer than you think they will. However, here is my initial estimate:

To do list:

  • Set up home page to tease potential users, collect emails (today)
  • Get algorithms and GUI to a usable state (4 weeks)
  • Create user log-in system paired with payment system & user forum / guides (2 weeks)
  • Incorporate the company (1 day) and launch!

So six weeks until launch! Good luck to me. (No promises, obviously.)

One of my initial concerns is: should I limit growth to make sure the service can scale? I guess it’s too early to worry about that though.

Startup School 2019

This year, Y Combinator’s Startup School is open for everyone to register, and I’m hoping to participate. As they say on their blog:

Today, we’re opening up registration for Startup School 2019, our free online course for founders looking to get help turning an idea into a startup. The 10 week course will begin July 22, 2019 and is free for everyone to participate.

They’ll also be granting equity-free $15K grants to “the most promising companies that join and complete the course.” (I still hope to apply to the core YC program, but the possibility of a $15K grant if I don’t make it would surely be nice.)

They’ll also be hosting meetups / events around the world, one location being Washington DC, which I’ll try to make it to. (I just hope it’s not on Tuesday, September 10th, as I’m going to a Kamelot concert that day. Or near the end of August, as I’ve got a sibling’s wedding to go to.)

My startup is the AI-powered music generation web app I’ve been working on, now tentatively titled Tunesage. (Can you think of a better name?)

I was hoping to finish a prototype of the web app by the end of this month (July 2019). I’ll still try to, but I’m also giving myself an extension until September 25th (the deadline to apply to the Y Combinator Winter 2020 batch) due to circumstances beyond my control (such as a sibling’s approaching wedding and my parents deciding now is a good time to redecorate parts of the house).

So that’s what I’m up to. I’ve also been learning the programming language Rust as I hope to use that on the music app’s back-end.

Y Combinator

Y Combinator looks like something I’d really like to do. Looks like it would be perfect for the symphony generator app I’ve been working on. As they say on their site:

Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($120k) in a large number of startups.

The startups move to Silicon Valley for 3 months, during which we work intensively with them to get the company into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day, when the startups present their companies to a carefully selected, invite-only audience.

The deadline for their upcoming Winter 2019 cycle is October 2nd, less than two months away. Unfortunately I’m not so sure I can finish a working prototype by then. Worth a try though. Might have to wait until their next cycle after that. Regardless, this looks like something to aim for!

MoviePass … movie subscription?

Movies have become rather expensive these days, no? Why spend $10 or more when I can wait a year and spend $1 renting a disc? It better be a movie I really want to see.

I have argued before that a subscription service would be nice. A monthly fee for unlimited trips to the theater.

And that’s what it looks like the new MoviePass service will provide. According to this article: “MoviePass provides film enthusiasts the ability to attend unlimited [regular 2D] movies for a monthly fee.”

Oh boy!

But elsewhere they say, “MoviePass members are able to see up to one 2D movie per day.” And you can only see a film once. I think these are… gee, what are they called… limits. I would run out of movies every month.

I’d prefer it if the movie theater companies themselves offered such services. This seems a bit clunky:

Right now, the only plan they seem to have is $35 a month for an annual plan. That’s $420 a year. I’d have to see quite a few movies in theaters for that to compete with rentals from Netflix. Doesn’t really seem like that great of a deal. But currently the service is only in a “limited private beta” so perhaps their offerings will improve later on down the road.

I guess we’ll see where it goes… with their current offerings, I think I’ll pass.

To self-publish or not to be?

Good tidings!

If you are an avid reader of this blog (and if you’re not, you should be, because my words are full of much beauty and wisdom), you will know that I have criticized e-books for their high prices, and predicted that they won’t become very popular until those prices go way down. However, I realized earlier this week that Amazon allows writers to self-publish their books on the Kindle (and other e-readers that can interface with Kindle books). It seems to me that if a writer were to price his self-published books nice and cheaply, at $1 or $2, he actually has a great opportunity to get some sales. Probably not nearly as many as he might get if he got professionally published and his book sat on physical book store shelves, but I think he’d have a much greater chance of making any money at all (since getting published in the first place is quite difficult).

So I’m quite tempted to try this out. I reckon my first novel, if I can finish it, would take years to try to convince a traditional publisher to publish it, and who knows if it’d ever get published or not? So I might just skip that step and go straight to self-publishing. There are already some print-on-demand services that allow writers to self-publish their work for free, such as Lulu and Amazon’s CreateSpace (I think it’s called), but print-on-demand books don’t attract a huge audience in and of themselves because they end up costing slightly more than regular books. With paperless e-books, readers can now try out new writers for $1 or $2 (or in some cases for free), so the risk is much lower. So I’d really like to try self-publishing on Amazon for the Kindle, and pricing my book at $1 or $2. It might allow me to get some reviews and make a little money. Most importantly, though: it would give people an easy and convenient way to access and read my work. Which is why any writer wants their work published in the first place, isn’t it? So that other people can experience it?

Of course, there’s one huge disadvantage with this self-publishing system, which is also it’s biggest advantage: anyone can do it. There’s a TON of competition, so you still might not attract any readers or make any money. But at least the opportunity is there, and to me it looks worth taking.

That said, time is of the essence here. Everyday, other writers are finishing their novels before me, and putting them up for sale. The longer it takes me to finish my novel, the more competition it will have.

I don’t want to rush, of course, that would obviously make the quality of the work suffer. But, as a commenter suggested a few posts back, I’ll have to at least try being more disciplined, and set some deadlines for myself. I won’t keep to them too strictly, since Animation Mentor is coming along, and I’ll be dedicating most of my time to that (the chance of Animation Mentor helping me find a full-time job afterwards is much greater than the prospect of being a full-time author, obviously). However, here are my suggested deadlines to myself to help myself make progress and self-publish a novel as soon as I can without sacrificing quality:

Firstly, I’d like to have the entire novel completed by Friday, September 10, 2010. (That is the day I’ll be seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at Wolftrap with a live orchestra playing the score. It will be amazing. I might be crying at the end. And if I can have my first novel finished by that time, it will be even more amazing.)

Here are the novel-writing steps I decided upon earlier (again, just a guide, not an overly strict plan), now with suggested completion dates by them:

1) Clear beginning and clear ending, with character motivations and plans figured out (almost finished now) Due Monday, June 7, 2010
2) List of important scenes (this is the step I usually stop at and just start writing, but not this time, I hope) Due Monday, June 14, 2010
3) Details of how each scene begins and ends, adding connecting scenes when necessary Due with step 4
4) Purpose of each scene – make sure each scene is important and accomplishes something plot-wise and theme wise (not just one or the other (but plot-wise is more important)) Step 3 and 4 due Monday, June 21, 2010
5) Details of all scenes – details on what exactly happens between each scene’s beginning and end, including dialog (like writing each scene into a little screenplay) Due Monday, August 2, 2010

Complete rough draft due Friday, September 10, 2010

Complete final draft due Thursday, November 25, 2010 (Thanksgiving, and my birthday! Yay!)

And then it should be up on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace in no time! Yay!

OK, this probably won’t work at all; I’m bound to fail with lack of self-discipline, discover things take a lot more time than planned (especially since Animation Mentor will become my main focus), lose interest, etc., but it will be worth a try.

I think I finally have an outline for an ending though, so I need to start plotting, working backwards from the end, and forwards from the beginning. It will be fun! Especially with my new Piccadilly notebooks!

23 days left until Animation Mentor begins!

My album is finally out!

Though I think more people visit my YouTube page than my blog, I still have to blog it: my album is finally out!  It’s currently only available on my own site, at Hannifin Records.  I sent it to CD Baby right away, of course, but it will take them some time to get it up on their site and get it on iTunes, Amazon, etc.  It’ll probably get a bit more notice once it’s on CD Baby.  Anyway, I think the artwork came out really great, and it’s nice to see my own name on something professional looking.

So… I finally have a product!  Now perhaps I can put all that stuff I’ve read about in business books to use?  Yikes, I don’t even know where to start.

One thing I ask myself is: what do I do with my future music?  This is my first album; up until now I’ve just been uploading my music as MP3s to my site, giving it away for free.  Now I’m asking people to pay for it.  Will they?  Or will they not think it worth it considering all the other music out there that is free?  When I write a new piece, do I give it away like before, or save it for my second album?  What I’m thinking of doing is giving some of it away for free temporarily, until my second album is ready.  So I’ll have a constant flow of free music for people who like that.  Then it will be available on an album with other exclusive tracks.

Though maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself… this album took me almost almost 2 years (maybe 1.5 years; I can’t keep track of time these days).  It’ll probably be quite some time before my next album is ready.

YouTube removes my video for no reason

In other news, I decided to try out YouTube’s video promotion program to try to promote my album.  That might seem vain, and it is.  Selling an album of your own music is kinda vain, so I think if you’re trying to sell your own work you kinda have to get over being too self-conscious about it (while, of course, trying not to be “in-your-face” about it; you don’t want to turn into an annoying salesman who’s only interest in other people comes from seeing them as potential customers).  In away [“in away”?? I mean “Anyway” … that’s such an odd typo to make, I’m going to leave it and just add this comment], my video for my piece On the Edge of a Dream was my most popular video on YouTube that was on my album, so I decided to try to promote that.  So I signed it up to be promoted and YouTube said “disapproved” … and I said: “Huh?  Why?”  And it said that it couldn’t promote a video that nobody could watch.  And I said: “What?  People can watch it!  They just go here…” and I went to the video page.  And it was gone.  It said “This video has been removed due to violation of terms of service” (or something like that).  What?!  So I tried reuploading it, but they must’ve somehow blacklisted the video, and wouldn’t let me.  At first I was afraid my music had somehow gotten on some copyright checklist that YouTube banned from being uploaded.  (Which would’ve really angered me since I own the copyright!)  So I tried uploading a video with just the music track and it worked fine.  So I tried uploading a video with just the animation and no sound and it worked fine.  Then I tried both sound and animation together and … NO!  Didn’t work.  So I finally edited the video and cut off the credits and it worked!  It stinks to have lost all the comments and stuff from the original video, though, but at least the music is back up.  I still have no idea why it was removed.  It really didn’t violate any terms of service.  There’s something stupid somewhere in YouTube’s system, but I’m glad it finally let my reupload the video.  It was quite a headache though.

Well, I guess that’s it!  I hope you, yes you, had a happy Easter!

My new business model: Get lucky

As I was daydreaming today of all the businesses I’d like to start if only I had enough money to hire other people to do all the work, I got to thinking… nobody really knows how to succeed, do they?

In my last post, I said my dream was to own a theme park.  But how many people who achieve their dreams1 were really working toward them their entire life?  It seems like the super rich and famous just kind of fall into place.  They really have no idea how they got there.  They can say generic things like “attitude is everything” and “don’t be stupid with your investments,” but there’s still no objective science to the process.  There are still no specific steps one takes.  Really, you just do whatever you want while being as smart about it as you can.

I’m not sure I can really claim to have a “business model” since I don’t have a business, but if I ever do, I will probably think in terms of luck.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t try to be smart in my decisions, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on trying to understand how to dominate the market, how to become as huge as Disney or Microsoft or Google.  It is tempting to attribute their lofty positions to the mind powers incredible business geniuses, but they’re actually the product of quite a lot of luck, of being in the right place and the right time, and not being too stupid.  (Of course, after you get that lofty, you can afford to hire geniuses to try to keep you there.)

You can envy the people who win the lottery, but there’s no science to it.  All they did to win was to play like everyone else.

Finally, here’s a pretty interesting article on the art of business-ness: 10 things you won’t learn in school.

It has nothing to do with what I’ve just been saying, but it’s still interesting, I think.


1 And I mean big dreams.  If your dream is to write a novel or run a marathon, that’s something directly up to your willpower.  Big dreams are dreams that require certain decisions being made by other people, like whether or not to buy your book.  You have no direct control over these decisions.  And I hope you like my use of notes in a blog.  It makes me feel trendy.