• Jim

From the Need to the Idea (Not the Opposite)

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

In November 2017, my associate Taz, and I were just recovering from a previous start-up experience, one that ended quite suddenly and brutally. It was an exciting project and a wonderful team, but too many mistakes ruined the team, the project, and all the expectations we had built around it.  Attempting to put aside the frustration and bitterness generated by the end of the adventure, we tried to proceed with something more simple and accessible.  During the cold Belgian winter, we met in a Brussels café in order to find a new idea: A brand-new goal on which we would focus again. This was a real challenge because the previous experience was ambitious and emotionally heavy.

“Damn, we need an idea!”Quickly, we created a list of possibilities, and a lot of ideas came into our minds. A big set of ideas, but also things we really want to do. A great mix of fun stuff, but nothing that could survive in a business world. We explored gamification, board games, budget process in enterprises, information centralization and visualization, product design, and a lot of other unrelated ideas. In any case, we couldn’t come up with something strong enough to raise the energy you need to start building something real.Some people would come in to help, but they eventually left. We drew hundreds of schemas; we followed online courses; we spent a lot of time and energy to imagine, and re-imagine, every drop of creativity coming from our brains.  But each time, something was missing. Something essential was lacking for each track, each idea… And then, by the end of the winter, after all these explorations and countless discussions and prototypes, we asked ourselves a question–a question we should have asked from the beginning.

When I think back, all of this seems so natural. It seems like common sense, and previous experiences should have put us on the right track because they were guided by this question.After exploring so many ideas, we looked each other right in the (tired) eyes and asked, “Why?”Why do we want to create a start-up? Why launch a product? Why spend nights worrying about the future? Why spend days writing code, building a product that may not be used? Why get out of our comfort zones and put ourselves in danger?  Why? “I would like to help working habits evolve.”  “I would like to make it easier to collaborate with remote people.”  “I would like to make meetings more efficient and reduce the waste of time.”  “I would like to help people to align and organize around a common goal.” We have professionals that request a lot of meetings. Sometimes hours are wasted on infertile discussions, and it’s even worse when people are conferencing remotely! In general, conference calls are not working; there is no agenda, and when there is, the calls are rarely clear in their communication or in their formalized conclusions. Have you ever spent an hour in a meeting and, when leaving the room (or closing the call), not remember the subject of the meeting? Have you ever had trouble hearing another participant speaking? Have you ever forgotten important decisions discussed in the meeting a few hours after it ends? Meetings are essential, but they require guidance and strictness in order to be efficient. And this guidance, this strictness, is rarely there.

So, we’ve found our need, one that was meaningful enough to reawaken our desires. We started over again from a blank page, wiped out our board, and created a product that would make meetings more efficient and simple. To allow people to better align and organize themselves around a common project. Our next step is to share a working prototype with some pilot users to validate our assumptions and get the confirmation that our tool is useful.If you want to be part of that adventure, visit us at www.aboard.one.


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