If you write it, will they read it? If you sell it, will they buy it? If you _____it, will they _____it? Fill in your own blanks. Subconsciously, these "if" questions are the ones that are asked by anyone initializing any new undertaking or maybe just satisfying a curiosity.
Many people have asked me how Voalte got started. Hmm… Are they contemplating a similar undertaking or are they just curious? Who and why is someone asking me this question? Well, for starters, I attend many technology-related events such as local developer meet-ups, barcamps (those not related to alcohol serving establishments) and conferences and at every possible opportunity I proudly and passionately speak about my company and what we are doing. I am so passionate and enthusiastic, I always get asked the question, "how did Voalte get started?" Technologically speaking, I can relate to my audience very well. Techies tend to think alike and resonate very well when speaking technology, but when it comes to the flip side - the business or entrepreneurial side - then the resonance levels dip drastically. Why?
It seems like most of the techies I meet all seem to have some great new idea for an application or service that they think might rock the world like a Google or Facebook. Ok, Ok. I have this idea now tell me again how Voalte went from idea to version 1.0? If I develop this, will they… you know the rest.
Once upon a time in June 2008, I was attending Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. This was just after Apple had released the iPhone software developer’s kit (SDK) to allow native applications on the iPhone. Everyone and their mother was at the conference trying to learn how to create the next BIG app for the iPhone. By the way, it was the first time Apple's developer conference had ever sold out! It was a techie gold rush.
One night while socializing with other iPhone developers, we literally bumped into a young entrepreneur named Trey Lauderdale (who unfortunately was not able to buy a conference ticket in time). He very generously offered to buy us a drink in exchange for our time to listen to his idea, I recall it being such a simple idea, the kind that makes you ask yourself, "why didn't I think of that?" His idea -- sending critical hospital alarms, such as nurse call, code blue or patient monitoring alarms to the iPhone. Right off the bat I got it. The iPhone would be the perfect mobile platform for use in the healthcare industry.
After the conference ended, Trey and I kept in touch. It helped that he was living in Miami and I was living in Fort Lauderdale at the time. A month had passed and Trey asked me to create a "real" simple demo application that he could present to some hospital CIOs. I spent about two weekends creating the most basic iPhone app that when launched would pop-up a nurse call and a code blue alarm. With that demo in hand, Trey approached several CIOs and was told right then and there, "if you build it, we will buy it." From that first simple little app and positive reassurance from potential future customers, we had our green light. It was all systems go. The rest is history.
I'd like to pass on some advice to new and upcoming entrepreneurs who think they have the next great idea. First and foremost - keep your idea simple - simple to comprehend, that is. Do not lose yourself or your audience in the stratosphere with an idea that is not understood or too complicated. Remember to resonate. Because once you get going, your idea will take on a life of its own and, believe me, it will get more intense and complicated. More so than you can ever imagine. Second, sell your idea before you build it. I know this is the hardest part of the equation for an engineer to understand - trust me - if you don't sell your potential customers now then they will not buy it when it is built. Thirdly, do not try to do this all by yourself. Impossible. Get some partners in crime that compliment your skills and have the same energy and passion that you do. Lastly, as Rob Campbell, our fearless CEO, constantly reminds us; this is not a sprint but a marathon. We are doing so much more than just building an app. We are saving lives, improving healthcare communication, building a culture and helping to change the world.