Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Erik Hanberg's Presentation

Erik Hanberg was our first guest speaker. He is an entrepreneur that utilizes book sales as a base amount of regular income while pursuing and focusing on other business endeavors.

The first part of Erik's presentation that really stuck out to me was his thought about how differently things would be if he owned the movie theater he worked at. He had ideas for automating and streamlining different processes, and overall increasing the theater's efficiency. Although I have no desire to manage a retail store, I have had similar ideas for my workplace that I believe would be useful if I were in a position to implement and maintain them.

That thought lead into one of Erik's main points, which was the difference between hourly/salaried and entrepreneurship jobs. He explained that for most jobs, no matter how much money an individual makes per hour, their income is ultimately limited by the amount of time they spend working. He listed some examples, such as a stockbroker, athlete, actor, and business owner, that are not as limited by this rule. When you own a business, for instance, it is possible for you to build the company into a self-sustaining model that typically doesn't require much work from you, yet still pays you.

Erik went on to talk about self-publishing books in multiple formats. This was another entrepreneurship-type endeavor for him because he was in charge of writing, publishing, distributing, and marketing his books. Writing books and moving forward with them as he has done is very similar to what he explained about building a self-sustaining business. Although it took a lot of initial effort to write the books and begin selling them, they are an almost completely passive and steady form of income for him at this point.

I know that I'm very much oversimplifying the idea here, but it seems like there is no limit to how many businesses and things you can have running once you get them to positions that no longer require much input from you. Of course, you will always need to step in from time to time, whether it's to hire new upper management, handle high-level legal issues, begin hosting your personal product on a new site or via a new medium, or whatever else might come up. However, these non-regular issues don't seem to outweigh the fact that you created companies and built them to the point where these issues are all they need you for, while still having you at/near the top of the payroll.

Business Ideas

Attempting to come up with business ideas was more difficult than I originally thought. I primarily looked at recurring problems and personal frustrations for inspiration when trying to find ideas; why not be the change I'd like to see? However, my mind kept defaulting to things like "make a mobile app" or "reconsider your workflow", which aren't exactly businesses on their own. At this point I realized I wasn't thinking big enough.

My ideas:

1.) I bought a Raspberry Pi a couple years ago and have done next to nothing with it. Most of the time I forget that I even own it. About a month ago I attended a hackathon that focused on using Raspberry Pis as IoT devices that work with Microsoft Azure's web services. That opened the door to many new possibilities for the pocket-sized device that I had never considered before; possibilities that go far beyond setting it up as a gaming emulator or network-wide ad blocked (though both are still cool projects!). My first business idea is a kind of hobby shop that focuses on devices like Raspberry Pis. We would sell the actual hardware and components (such as cameras and sensors), as well as host tutorials and offer basic device setup. The store would bridge the gap between beginners and full-on home automation enthusiasts.

2.) My next idea involves indoor rock climbing, which is a newly rekindled interest of mine at the University Y. When I climb, I like to keep track of which courses (designated routes/available handholds) I have completed. Currently, this takes place in Google Keep, a simple note taking app on my phone. Since Keep is text-based it can be a bit tedious having to type and format each day's climbs. A custom app would help, but wouldn't do enough to completely alleviate the issue. As a business idea, it would be cool to implement NFC sensors in the handholds that interface with some kind of gloves or wristbands, as well as shoe inserts, to track which handholds you grab or step on. The facility would be able to upload their courses, and your app could sync with them and track the ones you complete. As a company we would work with different locations to upgrade their equipment and design their systems.

3.) Parking at school is terrible, so I almost always park far away and ride the Tacoma Link to campus. It's incredibly irritating to walk up to a station ten seconds after the Link leaves. Yes, it runs every 12 minutes throughout most of the day, but that could be the difference between making it to class on time or beating a lunch rush out of the city. Whenever this happens, I always think something like "Why did I stop to take that picture?" or "I should have finished eating on the walk over, instead of in the car." As a company that works with a variety of transportation services, I would like to incorporate GPS sensors into these kinds of vehicles, allowing users to see their exact locations. Users would know whether they have time to stay inside and out of the cold for a few more minutes, or if they should be literally running for the station.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

What I want out of TINST 475

I am a senior in computer science with only two quarters left before graduation. At this point in my major, I'm trying to take as many actual programming and hands-on classes as possible. I'm tired of learning the theories behind everything, and am ready to begin learning (what I think to be) more practical subjects for the career field I am aiming for.

Why, then, am I taking a non-CSS elective about entrepreneurship? The truth is that I literally had only two courses to choose from to fill the last slot in my schedule: entrepreneurship, and one about hardware components at a very low-level.

Despite not being what I was looking for, taking a course on entrepreneurship sounds like an interesting opportunity. It will offer hands-on experience, which I learn best from, as well as information from people who currently work/have worked in the industry. The course also revisits the desire I had as a kid to start a business and be my own boss. That idea diminished while taking programming classes in high school, when I found a new (and honestly, much more realistic) career path to follow. But who is to say I can't incorporate some of both into whatever I end up doing after school?

That said, I am eager to hear an overview of what it takes to start and run a business. How do you turn an idea into a plan, and where do you take the plan to find investors? What paperwork and forms need to be filed to legally create a company, or hire employees? As someone who enjoys coding, how much of that aspect would I have to give up to focus on running the business? On top of everything else, how are new technologies incorporated or utilized in businesses, as company tools and/or services/products? These are some of the things I'd like to learn about in this course.