Rude Tech; Guitar electronics!

I'm a musician, nerd, skater, rocket scientist (really!), and electronics afficionado.

I custom build guitar-related electronics--including tube amplifiers or effects pedals.  After working with acts that tour the world, and being featured on NPR, I've finally decided to make my work more widely available.

When I got my B.S. in Electrical Engineering, I specialized in rapid prototyping.  I look forward to dusting off those skills and building a mass-producable product that can reach more people.  Basically, I want to deliver the same boutique quality I usually offer, but have the ability to send it to a stranger across the world.

First experiment: A chorus pedal that I'm developing for an artist with a proven track-record of independednt record sales, and who has just signed to a larger label.

Second experiment:  A pedal housing that is made out of reclaimed skateboard parts!

Deliverable 1: Stranger Challenge

Since this course was still being built when I joined in, it kind of fell off my radar.

Watched the first video last night and got the assignment for the stranger challenge.  I thought, "This will be easy!" didn't feel much urgency, and took a nap.  Apparently I was more anxious than I thought, because I had a nightmare (napmare?) about approaching a stranger with my sign.

I woke up, realized I had an hour before my girlfriend arrived at my apartment, tried to print the sign, found my printer was out of ink, put the pdf on a thumb drive and headed out the door.

I drove with the thumb drive to the nearest Kinko's to print it and decided I'd ask whomever served me to be my stranger.  It's so strange: The workers HAVE to be nice to me (I'm a customer!), but I still felt almost sick asking the clerk to pose in a picture with me.  I mean, they couldn't very well tell me to go die.  They couldn't even be rude to me if they wanted to.  Still, I felt a huge physiological reaction leading up to asking for the photo.

Isn't it strange the reaction you get when asking/selling; even when you are almost guaranteed to succeed AND when failing has no real cost?


I'll start work on the other challenges this afternoon.

[Also, I did the Health-Wealth-Love exercise from the additional video to watch.  

Health - 3 - I did a year-long workout program to learn how to use a gym and get in my peak physical form.  I was surprised to find that it was actually FUN and that I'll workout for the rest of my life.  My current job prevents me from having an ideal training schedule and habits, though.

Wealth - 1 - I got laid off from a great job and ended up moving away to get a job with a 15% decrease in pay.  Granted, I'm a rocket scientist and that's super cool... but I'm far from my friends and my coworkers and hours are awful.  Strangely, I was incredibly happy when I was unemployed for 8 months!

Love - 4 - I have an awesome girlfriend who is crazy hot AND gives me space.  The last few girls I called my girlfrends have been very clingy, so dating this girl is a dream.]

Deliverable 2: Describe how you tried to start your last business (and what held you back)?

I've tried to start a business repairing guitar equipment and actually got very consistent business because I had a lot of friends in bands who, in turn, generated referrals.  However, I could only charge so much because there are other shops around town that have set fees for their work.  Even though I provided a much better level of service (7x faster turnaround time and communication with the client throughout the repair job), I either didn't communicate that well or the clients I targeted weren't willing to pay much more.  Ultimately, I was earning a little over $20/hr with no plan to scale up my business.

In a way, starting a new business is a way to re-imagine that former side-hustle in a way that can scale up.

Deliverable 3: Validating eBay

I'm eBay.  I don't exist.  I'm going to assume sites like Craigslist haven't started yet either.

The problem that eBay solves is that it lets customers either (1) auction off their stuff to people online (instead of just people in their neighborhood) or (2) buy used stuff in an auction format, hopefully getting a better deal, or getting connected to someone's personal garage sale that they couldn't have accessed since they are in another state.

Ok!  I got it then!  I'd tell someone who is planning to have a grarage sale that I'll come over, take photos of all their stuff and let them set a price.  Their work (and headache) is now done.  Next, I'll sell their stuff without buyers having to come over at a specific time on a weekend morning, etc.  Maybe I'd use a photo ad in the newspaper, or just a simple webpage with hand-updated current prices.  I'd let buyers call/email me with their offer, and let them know if they have the highest bid (if they outbid the previous high-bidder, I'd send that person an email/text to give them an opportunity to re-bid).  

Then, everything I sell, I'd take a small comission on.

[I think that exercise went better than I'd expected... so why does it seem so impossible to validate ideas I've had personally?  My proximity to the project and my fear of poking holes in it perhaps.]

Deliverable 4:  Email for Preselling an eBook

Subject: I'm writing a [topic] eBook, want a free sample?

Hey guys!

I'm writing an ebook on [topic], and I wanted to let my friends have a hand in validating this as a good idea.  If you're interested, I'll make sure you lucky few are the first to receive it.  To give you a general idea of [whatever the book's benefit is], here is the table of contents and an outline of each chapter:

Chapter 1: What a rad book (section 1, 2, and 3)

Chapter 2: This book is so fucking sweet (more subsections)

Chapter 3: You are freaking out at how awesome this book is right about now

Chapter 4: Et Cetera

If you are interested in receiving this book when it is done on [date 4 weeks away], go ahead and PayPal me $5 to [email].

Thanks guys,

xoxo Jesse

P.S. If you still want more info,  send me an email and Ill copy and paste the first chapter to you.

Looking back on this, I might just send a much shorter email saying "Hey guys, I am writing an eBook on [topic] would you like a free sample?" then later follow up with, the sample and the PayPal pitch when they reply "yes."

Deliverable 5: Find someone you can do FREE work for

Boom, done.  I asked a musician who just signed to a bigger label and is about to record a new EP and go on tour if I could design a custom guitar pedal for him.  His response was overwhelmingly positive.  I have had ideas for pedals already, but he told me that he has been having trouble finding a chorus pedal that does "deep" enough.  I have a vague idea of what that means to him, so I'm going to create a quick-and-dirty prototype for him.  Then I'll use his feedback to tweak it until he finally has that pedal he was looking so hard for and couldn't find.

Deliverable 6: Craigslist validation

I wassn't quite sure how to validate using craigslist, but I think I came up with a good idea.  I posted this: <http://louisville.craigslist.org/msd/3877743100.html> on another city's CL to see how many people would respond to my ad.  I'll let you know what emails I get.  

For now: I wait.  Much like  a fisherman... but, you know, with his hook in a pond that is known for prostitution and that one guy who was a serial killer.

UPDATE:  No bites from the CL ad, but I wasn't too sure if that was a good validation idea anyway.  I didn't actually ask for a single dollar, or provide mockup drawings so they had a little bit of an idea what they were requesting info about.

The day after I posted the ad, I went to the most respected music store in town.  It serves all the pros when they come through town and need emergency repairs, and it has the largest collection of boutique effects pedals.  I told them a little about my electronics work and the pedal I was making and asked if they'd be interested if I wholesaled it to them for 40% off of the list price (making my cost-of-goods-sold about 40% if my estimations are right... the minimum price I can possibly part with it for).

They said, "Absolutely"!!  I repeated at two other music stores, and they all said "yes" without hesitation, just that I'd need to come back with the pedal so they could try it out for a few minutes before shelving it.

So, I know: Music stores will buy wholesale from me... but that doesn't exactly validate my selling to end-users through a website like I wanted, but now I know that I won't lose money on the pedals, and if it comes to that, I can always unload them on a music store for slightly less profit.

This was amazing, I never thought to do this (even though it's so obvious!).  It really takes the fear out of the equation because I already know I'll at least make my money back.


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