Friday, February 01, 2008

Transferring your business email to its own account.

You were a good business owner and got yourself a domain when you started this wild ride known as running a business.

You've setup gmail to send emails out on behalf of your name at your domain a long time ago to present a professional image to the world. It works pretty well. Then one day you find a client can't send you emails.

Perhaps one that wants to pay you a lot of money, but wonders why you can't even get your email server straight. Or perhaps you sent one too many emails from your account or too many friends are emailing you @mycompanyemail. Whatever the issue is, you've decided to switch to the excellent Google Apps for My Domain and segregate your personal and business dealings a little.

First, sign up for GAFYD. Prove to them you own your domain if you didn't buy it from them.

I'm crossposting this on Pitch to the Gods and Rowdy Bytes. Pitch to the Gods is my blog about starting and running a business, in all its coolness and its surprising and frankly humbling difficulties. Rowdy Bytes is my recently renewed blog about technical things that I haven't seen elsewhere, or at least not prominently as I think they should be.

Now your next step, the switch over of the MX records, while arcane, is not a big deal. Almost equally importantly, you have to add a SPF record so mailservers don't start marking your mail as spam (which they may have already been doing if you didn't have a SPF record already). And no, I don't really know what either of those are, but I know they are important.

Next, you have to do something that should seem like it is simple. It isn't. That is, getting your email out of one gmail account into another.

At first blush you may say "Gmail has POP3! That surely will work". And you're right. It will. For exactly 200 messages. And it doesn't let you just get a folder's worth, oh no, you have to pull them ALL down. If you click edit settings then hit save settings, it will pull a second 200 down.

So with the 30756 messages I have in my gmail account, that would take a little bit of time. Then I have to filter it down to the ~1000 Rowdy Labs specific emails that I'm not interested in cleaning out at this juncture.

Turns out you have to get to your britches by way of your elbow here. The elbow being Windows Vista Mail and the elbow being my Rowdy Labs LLC Google Apps for Your Domain account.

This should work with any email client, but I'm giving you the steps for this particular client. First off: Create a new account. Use an imap server. Give it the login name you use with your personal gmail account. Hit save. Then, go rename it to "Personal Email". Then right click, go to properties, then set the thing to use secure authentication.

Do the same thing for the destination server, except call it "Work Email", and use the name@domain login you've already setup via Google Apps for Your Domain. Refresh the folders on both accounts.

Now this is very important. Turn off Junk mail filtering. Turn off phishing detection (Tools->Junk Email Options). These will try to filter mail you've already determined isn't junk when you are just copying stuff over. This is at worst annoying, at best, a good way to lose things that are really really important to your business (it caught a password email and a receipt payment for incorporation when I didn't follow this advice. Bad mail filter! Bad!)

Now go into each "Personal Email" folder (yes, your beautiful tags are called folders when viewed via IMAP), and copy the contents to a corresponding folder on the "Work" server. I made a new folder for each client and each lead source, then copied into each of them from a couple more monolithic tags in my personal email.

Depending on your messages, this will take awhile. It took 45 minutes to copy over my 1000 messages I cared about (and about 20 minutes to go through the remainder of the email I didn't delete before the move, but needed to transfer over).

Now go into your work email and setup some filters and liberally use the option that grabs the emails that are already there. You now have split your email. Work life balance will surely follow :o)


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Business Licensure in Atlanta

A Business "license" is not actually a license.

It is actually a tax document stating to the city what your business is worth so they can send you a tax bill, and the thing people actually call a license is the recipt for payment of city taxes. The penalty for getting caught in GA without one is $500. Then again, a tax bill is a goodly portion of that....

Step 1: Print and fill this form out

Step 2: Drive to City Hall (55 Trinity Ave)

Step 3: Find the Business Tax Division (down the hall on the left in City Hall on the ground floor)

Step 4: Find the Zoning department and get them to sign the zoning portion of the form you filled out. The official will ask you some questions about where the business is located and and what type of building it is and what it is used for. Right now the zoning department is hiding in the back of the HVAC department on the right side of the second floor. Renovations I guess.

Step 5: Go back to the Business Tax Division. The official will give you a $75 bill to actually file for the permit, which you will then...

Step 6: Take to and pay at the Cashier, who is located at the center of the building. The cashier will give you a receipt, which you take to...

Step 7: The Business Tax Division, which will then type up something, then give you a temporary permit which is good until the 1st of March.

Step 8: Wait for your city tax bill in the mail.

Step 9: Pay city tax bill

Step 10: Get your real tax certificate in the mail.



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reading List: The Illusions of Entrepreneurship

I've been reading the book "The Illusions of Entrepreneurship" by Scott A. Shane. He is a professor at Case Western who academically studies the process and occurrence of Entrepreneurship and wrote the book because he was tired of hearing about all the popular misconceptions that abound in the echo chamber of the pop-business bookshelf and on the web and in the media.

Each chapter centers on a couple unrelated facts about what is the fact about entrepreneurship, and what is the fiction. Examples of facts that are true but go against popular conceptions:
  1. Americans are becoming less entrepreneurial. Rates of business ownership were higher in both 1983 and 1910 than they are today. While the last 5 years have shown a slight uptick, the general trend is less businesses, not more.
  2. The United States is no where near the most entrepreneurial country in the world. Mexico and Turkey have 4 times the self-employment rate as the US
  3. Poorer and more agricultural places are more likely to correlate with high levels of business creation.
  4. The causal relationship between the presence of capital appears to be opposite what is assumed. The presence of entrepreneurs appears to attract capital to an area, not the opposite, as is commonly assumed.
  5. The typical business man is a white married man in his forties who started his business to not work for someone else and is just trying to make a living.
  6. More education makes you more likely to start a business (exception: PhDs)
  7. Immigrants are no more likely than native born to start a business
  8. Self Employed people are usually less well networked than peers in their demographic situations
  9. Less than 2% of startups think they're doing something innovative.
  10. Very very few businesses are started by more than 1 person. Of those that are, most are started by related people, usually spouses.
Some interesting stuff for now. I'll keep you updated on poigiant parts of the book, as well as summarize some other important facts from it.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Zip Code Colorizer

Do you need to overlay some data you have on a map to illustrate some information you have?

Rowdy Labs has released a Zip Code Mapper to make this fast and easy.

While it is still very much under development, it is more than sufficient for many data display tasks that people have now.

I am doing development in a different place, so the above link should work at all times and be updated with the latest stable web site.

Currently scheduled updates include better error handling, a pretty print page, and a color picker control on the page.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Updates to Rowdy Labs Website

I have updated the company web page as to my experience and general operating policies. If you're a reader of the blog and wouldn't mind, please see if there is anything sticking out as strange (especially on the experience page):

Rowdy Labs


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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rowdy Labs Game Development?

I have some time over the December timeframe to possibly publish a casual game. Flash games and Xbox Live Arcade games are both in the "reachable" range. Flash games get immediate exposure through a number of sites, such as when you publish. Xbox Live Arcade games have to fit a large body of standards to be accepted (similar to MSN casual games), but I would imagine most highly successful flash games would also have to meet most of the criteria just to be good enough to get the playtime required.

Xbox Live Arcade monetizes through purchases of the "full game". Most games are available with one level for free, and the rest of the game for a small payment, usually between $2-$20 dollars.

Kongregate and other related sites profit share from the ads that play on the game sites.

I'm exploring flash right now. It will cost $350-$500 to buy Flash CS3 Pro. I'm not sure if the $350 offer is legit. The "visible serial number" language scares me. From what I understand, Adobe and several others have tied together open source ways to generate flash 9 swf files. I don't really want all the other items in CS3, so if that works, I'll probably put out at least a couple small flash games. (I won't be doing this alone, I have some associates who are interested in this and are capable).

I'm going to probably have to sign NDA's to get more info on XBLA, so will not be able to talk about it anymore. I will probably post what my final decision is though, as I'm pretty sure that isn't something a NDA will prevent me from saying. As the dev environment (Visual Studio C# Express) is free, I'm going to explore the costs and the likelihood I'll be able to get past the XBLA "acceptance" bar.



Friday, April 27, 2007

Business Ideas R.I.P.

This entry is about ideas I killed because there is a business or technical problem with them.

I was contacted by another man named Michael Langford, from Nevada, and he mentioned this blog has been vague about what was being done and not being done (although also read my other blog, Grog and Vittles, where I'm anything but vague).

What often happens with Rowdy Labs is that I start with an idea for a product. I throw together a line drawn mockup of it, then look for the following things while developing the technical side of things:
  1. Someone selling it already
  2. Someone is developing it already
  3. The business models it would be compatible with
  4. Estimates of the capital it would require
  5. Other businesses in the past that tried and failed (and why)
  6. What stimulus in my environment generated the idea

Someone selling it already

Yup. It happens. For instance, product #1, a hydroponic herb grower for your kitchen (have you priced the herbs that the supermarket sells?). As one of the only people I've met who has never smoked weed (a fact my parents teased me about when they found out when I was 22), the most prolific users of hydroponics didn't even cross my mind.

The idea was to work off the razor blade model, sell the hydroponics at cost, sell software and fertilizer packs to keep the kits going.

First of all, market research turned up who *REALLY* would buy this system. I don't have a moral problem with that, just I didn't really want legal problems with that. However I think the number of people who'd go to a Sharper Image or William Sonoma and was high enough that I'd be okay on that angle.

What really killed this product was the fact I saw it already being sold to the exact market I wanted to sell it in. It was in the "Buy all this stuff" magazine they put in the back of airplane seats on a flight back from Miami.

Someone developing it already

While many people say competition is an indication of the existence of a market, I say that the easiest markets are one where you're not fighting off someone 100 times your size all the time. I am an engineer, so I have a better chance of cheaply entering a new market with a novel product (especially a software product) than someone who'd have to pay for that. Then again, if someone is developing something that is functionally equivalent, however doesn't want to or can't focus on your particular implementation style of the idea, then I say go for it, especially if you can cheaply, and all the other stars align.

Just because Showaholic already does find all the local shows of your favorite bands, doesn't mean I can't do it too if I can do it cheaply enough, do it with a different angle (like finding nearby chow or finding cool people with common interests who'd also like to go to it), and do it at all (by myself or with a partner). And yes, this was another idea that got put off (but not originally for this reason).

The business models it would be compatible with

How can this idea make money? The first web boom suffered horribly from 2 things: Venture Capitol being invested stupidly and no business models. Really, these companies had no idea how to make money with their inventions and companies.

So the idea is to figure out how you get money from the idea, and why that's going to work. For instance:

  1. Design Hydroponic Herb Grower
  2. Manufacture Hydroponic Herb Grower
  3. Create Web Site Selling Hydroponic Herb Grower and Herb Fertilizer
  4. Promote through adwords, advertisements in in-flight magazines, high-end interior designer magazines, and through grocery store displays
  5. Profit from the markup on the Fertilizer and a small markup on the grower itself.

  1. Provide way for people to see their saved wishlist on their cell phone and even buy items off it.
  2. People do some comparison shopping/real world examination of the object in the store.
  3. People buy the object through their cell phone web page while out in the store and are shocked by the higher prices.
  4. Revenue comes from Amazon associates

  1. Start technical blog on how to do different types of embedded programming (that means programming that goes inside devices that aren't desktop or laptop computers).
  2. Write blog about that
  3. Sell in-depth ebooks on the topic

See all the above have something in common: They have a point where you get paid.

I'm almost to the point where I am going to publish for stealing what I've previously put out as "The Big Idea" for other people to implement, as I can't see the profit anymore after a recent trend in banking fee changes (although I think it would make the US in particular a much better place). It might be repairable though, so I'm going to sit on it for a bit.

Estimates of the capital it would require

Some ideas take money. Some don't. I like the ones that don't, as I think venture funded companies often sacrifice a lot to achieve scary growth. Innovations of late is what really makes web 2.0 companies do well. Innovations making this number smaller all the time include: Easy to use programming libraries, commodity priced server space hosted and backed up for you, and as I read today, Amazon will even warehouse and fulfill orders for you. Today is the day to run a company, as the price of business is lower than ever before.

Other businesses of the past that have tried this (and failed)

Who says an idea has to be original? Many online pharmacies died in the 90's, many today are alive and well. Blogging platforms have failed and failed. Some have succeeded. The key here is to find out these reasons were accidental or related to actual fundamental business or technology features of the businesses. Today is not yesterday, many things are fundamentally easier (or even possible today) where they were out of reach in 1998.

What stimulus in my environment caused the idea

Contrary to some people's illusions of their own grandeur, ideas are combinations of previously existent ideas. Sometimes these are very off the wall ideas, so the combination is extremely novel, but at heart, our brains are combination machines. (This isn't my idea, this is Arthur Koestler's)

The reason why this is important because I don't want to be either a> inadvertently stealing an idea from the web that I can't do better, or b> doing something that has been exposed to so many people I'm going to have 1000 instant competitors. Also, if it comes from another person who'll talk to me, they also could be a very fruitful partner it the pursuit.