Jon Steinberg had a great post several weeks’ back where he coined a new term (Approach? Philosophy?); â€œhackable business development.â€�
For $500 and four weeks of late night emails to eLance developers, you can basically spec and build simple, rough apps that knit or build upon open APIs to create things that are interesting and potentially valuable.Â To be clear, you can’t build complicated apps or the next Salesforce.com on this kind of shoestring, but you can achieve the kind of learning, vetting, and experimentation that is left undone if you don’t.
I call this process Hackable Business Development.Â If you’re interested in a platform or service from an intellectual, career, or partnership prospective, you simply must build on it.
I love Jon’s concept, especially because it resonates with two things I have been thinking about: tinkering platforms and Batman. Tinkering platforms I’ll talk about in another post.
â€œBatmanâ€� is the perfect metaphor for an increasingly common entrepreneurial archetype I’m observing. Nearly everyone I meet in the tech/media space these days seems to have two lives: their â€˜9 to 5 identity’ typically working away to collect a paycheck and then their â€˜late-night identity’ where they throw on the entrepreneurial cape and crank away into the wee hours working on their own startups and side projects.
From my observations many of these projects are like micro startups, small in scale and often involve three of or four individuals teaming-up and dolling out responsibilities. They tend to work on applications of a simple nature. Projects often involve innovating on API’s and typically leverage word-of-mouth conduits like Twitter. Sometimes it’s even the same teams that work together during the day for â€œthe manâ€� teaming up at night. Nobody gets paid; teams are self-sufficient. Business development doesn’t exist.
The traditional manager’s perspective on this is simple: UNACCEPTABLE. For reasons ranging from conflicts-of-interest to less-focused-teams, managers tend to get freaked-out and pissed-off when they learn that a developer has something else in the works, even if it never interferes with his or her ability to perform their job.
However this is the wrong approach. Developers, designers and the rest of us need our own version of Google’s 20% time. Side projects keep talented folks sharp, motivated and happy.Â I think this new era of Batmen is both necessary to move innovation forward and a reality that’s here to stay. Managers are best served to embrace the trend rather than hate on it.
Note: Interesting thoughts here by Sam Lessin on why building on API’s may not be a good thing