(Let's avoid burying the lede this time.) In November, I decided to wrap up my employment with Northwestern University in order to relaunch Audacious Software on a full-time basis and to resume the consulting career I left more than three years ago. I've discussed the details of this with the people it impacts, but have been delaying a public announcement until I had the opportunity to decompress and get all of my thoughts in order. Now's the time to share those thoughts.
In terms of timing, the current plan is to spend the first two months of 2016 working with CBITs (my current employer) in a transition role where I can tie up loose ends and get everything documented and handed off to my successors. If the timing works out as planned, I'll be ready for fresh client work sometime in March.
The new Audacious Software won't be open for every kind of IT work (as was the case in the previous iteration), but instead will focus on the following core competencies:
Passive data collection and analysis: We live in a world where there are a ton of data sources from the wearables on our wrists to our automobiles to our favorite desktop and web applications. These technologies are generating large amount of passive data that can be productively employed to do some good in the world. I've been working with these kinds of data well over a decade, and reliably collecting and making sense of this information has been an implicit theme of my work during that time. I figured that it's now time to make that theme explicit and to start to build the technical and educational infrastructure to tackle these challenges in a ubiquitously connected world. (More on this in the weeks ahead…)
Native app development: A core strength I bring to the table is that I'm conversant in all major mobile platforms and have invested significant amounts of time delivering products and value on wearable and other non-traditional software platforms.
Original products and services: Audacious Software will continue to develop original products and services such as Fresh Comics, The Pnakotic Atlas, and Shion. I have some major new commercial projects in the pipeline, but are not ready to be announced yet.
The company will continue to support legacy clients and continue to seek out new clients with original value propositions and novel ideas.
What's different now from 2008?
I originally launched Audacious Software in 2008 with a similar plan and mission. The company enjoyed moderate success, but I ran into issues as original products didn't pan out and the client work deviated from the original core mission which resulted in issues with my work/life balance. So, what's different this time around?
1. The market I'm targeting (mobile software development) is much larger and more mature than it was in 2008. When I launched in 2008, opportunities for doing something useful on the iPhone were limited, and Google had just launched its original Android device, the HTC Dream/G1. Now, the mobile marketplace is saturated with a variety of devices and form factors, from the small screen on your wrist to modern (and larger) smartphones, to tablets and automobiles and even your television. While we're no longer in the "there's an app for that" phase of the market's growth, the goals companies and users are trying to meet now are more ambitious and a good fit for my skill set.
2. From the passive-data collection perspective, we're drowning in data sources. My experience creating systems that talk to a wide variety of devices will be a competitive advantage as demand emerges from research and commercial contexts that makes the most of the passive data a user generates daily. I also have a strong ethical agenda I'm looking forward to pushing that will help establish me as a leader in the space.
3. In 2008, the bulk of my relationships were with researchers I knew personally and I built a business around those people. In 2015, I have good relationships with many more people in many more parts of the tech ecosystem, from device manufacturers, people working on startups, more researchers, and folks in traditional enterprises. This expanded network of relationships allows me more opportunities and to take a wider perspective of my craft than when I was working with just one type of client.
4. In 2008, my portfolio consisted of my graduate school work, projects from my original A&RT job at Northwestern, and open-source projects I'd contributed to or created. In 2015, I can point to all of that, plus all the prior Audacious Software consulting work, plus a portfolio of more than 20 products successfully delivered in the last five years. This allows me to guide value creation primarily guided by experience (e.g. "let's find a solution similar to something that worked well in the past") as opposed to one guided by exploration (e.g. "let's figure out how to create this"). While exploration and greenfield work will always remain a core Audacious Software activity, I have much more experience to help guide clients away from the dead ends and rabbit holes.
5. In 2015, I return to consulting with a much informed perspective than when I started in 2008. I've sat on more sides of "the table" than I had in 2008 and know what's needed to be successful in startup, research, and traditional commercial contexts. I have a better sense for where value can be created and I have a much better mechanisms to price the delivery of that value.
6. Audacious Software 2.0 will launch as a completely cybernetic system (in the classic Norbert Weiner sense) built around instant feedback loops that provide real-time intelligence about the overall health of the enterprise, the state of its commitments, and overall velocity. In the previous iteration of Audacious Software, I often allowed myself to fall behind on crucial internal business chores and activities – contributing to the stress that led to its hiatus in 2012. Since the new focus of the company will be making sense of large amounts of heterogeneous data, it makes sense to "dogfood" that strategy. The system monitoring and managing those aspects of the company is called BLAKE, in honor of Alec Baldwin's character in Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross".
In addition to lead management, the BLAKE system will also include a full set of business analytics so that questions about the health and overall direction of the business will be instantly available, instead of waiting to be manually computed from a collection of bank statements, invoices, bills, and timecards. The BLAKE system is designed to hold me accountable and provide instant and quantitative feedback about whether things are headed in the right direction so that I can get up every morning and focus on delivering value everyday by minimizing "known unknowns". It won't be anywhere near complete when the business relaunches in March, but enough of it will be there to provide a good start out of the gate. The key responsibility of the BLAKE system is to sharply highlight any potential problems, minimize the space for any excuses, and to keep me shipping software.
Looking for some work? Give me a call.
While my transition from CBITs will eat up most of my time over the next two months, I am already looking for projects to fill the work pipeline, so if you have a project that's a good fit, let's talk.
If you have any questions, please post them below.
Blacksmith photo courtesy of rich701@Flickr.
Addendum: Credit where credit is due. I wouldn't be in such a good position to make this transition if it were not for the assistance and work opportunities CBITs gave me over the past three years. While it's time for me to move on, I wouldn't be able to do so without such a productive three years, and I look forward to collaborating with them in the future.comments powered by Disqus