[@OKau] Building A Startup Doesn’t Make You Special

Lachlan Musicman datakid at gmail.com
Tue Mar 22 10:10:50 UTC 2016

We see a lot of this at OKFN, and I posted because I thought it was a good
critique of some of the magical thinking that is going around.
I hope you didn't think it applied to you in any way Rosie, if anything,
you epitomise the exact opposite - you have no interest in being a
squidillionaire, just to get paid. You do the hard work. You know it's a
business (even if you can't work out how ot make it pay, you aren't the
only one). Anyway, I was on the road, I read it, I thought it was a good
analysis of some parts of the milieu we find ourselves in.


The most dangerous phrase in the language is, "We've always done it this

- Grace Hopper

On 24 February 2016 at 09:14, Rosie Williams <BudgetAus at hotmail.com> wrote:

> How do you see this as relevant and contributing to the understanding of
> open knowledge Lachlan?
> Speaking of business models, I've come round to the realisation that doing
> open data as a business product/service (unless you are an already
> established business with established customer base ie not a startup) is
> not a realistic way to be doing open data anymore than expecting to start
> organisations on alternative bases such as cooperatives or charities and
> achieve things within a short timeframe. After all just look how long it
> took for the OKFNAu to get incorporated, much less set up a sustainable
> financial model to fund new open knowledge projects.  Now apply that level
> of challenge to a team of maybe one or more open knowledge advocates trying
> to establish similar organisations.
> Trying to establish an organisation to accomplish goals whether it is
> under an ABN or ACN is a difficult process which is why there are so few
> open data projects  for financial and political transparency other than my
> own and so few open data projects generally. Even the OpenAustralia
> Foundation gets income from selling some of their services/products so the
> line between what is a 'startup' and any other type of organisation trying
> to make open data projects survive is pretty slim.
> This is why so few gov hacks go on to form the basis of future projects-
> because of the challenges inherent in creating financial sustainability for
> those creating and implementing them. If they require very little in the
> way of upkeep (and therefore not require full time labour) that might be
> plausible to continue them but most things that have value have value for
> the reason that they do require significant investment of labour and
> expertise. When people only ever spend a weekend mocking up apps, I'm not
> sure that gives the true picture of the ongoing labour, expertise and
> lobbying required to make projects an ongoing success. For example issues
> in the data may not be noticeable in hack events and only come to light
> when more serious/ongoing engagement with the data occurs.
> A better example is to compare your average hacker's daily work which
> requires full time commitment, a multidisciplinary team, management,
> contracts etc all of which are deemed necessary in order to create and
> maintain successful projects. That open data projects are so often
> considered not to need these things to achieve the same level of stability
> and success is something I've always found quite interesting.
> From my own experience, requiring one person to lobby to release data-
> wait for that release which may be months or years into the future, collect
> data (perhaps from multiple agency sites, clean it, design and write
> database backed websites, promote it etc puts everything on the shoulders
> of one person or at best a very small team. Open source projects hope to
> encourage volunteers to do the actual coding for free but those I know of
> struggle to recruit people willing to do that.  I certainly went down that
> road when I first launched some months ago now, but found it untenable
> given the short time frame put on me to prove my success.
> Much open data needs tweaking in order to be made serious use of which can
> only take place in consultation with agencies publishing the data. It is
> not just a matter of agencies saying here is the data and that's that, but
> of a process of engagement where those working with the data can give
> feedback as to how the data can be improved. This goes right the way into
> making submissions to inquiries into agency annual reports or budget data
> sets (for example) where you are actually changing the information that
> eventually ends up as open data.
> This sort of thing requires serious ongoing commitment and a decent level
> of expertise in the matters at hand. Very few people  in Australia actually
> run ongoing open data projects to know what it involves. Most people work
> day jobs doing other things (which may or may not be related to open data).
> I do have a plan for going forward so that the accumulated expertise (not
> to mention technological output) I have created is not lost at such a
> crucial stage as the leadup to the National Action Plan however it is only
> in considering a different role than maintaining finished and regularly
> updated commercial grade open data projects that I have realised just what
> a burden I was placing upon myself.
> Having said that, without having done what I have over the past six months
> I doubt I'd be in a position to carry on in the way I intend. I'll post
> more about that another time.
> cheers
> Rosie
> ------------------------------
> *From:* okfn-au <okfn-au-bounces at lists.okfn.org> on behalf of Lachlan
> Musicman <datakid at gmail.com>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, 23 February 2016 11:03 PM
> *To:* A List for Open Knowledge Networks in Australia.
> *Cc:* Maia Sauren
> *Subject:* [@OKau] Building A Startup Doesn’t Make You Special
> https://medium.com/life-learning/building-a-startup-doesn-t-make-you-special-180b50edb9a3#.mx1n738vt
> <https://medium.com/life-learning/building-a-startup-doesn-t-make-you-special-180b50edb9a3#.mx1n738vt>
> Building A Startup Doesn’t Make You Special. — Life ...
> <https://medium.com/life-learning/building-a-startup-doesn-t-make-you-special-180b50edb9a3#.mx1n738vt>
> medium.com
> Building A Startup Doesn't Make You Special. Nobody owes you shit. I know
> startups are cool right now. They’re incredibly hot, they've broken into
> the mainstream ...
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