Naturally, as a public website aimed at a wide demographic, it gets a lot of attention but there is a lot more to Cybernium, so let’s rewind to the beginning!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Computers fascinated me since before the Internet or even the PC was invented! The first time I ever programmed was on a teletype. For those who don’t know, it’s basically a typewriter that is connected to a remote computer over the phone line using an acoustic coupler. It was very primitive but after spending a few hours getting it to count and play a guessing game, I was hooked on being able to control machines!
Spend lots of time figuring out what your future customers need.
From then on, it was a straight path all the way to graduating with a Master’s degree in Computer Science. A dozen years of full-time software engineering jobs passed quickly. As much as I enjoyed working for established software companies, technology is about solving problems. There were plenty of ideas in my head but not time to execute them. So, after pondering it for probably a year, I left Google to try out ideas. Yes, that Google. It gave me confidence that they sought me out and learned a lot while there, so I felt ready.
That is essentially Cybernium: Me trying out ideas and solving problems with software technology. It’s not one idea but an open canvas for my work!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The first project built was Neocamera. Technically, rebuilt, as discussed in my previous Starter Story, since I already had created a small static site while working full-time. It was very simple at the time but made me wonder if I could build something successful on my own.
Software development is a great fit for startups for numerous reasons. The web just made it even greater! Let’s go over the main reasons because they really make startups accessible:
- Virtually no investment cost other than time. Most people already have a computer and there are free tools for building software and websites.
- Distribution and manufacturing are essentially free. Building software takes time and effort but there is no cost difference between making tens or a million copies!
- Development can be incremental and adaptive. A website and online service can change every day with new features and improvements instantly accessible to customers. It’s not like furniture where you need to produce a new table and convince customers again so that they get your new design.
- More measurable results. Within a relatively short window, usually 30 to 90 days for affiliate programs, you can know exactly how much you made. Many metrics such as click-through rates, visitor counts, and demographics are available nearly instantly. This is a huge difference. Nobody really knows who many people acted on a print ad but with an online banner ad, you know exactly how many people saw it and how many clicked through.
In the early days, the main strategy was to make quick short iterations. To code something, make it available online, check stats, and repeat. As online properties grow, customers and advertisers expect stability. As soon as something is wrong, they expect you to take action immediately. It got stressful pretty often during the main growth years.
Once Neocamera was a success, the next goal was to use that experience to surpass it. That is when Neopanoramic was created. This time, instead of designing a website and placing ads into it, the idea was to design one around ads, specifically Affiliates Network ads rather than display ads because they offer higher returns when more relevant. So, I commissioned a visual designer to create a look that allowed affiliates ads to integrate naturally into the flow with a striking look for its target audience.
Online success is a numbers’ game but most people don’t realize which numbers matter. While true that having twice as many visitors can produce twice the revenue, so can having fewer visitors! It turns out that affiliates for software pay much higher commissions than others because they have high margins since the manufacturing cost is free. Now it comes back full circle!
Describe the process of launching the business.
With a consulting business, there is not much of a launch. That's a recurring theme with me, as I also mentioned Neocamera, because I’m a natural at marketing. Mostly, I let the work speak for itself.
Basically, I gave myself the first consulting project which turned into a truly practical demonstration of what I could do. That attracted all sorts of offers and then I just cycled through projects, including my own. There’s no downtime this way and that really satisfies my workaholic!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
No one could have predicted the year we are having, so looking forward would only be a complete guess. The pandemic destroyed the global economy and looked down on industries entirely. The photography industry is on life-support right now but several others have been experiencing growth.
One of those is the finance industry which is making record profits on market volatility. This is different for holding companies whose assets have tanked in value but those that operate transactions profit either way. Servers that connect banks are experiencing high volumes and we have been working lately on keeping them running and improving their performance.
Despite the chaos, it looks like this year is going to end well for Cybernium Inc. but there is no way to know what will happen in 2021. We must take on challenges as they come rather than waiting for the ones we know to become relevant again!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Google Workplace is wonderful for its many tools that are all fully-integrated and accessible from anywhere in the world. There are so many small features in there that make a difference and more time to focus on actual work.
The LAMP stack is the foundation for all our websites due to its incredible versatility and wide availability completely free of charge. One essential feature add-on in this age when privacy and security are very important is the new Let’s EncryptAutomated SSL service allows most websites to be made secure at no additional cost, despite many companies charging exorbitant amounts for simple SSL certificates.
AddThis saves work integrating with so many platforms that essentially offer the same concept with different facades. Keep in mind though that scripted add-on such as this one can dramatically affect the performance of a website and so it’s important to use them sparingly and carefully measure their impact.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
One often hears the advice to follow your passion. It has a good chance of making you happy but it is really insufficient for success, which may or may not make you happy. What has a better chance is to be passionate about solving other people’s problems.
The best advice I can give right now is to spend lots of time figuring out what your future customers need. Large companies can afford to solve general problems but a startup needs focus. It is better to start by solving a smaller problem well. That will be easier to achieve and there will be less competition.
Give yourself the job. This is something I learned early in my career, long before having a startup but it still applies. Often, what you are looking for is not advertised exactly when you are looking. When I was sure of leaving Google, it was to create a job for myself at my very own startup.
As a famous starship captain says: ‘Make it so!’ - That should be the motto of every entrepreneur.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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