My husband recently took the leap into entrepreneurship, after spending over a decade as an electrical engineer. He has developed software to optimize investment portfolios, which is a very different industry than web analytics. Yet every day when we share stories with each other regarding our businesses, we are finding some striking similarities between our work. Primarily I think this is the case because he is pursuing a consulting model with his software at the moment, until he gets to a certain level of revenue in order to be able to build the SaaS interface he envisions for his product. Since we’re both doing consulting work, it’s bringing to light the similarities between our businesses.
One similarity is the fact we both use statistical analysis in our work, and we both use software tools to help in that analysis. The main difference is that he built the software tool that he’s using, and I use tools built by others. We do seem to run into a variety of similar challenges when doing our analysis despite the fact that he’s analyzing investment portfolios and I’m analyzing web sites. Everything from making sure we correctly copy/paste certain data into MS Excel, to getting the kind of visualizations we want to show our clients as part of our analysis.
Creating Meaningful Visualizations
Speaking of visualizations, let me go into a little more detail on that. I think that’s one area that has possibly surprised my husband the most. For me, I know my target audiences quite well now, and I know my clients not only want, but in many cases need, meaningful visualizations of the data and analysis I provide. Just looking at raw numbers won’t tell the the story that’s going on with the data, but the right visualization will. The same is apparently true for folks in the finance industry. While they are probably more used to staring at a lot of numbers all day, getting meaningful visualizations of those numbers helps them make critical investment decisions faster. My husband didn’t initially realize how important providing “pretty pictures” was going to be.
Working with Clients
Now at this point I’m a bit of an “old hat” at working with my clients, both new and old. However, I’m seeing my husband run into a lot of the same challenges I did when I first started out. Things like figuring out the right pricing model, estimating how long each project will take, being flexible with client requests. Also the challenge of developing a good NDA and contract/agreement for clients to sign, and finding a good lawyer to make them “iron-clad.” In fact, just getting a potential client to sign can be a lot of work with “discovery” meetings, and providing existing client references. At least there is one thing I don’t have to do with my business – provide a “proof-of-concept.” The software tools that I use are all well-known and don’t require proof, especially since I tend to just do my analysis with whatever tools my client currently already uses (unless of course we’re doing an implementation, which is a completely different animal).
So, while the fields of finance & investing are quite different from web analytics, I’ve come to learn there is also quite a bit of overlap, especially in the area that my husband is trying to get noticed in.
By the way, if you’re an investing quant, you might find his Sigma1 blog interesting.