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How my Computer Science Degree Actually Hurt my Internet Business

September 26, 2012 by Eliot

Most online entrepreneurs that I have met are not technical people. More often than not they are visionaries with some other specialize skill set like accounting, investment banking, or general business to name a few.

For these people the fears and difficulty they have is the technical stuff: putting up their website, search engine optimization, or compiling and submitting their mobile app to the app store.

That is why so many of the beginner guides in the Internet marketing space are geared towards non technical people.

For me, the problem was not learning how to put up a website or write code – I’ve done both pretty well for about 10 years.

My problem has been what to do before and after your product is built – things like customer validation or marketing.

Because it is relatively easy for me to build something – a website, an app, an e-commerce site, whatever, I was quick to “fail fast” as the old startup proverb goes, and even quicker to move on to the next shiny object.

While we are on the subject, the suggestion to fail fast is bad advice.  Instead of failing fast, your goal should try to “learn faster than everyone else” as Eric Ries suggests.

I was given the curse of knowledge when it came to the internet.  But to make money online you need to understand a lot more than just how to put up a WordPress blog or how to write code.  In fact, I’ve seen many people better off BECAUSE they don’t know technology.

These people instead focus on the PROBLEM before they figure out a SOLUTION.

But anyone with this “curse” finds it difficult to keep an open mind and learn new things because they already feel that know it.

Like me, I already knew how to start a software company. After all, I knew how to write software. I already knew how to do SEO. My website was in Google’s search results, right?
The problem was that although I know how to write code I didn’t know how to make software useful to people.  And yes, I do know on-page SEO that was valid in 2005 but now-a-days it is off-page SEO that matters most.  But I ignored it.

Many elderly people struggle with a severe case of the “curse of knowledge.”  That is why so many reject new technology or new norms in society. “When I was your age…[Fill in the blank here]”

My point is: don’t be blinded by what you know.

Again, don’t be blinded by what you already know.

Because I knew technology, I THOUGHT I knew how to turn that knowledge into profit. My blinders were on.

It wasnt until I stopped screaming and started listening that the ball started rolling forward.  And believe me it is a lot harder to get the ball rolling than it is to keep it rolling once you have momentum.

Ultimately that is how I got 13,000 mobile app downloads literally overnight.  And no, we weren’t featured in iTunes.

Our app solved an annoying problem and bloggers liked it.

So if you have been struggling with something lately – be it starting a business or getting customers or even becoming a better listener, I suggest that you find somebody that has done what you are trying to do, or is good at what you want to learn and absorb everything you can from them.

There is this strange thing that happens when you hang out with people enough – your traits tend to rub off on each other. The same happens when you live in a country or part of a country. I am from Maine but I live in Florida. Every once Ina while I still catch myself with a little twang in my voice.

So although one might think that knowledge of the Internet might help you with an Internet based business, you might be wrong. It can only help you if you can take off your blinders long enough to look around.

Have you ignored something in your field or trade that is stopping you from getting to the next level?

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Eliot is a software developer by trade and a entrepreneur by spirit. He has built web software for the likes of YMCA, UPS, FedEx, Ford and Harcourt, and helped launch mobile apps like Coupon Policy, TourWrist, and Pocket Legal.


Join him as he learns and shares his experiences of marketing his own products online.


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