Project Concept – The Blue Screen of Death
For most small business founders, failure represents the stuff of nightmares. What will happen when there is no money in the bank account? Who will cover the bills? School fees and day care, insurance premiums, milk? When will they cutoff electricity, phone, natural gas and water? How bad is that eviction notice? Starting with this list of questions the Blue Screen of Death, weaves a tale that takes readers from New York to California in search of the deepest fear of a new entrepreneur – What if I fail?
A touching confession that alternates between the bittersweet reality of a dying venture and the promise of multimillion dollar valuations, the Blue Screen of Death is a journey of self discovery that every entrepreneur can relate to. It is a book of questions and answers that will force us to re-examine our personal prejudices against failure.
Jawwad is the Chief Executive and Actuary at Alchemy Technologies, a fast growing boutique risk management and financial advisory firm. He is a Fellow Society of Actuaries (Schaumburg, IL), an MBA from Columbia Business School (New York City) and a computer science graduate (FAST ICS, Karachi, Pakistan). During the last fifteen years, he has worked as a consultant and entrepreneur in North America, Pakistan and the United Kingdom with a number of blue chip clients. Though by training Jawwad’s expertise includes Risk Management and Investments, by practice he is an entrepreneur. 2/3rd of his experience to date has been devoted to starting, building or failing a new business.
His most recent adventure is 4.5 year old, employs 30 professionals, and has grown organically at more than 100% a year, year on year since its inception. It was started with a single laptop and a beach chair
Primary – The small business market
The book is primarily aimed at the 26 million small business founders and owners in North America who face the risk of failure every year. Within this group in any given year, half a million owners are starting afresh; while the half a million are busy shutting down. The remaining 25 million are either well established or going nowhere. The book is aimed at all three groups with different motivations:
a) For those starting up, it serves as a road map for how to fail. By humanizing and demystifying failure, it removes the last stumbling block (fear of failure) between them and their plans and leaves them better prepared for the day failure comes calling.
b) For those shutting down, it serves three objectives. First just plain simple morbid fascination with someone else’s misery to lighten the load of their own troubles. Second, consolation that they are not alone and someone with the right training, education and experience stumbled just as badly. Third assurance that without failing, they can never succeed and they have just taken a step in the right direction.
c) For those not going anywhere (the 25 million established founders), what do small business owners like to read about? What other small business owners have been up to? As part of the year long test launch, every single entrepreneur who read this book read it in one sitting.
Secondary – An entrepreneurial text book
The top 250 business schools in the world account for 50,000 plus students who take at least one course on entrepreneurship. Just like the small business segment, this is another source of annual recurring demand.
I have already worked with one Professor who has used the book as part of an undergraduate course on entrepreneurship. I myself teach one workshop or 1 credit course a year using the book at graduate (MBA) and professional entrepreneurship programs. To date 200 plus students have worked with the material and received it well.
Competing and Related Titles
The nearest analogy is the Goal which is used to teach Operations Management at Business Schools throughout the world. The Goal is a fictional account focused on production management. The Blue screen is a real account focused on surviving small business failure.
Other titles include Every Mistake in the Book, F**ked Company, Dot Con, Burn rate, Starving on 200 Million dollars, A swift kick in the ass, The Art of the Start, The mouse driver chronicles and more. In this genre books come in categories of self help, satire, memoir, research and advice or how to. The blue screen is part memoir and part how to. It comes close to Michael Wolfe’s Burn Rate in terms of tone and intent and Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start in terms of advice.
a) I am an MBA from Columbia Business School, a Fellow Society of Actuaries and a Computer Scientist. All three of my educational institutions have active programs for supporting and promoting titles published by Alumni, students and members. The three communities in total add up to a select group of 35,000 tightly knit professionals who can then be relied on to promote the book within their immediate circles of influence.
b) A website for the book has been up for more than 12 months. During the last one year more than 3000 copies of the eBook edition have been downloaded. The book, blog, and the firm website domain receive 300 plus unique visitors every day. All of this is with a very limited marketing effort.
c) The book has been covered on the Society of Actuaries monthly magazine, has been reviewed by local Technology Professionals Groups and featured on a number of local forums.
d) I plan on writing shorter pieces on Harvard Business Review and Inc Magazine as well as actively covering the book on my blog and working with other bloggers addressing issues facing small and technology business professionals.
e) In the last one year I have done the basic ground work by building up relationships with well respected entrepreneurs and with the book in print, it would be possible to get reviews in the CBS Alumni forums, Inc Magazine, TIE and possibly MIT Entrepreneurial community.
Status of the project
I have been working on this book for six years now. Last year in April 2006, I put the book up on the blue screen website as an eBook. The eBook edition was sourced using lightening speed and is available for sale on Diesel and Powell’s eBook store as well as a free eBook under the creative common license.
I don’t have a proposal but the manuscript is complete. It’s as complete as I could get it by myself. I now need the advice and guidance of a great editor and a great agent to get this book out to print.
If you are one, lets sit down and chat.