(photo of Natalie Villalobos and I at SXSW 2008 via Tantek)
With many creator-types unemployed or between clients, trendhunters expect a new sprouting of startups, echoing the creation of web 2.0 companies from the post-dot-com unemployed. I don’t believe that will happen in the same way. Peoples’ piggy banks are squealing and while web 2.0 companies got started with minimal money, most individuals now don’t even have enough to take the startup step forward.
Rather, I am witnessing a high tide of what I’m dubbing “pico projects” (terminology partially influenced by the recent launch of Picocool). Small projects developed by an individual with input from nearby friends as a makeshift advisory council, with little to no concern for monetization (at least at launch), just the desire to see an idea through to fruition.
Within my immediate circle, the launches of pico projects such as Huffduffer, Baconfile, Picocool and (my own) Spacehack are examples of this new wave. Projects that are more than single-serving sites, but less than a pitched business plan or even what Jason Calacanis has dubbed the $5-10k “microstartup“.
My friend and sometimes advisor to Spacehack, Ben Ward, points out that the shift from startup to pico project is not only due to a downturn (as some of these pico projects are more mini moonlighting outside of day jobs), but to the pervasiveness of tools readily available today as compared to just a few years ago. As a non-developer, this rings clear – my project in its current state uses about the limits of what I can “hack” together on my own without dependency on a developer. But this is also true for developers, as frameworks like Django have more easily allowed for the development of endeavors like Baconfile.
In mentioning this slight shift, Jeremy Keith pointed me to £5 App, a meetup for individual or two creators to showcase simple software that they decided to just go ahead and execute. I particularly enjoy this line from the meetup description:
“The discussion will range from technical (what tools/languages were used during development) to business (building communities, spreading the word, costs and rewards).”
…calling attention to the fact that these projects care more about building communities than how to talk to angel investors.
What are some pico projects you’ve come across or built in the last few months? I’ll link any I find to be interesting from the comments at the bottom of this post.
Other interesting pico projects:
• Not in the comments, but Jeremy Keith pointed me to Readernaut
• Josh McKenty, a colleague from NASA, reminded me of the TinyApps project
• Emily Chang introduced me to 4am Project
• Blaine Cook recently created TinyArchive