Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gluejar is Hiring

March comes in like a lion.

I've spent the last two months talking to as many people as possible about my ideas for a new business surrounding "ungluing e-books". I've been telling people I would start hiring in March. And here it is, March, and I really need to avoid getting too sucked-in to #hcod bloggery. I hope I haven't pissed-off anyone I'll need to be friends with.

I'll get around to writing some real job descriptions, but that's hard to do when you're creating something new. In a start-up environment, people need to do multiple jobs. They need to be expert at something but they have to also be willing to help fill in the cracks between the team's expertises. A good startup always has a breadth of ambition that exceeds its funding, so people have to stretch. If you hire to match your ambition you not only exceed your funding, you also tend to lose focus and struggle to keep the team on a single page.

Gluejar's funding allows for the hiring about of 4 people (in addition to me). They'll have to be able to build enough of a product and business lift within a year to attract additional funding that can provide scale and gravity. Unfortunately, I need at least 8 different job descriptions.

The one-sentence description of what Gluejar will build is "a website like kickstarter.com, but for 20 million ebooks".

So here's a first pass at describe the talents that I'll be trying to hire.

I'll start by focusing on how to build the product (a marketplace where individuals and institutions can join their purchasing power together to acquire ebooks for the public commons).

Web application engineering talent will be needed. We'll need to build a scalable-ish transactable databases of contributors and content items, be able to collect money from contributors, convert currencies, transport books lists and bibliographic data in and out via API's and do lots of data analysis. It would be nice to have someone who knows what OPDS is. Or be able to tell between an ISBN and a book. The large team of engineers will probably want to do a lot of sprints. That's a code word.

eBook logistics engineering expertise will be needed. We'll need to verify and manipulate ePub, PDF, Mobi files, script the sideloading of them onto consumer devices and platforms, and make distribut happen automagically.

Web and UI design talent will be needed. Our website will need to be oriented towards users who love books and want to support their journeys into the public commons.

Product management expertise will be needed. I'm rather fond of the Pragmatic Marketing approach to this, myself. Which takes a lot of domain expertise. In this case, the domain is ebooks, ebook licensing and the book industry, as well as billing, payments, charitable fund-raising and all sorts of other things. Doing the stuff I stupidly omitted to write a job description for. Oh, and customer support and mailing checks.

Legal expertise will be needed. Gluejar and its product will raise novel licensing, copyright and tax issues, as well as lots of mundane licensing, copyright, tax, and accounting issues. We have to know how all this works internationally, as well. It would be nice if the technical systems we build don't make it impossible to address the legal issues.

Practical IP licensing expertise will be needed. By this, I mean not the writing of licenses, but the tracking down of rights owners around the world and mitigating the complete mess that has been bequeathed on us by the international publishing industry and rights rigamarolaries.

Business development expertise will be needed. We'll need to develop partnerships with charitable organizations to identify and promote the un-gluing of specific content categories for which creative-commons licensing will best serve the public's purpose. We'll also need to work with libraries and non-profit publishers that see the public commons as their best hope for staying relevant in the digital content future.

Finally, and most importantly, Gluejar will need marketing genius. Explaining the value proposition of public content to individuals will require imagination, skillful articulation, and passion. Plus, we may need a better name.

I expect that Gluejar will operate office-lessly in its early phases but will occasionally have good parties. I haven't screwed up the courage to look at what health benefits cost these days. If you're interested in helping me make this happen, please send me e-mail. You can figure out how to do that!

Update 3/3: It's been pointed out to me, clueless as I am, that I need a much better description of what Glujar will do. Here it is (and on the Gluejar Home Page, as well!)
Gluejar is building a place for individuals and institutions to join together to liberate specific ebooks and other types of digital content by paying rightsholders to relicense their works under Creative Commons licenses.
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  1. Best of luck! Having been on a founding team once -- there's nothing in the world so exhilarating as a new startup. As a coworker of mine said -- "Win so hard you leave a dent!"

  2. Congratulations! Looking forward to hearing more.

  3. You should probably mention location requirements / wishes. Even if you start gently from home, at some point you may wish to group your talent in a box (ie. office) at some point, so a few words on current and future structure would be helpful.

  4. Alexander- I think periodic in-person meetings are important for developing and maintaining working relationships. California could work, depending on the person and position; not so much Australia.

  5. Unless you pay insane wads of money I don't think I was actually thinking this is my retirement plan per se, but it's something that's worth making explicit in these intertube days where remote talent is more often than not more important than locality. Just a friendly reminder. And good luck, it sounds very exciting! :)

  6. I wish, wish, wish I had the skillset to jump on this bandwagon. But I will pass the link around.