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Alienware, Assumptions, and Math

Blindly relying on basic assumptions can be costly and embarrassing. It's generally a good idea to do a quick reality check (often prompted by an unbiased partner) and "do the math" (a quick running of the basic numbers involved) before pulling the trigger on an important decision (say, like starting your own business).

I was reminded of this simple fact last night. My boys are heavily into online gaming, and the PC I bought a couple of years back just hasn't been cutting the mustard performance-wise. The boys have been eyeing some of the tricked-out (and pricey) machines from Alienware for some time now, so we finally got down to ordering one online last night. After a couple of hours of cajoling the "unbiased partner" (my wife), we seemed to have finally won the war of attrition and successfully paried her various and sundry objections to getting one of these awesome looking (or "hideous looking", depending upon your unbiased viewpoint) ultimate gaming machines.

So we excitedly made our way through the online configuration and ordering process. Our enthusiasm mounted with each selected option: Color - "Conspiracy Blue - Cool!"; Memory - "Let's go for 2 Gig - Live it up!"; Disk drive - "Extreme performance with dual 250 Gig drives - Yeah, bring it on!"; Graphics processor - "Gotta have the latest SLI enabled NVIDIA GeForce card - it's all about the graphics, sheesh!"; and so on... We were nanoseconds away from the Place Order button now, and in just a few pounding heartbeats one of these awesome beasts would be custom assembled and careening towards our house!

"How big is it?"

"Huh?"

"How big is it?" the sleepy, unbiased voice repeats, piercing through our euphoric buying haze.

"It's about the same size as our current desktop PC - these things are generally all about the same size and I've seen the pictures on the Web site," I say authoritatively and dismissively all at the same time (a genetic male talent that comes effortlessly). The Place Order button beckons on the screen.

"Have you looked up the size? Have you measured the space on the computer desk?"

The boys and I give our best collective eyeball roll. I can see she isn't going to let this one go. OK, let's humor her and get on with it. Man, what a buzz killer! I click on the Back button to hunt down the page with the complete Technical Specifications.

Height: 19.01"
Width: 9.97"
Depth: 25.02"

Doh!!! Over two feet deep!! What is that, a typo?! That's almost twice the size of our current desktop - already a monster as far as we're concerned - and deeper than the desktop space itself. I thought computers were getting smaller, not larger!

The buzz was dead. We should have checked the size of this thing before getting all amped up. The wife/Mom was right. Man, I hate that. But, hey, better to eat a little humble pie now than to drop a few grand on a machine only to find out later that it doesn't even fit. That would have been a real let-down, not to mention a daily embarrassing reminder of my dismissive reliance on basic assumptions.

Which reminds me: I need to double-check some of the basic assumptions and math around my new venture. Take a fresh run through my initial revenue and expense calculations (there is a useful Cash Management planning spreadsheet on StartupNation that I have been using). Possibly rethink some of my marketing assumptions. For example, since my venture might be considered in some ways to be the antithesis of MySpace (I mentioned in my first post that the central concept "revolves around encouraging responsible, philanthropic behavior in families and their children"), I've been looking at top-down marketing strategies that target "responsible" parents. Perhaps I need to look at some bottom-up marketing strategies as well. An article in the San Jose Mercury today (Going Ape Over MySpace: Silicon Valley Start-Ups Try to Ride Web Sensation's Coattails) prodded me to think that perhaps I can even tap into the momentum and reach of MySpace to promote my venture, even though it targets a very different kind of behavior. Maybe - at least I should not be too quick to dismiss the idea.

Oh yeah, and about that Alienware purchase? It turns out they make a pretty awesome laptop as well. I had dismissed it before, because everyone knows a desktop is the optimal choice for gaming - right? Wrong in this case. The laptop has all the cool options we wanted above - except for the color - and, it will fit perfectly on our computer desk. The buzz is back, the order is placed. Humiliation-free gaming bliss should be ours in just a few days...

1 comment:

Anonymous aka The Blog Post Author

Bill, you gotta check out newegg.com

what better project than to build your own kick butt gaming computer for half what you'd pay dell/alienware for.

-paul

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