So they have a recent history of starting with an iconic product and then diversifying product offerings from there. I guess that does give their customers greater choice (which is not always a good thing) but it also complicates their production process. Since they're used to doing this, the iPad mini as a diversification of the iPad is easy for them to digest. I still get the feeling they're confusing their customers and complicating their jobs. Signs of a big company.
Actually a cyclical stock market cycle typically last 4 years. It's generally accepted that we've been in a bull cycle for the last few years, which is prone to shift, with the lackluster Facebook IPO as "the warning sign". If you're raising VC now, you've probably been in business for 1 to 2 years, which means if you exit in another 4 years, it could very well be a terrible secondary market by then. At least some investors will think so.
Poor market sentiment also affects M&A. I remember from my banking days in 2008, where one of my clients with $2 billion in cash wouldn't even fork over $100 million to acquire a company at 9x revenue with 80% revenue growth.
So over all exit options are appearing less attractive for VCs, thus they're likely to fund less companies at lower valuations.
My accelerated method is to do both at the same time: outsource and learn to code. My very first project ever which was a relatively simple PHP site that I outsourced. I learned HTML, CSS and JS as a freelancer in the mean time. Once I got the code base I learned how the front-end works with the server quickly. Doing so I was able to build new features whenever I wanted at a reasonable pace after like 3-4 months.
That's just the tip-of the iceberg though. There're so many programming discipline that newbies need to learn if they're serious about building a great product and being a project manager.
Love the idea. I see the initial challenge being that there are many different breeds and many dog-lovers just have very distinct taste.
For example, my ex absolutely adores the pugs/bulldogs family, but has a mysterious distaste for poodles. A comparison limited to the same breed will give you better ratings, but also makes it harder till you hit critical mass.
As a self-taught programmer I used to hail PHP as God's gift to mankind until I recruited a team and attempted rapid deployments. The language is just poorly designed compared to Ruby and Python. In face it can encourage some really bad habits for soon-to-be engineers.
On a side note, Coffeescript is one of my fav for it's ease of fixing common bugs concerning global variables, semicolons and equality comparisons. But I am a little turned of by its overblown hype on simplied syntax by its fanboys. They need to realize that, sometimes typing function in JS is just as easy as typing -> in most IDEs.