Theresa heard a radio interview with Barry Moltz in 2003 and suggested that I get his book. In December 2003 I purchased a copy of You Need to Be a Little Crazy and when it arrived from Amazon I put it on my to-be-read pile where it languished until early this morning when I read it in one setting, making notes in the margin and jotting down page numbers for quotes I was going to harvest for later re-use on a 3×5 card as I read.
Archive for December, 2006
An old joke (or perhaps a variation on an old joke–which is still an old joke):
“..and then there was the man whose personality was so negative that whenever he left a party people would look around and ask ‘who just came in?'”
Negative Productivity is a principle that I claim is worthy of a Nobel Prize. Normal principles of productivity assume that workers create positive output. Brooks refined the concept of software productivity to express it in terms of the “mythical man month,” and in software engineering, it is understood that different programmers vary in their productivity by several orders of magnitude. According to the principal of negative productivity, it is possible for an individual to produce bad results that others must then redo; hence, someone who is very negatively productive can keep a whole team busy with damage control, preventing the team from producing any output whatsoever.
Merging these two implies [ -(-1) = +1 for the mathematically disinclined ]
Removing someone with negative productivity from a team without replacement is the same as adding a new team member.
The challenge for a startup is four fold:
- Screen out folks with negative productivity in the interview process.
- Avoid screening out potential employees who have great strengths in addition to some obvious weaknesses.
- Attract, hire, and retain enough strong players from the start to complete your first product in a timely fashion.
- Fire anyone who made an initially strong impression but who is actually negatively impacting the performance of the team (more broadly: identify and eliminate sources of negative productivity).
This last category, the “plus minus” people, are only truly dangerous if you don’t have the ability to detect and acknowledge that you have made a mistake.
Joe Kraus has argued that it’s better to be completely conservative and avoid any “false positives” but my experience has shown that allowing some leeway with a contracting or probationary period to make a final assessment allows some ultimately strong contributors to also be recruited who may have made a negative impression on some members of the team. There is also a value in having folks with diverse backgrounds and perspectives on the team (Doug Hall states that leverage diversity is the second law of capitalist creativity in Jumpstart Your Business Brain, observing that “You exponentially multiply the power of stimuli when you seek the ideas, opinions, and judgments of people with diverse perspectives.”)
You are always better served to select a candidate who has made a strongly positive impression on most of your team over someone who has unanimous but lukewarm support. Tim Converse wrote a good post on “Hiring: false positive and negatives” that analyzed categories 2 and 4, noting that allowing for some number of 4’s allow you to also recruit some 2’s that broaden the diversity of your team and allow it to reach better solutions. In any event, you have to be prepared for errors in your hiring process and need to continue to evaluate employees and their contribution on an ongoing basis.
I had lunch today at El Cerrito with an old friend from college who has done a number of successful startups. We talked of old classmates, children, the energy we had in our twenties, his new son, and my new granddaughter. And we talked about what it was like to do a startup. He left me with two words pictures that I have transcribed below, because I think they capture two different aspects of startups.
The first is the startup experience as a hurdles race:
Doing a startup is like running a high hurdles race early in the morning before the fog has burned off and before the setup crew has all of the hurdles positioned correctly.
The starting gun goes off and you can see perhaps a dozen feet in front of you. You can hear the grunts of the other racers and the scuff of shoes on the track. You take off running and the first hurdle appears out of the fog. You clear it easily and then realize that you are slowing down slightly, expecting the next one, but the setup crew has not put it out.
Then suddenly it’s in front of you and you barely clear up. You can hear some of the other runners stumbling but ahead you hear others racing ahead of you.
You have to set a pace to catch them but you cannot just put your head down and run because you have to keep a lookout for another hurdle to appear at the limit of your fogbound vision.
The second was based on several experiences he had working with VC’s. An avid cyclist, he thought of the entrepreneurial journey with a VC as having two distinct phases: in the pack and near the finish line.
Working with VC’s is like a bicycle race. At first you are all in the pack and everyone works together, alternating position to draft and move faster together than the solo leaders.
But as the finish line appears the pack breaks up as each cyclist tries to cross it first. Even if the VC’s have been good partners for most of the journey, they can’t resist the temptation to break away and gain the advantage at the finish line.
- “Your twenties are always an apprenticeship, but you don’t always know what for.” Jan Houtema
- A great quote that I used again in April 2008 but couldn’t source it. Paul Graham has it in his quote list. But while Houtema is a legitimate surname, I can’t find the one named Jan.
- Steve Blank offers a framework for evaluating startup leadership requirements in “I‘ve seen the Promised Land and I might not get here with you” that addresses all of situations my friend describe: hurdles, the pack, and the end of the bicycle race.
We had met a long time ago but lost touch afterward. The points you make about website credibility are valid. We will measure the information we put out against this criteria once we decide to emerge from the shadows. Thanks for paying attention, anyway.
I think Nusym has emerged from the shadows because Richard Goering, the dean of EDA journalism, has just posted an entry about Nusym called “Tracking an elusive verification startup” on his new blog, that includes an interview with Shukla.
Veteran EDA user and consultant Sean Murphy brought Nusym to light earlier this year in his blog, which covers a variety of topics including EDA. Murphy has some interesting comments about the claims made in Nusym’s web site.
See also Nusym De-cloaks from Oct 21 and Nusym De-cloaks 2 from Oct 22 for a critique of the site and some suggestions for other startups. But the next sentence shows the difference between a journalist blogging and a consultant blogging: Goering picked up the phone got an interview.
Intrigued, I put in a call to Venk Shukla, Nusym CEO. I asked him about the claim that Nusym’s technology will be as revolutionary as logic synthesis. “With logic synthesis, instead of focusing on individual gates, people started focusing on the outcome, and the tool did the rest,” Shukla said. “With verification also, our goal is to make this more of an outcome-oriented tool than the input-oriented effort that people have today.”
Shukla said that Nusym is focusing on “simulation or the tools that work off simulation,” and is just now going into beta sites with its technology. The real value, he said, is not so much simulation speed as completion and coverage. “What’s important is how much more quickly you can complete simulation,” he said.
Certainly the folks who started O-in and Silicon Sorcery would agree, as well as the folks at Verisity and Systems Science. It’s actually hard to argue with. Richard Goering continues
What else do we know? Google Nusym, and you’ll find documents that name Woodside Fund, Draper Richards, and Silicom Ventures as venture capital investors. Shukla said that Lucio Lanza and John Sanguinetti are investors in Nusym, and he said that about $6 million has been raised so far. Nusym currently employs around 20 people, he said.
Goering has some interesting speculation on what Nusym may really be doing, and he then offers another quote from Mr. Shukla.
“What attracted me is that this is the first genuinely good idea we’ve heard in verification for a long, long time,” said Shukla. “There’s been no innovation in that space for the last 10 to 12 years, and the problem is getting worse.”
I think that there has been a fair amount of innovation in the verification space in the last decade. It’s an odd position for Venk to stake out, that there hasn’t. It also neatly sidesteps the specifics of the insertion point in the flow or the actual nature of the benefits they hope to deliver. Cutting time to achieve high verification coverage is a generic promise at this point. For example, Cadence, a potential exit for Nusym, makes the following promise for their Incisive platform:
The Cadence Incisive® platform delivers the fastest and most efficient way to verify large, complex chips. It ensures that your product will meet specifications, ship without defects and arrive on time by removing productivity, predictability and quality risks in the development process.
Ann Germany and Shankar Hemmady, writing at EDACafe on “Verification Languages: 3 points to ponder beyond which one?” list this as their second point:
2. Is there a way out of this mess?
Deploying thousands of simulations, directing resources across geographically dispersed teams and achieving total coverage across the block, chip, system and project levels are today’s verification reality. Exasperating isn’t it? With modern SoC’s consisting of one or more processors, embedded software, instruction and data caches, large register sets, multiple buses, dedicated hardware accelerator, and a dozen or more interfaces to industry standards, simply keeping track of where we stand and what comes next becomes a problem on its own. How can we capture the verification process and what can be done to automate this process? What if the specification changes in the middle of the project? What if a critical bug is identified a week before tapeout? How can we manage the verification process to gain control over this flood of information?
Nusym should consider situating their brand promise in the realities of design and verification as outlined above. This is also an approach other software startups should consider as well: don’t try and position yourself as bringing fire to the savages, acknowledge the challenges and real pain your prospects are experiencing and offer a specific measurable benefit that differentiates you from other potential solutions.
I got Guidelines to Creativity by K. Bradford Brown as a gift and was impressed by these ten quotes. Some are clever re-statements of more famous observations but all have a certain poetry.
- Creativity will take me as far as my imagined limits.
- The building blocks of our creativity are quarried from the space between what is, and what might be.
- Some discoveries change the world. All discoveries change their discoverer.
- An attempt may be a failure. A person never is.
- To create, we must learn to stand on other people’s shoulders humbly.
- Whenever a group shares a common vision, a spark of creativity is ignited.
- When surfacing from the depths of creative effort, take the time to decompress.
- Age does not limit creativity. But having experience helps. As does not having it. Anyway, it’s not our choice.
- They said, “try, try again.” I said, “let’s stop and try something different.”
- It starts in the imagination. It ends in sweat.
Last night’s talk was well received. We had a good crowd, with folks filling the seats and and a few having to stand up along the back wall. Here’s the feedback from the talk:
- I was surprised that it was more than 12 capsule reviews back to back, that Sean was able to extract some key concepts that many of the books shared about “the way the world works” for understanding how to market discontinuous innovations.
- Expand on a smaller number of books
- More clearly explain that presentation is broken into three categories.
- Great presentation! I can’t wait to get the slides.
- Great Speaker! + Excellent Information
- Well Done
- Would be nice to add to slide deck the comments at the end where he discussed which books to focus on for specific industries.
- Always repeat questions.
- I suggest to use some business example to apply to the book / business theories.
- I’d like to have further SDForum Marketing SIGs continue to work with the material. Excellent content…I would have enjoyed going through it more slowly.
- I would be interested in hearing Sean Murphy again.
- Excellent content and organization. With Case Study would be awesome.
- Sean was a fabulous presenter!
- Good 50K ft. overview
- Tough decisions on depth vs. breadth. Good choices.
- This talk can be delivered to a variety of groups. Hope you can market it.
- Integral of Bell Curve = S Curve
- Excellent list + summary of books
- Demonstrated tremendous knowledge of marketing literature
- Great, concise summary to introduce folks to important marketing books.
- Speaker rocked. Great presentation
- Kind of got lost on explaining the S curve.
- Good job of asking applicable questions
- Nice transition of why you did not use sales books.
- Money is a small part of price:
- high quality people assigned to project
- opportunity cost of their time
We have learned that the Yahoo Group for the SDForum Marketing SIG will be discontinued in favor of a new system. We have put a copy of the presentation here as a PDF so that folks can access it reliably.
12 Books For the Busy CEO: spend an hour and leave with a summary of key marketing insights and some rules of thumb for successful innovation in Silicon Valley. You might even identify one or two books that you haven’t read that will be worth your time over the Christmas holidays. I will cover twelve books that form the basis for conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley for marketing discontinuous or disruptive products.
Just For Today
I Will Feel Grateful For My Customers. I Worked Hard To Get Them.
Without Them I Would Not Have A Business.
I Will Be as Friendly as Can Be to Everyone That I Work With; I Will
Treat Them as If They Are Responsible For Keeping Me in Business.
If I Have To Correct Someone, I Will Do It With the Same Good Humor
and Self-restraint as If I Were The One Being Corrected.
I Will Not Assume That Everything I Do Has To Be Perfect. I Am Going
To Do Well Enough To Get Through The Day Competently.
I Am Not Going To Try And Break Any Speed Records In What I Do. I Will
Get Done What’s In Front Of Me Without Trying To Put Myself Into A
Position Of Painful Compulsion.
When I Leave Work, I Will Not Think About How Much I Got Done Or Did
Not Get Done. Instead, I Will Look Forward To The Evening, And Be
Thankful That I Did Whatever I Did.
- Map out a calendar of subjects to cover. Just planning one or two a week for the next 2 months will help you avoid writer’s block. This still leaves room for “inspired” work but can give you some structure.
- Pick a focus or related set of subjects for your writing.
- Inject your perspective and where appropriate include direct reporting of events, talks, conferences, or meetings that you have attended.
Some key points to remember as you ask folks in larger firms to take a risk with our new offering or service. They are from an early 1990’s article entitled “Going Pro” by Asa Barber.
Life in most business organizations is like life in a submarine.
For those of you who find yourselves in an office environment, understand that it is, by definition, a closed environment. Take note of how you conduct yourself. Do you talk too loudly? Are you argumentative to a fault? Do you wear well as an office companion? Do you think of the needs of others? […]
Life in most business organizations is like life in a Medici court.
The spirit of Niccolo Machiavelli lives in every business culture. There are political alliances and power shifts. There are assassinations and misdemeanors. There are those who are in, and those who are out. It is life on the refined edge of risk and reward. So play your cards like a careful courtier. Especially when you are beginning your career. Whom can you trust? Who wants help you and who wants to impede your progress? Better bide your time and keep your own counsel. And finally, don’t try to be too special or too unique in order to get noticed. Remember the advice of good old Niccolo:
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
Employees in a large firm have to live with the consequences of failure in ways that can be more harsh than the effect the same failure has on your startup. It’s important to bear in mind that you can put a dent in someone’s career and while you may have opted for the entrepreneurial adventure, they don’t want to wander too far off their career path.
Also, startups are like mini-subs, very intense pressure cookers that require a high tolerance for stress induced behavior–and hopefully the ability to minimize the impact of stress on your own actions.
Thinking like a professional means sticking to basics.
The basics are founded on common sense, and they include: being on time, never missing a deadline, talking when spoken to, shutting up when not spoken to, being honest about expenses and other funds, giving your time and energy to the job without reservation while you are on the job, showing consideration for your colleagues, seeking solutions not perpetual conflict–and last but not least, being willing to go out on a limb and push for an idea you truly believe in…
I sometimes meet folks who think that being in a startup exempts them from
most of the rules of business etiquette. It’s a mixture of “leading the revolution” that will sweep away all of the current practice and being clearer on their own short term needs without consideration for potential consequences. And let’s face it, many people join startups because they can’t fit in at larger firms for reasons that encompass a multitude of strengths and shortcomings.
I still prefer the challenges of aligning founders’ psychology with business reality to the need to navigate the complex political landscape–come join the kabuki–of most large firms. I say this as a former flying monkey for several evil emperors (it’s not just wicked witches who need flying monkeys) who never wanted to move up to samurai because the ronin retirement policy was a little too much to take in the event of the untimely demise of your shogun.
See the terrain from the point of view of your boss.
This is both an opportunistic and a humane approach to the workplace. Your boss, no matter his or her deficiencies, is not your enemy. Your boss has to get a job done. So before you decide that your boss has no grasp of the territory, you should at least know how territory looks from the executive suite. You might be surprised. If you put yourself in the shoes of your superiors, will learn a lot about their expectations of you. And, if you know what they expect of you, you can get the job done.
It’s also good advice to understand the situation from your prospect’s boss’ perspective. And if your prospect can’t explain the boss’ perspective, they may not prove to be that effective an internal champion or change agent.
Lao-tzu gives outstanding advice:
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
“To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.”
“The way of the sage is to act but not to compete.”
“When armies are mobilized and issues are joined,
the man who is sorry over the fact will win.”
Time is worth much more than money, so don’t waste it
your own or anybody else’s…the true professional guards his time. More important, he doesn’t steal time from others. His written memos are brief and to the point, his phone conversations are neither chatty or windy, his statements in meetings are compact and organized. Few things can get you fired faster than a selfish use of someone else’s time.
And few things make it very hard to get a meeting with someone, even if you are now in a different company, than asking for a 30 minute meeting to offer a briefing on your offering and arguing with a prospect for more than an hour. Ask for 30 minutes and be prepared to be packed up heading for the door at the 25 minute mark if your prospect is not interested or doesn’t see the value in your offer.
The professional mind-set is built on common sense, rationality, cold logic, and a shrewd understanding of the business process.
On the battlefield and in the marketplace, our emotions are perpetually attacked, manipulated, courted, and torn. But the real professional is the person who can overcome all of the glitter and distraction, all of the melodrama and posturing. The true pro stays within himself, analyzes the chessboard, thinks ahead, stays cool and keeps this constant mind: Just get the job done.
This is a tough one, but making and meeting commitments that create value for your customers is what gets remembered (of the positive things that get remembered).
I will be offering practical advice to startup entrepreneurs in this blog. I am a hardware engineer and a mom, so I like lists with a do-it/done methodology. My post are short and to the point. Hopefully you will find them useful.
“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you
can only do a little. Do what you can.” Sydney Smith
“Do small things with great love.” –Mother Theresa
I have known Gary Smith for almost 20 years: we met when he was a methodologist at LSI Logic and their salesman for 3Com dragged him in to encourage us to continue using the proprietary LSI tools and not move to Synopsys Design Compiler and Verilog for ASIC design. Like all good ENTJ‘s he was hearty, robust, and argumentative. I guess it takes one to know one. What Gary and I considered to be a friendly but spirited conversation the salesman was convinced had escalated to a shouting match. We have been friends ever since.
Much has been made of Dataquest’s decision to shut down their 5 person Design and Engineering Group, which covered EDA, electronic system level (ESL) design, embedded software, mechanical design, and architectural engineering and construction. I think Gabe Moretti‘s Life Without Dataquest (Oct 23, 2006) in CMP’s EDA DesignLine probably had the best insights (links added):
It is always sad to see people that have dedicated their skills to make a difference in our industry get laid off. It has happened too frequently in the last two years in the media, and the trend has now extended itself to the world of analysts. Some individual analysts, Erach Desai for example, have started their own consulting organizations instead of being associated with an investment banking firm. Now the news that Gartner Dataquest has decided to close its CAD group at the end of this month and terminate coverage of EDA highlights once more the real nature of the industry.
When three of the handful of publicly traded EDA companies control about 73% of the industry revenues as Merrill Lynch Research’s Jay Vleeschhouwer stated in his last report, one only needs to look at Cadence, Synopsys and Mentor, to determine the state and direction of the industry. By adding Magma to the input data one has enough to develop a sufficiently accurate picture of the industry to advise EDA corporate planners and independent investors on both growth opportunities and possible pitfalls. Gartner has thus made a difficult but financially sound decision in terminating its EDA coverage. In spite of the excellent professional qualifications of each of the members of the CAD group, and the technical leadership they provided under the able guidance of Gary Smith, the business side of this enterprise has become less justifiable. The four largest companies have grown an internal knowledge of the competition and thus have lessened their reliance on the input from Dataquest, while few of the smaller companies have developed the marketing bandwidth to take advantage of the private analysis offered by Dataquest.
Just as the amount spent on advertising and the changing nature of the ads have shaped the reorganization of the industry coverage by media giants like CMP and Reed Elsevier, so the amount of money spent on independent market analysis is reshaping this segment of the industry. I have no doubt that companies will continue to rely on independent input for their planning, but this help will come from individuals or small organizations that can operate with a significantly smaller overhead than Gartner. If you really think about it, supporting capabilities, like media, PR, and market analysis, are now resembling the nature of the industry they serve: innovation and creativity come mostly from small companies and individuals who find a way to believe in their own ideas and convictions and who are successful for what they know and contribute, not who they work for.
I like the Moore’s Law waits for no one sentiment he closes on. He was the first to really explain it as a rational business decision instead of some kind of conspiracy. John Cooley offered a wealth of them in the “Untold Gary Smith Back Story” but Steve DiBartolomeo of Artwork Conversion Software made what I think was the most prescient comment:
What’s replacing Gartner? DeepChip, and blogs. An EDA company makes an outrageous claim? Within hours actual users will refute such claims on blogs, emails to DeepChip and the bragger is called to account. A major customer changes suppliers, the news is out in days. A new tool is crap, in spite of the NDAs enough “Call Me Anonymous” engineers report their experience. The services that you provide freely via DeepChip compete directly with Gartner. Information zips around much more freely than before; yet someone has to aggregate it, qualify it, filter it and make sense of it, but it is pretty clear that the Gartner business model has reached the end of its life.”
- ANST – Ansoft – 5 analysts
- ARMHY – ARM Holdings – 4 analysts
- CDNS – Cadence – 11 analysts
- LAVA – Magma Design Automation – 7 analysts
- LVGN – Logic Vision – No analyst coverage
- MENT – Mentor Graphics – 7 analysts
- MIPS – MIPS Technologies – 4 analysts
- PDFS – PDF Solutions – 6 analysts
- SNPS – Synopsys – 11 analysts
- SYNP – Synplicity Inc. – 3 analysts
- VIRL – Virage Logic – 5 analysts
There is a fair amount of overlap in coverage but it looks like there are perhaps 16-18 analysts covering at least one company in the industry and a core of about a dozen covering at least three. As a contrast, Xilinx has 27 analysts covering it and Altera has 30. These two FPGA players probably invest as much in CAD tools as many if not most of the companies listed above.
Peggy Aycinena interviewed Gary in 2001, posting it in 2004 here where she and characterized him as the EDA Industry’s answer to the Oracle at Delphi. While he has survived a bout with cancer and has a young son still in diapers I have never witnessed him display any supernatural powers. He is strong methodologist who is able to spot the part of the future that’s already here by observing and listening to designers.
As to what Gartner’s decision means for the industry, I am guided by Gerald Weinberg’s observation that “It may look like a crisis, but it’s only the end of an illusion.”
Early software sales are typically a mix of service and product, and in fact can look a lot like consulting deals. Here are a three tips to help plan your next sales call.
- Focus on the prospect’s business needs, issues and concerns more than your smarts, methods, or credentials.
- Promised results (benefits) matter more than methods (features).
- Methods (features) matter more than your experience or credentials.
- If you don’t have testimonials ask for them (once you deserve them).
- Focus on converting all of your early customers into references. References matter more than revenue for early stage companies.
- Remember that a customer is someone who has PAID you, not someone using your product for free.