Archive for April, 2008
April 30th, 2008
I have been trying to select a good quote every couple of days that is applicable to the challenges of entrepreneurship. What follows are the balance I selected in April. For the first part see Quotes for Founders
Update April 30, 2011: You can follow @skmurphy to get these hot off the mojo wire or wait until the end of the month when they are collected on the blog. Enter your E-mail if you would like Feedburner to deliver new blog posts to your inbox.
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“We are not human beings have a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
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“Originality and the feeling of one’s dignity are achieved through work and struggle.”
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“Life is too short to work at a job you hate, but everyone has to do something someone else is willing to pay them for.”
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“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, another is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”
Henry C. Link
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“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
Sydney J. Harris
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“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”
e. e. cummings
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Nothing happens without personal transformation.”
W. Edwards Deming
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“Your twenties are always an apprenticeship, but you don’t always know what for.”
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“Leadership is the art of inspiring people to cooperate and enthusiastically take action toward uncommon goals.”
Col. John Boyd (OODA loop inventor)
April 29th, 2008
For Silicon Valley our favorite location to meet clients is American Executive Center. Depending on the requirements for the meeting we use a number of places outlined at meeting locations.
Full Calendar is another great source for meeting venues. It’s a great list and far more encompassing than ours. Enter “venues” in the search form.
April 28th, 2008
A couple of interesting variations on a theme. First off from a Hacker News comment by redorb in response to “Quit Your Job”
“Life is too short to work at a job you hate, but everyone has to do something someone else is willing to pay them for.”
Bearing in mind Barry Moltz‘s observation that “Entrepreneurs start businesses because..they have no choice. Passion and energy drive them on good days and sustain them on bad days.” We come to this gem from Evelyn Rodriguez
“Life’s Too Short To Stray Off Your Passion.” Evelyn Rodriguez
which titled a post that contains this observation attributed (*see below) to James Michener:
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion.
He hardly knows which is which.
He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.
To him he’s always doing both.
It certainly sounds like a great prescription for happy entrepreneurial existence. Since entrepreneurship blends into (takes over?) much of the rest of your life, you might as well enjoy it, and pursue it in ways that are consistent with your values.
One final quote, this one from Benjamin Disraeli‘s “Coningsby or the New Generation”
“Life is too short to be little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and expresses himself with frankness and with fervour.”
Rare is the entrepreneur who can keep his mouth shut or act in a half-hearted fashion: as Keith Herrmann observed about the corporate steeplechase “the difference between a good career and a great one is the ability to leave some things unsaid.” Bold action coupled with frank expression has inadvertently launched many a deeply felt entrepreneurial career.
And as life is too short for long blog posts I’ll stop this one here.
April 24th, 2008
VentureHacks offered three “micro hacks” today that I thought were very good operating principles for bootstrapping ventures as well.
Don’t ask investors what they think. Ask your customers.
- It’s easier to get money from a customer than an investor.
- It’s easier to get real feedback on your offer as well.
- Customers are much less susceptible to fads and have more of a stake in your success.
Traction speaks louder than words.
Be aggressive in signing up your first paying customer. Not many prospects want to continue the conversation when your answer to “Do you have any paying customers” is “No” or “We hope that will be you.” If you want to sign up a partner, bring the first deal (typically from an existing customer, or at least a solid prospect).
Competitors copy success, not ideas.
Many new market entrants are fearful that an incumbent is going to react to their arrival with their launch or first announcement. Rarely. The first time you win an account, or take a customer away from them, many competitors will shrug it off as a fluke, or console themselves internally with “we didn’t want that customer anyway.” And if you’ve done your homework, you are aiming, at least initially, at customers that an incumbent finds less attractive. Normally it takes three wins to arouse a real competitive response. Ian Fleming’s fictional villain Auric Goldfinger advised James Bond in this regard as follows:
“They have a saying in Chicago Mr. Bond “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”
April 23rd, 2008
I caught this tweet on the VentureHacks Twitter feed but in checking with Mr. Google I discovered it was part of the Balanced Scorecard methodology. An excerpt from Dr. David Norton’s “Measuring Value Creation with the Balanced Scorecard” a summary is available here.
“Strategy is a hypothesis. Strategy implies the movement of an organization from it’s present position to a desirable but uncertain future position. Since the organization has never been to this future position, the pathway of how it intends to get there involves a series of linked hypotheses.”
And some excerpts from a presentation “Using Balanced Scorecard to Build a Project Focused IT Organization” by Glen Alleman:
Strategy is a hypothesis. Metrics are the data for testing the hypothesis.
Strategy is making a hypothesis about a desired outcome, constructing the measures to test the hypothesis, deploying the experiment to test the hypothesis, then making adjustments based on the metrics.
The concept of strategy as a hypothesis and the experiments to test the hypothesis may be new to many. But this approach puts strategy in a different light. Strategy is not something you do then go off to execute the plan. It is a continuous feedback process. Always testing the strategy with metrics derived from projects.
The take away for startups is to understand how you are going to keep score, measuring both progress and distance to goal. Whatever strategy or mix of strategies you adopt, for each you should define up front and in simple terms how you will track impact on the key outcomes you are trying to achieve (e.g. revenue, profit).
April 17th, 2008
Tomorrow’s Getting More Customers workshop is sold out. We are at capacity at FortisGC for this workshop and cannot accept walk-ins. We will offer this workshop again in the fall. We are offering a new one, “Engineering Your Sales Process“, next month:
Building a repeatable sales process is key to a sustainable business, understanding how to scale your sales process is key to revenue growth. Learn how to synchronize your sales process with your customer buying process. We will look at ways to shorten your sales cycle. This highly interactive session allows you to analyze and debug your sales cycle.
Wed, May 14, 2008 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Executive Suites 100 at 2900 Gordon Ave Santa Clara CA 95051
Cost: $75 early registration; after May 4 $95 (includes breakfast & lunch)
To Register : https://www.123signup.com/register?id=tjxkh
April 14th, 2008
There has been a last minute substitution and Nick Tredennick will be speaking on the next transition in computing: performance per watt. Full details are on the SF Bay ACM website.
Date: Wednesday, 16 April 2008, 6:30 PM
Location: Hewlett Packard (see directions), Pruneridge and Wolfe, Cupertino, Bldg. 48, Oak Room.
Cost: Free and open to all who wish to attend, but membership is only $10/year.
Nick is a knowledgeable and articulate speaker who brings a lot of dry humor to his talks. He is the author of “An Engineer’s View of Venture Capital” which ran in IEEE Spectrum in September of 2001. To get a feel for his sense of humor, here is his bio for the event.
Nick Tredennick has the usual degrees from typical universities and has held an uninspiring assortment of run-of-the-mill jobs. For example, he has been a fry cook, Air Force pilot, janitor, university professor, dishwasher, design engineer, truck driver, naval officer, oil field worker, and corporate executive. He even helped start a few companies, but was soon forced out. However, despite an appalling lack of knowledge about programmable logic and electronics in general, he was once chief scientist at Altera, a leading maker of programmable logic devices. Through what could only have been a monumental bureaucratic foul-up, he was also once a Research Staff Member at IBM’s prestigious Watson Research Center. Tredennick has put considerable effort into finding something he could do well. No luck so far. He started his career as a working engineer (nerd), but moved to management when he found watching people work was easier than working. He moved to a university when he found talking about work was even easier than watching it. He has finally reached the pinnacle of his career in a position where he doesn’t even have to talk about work. He is a technology analyst for Gilder Publishing.
April 13th, 2008
A long one from Stanley Kubrick quoted in Kubrick by Michael Ciment
“First of all, even the greatest International Grandmasters, however deeply they analyze a position, can seldom see to the end of the game. So their decision about each move is partly based on intuition. I was a pretty good chess-player but, of course, not in that class. Before I had anything better to do (making movies), I played in chess tournaments at the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs in New York, and for money in parks and elsewhere.
Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing, and to think just as objectively when you’re in trouble.
When you’re making a film you have to make most of your decisions on the run, and there is a tendency to always shoot from the hip. It takes more discipline than you might imagine to think, even for thirty seconds, in the noisy, confusing, high-pressure atmosphere of a film set, But a few seconds’ thought can often prevent a serious mistake being made about something that looks good at first glance. With respect to films, chess is more useful preventing you from making mistakes than giving you ideas. Ideas come spontaneously and the discipline required to evaluate and put them to use tends to be the real work.”
And a few shorter ones
“Good positions don’t win games, good moves do.”
“When the Chess game is over, the Pawn and the King go back to the same box”
“A bad plan is better than none at all.”
“Daring ideas are like Chess men moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“It is not a move, even the best move that you must seek, but a realizable plan”
April 12th, 2008
As Silicon Valley’s economy slows down and expense controls transmute into layoff notices, it’s good to remember what real problems are.
Major Andrew Olmsted was killed in Iraq on Jan. 3, 2008. Olmsted was a blogger who left behind a post for posthumous publication. I am excerpting a couple of key paragraphs to help offer a sense of perspective. Olmsted was a Babylon 5 fan who also blogged under the pseudonym G’Kar, he sprinkles his final post with a number of quotes from the series.
“I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here.” G’Kar, Babylon 5
This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G’Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It’s not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn’t hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don’t know. I hope so. It’s frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won’t get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.
It’s incredibly jarring to start reading and realize that the author is dead and wrote this farewell essay with the intention of having it published posthumously.
On a similar note, while you’re free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I’ll tell you you’re wrong. We’re all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.
This is reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
I wish I could say I’d at least started to get it right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I’m afraid I can’t really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history’s Green Monster. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I would have liked to have done more, but it’s a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference, and massive ego aside, that’s probably not too bad.
Read the whole thing, and bookmark so you can go back and re-read when you are feeling sorry for yourself.
April 11th, 2008
Matt Maroon wrote a very thought provoking post on “Why Not to Do a Startup” a little over four weeks ago that I have been meaning to write about. He opens provocatively:
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about startups lately, and I’ve come to realize that they’re really not for most people, probably even most people who attempt them.
I am reminded of Sramana Mitra‘s quote in the Real VCs of Silicon Valley that “The truth is, start-up-land is littered with mavericks, iconoclasts, dropouts and misfits.” (As I read that quote again I think to myself, yes, that’s me, these are my kind of people).
There are a number of people floating around the Valley whose lives are a pretty sad story. Every startup they joined tanked, every one they passed on went public. They went without salary for years, and even when they had one, it was pretty low.
It’s always the one that got away that is successful (probably because so many can get away for every one you take part in).
Even sadder are the people whose startups succeeded but still aren’t happy, because they never learned that there is more to life than making money.
Perhaps we should introduce the first group to the second. But this affluenza isn’t limited to startup founders.
The biggest problem with startups..is the variance. Startups tend to be fairly binary, with you making either a very large amount off of them or nothing at all.
I think this is actually not true, and while many fail, there is a large spectrum of outcomes. Even among founding teams. Even among venture backed founding teams, which I think is the population Matt is describing. Matt’s entire post should probably be required reading for all YCombinator, TechStars, etc.. applicants, because it makes a lot of points that will make founders uncomfortable but that have to be acknowledged and managed.
Some folks win big, but many do well, especially when coupled with:
Benefits to startups other than the money..Working for yourself.
We see a lot of bootstrappers who run “small successful” software firms who are about as happy as they would have been in “a real job.” Some break out and some fail, but many fall into a fairly large middle ground: they achieve modest success but stay below the radar screen of most observers. It’s one of the reasons we facilitate the Bootstrapper Breakfasts as a service to the startup community.
Update Oct 18, 2009: removed all references to “awesome highlighter” and retained focus on Matt Maroon’s article.