May 31st, 2008
Continuing my twitter experiment from April I try to select a good quote every couple of days that is applicable to the challenges of entrepreneurship. Enter your E-mail if you would like Feedburner to deliver new blog posts to your inbox.
Here are my choices for May:
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“Practice is the best of all instructors.”
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“You can’t hire someone to practice for you.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr. see also his “21 Suggestions for Success“
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“Being yourself is not remaining what you were, or being satisfied with what you are. It is the point of departure.”
Sydney J. Harris
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“Innovation is the first reduction to practice of an idea in a culture.”
James Brian Quinn in “Intelligent Enterprise: A Knowledge and Service Based Paradigm for Industry“
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“The First Step Toward Getting Somewhere Is To Decide That You Are Not Going To Stay Where You Are.”
J. Pierpont Morgan
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“Intelligence is defined by prediction. ”
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“HTML is now the default document format: a WYSIWYG editor for it is long overdue”
Kevin Marks in “Misunderstanding the Innovator’s Dilemma“
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“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”
This is also called “Amara’s Law” and often incorrectly attributed to Paul Saffo among others:
May 14th, 2008
It’s been 18 months since I last wrote about NuSym, a hardy perennial in EDA that’s a testament to the unique value of venture funding in building an EDA company (Athena Design is another). Perhaps only a venture backed EDA startup can launch without a product or a customer (note to bootstrappers: please don’t try this at home). Some excerpts from today’s press release “Nusym Debuts with Focus on Intelligent Verification” follow:
LOS GATOS, Calif., May 14, 2008 — Nusym Technology, Inc. formally introduced itself today as a verification solutions provider targeting one of the most critical problems in electronic design: developing confidence in the design in a fraction of the time and resources of current methods. Nusym is focused on an “Intelligent Verification” approach that leverages design insight to automatically drive rapid verification closure.
No discussion of the most significant breakthrough in verification in the last decade (although the careers page still promises “the most exciting EDA opportunity in a decade”).
The company has raised $8 million of capital to date. Nusym’s investment funding comes from premiere firms such as Woodside Funds, Draper Richards, L.P., as well as prominent EDA veterans, including Lucio Lanza and John Sanguinetti.
That’s up from $6 million when Richard Goering interviewed Venk Shukla, Nusym’s CEO, in December 2006 on his pre-SCDSource EET blog.
Nusym’s technology is currently being evaluated on a number of leading edge designs at its semiconductor partners. Nusym will announce its flagship product at a later date.
Why did they launch? Can you have a launch if you can’t give your product a name–although DeNibulator has a nice ring to it–and can’t get a customer to stand up?
“We find Nusym to have a very promising verification technology. It can run on very large design blocks and target hard to hit coverage points”, said Dan Smith, Director of CAD for NVIDIA.
I had thought they were aiming for chip level verification. The phrase “very promising” doesn’t give much indication of when NVIDIA might become a customer. One the other hand it reads like something an engineering director would say, a lot of startups are tempted to stuff their positioning (“rapid verification closure” in the case of NuSym) into a customer’s mouth.
Net net, they’ve raised another $2M and are going to DAC, but it’s looking less and less like there is a pony in there.
Details as they reveal the translucent, like the excited ragged breath of school children clustered at the window for the first snow of winter exposes the hand prints left on the glass from the start of school.
Postscript July 30: Why the Athena Design link no longer works. In an article in today’s EE Times Athena Design Systems: websites down, numbers disconnected by Peter Clarke notes
EDA company Athena Design Systems Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.), appears to have shut up shop.
Two websites used by the company, www.athenadesign.com and www.athenads.com , are now “under construction.” Telephone numbers are “disconnected or no longer in service.”
Athena was founded in 2003 by IC extraction expert Dimitris Fotakis. The company announced it had raised $4 million in venture capital funding in January 2007, bringing the total to $8.2 million. That round added PhillipsCapital and NTT Finance Corporation, to the company’s initial investors, who included Woodside Fund, Asset Management Company, and Draper Richards. The money was earmarked for the worldwide rollout of Athena’s first products.
Athena was included in the EE Times Silicon 60 version 6.1 list of companies to watch but dropped off version 7.0 of the list, published in February 2008.
May 13th, 2008
Tomorrow’s “Engineering Your Sales Process” workshop is sold out: we are at capacity and cannot accept walk-ins. We will offer this workshop again in the fall. We are planning our second half and will be offering workshops both on an open enrollment basis and as custom engagements for one startup. There are advantages to both approaches: in the open enrollment model you get to compare notes with other teams–and there are always a number of good ideas and suggestions that come from the group critique–and in the custom version you can go a little deeper on the key issues that your team is wrestling with.
Idea to Revenue
Invest four hours now to save months later finding a path to revenue: most software startups fail after they have working functionality but before they find their market. You will leave this workshop with a one-page strategic plan and a dashboard for measuring your progress. This highly interactive session allows you to take a short structured break from your day to day challenges to focus on longer term objectives. By stepping back from your founder’s role, you can take time to understand customer, competitor, and employee perspectives on your product and your startup.
Engineering Your Sales Process
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.
Getting More Customers
We will cover a variety of proven marketing techniques for growing your business: attendees will select one to three that fit their style and develop a plan to implement them in their business in the next 90 days. This highly interactive workshop allows you to focus on your business, providing the tools and support to plan and execute new customer development strategies immediately.
May 5th, 2008
Back in February i had an exchange with Sam Huleatt on his Leveraging Ideas blog (tagline: “Ideation on social media, venture capital and startups”) in response to his “Why I can’t Read Novels Anymore Post” that I thought I would rescue from the obscurity of the comments and post here for the half dozen regular readers of this blog (and it’s part of my natural economy of effort to rework an existing bit of writing into a blog post than finish one of the dozens languishing 90% finished in my drafts folder). I have reworked it lightly to add some hyperlinks for context and to make it a little easier to read.
First some excerpts from Sam Huleatt’s original post for context (the whole post is definitely worth reading):
I have optimized my ability to consume niche information rapidly: reading blog posts via Google Reader and applying tags (340 subscriptions to blogs on social media, venture capital and tech/economics). Daily I consume and tag 30+ websites and articles found by the 94 people whose bookmarks I subscribe to via Del.icio.us. In addition, I make use of various alerts and aggregators like Techmeme.
However, recently two things have happened:
- Information has become ‘commoditized’ and to “me too-y”
- My ability to read for pleasure has disintegrated
Information has become ‘commoditized’ in the sense that websites like Techmeme now have powerful algorithms to find niche content and expose it. This strips away any competitive advantage I felt in dutifully ‘hunting’ for information. [...] It also means that all readers have access to the same information: it’s no longer a competitive advantage to be the most well read-guy in the room. Plus, because of the ‘me too’ effect, it’s less likely that really great innovative insights will emerge. How many takes can people possibly have on Facebook’s latest announcement? I now get more information out of reading a post’s comments than I do the actual article.
Also, and perhaps tragically, my ability to read for the sake of pleasure has greatly faltered. I am now trained like clockwork to scan for keywords and main points; reading detailed monologues such as those found in novels has become too boring to maintain my interest. In my new world, rather than read a book, I’m more likely to read the book’s Wikipedia page and then individually research the conclusions/topics. A book’s prose is just filler. When I do read lengthy pieces, I find myself skipping ahead in chapters to reach conclusions. For someone who write often and used to love literature, I know I’m this is not a good thing.
In re-reading this now I get a real sense of “not enough time” (perhaps an occupational hazard of a technology oriented career, and a sensation I am personally haunted by) and I am reminded of a quote by Eric Hoffer
“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else—we are the busiest people in the world.” Eric Hoffer
A life without time for reading novels would be much less enjoyable. My response went in a different direction:
There is a category of information that hasn’t been written down (yet). You might try more reflection and focus on serious conversation to regain your balance. Ultimately gathering all of this information has to be used for a purpose beyond maintaining situational awareness. What kind of know-how do you want to develop? What is the problem you are trying to solve.
Neither Google, nor the Blogosphere, nor the World Wide Web are the world. As A.E. Van Vogt observed in “The Players of Null A” (channeling Korzybski):
“The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing it describes. Whenever the map is confused with the territory, a ‘semantic disturbance’ is set up in the organism. The disturbance continues until the limitation of the map is recognized.”
Mr. Huleatt responded
I want to develop expertise in the social media and venture capital industries. In our current era, information and knowing where to access information (quickly) is a major asset, especially in the technology space.
I agree that none of those are the ‘world’ but the way things are going, I have lots of multiple worlds and each has varying priorities.
Sam Huleatt is also part of the team that’s behind Workstreamr (tag line “Work Made Social”) which was deeply in stealth when the original exchange took place but now has a blog and manifesto. I’ve signed up for their beta. Anyway, I replied back as follows:
I am not a venture capitalist but have some experience working with them and I would think much of the key or differentiating information they rely on is not on the web. It seems to me it’s more about being able to judge people rather than encyclopedic knowledge of technology and financial trends. As an analogy: it’s the difference between knowing the probability distributions of poker hands–necessary but not sufficient–and knowing how to assess people.
The deep trends are visible in the “long nose of innovation.”
What society will do with them is harder to predict.
The latest data on developing expertise is that it takes approximately 10,000 hours (or 10-12 years) of practice, and actually requires “deliberate practice” so that you don’t experience the same year over and over. See for example http://www.psy.fsu.edu/faculty/ericsson/ericsson.exp.perf.html
I don’t fault your goals, but I do question your methods.
The law of 10,000 hours is one I have studied. While it’s interesting, it’s not the law.
Knowing how to assess people is definitely very important, but without blogs and the internet you are not exposed to nearly as many people.
I use blogs as a ‘foot-in-the-door” to learn about new people, companies and ideas. If I find something truly scintillating, I always follow-up in person.
And there we left it. I do think entrepreneurs should engage in serious conversation in preference to reading blogs. Serious conversation with prospects and people who are knowledgeable about the technologies and markets that are relevant to their startup. And I think the deliberate practice model that Ericsson outlines is based on a reasonable amount of data.
May 1st, 2008
- What have you learned?
- How have you changed since you started?
- What key skill or experience did you lack when you started that has caused you the most problem?
- What has been the biggest surprise: what was one key assumption you made, perhaps even unconsciously, that has caused the most grief?
- What development, event, or new understanding since you started has had the most impact on your original plan? How has your plan changed in response?
Take 30 minutes and write down the answers to these questions for your current business (you can take another 30 and write them down for you last one as well if you like). Share the questions with your co-founders and ask them to do the same. Compare notes. Put the answers away in a safe place, answer the questions again in six months, and compare your first and second set of answers. Repeat as necessary.
I came up with these in response to “Need good interview questions for startup founders” on Hacker News, deriving them from questions we have been asking in our Founder Story series.
Inspired as well by “Forget your Blog: 5 Reasons to Keep a Personal Log”
There is a scene in the movie Weird Science where the main character looks up something in his so-called “log.”
“You keep a diary!?”, the other geek asks.
“No, of course not! Teenage girls keep a diary, I keep a log”.
- Full Freedom of Thought
- Spot the Connections
- Sum it Up
- Backtrack Feelings
- Make Growth or Decline Visible