Archive for February, 2012

3 Questions Technical Entrepreneurs Have For Potential Co-Founders

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage

I sometimes see folks at a Bootstrapper Breakfasts® make brief presentations where they are looking for co-founders but say that they are in “stealth mode” or are otherwise unwilling to describe any specifics of what they are working on. For the most part they get no response: neither direct interest from people at the table nor offers to connect them with someone who might be a fit. If you are looking for  a co-founder you should at least be able to talk in detail about the problem you want to tackle and your background and why it’s helpful for solving the problem if you want to energize people enough to contact you.

Even if your firm is in “stealth mode” you should disclose your bio and background since that’s the first thing you are going to ask someone who contacts you. If you are a business oriented entrepreneur looking for a technical co-founder(s) to work for equity you need to pass three tests almost immediately:

  • Is this a problem I want to work on, will it impact people’s lives
  • Who will be on the team with me, what are their prior accomplishments
  • If it’s business people: what traction have they already demonstrated on this project? How do I know that they can sell what I develop.

Book Club: The Innovator’s DNA: Observing

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Books, Events

Recorded discussion on Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s DNA chapter 4, recorded on April 25, 2012. Jeff Allison, former VP of Engineering at Cisco Systems joins us to discuss observing.

Chapter 4:

Discovery Skill #3 Observing

The Innovator’s DNA

by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen

Practical and provocative, The Innovator’s DNA is an essential resource for individuals and teams who want to strengthen their innovative prowess.

The authors outline five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from ordinary managers: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting.

BUY BOOK button

Complete SKMurphy’s book club list
Remind me of upcoming events

Related Resources:

The Innovator’s DNA overview

Discovery Skills

  1. Associating
  2. Questioning
  3. Observing
  4. Networking
  5. Experimenting

Share your story –

Leave a comment below

  • What do you think of the topic?
  • Do you have a question about this topic?
  • How did impact your business?

Additional Book Reviews

Managing Oneself Article
Boyd-OODA The Lean Startup
Moore's Darwin and the Demon HRB article
Cohan Great Demo
Origin and Evolution

Great Demo Workshop on May 23, 2012

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Demos, Events, Sales

Create and Deliver Surprisingly Compelling Software Demonstrations
“Do The Last Thing First” — the recipe for a Great Demo!

When: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 8 am – 5 pm
Where: Moorpark Hotel, 4241 Moorpark Ave, San Jose CA 95129
For out of town attendees: The Moorpark is located 400 feet from the Saratoga Ave exit on Hwy 280, about 7 miles from San Jose Airport and 35 miles from San Francisco Airport Hotels Near Great Demo! Workshop

Cost: $620
Before May. 1: $595

This is an interactive workshop with Peter Cohan geared especially for you who demonstrate B-to-B software to your customer and channels. Bring a copy of your demo and be prepared to present it — we’ll help you turn it into a surprisingly compelling demo!

Register Great Demo

This seminar outlines a framework for the creation and delivery of improved demos and presentations to enable increased success in the marketing, sale, and deployment of software and related products. Whether it’s face to face, in a webinar, as a screencast, or as a self-running demo the ability to present the key benefits of your software product is essential to generating prospect interest and ultimately revenue. Peter Cohan of The Second Derivative gives us the recipe for a Great Demo!

“I am confident that with the insights gained from your workshop we will land more customers in fewer iterations.”
Lav Pachuri, CEO, Xleron Inc.

“Peter Cohan’s Great Demo method really works. It helped us win DEMOgod, and it has allowed us to explain our offering much more clearly to prospects.”
Chaim Indig, CEO, Phreesia
(See “DEMOgod Winner Phreesia Praises Peter Cohan Training“)

ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Peter Cohan, Principal at Second Derivative
Community Web Site:

Peter Cohan is the founder and a principal of The Second Derivative, a consultancy focused on helping software organizations improve their sales and marketing results. In July 2004, he enabled and began moderating DemoGurus®, a community web exchange dedicated to helping sales and marketing teams improve their software demonstrations. In 2003, he authored Great Demo!, a book that provides methods to create and execute compelling demonstrations. The 2nd edition of Great Demo! was published March 2005.

Before The Second Derivative, Peter founded the Discovery Tools® business unit at Symyx Technologies, Inc., where he grew the business from an empty spreadsheet into a $30 million operation. Prior to Symyx, Peter served in marketing, sales, and management positions at MDL Information Systems, a leading provider of scientific information management software. Peter currently serves on the Board of Directors for Collaborative Drug Discovery, Inc. and the board of advisors for Excellin, Inc. He holds a degree in chemistry.

Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manage and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


  • 8:00 AM Breakfast & Registration
  • 8:15 AM Workshop begins
  • Noon Lunch
  • 1 PM Workshop Continues
  • 5 PM Wrap up

Seating is Limited

For more information: Theresa 408-252-9676

Doing Business On a Handshake

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb

A system that allowed small business to simply hire people with a handshake and pay them with a check, notifying the government once a year of amounts paid and to whom (and with the ability to deduct all reported wages from gross receipts for tax purposes) would likely increase the rate of business formation and hiring and if anything would result in a net increase of revenue for the government as more jobs were created and as fewer start ups and small enterprises would chose to operate under the table.
Walter Russell Mead in “Beyond Blue 5: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

This is how we do business with our customers and our partners.  On a handshake with a one page (sometimes longer) plain English description of the project goals and deliverables from all parties. We pay by check, take checks, and also accept credit cards. We are often the first outside consultant–except for an attorney or an accountant–that a startup has retained. We try to be easy to do business with by focusing  on shared value creation and client satisfaction.

Feel free to contact us to see how we can help your team find early customers and early revenue for your technology products or software enabled services.

Book Club: The Innovator’s DNA: Questioning

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Books, Events

Recorded discussion on Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s DNA chapter 3, recorded on March 28, 2012. Sarah Gray, Ethan Thorman, and Mark Cook join Steve Hogan and Sean Murphy to discuss lessons learned asking questions to foster innovation.

Chapter 3:

Discovery Skill #2 Questioning

The Innovator’s DNA

by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen

Practical and provocative, The Innovator’s DNA is an essential resource for individuals and teams who want to strengthen their innovative prowess.

The authors outline five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from ordinary managers: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting.

BUY BOOK button

Complete SKMurphy’s book club list
Remind me of upcoming events
In addition to the United States, dial-in numbers are available for Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
GoToMeeting also provides a VoiP option.

Related Resources:

The Innovator’s DNA overview

Discovery Skills

  1. Associating
  2. Questioning
  3. Observing
  4. Networking
  5. Experimenting

Share your story –

Leave a comment below

  • What do you think of the topic?
  • Do you have a question about this topic?
  • How did impact your business?

Additional Book Reviews

Managing Oneself Article
Boyd-OODA The Lean Startup
Moore's Darwin and the Demon HRB article
Cohan Great Demo
Origin and Evolution

Don’t Practice Veterinary Marketing: Talk to Prospects

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development

My father used to complain that a friend of his would make his doctor practice veterinary medicine.  The doctor would ask him what was wrong and his friend would reply in a non-committal way.  Some entrepreneurs, especially in the early market, seem to prefer veterinary marketing:  running tests and making changes in their application without actually talking to their prospects.

New Co-Working Space in Santa Clara: Ground Floor Silicon Valley

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in First Office

Max Bloom and Peter Bloom–yes they are brothers–have opened a new co-working space in Santa Clara called “Ground Floor Silicon Valley.” The 15,000 square foot facility is located at 2030 Duane Avenue, Santa Clara, CA 95054

It’s an interesting facility that has only been open a few weeks.  The facility  includes about 4,000 square feet of warehouse space that the brothers are interesting in making available to e-commerce companies. From their description:

Ground Floor offers independent professionals, entrepreneurs and small companies open floor plan workspaces, conference rooms, private offices and a training classroom, all with fast Internet connectivity and access to networked copy, printing and scanning-to-email services. In addition, resident businesses can store, ship and receive physical goods in our attached warehouse.

We are interested in holding workshops and some new larger scale events in the facility. We may experiment with a Saturday morning Bootstrappers Breakfast there as well. We remain deleted with the support and amenities that Pacific Business Centers and the Moorpark Hotel have provided us for small classrooms and meeting rooms and will continue to rely on both for private meetings and private workshops. But this new spaces offers us new possibilities that we plan to explore in 2012.  It would be a great place to hold a technology focused Meetup in the South Bay.

The only two other co-working facilities I am aware of in the South Bay are

Industry Leader Embeds DataCare UR Enforcer

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Clients in the News

DataCare logoMitchell, a leading provider of technology, connectivity and information solutions to the Property & Casualty claims and Collision Repair industries, today announced significant enhancements to the SmartAdvisor(TM) Utilization Review (UR) Decision Manager(TM), an industry-leading solution that automatically integrates utilization review decisions within the bill review process, empowering insurance claims payers with the ability to reduce unauthorized treatment losses, improve efficiency with automated and accelerated treatment decisions, and optimize investment in UR technology.

SmartAdvisor now supports the integration of third party systems such as Unimed, DataCare, CID Management and others into the UR Decision Manager, in order to simplify and optimize claims handling while containing costs.

SmartAdvisor is a comprehensive bill review solution for workers’ compensation that contains a unique combination of performance software, client services and best-in-class partnerships.

“As an early stage software company, we have been very pleased with the help that Sean and the SKMurphy team have provided in helping us get to market quickly and effectively. They have given us excellent advice and hands on support in areas ranging from marketing plans, financial projections, collateral materials and licensing agreements. We strongly recommend Sean Murphy, Theresa Shafer and their team.” Mike Allen, DataCare

Tools for Finding a Physical Workspace: Deskwanted, LiquidSpace, Loosecubes, OpenDesks

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Consulting Business, First Office, Silicon Valley, Startups

If you are looking to rent a desk or conference room by the hour, day, week or month here are four tools you can use to search. All of them cover Silicon Valley and other metropolitan regions as well

Updated: Also consider Evenues and Cloud Virtual Office, see below for details.

Implications for the  future of startups and small service firms:

  • It’s interesting that same forces that are making fractional leases on computing capability available in the cloud seem to be at work enabling the ad hoc provisioning of workspaces.
  • Coupled with the pervasive availability of wifi in coffee shops and eating establishments and transition to laptops or even smaller form factor tablets and smartphones for computing support,  the old assumptions that an incubator provided value offering office space, Internet connectivity, and space in a co-located datacenter are defunct.
  • For startups with less than a dozen people, both their computing and physical office configurations are becoming increasingly virtual.

I think this will enable new opportunities for firms to provide professional services, knowledge work, and clerical support in a variety of new forms and delivery modes by interacting either in virtual on-line spaces and/or virtual office space on demand.

Update Thu-Feb-09
: A commenter suggests also provides information about meeting rooms and event venues. I took a quick look at the site for Meeting Rooms San Jose and learned about a number of new venues to consider. The site also had an interesting blog post on “A Brief History of Coffee Houses as Meeting Places” which reminded me of this RSA video of Steve Johnson on “Where Good Ideas Come From.” In it he explains that coffee houses were one of the first co-working establishments that allowed people to mix and recombine different thoughts to form new ideas.

Update Fri-Feb-10: I came across Cloud Virtual Office (tagline “Virtual Offices & Touchdown Space”) researching “Going Bedouin” a term coined by Greg Olsen that I had written about previously on “Bootstrapping Startups: Bedouin, Global, Incessant, and Transparent” Related blog posts:

  • the original blog post by Greg Olsen is no longer available but a copy that admits an image that contained his recipe for a Bedouin startup is still up at “Going Bedouin” on GigaOm
  • The Long Hallway” by Jonathan Follett

Update Mon-Apr-2 a reader suggested DesksNear.Me as another tool for this list.

Best Business Book of 2011: The Innovator’s DNA

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Books, Events, skmurphy, Video

Or download audio directly: InnovDNAPromo120202

The Innovator’s DNA overview

Webinar Sessions covering the Discovery Skills:

  1. Associating
  2. Questioning
  3. Observing
  4. Networking
  5. Experimenting

If you would like to sign up we have a short URL for you,

Edited Transcript with Hyperlinks

Sean Murphy: This is Sean Murphy for the Book Club for Business Impact, talking why are covering “The Innovators DNA” by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen, in a five-part webinar series.

I think this is the best book from 2011 on innovation and entrepreneurship. It is based on interviews of more than 100 innovators, a decade of research and compliments other auto-biographical books that have come out. It is packed with insights. It presents five key discovery skills, how to assess them, how to develop them and how to apply them. These skills  are important to master for any team trying to innovate.

I think the following kinds of  people will benefit from taking part in this series.

  • If you are a first time entrepreneur, this book and this webinar series will give you a model for exploring a new market.
  • If you are a serial entrepreneur I think it will give you a useful perspective on your earlier efforts and may enable you to refine your approach.
  • And if you are trying to get your firm to innovate it gives you a framework of key discovery skills and also allows you to understand the contrast of traditional execution skills that are more focused on detail and planning as opposed to discovery.

Steve Hogan: This is Steve Hogan. I am joining Sean on this series. I am a recovering serial entrepreneur. I got lucky earlier in life, started a couple of companies that had successful exits.  I have been working with developmentally challenged early stage tech companies and helping them find the path to profitability and growth. But my true passion is mentoring first-time entrepreneurs so that they never, ever, need a savior.

Sean: I am the CEO of SKMurphy. I have been an entrepreneur for a while. I have a consulting firm that helps technology firms and introduce new products and services. Our focus is early customers and early revenue.

Steve, what is your take on the book?

Steve: I think it is a great book for first-time entrepreneurs.  In fact I wish I had this when I was doing my first couple of companies. The key insight I took take away was that the leader’s innovative skills impact the entire team. Strong leaders with strong discovery skills can improve the entire team’s ability to innovate.

The DNA in the title refers to the DNA of the organization, not just the leaders. These are discovery skill sets not just the traits. More importantly, it is a personal self-help and skill building directory. The authors believe that everybody has these basic skill sets and offer a simple test to help you to identify your strengths.

They give you a step by step approach to cultivate those strengths and build your tool kit. It is a truly unique way of improving your own performance derived from interviews with over a hundred other entrepreneurs.

Sean: I think it is also a very good book for innovators in larger firms. It offers a model for why established firms find innovation difficult. It explains the different skills that are required at different stages in a firm’s life cycle, in particular, the discovery skills used for innovation and execution skills useful for skill and growth.

I want to stress that these webinars will be a learning experience, not a lecture experience. We have invited other innovators to share their lessons learned applying these five key discovery skills. We will offer this in an interactive format which will help you apply these skills to your situation.

Steve: Here are the skills we are going to be talking about in the five separate webinar sessions, and our take on what they involve:

  1. Associating: connecting disparate facts, observations, and stories to enable combinations of seemingly unrelated ideas in a new and unique way.
  2. Questioning: first understanding the world as it is, then exploring why, why not, and what if.
  3. Observing: being mindful in familiar situations and appreciative in novel situations.
  4. Networking is an absolute. By this they don’t mean hanging around with your buddies, it means taking serious conversation with people of diverse backgrounds, people with backgrounds different from your own, learning from their experience and learning from their expertise.
  5. Experimenting: taking risks to gain new perspectives. This can either involve trying new experiences, or carefully analyzing products, processes, and ideas, or testing your ideas with prototypes. Experimenting is not done in a lab setting, it’s about submerging yourself in a truly different environment and appreciating a different perspective on life.

Sean: On page 27 they explain how these skills fit together.

Diagram from page 27 Innovator's DNA on Skill Relationships

There are two basic orientations an innovator brings to a new field. One is to challenge status quo and that drives questioning, observing and networking and a willingness to take risks and that drives experimenting. Tying those four skills together is associating, where you are linking at different facts to create new combinations that may either yield an innovative thought or business idea or trigger more questions and a need for more observations, more folks to talk to and more experiments to run.

Steve: These webinars are a true roundtable discussion format, not a pure lecture series. The panel is going to include first time entrepreneurs, experienced entrepreneurs and other innovators from larger companies. We will take questions from a live audience and each session is going to focus on one particular skill and the lessons learned and applying that skill.

Sean: Let me give you the line-up:

If you would like to sign up we have a short URL for you,

Thanks for your time. Hope you are able to join us.

Some other references for the book:

Even Great Art is Lost Without a Buyer

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, Rules of Thumb

Lenny Greenberg observed, “Creating art for yourself that no one else wants is fine and dandy. But, when other people will pay, that means that it has value and meaning to others. Even great art is lost without a buyer.”

Even Great Art is Lost Without a Buyer

Every few days I tweet  a “quote for entrepreneurs” and at the end of the month I collect them into a blog post that has some additional  links and commentary. I also post a simple summary onto the Bootstrapper Breakfast® Yahoo Group.  A quote from Tim Berry in the January 2012 batch triggered an interested discussion that I am recapitulating here because I think Steve Seebart and Lenny Greenberg made some excellent points.

“Don’t just follow your passion unless your passion produces something other people will pay for.”
Tim Berry “Lessons Learned from 22 Years of  Successful Bootstrapping

Prompted Steve Seebart to write

I disagree with Tim Berry’s quote (Follow your passion, but only if it pays). Too many good things have come from people following their passion regardless of profit. It’s also a little depressing to think that every act of creation must end in payday–whither art?

I responded

I agree, not everything is about making money. I always try and work on a few projects that remind me of Dan Akroyd’s line from the Blues Brothers: “We are on a mission from God.”

For example, I was a mentor at Startup Weekend San Jose in January and have continued to help the NightingaleRX team, not because they may ever make a lot of money but because helping folks and their caregivers manage multiple medications for chronic conditions is an important problem and one that simple solutions can be bootstrapped into larger systems to address. It’s important because it’s estimated to affect at least 10% of the elderly and because about 10% of ER admissions for the elderly are due to missed medications or medication interactions.

If you have ever heard Lenny Greenberg talk about why he started Assistyx it was as much more about helping autistic kids (and their parents) with an important problem than trying to build a hugely profitable business. They priced it at a fraction of competing solutions to make it affordable.

But Tim Berry is cautioning entrepreneurs who hope that solely following their passions will enable them to earn a living should be careful.

Which inspired Lenny Greenberg to eloquence

As Sean called me out. I will follow-up.

Tim Berry’s quote wasn’t for hobbyists, it was for entrepreneurs who are trying to build a business.

Creating art for yourself that no one else wants is fine and dandy. But, when other people will pay, that means that it has value and meaning to others.

If you and all your partners are independently wealthy (or have a wealthy benefactor) and can keep a staff paid without getting paid by customers, I am envious of your position. Unfortunately, most normal folks need to pay developers, support, marketing, vendors and family bills without some income. Paul Allen of Microsoft fame, funded many bad businesses that didn’t really find a market, he could afford to follow customer-less passions.

Steve Jobs was quoted in his biography as saying that he was not out for profit for profits sake, profits allowed him to invest in designing and producing great products.

The valley is littered with dead companies that had great ideas that couldn’t find a market. Mozart probably had more great symphonies in his head, as well. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to get a   buyer (in that day a royal sponsor) and he died too young in poverty.

Even great art is lost without a buyer.

Defining Your Benefit and Targeting a Set of Prospects

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, Events, skmurphy

It’s not uncommon for a beginning entrepreneur to define prospects as “anyone who can use my product.” This is what Jerry Sternin calls “true but useless information.”

I see a number of startups make similar mistake in circular logic in defining their mission. Here is one example:

“Our goal is to deliver innovative disruptive solutions that meet the product development and improvement challenges faced by our customers.”

If a startup doesn’t meet their prospect’s challenges they probably won’t become or long remain your customers. It’s a necessary but not sufficient condition for success.

The deeper challenge is that the majority of startups claim to offer innovative solutions and disruptive products. This  alone does not differentiate you in any meaningful way and is not a specific promise.

Consider how to embody your technology in a prototype that would allow you to make specific credible claims of differentiated or unique value.

For example we worked with a firm that had a nanotechnology fabrication capability. They used it to make very thin heat pipes. They produced a sample kit that had two six inch long one inch wide 2mm thick pieces of metal. One was solid aluminum; the other was their aluminum heat pipe, which had about half the mass.

In a customer development interview we would ask a thermal engineer or mechanical engineer to dip both into a cup of steaming hot water or coffee.  The engineer would normally drop it in less than a second as it had become too hot to hold:  it was as if they had dipped their hand directly in the hot water.  The solid aluminum would take several seconds to heat up to an equivalent temperature. They used this as a compelling demonstration of the difference in heat transfer rates at equivalent thickness.  This was a very attractive proposition not only for mobile devices where thickness is at a premium but also applications like hybrid or electric vehicles where the weight and volume of the thermal transfer network can exceed that of the battery packs they are designed to protect. Less weight and higher heat transfer means either more battery storage or lower weight or both: the net impact is longer range.

Register Great Demo If your software demo is not compelling prospects to take action, consider attending our Great Demo workshop on Wed-Feb-29.

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