Archive for November, 2013

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–November 2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these hot off the mojo wire or wait until these quotes for entrepreneurs are collected in a blog post at the end of each month. Enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.

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“There is nothing so strong or safe in an emergency of life as the simple truth.”
Charles Dickens

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“People may or may not say what they mean, but they always say something designed to get what they want.”
David Mamet (@DailyMamet)

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“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and
order–willed, faked, and so brought into being.”
Anne Dillard in “The Writing Life

I blogged about “Annie Dillard on the Appreciation of Grace and Beauty” in December of 2010.

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“Life will always remain a gamble, with prizes sometimes for the imprudent, and blanks so often for the wise.”
Jerome K. Jerome

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“Value is determined by the customer in the act of paying for a product. That payment may be in terms of cash, their time spent, private data freely given, or any other means, but payment is the ultimate arbiter of value.”
Tristan Kromer (@TriKro) in “Lean Startup In the Enterprise Anti-Pattern: Lean Waterfall

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“Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.”
Bill Watterson

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“Life is so largely controlled by chance that its conduct can be but a perpetual improvisation.”
Somerset Maugham

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“The two chief things that give a man reputation in counsel, are the opinion of his honesty, and the opinion of his wisdom; the authority of those two will persuade.”
Ben Jonson

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“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”
Erma Bombeck

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“We’re lending money
we don’t have,
to kids who will never be able to pay it back,
for jobs that no longer exist.”
Mike Rowe on “The Worst Advice in the History of the World

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“Wisdom comes with winters.”
Oscar Wilde

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“They didn’t want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.”
Robert Heinlein

h/t Kevin Murphy

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“I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.”
Georgia O’Keeffe

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“One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.”
Sidney Howard

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“Whoever is in a hurry shows that the thing he is about is too big for him.”
Lord Chesterfield

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“Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences, quite apart from any fluctuations that went before–consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves.”
George Eliot in Adam Bede (1859)

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“Take from the altar of the past the fire, not the ashes.”
Jean Juares

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“You don’t make your character in a crisis, you exhibit it.”
Oren Arnold

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“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”
Virginia Woolf

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“The experimenter who does not know what he is looking for will not understand what he finds.”
Claude Bernard

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“The waterfall method amounts to a pledge by all parties not to learn anything while doing the actual work.”
Clay Shirky in “Healthcare.gov and the gap between planning and reality

More context:

“Like all organizational models, waterfall is mainly a theory of collaboration. By putting the most serious planning at the beginning, with subsequent work derived from the plan, the waterfall method amounts to a pledge by all parties not to learn anything while doing the actual work. Instead, waterfall insists that the participants will understand best how things should work before accumulating any real-world experience, and that planners will always know more than workers.”

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“Collaboration apps have two marketing hurdles. You need to first convince one user, and second help them to convince their whole team to use it.”
Des Traynor (@DesTraynor)

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“Fear is static that prevents me from hearing my intuition.”
Hugh Prather

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“Business is a conversation because the defining work of business is conversation.”
David Weinberger in Chapter 5 “The Hyperlinked Organization” of “The ClueTrain Manifesto”

More context:

You see, the hyperlinks that replace the org chart as the primary structure of the organization are in fact conversations. They are the paths talk takes. And a business is, more than anything else, the set of conversations going on.

Business is a conversation because the defining work of a business is conversation — literally. And “knowledge workers” are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations.

Conversations are where ideas happen and partnerships are formed.

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“It is by attempting to reach the top in a single leap that so much misery is caused.”
William Cobbett

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“Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root.”
G. K. Chesterton

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“If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write.  Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”
Louis L’Amour

Used as the opening quote for 7 Years & 1226 Blog Posts: Lessons Learned So Far

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“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
W. T. Purkiser

Used as opening quote for “Thanksgiving 2013

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Authenticity is the new bullshit.
Hugh MacLeod

Used as a section break in 7 Years & 1226 Blog Posts: Lessons Learned So Far.

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“Much unhappiness results from our inability to remember the nice things that happen to us.”
W.N. Rieger

Used as closing quote in “Thanksgiving 2013

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“This stuff is hard. That’s why it’s interesting.”
Hugh MacLeod

Used as a section break in 7 Years & 1226 Blog Posts: Lessons Learned So Far.

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“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Albert Schweitzer

Used as section break in “Thanksgiving 2013

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“A man of genius may sometimes suffer a miserable sterility; but at other times he will feel himself the magician of thought. Luminous ideas will dart from the intellectual firmament, just as if the stars were falling around him; sometimes he must think by mental moonlight, but sometimes his ideas reflect the solar splendour.”
John Foster  Journal

Used as a section break in 7 Years & 1226 Blog Posts: Lessons Learned So Far.

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“…to whom much is given much will be required…”
Luke 12:48

Full verse:

“But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.”
Luke 12:48 (Revised Standard Version)

Used as section break in “Thanksgiving 2013

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“We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.”
Somerset Maugham

Used as the closing quote for 7 Years & 1226 Blog Posts: Lessons Learned So Far.

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Recap From Nov-20-2103 MVP Clinic

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Audio, Community of Practice, skmurphy

Overview: This MVP clinic helps two very different people facing analogous situations: one is a researcher looking for action research topics in the KM4Dev community, the other is an entrepreneur who wants to make athletic contests more engaging for contestants and the audience by providing more information that is mobile device friendly.


(You can also download from http://traffic.libsyn.com/skmurphy/MVPClinic131120.mp3)

Next two MVP Clinics


Commonalities between the two cases that were presented on November 20, 2013

  • Challenges in understanding the embedded (often invisible) interests, incentives and assumptions of different groups
  • Assumptions about boundaries of organizations that interact with those communities
  • Change management perspective is necessary but is challenging to apply in a community context — it is more of an organizational term, based on a high degree of control
  • watching a school of fish trying to determine how they decide to change direction
  • both were familiar with communities but may not have appreciated impact of incentives

Panelists for today:

Presenter #1: Phillip Grunewald

  • PhD student researching how knowledge exchanges can be best facilitated in the international development sector.
  • Have been working on this for 1.5 years now and have another 1.5 years  left to conduct studies
  • Before starting this PhD, worked in in various organisations  on Marketing, Corporate Communications, Monitoring and Evaluation and  customer relationship management.
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree in corporate communications and a masters degree in international studies.
  • LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/philipp-grunewald/6a/4ba/82/
  • Blog: www.thoughtfordevelopment.com / twitter: @thought4dev

Situation: 

  • Attempting to find a mutually beneficial way of facilitating researcher-practitioner interaction.
  • Usually a (social) researcher  (from an external institution) is perceived as an “outsider” that sees  his collaborators as either “means to an end” or as the objects of the  study.
  • This is due to a generally perceived separation between  researchers and practitioners. In this model the practitioners usually  deliver or are themselves the data for analysis.
  • The findings of  research then either stay within the realm of research or are  distributed back via, for example, reports.
  • This not only makes learning  cycles very long but also means that there are things the researcher  “is blind to” by not being closely embedded in the context that is being  studied (this has its advantages and disadvantages).
  • In  the particular the present situation involves a community of practitioners in a collaborative manner.
    • Have  offered 2 hours a week until next May to spend on research projects of  their choice.
    • An initial survey (http://www.allourideas.org/grunewaldtopics/results ) was used to generate and poll ideas. This generated considerable interest and a surprising list of ideas that  the community is interested in.
    • However, since then discussion on the  most popular topic started and participation rates have been low.
    • Part  of the reason might be the internal dynamics of the community, which are hard to completely understand but there are many other potential issues.

Ideal outcomes:

  • High levels of engagement on both sides
  • Mutual learning about content and process
  • Continuous feedback to the research process so that further research can incorporate (reiterative process)
  • Personal development of researcher
  • Basic research – exploration of impact of academic work
  • Experimenting – developing experience for questions that are motivated by practitioners concerns

 Criteria for acceptance of a project

  • Poll the community for popularity
  • Within the KM4Dev concerns (broad thematic area)

Alternative frames:

  • Researcher has to be in both worlds
  • Researcher has to be intimately involved with the research subjects
  • Framed within the KM4Dev topic

Alternative next steps:  

  • Abandon the whole idea as “too difficult”
  • Make questions more specific/have a clearer thematic focus
  • Have more explicit objectives
  • Make people aware that there is a free resource that they are not using
  • Ask people if they question researcher’s ability/capacity to come up with valuable contributions
  • Ask community members if they have no capacities to dedicate to the process (mainly time)
  • Ask why they do not prioritize this activity vis-a-vis their other activities
  • Drive  topics that have been chosen and only have low levels or participation  constrained to specific points in time (rather than ongoing)

NOTES Not much response after the initial survey.  Lots of ideas and votes in the survey, but the social network site (Ning) has had little or no participation Sean: offering service at no charge, letting them set the agenda. . Howard: trying to get an understand what an ideal research project be?  what kind of research design? Philipp: participatory action research.  looks at matter, gathers data, comes up with findings, brings it back. assess changes.  Then the cycle repeats. John: what does research mean to this community, 2-3 hours a week for 6 months may not match their expectations for a project, consider offering a research-related task (as opposed to undifferentiated “research”) e.g. data cleaning so that you avoid the challenge of not matching expectations or running up against problematic ideas of “research.” Sean Is there a concern about asking for credit in results? There IS a problem on the academic side with a self-assessed view of academics that are irrelevant. Sean: making a comparison with Eugene’s case: trying to make things easier, but not changing behavior. Assessing speed. making things go farther. Philipp: KM4Dev is focused on practice; other communities dominated by academics.  Research might be out of the norm; people are oriented toward peer-to-peer exchanges. Using Barb’s question: why should people change?  is there a clear blockage or missing piece that research can address? Originally this was just a probe: “what would the reaction be?”  So far: any outcome is interesting.  but not prepared to give up. Payoff given the challenge of understanding Philipp’s process. How do open source management of volunteers? Is there a pattern for organizing volunteer labor that could be harnessed / re-purposed for KM4Dev? Challenge of figuring out how to leverage 2-3 hours a week may mean focus don’t invest effort in engaging if payoff is small/problematic Howard: in a nonprofit where GIS data described a watershed that was intact in BC.  Tried to engage community around protecting the watershed.  When leaders from the nonprofit traveled there and met with community representatives, they found potential interest, but more interested in issue of teen suicide — a much more immediate threat than the logging companies coming in.  That was a real learning experience for the non-profit.  Shifted the organizations focus to partnering with them through a focus on their issues. [Added post-call: My quick summary of this nonprofit experience glosses over the fact  that, for the nonprofit, the discovery that community members had  completely different priorities represented / might have represented an  enormous challenge for the organization. The nonprofit had no expertise on the issue of teen suicide, and this issue could easily have been seen as beyond the scope of the organization’s mission, which was at the time more environmentally oriented. It was the willingness to listen to community needs and to be flexible in responding that enable the organization to move forward.] What does the community view as a key problem ? Where are KM4Dev’s priorities and how does Phillip’s expertise and experience align for best contribution.  Philipp’s  feeling of pain and surprise means he has learned something. Complexity of the KM4Dev ecosystem that Philipp is working with.  same thing for Eugene.  In both cases, people see the offer through very different lenses.  How open up receptivity to alternative ways of working together? The challenge is getting a group of people to change.


Questions from the audience : First question is what’s research in many organizations where KM4Dev members work research is a restricted activity takes a certain status and has some inherent separation from “work in the field.”  So the first suggestion is: how about offering elements of research but not calling it research?  That could include data gathering and analyzing data, or a literature search or many many other bits or pieces that would be useful but are dis-aggregated. Second suggestion is that: KM4Dev members come from many different organizations and they play different roles in those organizations.  Getting them to agree on one research agenda or on one perspective going forward is an impossible feat.  The community will never “agree.” So what’s behind both suggestions is the idea of dissolving as a strategy: to breaks down research tasks into elements on the one hand and to break down the KM4Dev community into sectors with distinct interests.


Presenter #2: Eugene Chuvyrov

  • Have 14  years of  programming experience, with 3.5 of those being an independent   consultant.
  • Built many web-based and several mobile products – love   technology, not just programming, and I can see myself programming robots or wearable devices just as eagerly as I do mobile dev.
  • Ran a Software Architecture group in Florida and I help organize a  cloud  computing group here in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • http://www.we-compete.com/

Situation: 

  • A  year ago, Eugene and two former colleagues from Florida broke  ground on what I wanted to be a new way to engage the competitors and  fans in amateur athletic competitions.
  • As a bodybuilding competitor of 6  years, it always bothered me that:
    •  the process of registering for  competitions was archaic,
    • there was no way to see who was competing beforehand, and that sometimes competition results would not be posted for weeks.
    • I also thought that the competitions were boring for the  audience, since many were not familiar with competition rules or competitors.
  • I wanted to start with the sports I am very familiar with  (strength events) and expand into other sports from there.
  • I showed a  simple prototype of my mobile app to one of the more prominent  competition organizers and he stated they’d use it. (Face palm) that was  all the validation I needed to get going on executing the idea.
  • It took us 6 months to build a website and a mobile app, and I have been promoting it for another 6 months now.
    • I promoted http://we-compete.com  via contacting competition organizers who I knew directly, or via  friends who are also competitors.
    • I also contacted many competition  organizers whom I didn’t know, after noticing that
      • they still had either  .pdf files to download for competitor registrations,
      • or they tried to integrate EventBrite/other ticketing software into their offering with an interactive form
    • I established contact with heads of federations that have 50-100  competitions each year and solicited their feedback.
    • I also invested in  Facebook and Google ads, but those generated close to 100% bounce rate.
  • We had half a dozen competitions created on the  platform. Since we waived all fees for the initial batch of users, I  cannot reliably say people would use us  if we had charged them our 2.5%  fee per registration/ticket sold.
  • I expected our offering to go viral  after the initial batch, but that did not happen.

Next Steps:

  • Currently, I resorted to more traditional  marketing.
  • I am organizing a competition myself in June in the East Bay  area, and will use http://www.we-compete.com  exclusively.
  • I am helping a few competition organizers pro bono with  basic web/technology stuff. I sponsored bodybuilding federations,
  • I am  getting more active on social media and doing promotions in e-mail  newsletters/magazines.
  • I am also weighing executing on a consumer play  related to We Compete via creating mobile apps for competitors, and  having those mobile apps feed data into the centralized database (if  competitors choose to share the info, of course).
  • I am also evaluating  partnership with competition content creators (video, photo, general  information) and seeking ways to get on podcasts and YouTube channels.
  • I  am very passionate about this space and would love to continue  executing on my ambitious vision, but not if I have to live under the  bridge while doing that.

NOTES Sean: does the app enrich the experience for an audience.  (business model would have to follow) Eugene: lots of pictures as a form of engagement, no centralized location.  Notice LOTS of mobile devices at any event. The idea is to function like a meetup. Competition is emotional experience… Eugene is connected in the competition space…  direct approach response has been good.  But so far people won’t pay. Business model is like http://eventbright.com

  •     the price/payment is before
  •     the benefit comes afterward

Consider attending a high school re-union to compare behaviors, rituals, and business models for somewhat different kinds of events. The app is really changing some of the dynamics of competition – knowns and unknowns for participants – what is the value of changing that, how to position it going forward and eat own dog food in organizing a competition – that might be a business How to characterize users / clients

  • heads of established federations and contests – they may not be in much pain (yet?)
  • people considering a new contest for fun or profit – organize a competition “in a box’ similar to how Meetup lowers cost of coordination
  • Notice the monopoly structure of the business… populated by people that are not very tech-oriented

What is the mobile app about:

  • pictures?
  • stats?

Typical event:

  • 90 competitors
  • 500 fans/participants

Barb: I’m also thinking that this needs some change management theories applied to it… I think that Eugene is right in showing the benefit  Why should people change the way they do things, when they work so well so far? Sean: more like meetup than eventbright. Can you provide unique or more curated content?  or just additional content? …so that profiles persist across competitions… Could competitors be encouraged to pay for the profile? What’s the value of a profile to other competitors? Can other sites be integrated?  Do those other sites support the mobile side?  And what are their business models?  and do people look at those other sites during a competition? status quo; organizing iframing eventbrite. in some ways we-compete is a threat, in others a collaborator: complex ecosystem of organizers, athletes, audience Howard: “Create a competition in a box” may be inadvertently taking position of disruptor, so a threat. What you are hearing is that you should continue to explore, more by making offers than writing code


Questions from the audience: ? unique content vs. basic mobile app with pictures ? transition from “probably not a good idea” to “late” Philipp: What about assessing information needs ground up?

Thanksgiving 2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
W. T. Purkiser

In the last few weeks I have visited two different friends who were in intensive care. One is now back home playing with his son and the other is in good spirits, recovering in a rehabilitation center. I am grateful for their recovery.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of  those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Albert Schweitzer

My son is back from his first half-semester at college. We celebrated his sister’s birthday with all of our children and grandchildren. I am grateful we were able to gather together and that we all get along well.

“But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.”
Luke 12:48 (Revised Standard Version)

We have so much in Silicon Valley, I hope we can do more in the next year to help others less fortunate not only with charity but by innovations that create new opportunities for employment, education, and better medical care.

“It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it.”
Soren Kierkegaard

It can be hard to tell what possibilities to focus on, often what first appear to be difficulties are in fact opportunities. I need to challenge myself in 2014 to remember to look for the deeper implications of what seems like a setback.

Please have a happy Thanksgiving.

“Much unhappiness results from our inability to remember the nice things that happen to us.”
W.N. Rieger

Thanksgiving Day Posts

BeamWise Demo For BiOS 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Clients in the News, Demos, skmurphy, Video

I have blogged about BeamWise™ in

If you are interested in getting a closer look, Kinetic River will be demonstrating it in booth 8639 at the BiOS Conference February 1-2, 2014. If you don’t want to wait that long contact Giacomo Vacca directly or take a look at a new BeamWise demo video.

7 Years & 1226 Blog Posts: Lessons Learned So Far

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, skmurphy

“If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write.  Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”
Louis L’Amour

This is my 1,226th post since my “Welcome Entrepreneurs” on Oct 1, 2006. I started SKMurphy in March 2003 when I took a leave of absence from Cisco, fully committing when I incorporated in August and decided not to return to Cisco. This is not my ten year anniversary lessons learned from consulting and entrepreneurship post–and at my current rate of progress on finishing that one it may be titled “Eleven Years of Customer Development Consulting” unless I can finish sooner and come up with something more clever.

This is a “professional blog” not a lifestream or journal., although it is more personal from time to time.

“Authenticity is the new bullshit.”
Hugh MacLeod

I try to write as I speak and think, only better because I can revise. I still have over 700 drafts of partially complete posts, a testament to my commitment or quality, perfectionism, or inability to finish something beyond the initial rush of enthusiasm and distraction of newer and more alluring projects.

For the most part I write a blog in response to:

  •  a question from a client, or a prospective client
  • a question in an on-line forum (and will often post my first draft as an answer there),
  • a new insight into a past experience,
  • a remark or conversation from a Bootstrapper Breakfast,
  • another article or blog post (and will often post a comment there that serves as a first draft)
  • a talk or event I attended.

I try and write from a perspective of a skeptical entrepreneur who has an engineering or scientific background and is looking to make sense of a situation that may recur, is trying to discern trends and forces at work they need to factor in to plans for the business, or is looking for a useful reference or practical how-to for skills that they need to hone (e.g. interviewing customers, selling, negotiating,…).

“This stuff is hard. That’s why it’s interesting.”
Hugh MacLeod

When I came home after my first year of college I told my father that I wanted to become a writer. I had written stories in high school, won a partial scholarship from Washington University for an essay “The Search for Reality and Identity in the Writings of Phillip K. Dick” (which I declined because I wanted to get out of St. Louis for college), worked as a reporter for my high school and college newspapers, and had a wall littered with rejections for short stories I had submitted to magazines ranging from Boys Life to Harpers.

He told me,”It’s time you stopped having these illusions about yourself: devote yourself full time to writing this summer and see what you learn.” Mixed encouragement but for six weeks I woke up every morning, went down to the basement (much cooler in the St. Louis summer down there) and wrote using an electric typewriter. I still have some of the drafts I produced from my efforts. I got a job as a cook’s helper and another as a furniture mover and kept busy moving heavy, hot, or sharp objects without getting hurt for the rest of the summer. In hindsight I think I am better at analyzing and making sense of real events and situations than writing fiction and I didn’t have enough of a stock of experiences I could draw on to sustain my effort.

But in a very real sense I continue to work as a writer. I make my living writing for our clients, often either by giving them the first “bad version” that unlocks their ability to revise (or scrap and restart) or helping them to craft e-mails or presentations. Writing about a topic allows me to be more fluent improvising remarks in negotiations or in response to questions. I think if you approach it  with that in mind then the revising allows you to clarify your thoughts in a way that can be harder in a conversation.

“A man of genius may sometimes suffer a miserable sterility; but at other times he will feel himself the magician of thought. Luminous ideas will dart from the intellectual firmament, just as if the stars were falling around him; sometimes he must think by mental moonlight, but sometimes his ideas reflect the solar splendour.”
John Foster  Journal

It has not gotten any easier, in the sense that some posts come quickly in a rush and most take a while to percolate. Deadlines help in this regard, as do collaborators. When I write a few hundred words in fifteen or twenty minutes I feel like a genius. Often the last hour before a deadline (or the first hour after a deadline–preliminary deadlines help in this regard) releases a flow of insight. Other times I need to write using  the “morning pages” technique just to unlock a post. Drafting it as a e-mail to a particular client can help.

I jot down phrases, sentences, and passages I find well written and insightful and use them as points of departure or closing quotes for posts.

One of the significant differences between my blog posts and a conversation is that I will often sketch one or more diagrams to model a situation or elaborate on a point or concept. I have not found an easy way to do this with my blog posts…yet.

It’s helpful sometimes to give a blog post as a talk first, and then transcribe and refine. The act of speaking forces a level of coherence and organization that is sometimes difficult to achieve facing a blank screen.

I am inspired by authors like George Higgins, William Feather, Raymond Chandler, Peter Drucker, Gary Klein, James Lileks, Gerald Weinberg, Glenn Reynolds, Clayton Christensen, and Seth Godin, to name a few. I enjoy the sensation of reading an author who is  trying to make sense of a situation by looking at data and historical precedent, informed by their experience and expertise, and who maintain their intellectual integrity by acknowledging facts that contradict their suggestions or conclusions.

“We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.”
Somerset Maugham


If you have a topic or question related to entrepreneurship you would like to see me address, or better to collaborate on, please contact me directly.

Update Nov-25-2013 Steve Wasiura commented “One doesn’t realize how difficult it is to write a blog post, especially a good one, until you try it, and find yourself staring into the glaring pixels of a blank white form. It can be even more depressing when you look at your visitor statistics and realize no one is reading your painfully crafted blog posts, especially in the early days. I’ll refer back to this when I need motivation to continue.”

I think the trick is to make blogging a follow on from other activities: e-mails that you are writing, forum responses, notes from a conversation. This way a post flows from time and thinking already invested in problems you know that you are wrestling with or that energize you.

Two Mastermind Open House Events in November and December

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, Silicon Valley, skmurphy

SKMurphy Mastermind Groups SKMurphy Mastermind groups have a unique high-technology focus and are limited to eight qualified members. We guide a small group of peers to brainstorm and critique your critical business issues. Our use of ‘workout buddies’ provides a level of feedback and joint accountability that will help you to become more effective. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to present their businesses issues, share referrals, and advise one another in a confidential, supportive environment during two meetings a month.

SKMurphy Offers Two Upcoming Mastermind Open House in November and December of 2013

Both events are no charge and will allow you to meet other members and potential members of our Mastermind groups.  The regular meetings run two hours and are held twice a month; the cost is $100 per month.

As we approach the new year, we want to take stock and evaluate what will impact our bottom line. Join us for the upcoming Open House. Bring your 2014 plans and let’s get a jump-start on making it your best year ever!

More information http://www.skmurphy.com/services/startup-advisor/

 

Chris Christensen of BloggerBridge At Bootstrappers Breakfast Tue-Nov-19

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events

Compare notes with entrepreneurs who eat problems for breakfast.Join other entrepreneurs for serious conversations about growing a business based on internal cash flow and organic profit at a Bootstrappers Breakfast®. Chris Christensen of BloggerBridge.com will offer a seven minute briefing on “Podcasting For Bootstrappers” and answer questions from other attendees at the Tue-Nov-19 breakfast in Sunnyvale. Chris’ briefing will be followed by our regular roundtable discussion format.

When: 7:30am to 9:00am Tue-Nov-19-2013
Where: Coco’s Restaurant 1206 Oakmead Parkway Sunnyvale, CA
Cost: $5 RSVP, $10 at door (order your own breakfast).
Please RSVP

Chris Christensen Join fellow bootstrapper and like serial entrepreneur, Chris Christensen, owner of BloggerBridge.com, a new startup connecting bloggers and industry contacts. He is the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. He will share podcasting tips and tricks.

Chris has worked for years in technology startups in Silicon Valley. He was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group and was the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld where his team built and ran online communities and events for companies include eBay, HBO, TV Guide, Expedia, Marriott, A&E, History Channel, the NBA, NBC, ABC, Disney, Microsoft, WebTV and American Express.

Veterans Day 2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

“I think that you can honor the sacrifices of a common soldier without glorifying war.”
Geraldine Brooks

I had an epiphany the other day that my father, uncles, and several cousins had fought in WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, and a few other places and times to protect their families and friends and the American way of life. I can’t imagine what that felt like, although I am grateful for their service and what it made possible.

I cannot imagine the uncertainty and chaos of a battlefield (or in my father’s case, riding a submarine in a naval battle). It’s a depth marker for what constitutes a truly serious emergency.

I worked with a sales manager once who was unflappable. We had a meeting with a customer who was irate and I was very anxious about the meeting. I asked him how he stayed calm. He said “I don’t think you know this about me: I flew fighter combat missions in Vietnam. I know what real trouble looks like and how important it is to stay in the moment and not worry about what might happen.”

“Today is Veterans Day, the day we honor those who have served in the military and lived. Memorial Day is the day we honor those who died while serving in the military. While that seems like a big difference, the reality is that chance plays a huge role in which soldiers live and which soldiers die. So to all you veterans out there, thanks for the willingness to put your life on the line for all the things I hold dear.”
Kevin Murphy “Veterans Day

Lean Innovation 101 at SF Bay ACM Nov-20-2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

I am trying out a new talk on “What is Lean? – Lean Innovation 101” at the SF Bay ACM on Wed-Nov-20-2013. Here is a brief description:

“Lean” provides a scientific approach for creating a product and developing new businesses. Teams can iteratively build products or services to meet the needs of early customers by adopting a combination of customer development, business-hypothesis-driven experimentation and iterative product releases.

What I will cover:

  • Why more and more companies are using Lean
  • What is Lean, what it is not
  • Key concepts
    • Focus on determining and delivering what the customer values
    • Get Out Of Your BatCave
    • Use an initial product (MVP) as a probe to explore the market
    • Build-Measure-Learn loop
    • When and how to pivot
  • Rules of thumb for successful lean innovation

Speaker Bio: Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy, Inc., offers customer development services for technology entrepreneurs. SKMurphy’s focus is on early customers and early revenue for startups. Sean is an early and active member of the Lean Startup group and has been a workshop presenter and mentor at Lean Startup Conferences. SKMurphy’s clients have offerings in electronic design automation, artificial intelligence, web-enabled collaboration, proteomics, text analytics, legal services automation, and medical services workflow. Sean holds a BS in Mathematical Sciences and an MS in Engineering-Economic Systems (Management Science) from Stanford University.


Note: It’s a new talk and I am looking for a few chances to do a dry run. If you are interested in walking through a rough version for 30-45 minutes on skype or GoToMtg and providing some feedback please contact me.

Audio and Notes from On-Line MVP Clinic Oct 23-2013 on Social Software

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Audio

John Smith and I did an MVP Clinic for Social and Community Apps on Oct 23. We took notes live in a PrimaryPad (an EtherPad derivative application). What follows is a cleaned up version of notes that we took and the audience contributed to. You can see MVP Clinic for Social/Community Apps Wed Oct 23 for more background information.


Or download directly from http://traffic.libsyn.com/skmurphy/MVPClinic131023.mp3


Terry Frazier is Principal and Senior Competitive Analyst at Cognovis Group. He has been studying, writing about, and consulting on competitive and industry issues since 1998. His work has been used by both Fortune 1000 businesses and international analyst firms. Today he writes at http://CompetitiveThinking.com. He offered the following as background for the discussion:

  • Situation: I am working on a structured service/educational offering to create lasting competitive advantage and reduce competitive risk for the mid-size enterprise. The offering takes proven principles and techniques that have been used for decades by the Fortune 500 and packages them into what I call the Competitive Management Process which makes them accessible, affordable, and attractive for smaller companies.
  • Challenge: The best source of competitive information any company has is its own middle management and field staff. Yet very few companies have any structure for harnessing and directing this resource, much less channeling it into long-term competitive advantage. In most companies competitive strategy and competitive decision making are deemed to be the sole responsibility of senior (usually C-level) management. There is reluctance, on both sides, to engage lower-level managers and staff in an ongoing collaboration that challenges assumptions and feeds real-world perspective into the process. This barrier to meaningful ongoing exchange is something I need to overcome with almost every prospect.

Notes on Terry’s Discussion Plus Audience Questions

Change within a company required to use competitive tools. Technology as enabler and hindrance to improved competitiveness? Two kinds of tools:

  • technology for data collection, feeds, screen scraping, etc
  • conversation for contextualizing, sense-making (the challenging.part; Human intelligence is lacking. )

Sean: companies see it too much as a data/technology problem, not enough as a conversation, inquiry problem Lack of structure in conversation is a problem so “war games” strategy helps organize thinking. Role-playing in a game forces people to adopt a perspective. Example: Michelin Run Flat tire failure due to channel / ecosystem from “Wide Lens” by Ron Adner Key hypotheses –

  • How can I explain to firms what effective competitive intelligence looks like?
  • What is the smallest possible intervention (a taste of the experience)?

Q: how can you spend time with key personnel (who are the important actors in the marketplace in the company: suppliers, regulators, customers)

Q: What are instances of effective action / positive deviants already in place you could use as acorns or seedlings?

  • Where is this already working?
  • Are there existing meetings or teams you can focus on for insertion?
  • General pattern not available: so start looking at an individual company to pursue the seedlings to learn about the conversations that exist.

Terry has been looking at existing forums: sales managers (line level up to senior VP of sales). Have not located online watering holes where such people meet. No clear titles / water holes – need an existence proof.

Q: this is a key hypothesis to test – where are some aspects of these conversations already taking place? For example industry organizations or executive offsites. 

Q:  Is the question how to find the prospects? Or how to convince them they need field level competitive data? What are the tools for gathering the field managers’ perspective?

  • Yes: find the prospects (previous work based on job titles, which is not quite the criterion Terry wants). prospect needs to be influencer not so much decider.
  • Yes: convince them that they need this.
  • Launching a new product into a new or adjacent market (with a 70% failure rate)

Terry: Fancy tools not needed for this. E-mail and blogs are enough. Finding perspectives and the people who hold them is the challenge.

Q: Find out the response to the explainer videos.

Q: Sounds like the war games process is the situation when Terry gets to harvest understandings from people across the organization? I wonder how this process might become the basis for a more ongoing conversation?

Q: Consider inviting people from outside the organization as participants in the gaming.

John: In consulting knowledge transfer is often the “afterthought” sacrificed at the end of a project. Companies need to internalize the skills to have these conversations.

Q: Is the question how to find the prospects? Or how to convince them they need field level competitive data? What are the tools for gathering the field managers’ perspective?

Q: Have you considered a short “explainer” video?
Terry: Yes, please see http://competitivethinking.com/

Q: Sounds like the war games process is the situation when Terry gets to harvest understandings from people across the organization? I wonder how this process might become the basis for a more ongoing conversation? It seems like there are community-building techniques that might be woven into Terry’s existing process…


Dixie Griffin Good is director of Shambhala Online, a global learning community connected by the meditation teachings of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. For 15 years she consulted with local, state and national education organizations on the educational use of technology. She has a masters in Future Studies and enjoys managing and studying change processes.

  • Situation: We’re developing a series of online courses that I’d market beyond the Shambhala to broader communities
    • The Product: Way of Shambhala Online courses, 8 courses; 5 to 6 weeks long
    • Meditation In Everyday Life, Contentment IEL, Joy IEL, Fearlessness IEL, Wisdom IEL
    • Basic Goodness Series (3 courses).
  • Challenge: Marketing beyond our organization — going out.
  • Context: Shambhala and shambhala online. http://shambhalaonline.org/ many centers of various sizes.
    • Undercapitalized–like many startups.
    • Offering live webinars to online courses beyond.
    • 12,000 members 200 centers or groups

Key hypotheses or criteria.

  • ID Most likely courses (what are the door openers)? Dixie: mediation in everyday life
  • experiment: live event free and recording for a price?
  • Local centers offer the same courses live – so almost competitors
  • What’s the synergy between the local centers and Shambhala Online?
    • Online as Gateway to local center?
    • Criterion: “how far from a local center do you live?” establishing more centers and more members as a desired outcome.
  • Goals/impacts for Shambhala Online going forward:
    • income
    • synergy with local centers
    • more interest/ signups for advanced programs
  • Assets:
    • reputation
    • local centers
    • alumni?

Notes on Dixie’s Discussion Plus Audience Questions

John: is Shambhala Online as a “smart pipe” for delivery or does it contribute to content creation?

  • Could it be an asset for teachers / experts / masters ?
  • deliver feedback on audience reaction to talks?

Sean: consider flipped classroom model: basic tools are available, but face-to-face plays its role. What is the relationship with local centers: how do you create as much synergy as possible and minimize competitive overlap?

John: Who is the voice or carrier on Facebook? who looking for? Role of local centers? minimize conflict or maximize collaboration / mutual support. Dixie’s strategies:

  • Newsletter not just for upcoming programs
  • Meeting of center and group leaders (use 10 minutes to inform and enlist support)
  • Advertising  template carries message

Sean: look beyond “spiritual” aspirations to determine real pain/need. Can you discern patterns in who’s attracted, stage of life, other characteristics.

Current demographic skewed toward elders but  target market is younger professional people in their 30’s or earlier.

Centers on college campuses? May need to use intermediate generations. Look at new members in last 2-3 years.

John: mechanism talk re Facebook is important, but the important stuff is prior experience in growing a community with 12,000 members.

Sean: 12-step programs are worth focusing on if they are currently a source of folks interested in mindfulness and meditation today.

Q: maybe instead of “war games” in Dixie’s context, situation , the metaphor might be “scenario planning”

Greg Heffron (Technology Leader, Shambhala Online): We’ve been looking into Facebook marketing. I’m curious if others have used FB marketing to expand into new markets.

Dixie: great idea about understanding the data we already have. I’ll make a point of searching our database for demographic info on recent members.


General debrief from both sessions in MVP Clinic

  • John: time required?
  • Terry: like format, conversational style. useful to hear questions
  • It’s hard because the early MVP phase is very much about sense-making in a fog, so things tend to ramble a little bit
  • Dixie: surprised that these ideas hadn’t occurred to me before. Very different perspectives. appreciating the questions.
  • Dixie: visual thinker: would appreciate faces, diagrams, drawings.
  • Sean: MVP conversation is inherently tentative and entrepreneurs are at a loss for words. Can’t just calculate the derivative of a formula to find the answer.
  • to audience – if you want to take part let us know
  • consider a repeat session with Terry and Dixie: what have you learned in the last 90 days?

My key take-away from the session: when you are in the middle of defining your MVP things are often very confused. It’s not immediately obvious what insights are valuable. Just because you are wandering around trying to map  a new market does not mean you are lost.

You have a lot of conversations that are tentative and exploratory and you often find yourself at a loss for words. And that’s why we tried this format as a way to walk around the issues. There is not a simple formula for moving from point A to point B with a new product. I thought the session captured the process of groping toward insight.

We have planned three more MVP Clinics for Social/Community Applications

Don’t Give Your Investor Pitch To Customers, They Have Different Questions

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Books, skmurphy

Q: Can you please take a look at this pitch. I have created it as a promo for investors and potential users.

Selling your offering to customers and selling your business to investors requires two different presentations They have fundamentally different questions they need answered before they “buy.”

Customers want to understand how your product will meet their needs. Investors want to know how much their investment will return and why: they may want to understand your customer presentation but only if you cannot offer strong evidence of traction: revenue, signups, etc…They are always interested in what you have learned and what you plan to learn: what hypothesis you need to test using their money.

In B2B markets early business customers may be interested in your investment pitch if they believe you will need investment to be viable but that is rarely the case in a consumer market.

One of the best guides to constructing an investment pitch is “Pitching Hacks” by the Venture Hacks team. Here is there explanation for what needs to go into your elevator pitch:

The major components of an elevator pitch are traction, product, team, and social proof. And investors care about traction over everything else. A story without traction is a work of fiction.

Traction is a measure of your product’s engagement with its market, a.k.a. product/market fit. In order of importance, it is demonstrated through:

  • profit
  • revenue
  • customers
  • pilot customers
  • non-paying users
  • verified hypotheses about customer problems.

And their rates of change.

Pitching Hacks is a slim 83 page book that packs a lot of insight. Many longer books have a good 4-5 page magazine article trapped inside, this book has already been boiled to the essentials.  Definitely worth $20 if you are wiling to follow at least one of the many pieces of advice in the book.

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