Author Archive

Steve Hodas’ Lean Startup 2013 Talk Offers Recipe for Re-Invigorating Intrapreneurs

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lean Startup, skmurphy

Steve Hodas packs a lot of insight packed into this 15 minute talk from the Lean Startup 2013 conference. A recent conversation reminded me how much I enjoyed this talk and the savvy approach Hodas outlines for enterprise or large organizations who want to encourage innovation by partnering with startups and re-invigorating intrapreneurs and internal change agents:

  • define an API to share data;
  • elicit support from change agents on the front lines;
  • allow for a lot of experimentation;
  • only pick winners based on results achieved after months of perseverance.

This forces you to create platforms for experimentation, it sends a strong message you are committed to improvement based on results, and forces the entrenched bureaucracy to defend on many fronts instead of attacking the incoming executives new “anointed” solution.

Presenter: Steven Hodas @stevenhodas / NYC Department of Education iZone
Video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBxJNFAILw8

Articles/Blogs/Commentary on the talk or related content:

Don’t Ask Your Next Question Before You Learn From the Last Answer

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, Sales

Interviewing Tip #5: Run An Interview, Not A Conversation
“I once listened as one of my colleagues conducted and interview that made me cringe. It sounded more like two old friends catching up more than anything. “Aren’t you suppose to be gathering information?” I thought, but his mistake is not uncommon, especially in our climate of approachability and human business. But, as the interviewer, your job is to lead the conversation, not participate in it.”
Garret Moon in “How to Interview Your Users and Get Useful Feedback

If you find yourself talking with a prospect for a few minutes and you are not getting any questions back from them then your discovery conversation may have deteriorated into an interrogation.

My goal in a discovery interview is to have a serious conversation about issues, needs, constraints, and goals. There is a risk an interview can become a casual conversation, but casual conversation is a very useful method for establishing rapport: context matters.

I work in B2B markets where my key objective in a discovery conversation is to understand the other person’s situation in a manner that also lays the foundation for a potential business relationship. If you “gather data” using an interview style that leaves the other party without any desire to do business with you then you will not succeed in a B2B market.

Moon includes a pull quote:

“Interviews are different from conversations. We’ll use a relaxed tone, but we are purposefully guiding the interaction, often thinking several questions ahead.”
Steve PortigalInterviewing Users

While it’s a good idea to think several questions ahead, I worry that too much focus on getting your pre-planned questions answered may suppress learning: you may be following a track laid down before the customer said something surprising that merits an improvised exploration.

Here are some related blog posts on customer interviews and discovery conversations:

Circle the Chairs

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, skmurphy

Brian Fuller had an interesting blog post on “Industry events need to get more social.

Panels and speeches at events are the live equivalent of newspaper publishing: We talk, you listen. Newspapers and magazines have been pounded for the better part of a decade that the we-say, you read model isn’t what people want in the age of ubiquitous and constant information. Why should it be the same for live events?

Array the chairs in the room in a great circle around the presenter(s). Everyone has to look at everyone else; no one hides; everyone’s forced to be attentive and stay off their laptops and cell phones. The circular set-up makes conversation easier. Up the ante by removing microphones from the speakers and panelists. Make sure the moderators really know how to facilitate a conversation, even if it means calling on people in the audience. Phil Donahue meets sub-threshold leakage.

These are great suggestions but they have a few things working against them. And I say this as someone who really likes the round table  format and has used it many times:

  • We did the EDA Bloggers Birds of a Feather this way at DAC 2008 and ICCAD 2008.
  • We structured the “Managing Project Health” Birds of a Feather at DAC 2009 as lightning talks followed by discussion in the audience.
  • We run the Bootstrappers Breakfasts®  this way as well.
  • All of our workshops

I only mention this to show I like the format and understand its strengths.

The drawbacks:

  1. Only works with small groups: the nature of the interactions start to breakdown at 16-20 people and really starts to have problems above 40 or 50 people. There are other formats that build on it that have the group break into smaller discussions and then reform and report but the practical limit on the meeting size is somewhere around 40 or 50 for a single large roundtable. Above 16-20 it becomes more difficult to manage.
  2. Speakers sell audiences on attending. While the ‘unconference’ format is also gaining in popularity, I haven’t seen any in the electronics or EDA space. The EDA Process workshop comes closest to free discussion, but again it’s a smaller audience and people are in one room for the day and get to know one another better.
  3. Requires strong moderation. When a panel breaks down into a series of monologues you may still learn something. But when a roundtable doesn’t come off it can be very painful. It’s a challenge to bring folks together for 60-90 minutes and foster a good discussion. We do it at the breakfasts but we limit the table size to 20 (and most breakfasts have 8-16 attendees). Sharing a meal or a cup of coffee also seems to help break the ice. We have the networking take place afterward, once folks have had a chance to get to know one another.

I think the roundtable format works better when the attendees are still wrestling with emerging problems where collaboration trumps competitive pressures (e.g. where the “stag hunt” model still holds). This was certainly the case for the blogger BoF’s and the Project Health BoF as well as the Bootstrappers Breakfasts. Everyone is more focused on learning than “getting the word out” about their product or service.

And I think that points up another problem with the format for conferences. Sponsors pay and take part to get the word out about their product. They don’t want to be in a setting where competitors and others can attend in what is effectively a peer position. If you are on a panel, up on a raised platform or stage, there is an unconscious presumption that you must be smarter than the audience. If everyone is sitting around in a circle, then everyone’s opinions matter more or less equally.

This was the inspiration behind the Conversation Central model that had 8-16 around a table having a conversation. The premise was that we would talk about issues facing the EDA industry that had not yet settled into competing solutions from vendors.

Here are some comments that Jeff Jarvis gave at TEDxNYed that mirror yours:

This is bullshit.

Why should you be sitting there listening to me? To paraphrase Dan Gillmor, you know more than I do. Will Richardson should be up here instead of me. And to paraphrase Jay Rosen, you should be the people formerly known as the audience.

But right now, you’re the audience and I’m lecturing.

That’s bullshit.

What does this remind of us of? The classroom, of course, and the entire structure of an educational system built for the industrial age, turning out students all the same, convincing them that there is one right answer–and that answer springs from the lecturn. If they veer from it they’re wrong; they fail.

Q: How Much Attention Should I Pay To Potential Competition?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Customer Development, skmurphy

Q: When I introduce the idea for my business a lot of my friends are quick to ask: “are you sure there is no one else doing this?” In today’s fast and disruptive business world, I think it is very hard to come up with a business idea that is 100% unique, and utilizes a completely new set of technology features. I constantly find myself arguing that it doesn’t matter if someone else also has the same startup or business idea, it’s how you go about executing your business idea that matters.

What are your thoughts on competitors and how put off should I be when I find out another company has a similar product and mission to my startup?  

Your friends are trying to help you but you may be asking them to comment on a problem where they have little expertise. Evaluating a new business idea is challenging even for professional investors and firms already in the target market–how many times have new entrants been underestimated or new technologies view as far more promising than they turned out to be. It’s a hard problem.

You are being encouraged to look left and right at potential competition, I would try and walk around the table and look at the situation from your prospect’s perspective.

Perhaps a more important set of of question for  B2B are:

  • What is your prospect doing now to solve the problem?
  • Are they satisfied with their current solution or do they still view this a critical business issue?
  • What other solution options are available to them?
  • Which of these other options have they also evaluated and rejected and why have they done so?
  • Are you providing a capability or solution for what they consider a critical need.

Execution only matters in the context of a particular category of customer with a distinct and identifiable problem or need.

Working to develop new capabilities when it’s not clear who will pay for them may give you the illusion of progress for a while but ultimately won’t let you build a business.

My suggestion is to pay close attention when prospects ask you to explain why your product is superior or at least different in some useful ways from what they are currently using or have available to them.

My question is why are you talking to your friends instead of having serious conversations with prospects? What are your prospects asking for or telling you?

Q: Can We Launch First and Ask Customer Discovery Questions Later?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, skmurphy

Q: We have built an application that lets small businesses employees easily manage vacation days. Here is our game plan

Objectives
  • $2,000 a month (in revenue) in 6 months.
  • Written up in 2 major publications
Target Users
  • Small Business
Metrics
  • Page views
  • Number of users who sign up for trial that we convert
  • Who’s paying for our product (identify industries to target).
  • Measure the impact of weekly blog posts
Branding
  • Logo
  • Home page redesign.
  • Improve copy on home page and sales page
Paid conversion
  • 1 month trial instead of free
  • Collect emails and generate a monthly newsletter for paying customers.
  • Improve “first use” experience after signup.

What do you think?

A: You are making an implicit assumption that you have the right features for the right target customer to deliver a compelling benefit. This is a marketing campaign that assumes you have validated the customer hypothesis.

Normally you are in a customer discovery mode with a new app like this, formalizing your assumptions/hypotheses and engaging in conversations with early prospects and early users to determine where you can create differentiated value. This is a brutally competitive space and a target of “Small business” is not a useful discriminant.

Vacation obligations and payment are subject to regulatory oversight, so while it’s good to stress the ease of use it would be useful to explore the integration required with the payroll system to make it truly stress free for a manager or small business owner.

Kent Beck and Don Reinertsen on Value of Storytelling

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

What follows is an exchange on twitter between Kent Beck and Don Reinertsen on Dec 12-2013 about their experiences as speakers at the Lean Startup Conference 2013 that I thought was worth preserving.

Kent Beck (@KentBeck) Dec 12: The beauty of teaching through storytelling is that the listeners’ lessons aren’t limited by the storyteller’s imagination.

Donald Reinertsen (@DReinertsen) Dec 12: And, as in the old story of a donkey carrying a load of books, the payload can sometimes be more sophisticated than the narrator.

Kent Beck (@KentBeck) Dec 12: Good thing I don’t mind being a donkey :)

Donald Reinertsen (@DReinertsen) Dec 12: I rather enjoy it. Such moments permit one to unintentionally deliver an unexpected, and unreasonable, amount of value.

I did a roundup of speakers, videos, and blog posts from the Lean Startup 2013 if you are interested in learning more about their presentations or others. Don Reinertsen also has a number of good presentations up at InfoQ a “Beyond Deming” video at Lean Product Development Flow.  Here is his talk from Lean Startup 2013:

Kent Beck’s talk from Lean Startup 2013:

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–April 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these hot off the mojo wire or wait until they 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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“Churn starts when you fail to deliver the value that was promised or expected.”
Sean Murphy

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“You can’t bluff someone who’s not paying attention.”
David Mamet

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“Internal emptiness inevitably surfaces.”
Richard Kostelanetz

h/t James  Geary

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“…the kind of thing the average person had no idea existed, until you happen upon them, and you realize there’s entire worlds of people doing all kinds of things you never even heard of in a very serious way.”

Gregory Sullivan in “Nails

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“Big data” has arrived, but big insights have not.
Tim Harford in “Big data: are we making a big mistake?

Related quote from same article:

“…there are vastly more possible comparisons than there are data points to compare. Without careful analysis, the ratio of genuine patterns to spurious patterns – of signal to noise – quickly tends to zero.”
Tim Harford in “Big data: are we making a big mistake?

h/t Matt Mullenweg

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Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you are willing to practice, you can do.
Bob Ross.

h/t Quotes on Design

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“We do not learn from experience.
We learn from reflecting on experience”
John Dewey.

h/t Conor Neill (@cuchullainn) who adds “Write. Stuff. Down.”
See also “Record to Remember, Pause to Reflect.

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“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Michelangelo

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“We don’t get offered crises, they arrive.”
Elizabeth Janeway

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“It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.”
Dick Cavett

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“We explore promising avenues that, days later, become dead  ends. Sometimes, we solve a month’s problem in an hour.”
Cennydd Bowles (@Cennydd) in “Designers Lie. That’s OK

More context:

And then, of course, you ask us how we work. We respond with confidence, bold Helvetica outlining our design process: research, ideas, prototyping, testing, iteration. We hope you approve of our rigor, and perhaps even believe it ourselves.

But the project is always more fluid. We splash between the phases, unable to separate ideas from output, problem from solution. We explore promising avenues that, days later, become dead ends. Sometimes, we solve a month’s problem in an hour. It seems unfair to charge you the same regardless, but it avoids those difficult conversations.

Try as we may, we can’t justify every decision. The birth of an idea is ineffable. Although we hope it came from our research and analysis, we can never know for sure. Intuition and experience influence our every thought.

We try to predict the effect of our work, but the truth is that design is always a gamble. We can tip the odds in your favor, but never guarantee a jackpot. [...] Don’t misunderstand—we aren’t bullshitting you. People who’ve taken our advice have profited from it. But design resists minute analysis—break it into its constituent parts and it crumbles into dust.

Cennydd Bowles (@Cennydd) in “Designers Lie. That’s OK

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“The struggle to reach the top is itself enough to fulfill the heart of man. One must believe that Sisyphus is happy.”
The Myth of SisyphusAlbert Camus

Originally quoted in “Six From Encyclopedia Neurotica

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“Character is not made in a crisis–it is only exhibited.”
Robert Freeman

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“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”
Thomas Paine in “The American Crisis No. I

More context

The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘ Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.
Thomas Paine in “The American Crisis No. I

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“A map is not the territory, nor is your organization chart your organization.”
Esther Derby (@estherderby)

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“We need to shift from predicting the future to understanding the now.”
Chris Diehl (@ChrisDiehl)  in Understanding the Now: The Role of Data in Adaptive Organizations

h/t Valdis Krebs (@OrgNet) More context:

“We need to shift from predicting the future to understanding the now. By focusing our attention on the present, we uncover and pursue existing opportunities as opposed to projected ones that may never come to pass. By accelerating our pace of response, we increase our potential to benefit from surprises that will surely come. At the same time, we mitigate the cost of our mistakes.”
Chris Diehl (@ChrisDiehl)  in Understanding the Now: The Role of Data in Adaptive Organizations

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“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”
Margaret J. Wheatley

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“Experience has shown that our best customers are ones who have as much respect for our time as we have for theirs.”
Alex King in “I’m Trying to be Respectful but this Drive Me Crazy

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“Better Place is a tragicomic case study of the limits of innovation, the difficulties of getting consumers to embrace new technology, and the perils of believing your own bullshit. ”
Max Chafkin in “A Broken Better Place

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“A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
Paul Simon

h/t  David Gurteen for spurring me to include this one in April. He has a thought provoking list of favorite quotations at http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/quotations This quote is actually taken from Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” here is the opening stanza:

“I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest”
Paul Simon “The Boxer

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“Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.”
Ned Rorem

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“We systematically overestimate the value of access to information and underestimate the value of access to each other.”
Clay Shirky

h/t SwissMiss’s 2013 SXSW Keynote

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“By far the dominant reason for not releasing sooner was a reluctance to trade the dream of success for the reality of feedback.”
Kent Beck in “Approaching a Minimum Viable Product

More context:

When I look back at all my startup experiences (all of them eventually sunk on a Potentially Fatal Assumption), every single one of them could have been shipped much sooner. [...] By far the dominant reason for not releasing sooner was a reluctance to trade the dream of success for the reality of feedback. [...] The MVP is intended to counter this tendency. The process of working backward from the assumption to the least possible investment to validate the assumption saves resources in the case of difficulties and keeps the business on the path of learning.
Kent Beck in “Approaching a Minimum Viable Product

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“You always start with a fantasy. Part of the fantasy technique is to visualize something as perfect. Then with the experiments you work back from the fantasy to reality, hacking away at the components.”
Edwin Land in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 146, no. 1, (March 2002), p. 115

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“My father gave me some excellent advice for college: ‘You can get a job in business with an Engineering degree, but you cannot get a job in engineering with a Business degree.’”
Chris Peluso in his LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/chrispeluso

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“No enemy is so terrible as a man of genius.”
Benjamin Disraeli

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“Caring is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
Ron Kendrick

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“They stood there laughing.
They’re not laughing anymore.
The walls came down.”
Michael Been “The Walls Came Down”

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“If you desire faith, then you have faith enough.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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“The mutual confidence upon which all else depends can be maintained only by an open mind and a brave reliance on free discussion.”
Learned Hand

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“Entrepreneurs think effectually, believing in a yet-to-be-made future that can be substantially shaped by human action.”
Saras Sarasvathy

Condensed for twitter from a longer passage in “What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial” (Annotated version on the Khosla Ventures site:  www.khoslaventures.com/presentations/What_makes_entrepreneurs_entrepreneurial.pdf )

“Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurial, as differentiated from managerial or strategic, because they think effectually; they believe in a yet-to-be-made future that can substantially be shaped by human action; and they realize that to the extent that this human action can control the future, they need not expend energies trying to predict it. In fact, to the extent that the future is shaped by human action, it is not much use trying to predict it–it is much more useful to understand and work with the people who are engaged in the decisions and actions that bring it into existence.”

The full passage was used in “Saras Sarasvathy’s Effectual Reasoning Model for Expert Entrepreneurs

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“The true characteristic of genius—without despising rules, it knows when and how to break them.”
William Ellery Channing

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“Good rule of thumb: always know your customer’s customer and your supplier’s supplier. Gives obvious directions for growth and cost saving.”
Balaji S. Srinivasan @balajis

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“Knowing is half the battle.
Explaining it is the other half.”
Chris Burch

h/t William Porquet’s quotations collection

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“Better spend an extra hundred or two on your son’s education, than leave it him in your will.”
George Eliot in “Mill on the Floss” (1860)

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“I have been feeling very much lately that cheerful insecurity is what our Lord asks of us.”
C. S. Lewis

h/t Fred O’Bryant 

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“Talent is cheap. What really matters is discipline.”
Andre Dubus

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“Success, for some people, depends on becoming well-known; for others, it depends on never being found out.”
Ashleigh Brilliant 

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“Being an early adopter is exhilarating in the same way that riding a rollercoaster can feel like travel.”
Frank Chimero in “No New Tools

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“A man’s bewilderment is the measure of his wisdom.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne in “The House of Seven Gables

more context

“Only this is such an odd and incomprehensible world! The more I look at it, the more it puzzles me; and I begin to suspect that a man’s bewilderment is the measure of his wisdom. Men and women, and children, too, are such strange creatures, that one never can be certain that he really knows them; nor ever guess what they have been, from what he sees them to be, now. “

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Tools vs. Methods vs. Policies

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

What’s interesting about digital tools for information work is how frequently they are born from a specific ideology: someone thought work should be done in a certain manner, they found no tools to support that method, so they set off to build their own tool that presumes their ideology is true and best. Thus, we get another to-do app, Twitter client, or project management app.

Everything that’s made has a bias, but simple implements—a hammer, a lever, a text editor—assume little and ask less. The tool doesn’t force the hand. But digital tools for information work are spookier. The tools can force the mind, since they have an ideological perspective baked into them. To best use the tool, you must think like the people who made it. This situation, at its best, is called learning. But more often than not, with my tools, it feels like the tail wagging the dog.

Frank Chimero in “No New Tools

For a while I was fighting with the auto-correct features built into various content management systems after I enabled “Correct Spelling Automatically.” It had seemed like a great idea given the number of typos I produce, but it would not let me enter words easily that were not in the built in dictionary and often miscorrected a typo to the wrong word. Better to go back to red squiggly lines under a word that it cannot find in the dictionary. The word “bootstrapper” comes up a lot on this blog, always with red squiggly lines (which can mask when it is misspelled).

Entrepreneurs try to design software tools that make customers lives easier. But it’s hard to avoid assumptions about “the right way” or “why would you ever want to do that” from creeping in. It’s not uncommon to visit a customer who has been using your product for six months or so and have to repress the urge to say “you are using our product wrong!” and instead say, “Wow, that’s an interesting use for our technology: what led you to apply it this way?”

IT organizations developing tools face a double whammy: their own built in assumptions and the end user trying to bake policy into the tool so that it cannot be used to violate policy. I remember watching a demo of a new in-house scheduling tool a few years ago and one of the features was that the schedule was always feasible. You could not overcommit anyone’s time or assign them to competing projects on that theory that people cannot be in two places at once and we should make plans based on extraordinary efforts. Good as far as it went but it rendered the tool useless for planning (which was about two-thirds of the motivation, time tracking was the other primary goal) because you could not enter a preliminary plan and see where it was infeasible. You could enter a plan with slack and underutilized people or equipment, but you could not temporarily overcommit and then shuffle assignments to make it feasible.

We had this same conversation with a recent BeamWise prospect: they wanted the software to prevent any invalid configurations from being designed. Our suggestion was that it was useful to know how much margin/overlap you had between conflicting elements instead of simply knowing that two or more items would not fit together correctly.

I am not advocating for accounting systems that don’t add expenses correctly or tax software that does not produce a correct return. But one of the advantages of software is that it allows you to investigate hypothetical configurations and alternate futures. Think about how you can enable exploration of a design space as much as validate that what is being designed is correct.


Related blog posts

Here are  a few on BeamWiseTM

Recap of “How To Give a Great Demo” at CoFounders Club Wed-Apr-16-2014

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

Do The Last Thing First I had a great time at the Cofounder Club last night. Dea Wilson, founder of  Lifograph and organizer for the Meetup, invited me to talk about “Giving a Killer Demo.”  We had  a lively discussion upstairs at Procopio: starting with some introductions and then short demos by the attendees, then I gave a formal recap of the Great Demo methodology and how to apply it.

The key to a Great Demo is to “Do the Last Thing First” and get to the point immediately about the critical results that your software will deliver to the prospect. This is counter to many entrepreneur’s inclination to build up to a big finish after 15  or 30 minutes or longer.

Introduce / Illustrate / Do It / Peel It Back / Q and A / Summarize But by starting with a illustration of the key deliverable and then demonstrating in as few steps as possible how to achieve this result, you ensure that senior decision makers are still in the room when you get to the “Ta Da!” They can ask questions about other capabilities that they are interested in or start a conversation about how they can get started.

The second most important element of a Great Demo is appropriate preparation and a specific and detailed understanding of your prospect’s situation:

  1. Job Title and Industry: this provides a context for understanding how they are measured, likely objectives, and what examples or illustrations may be relevant.
  2. Critical Business Issue: What is the major problem he/she has?
  3. Reasons: Why is it a problem or what is the problem due to?
  4. Specific Capabilities: What capabilities are needed to address the problem?
  5. Delta: What is the value associated with making the change?
  6. Date: Is there a customer critical date or event that needs to be met?

If you are selling software to businesses, consider attending one of the two Great Demo! workshops we have scheduled in 2014 in San Jose

Register Now May 21&22, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA

Register Now October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA

See also

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–March 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these hot off the mojo wire or wait until they 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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“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
John Dryden

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“Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.”
T. S. Eliot

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“It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”
Henry David Thoreau

Other versions of this exist but this version is taken from Thoreau’s letter to his friend, H.G.O. Blake, on 16 November 1857.
h/t The Henry D.Thoreau Mis-Quotation Page at Walden.org

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“It is not enough to tolerate dissent: sometimes you have to demand it.”
Jack Galvin

h/t Brad Pierce in a comment in “Terry Frazier on How to Do Real Competitive Analysis

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“Society functions in a way much more interesting than the multiple-choice pattern we have been rewarded for succeeding at in school. Success in life comes not from the ability to choose between the four presented answers, but from the rather more difficult and painfully acquired ability to formulate the questions.”
David Mamet in The Secret Knowledge

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“Design is creativity with a strategy.”
Rob Curedale

h/t Expa.com (@Expa) also found at Quotes on Design, a great resource for design quotes.

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It’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.
T. S. Eliot

In an interview with Donald Hall in the Paris Review “T. S. Eliot, the Art of Poetry No. 1” Eliot said:

“I wanted to get to learn the technique of the theater so well that I could then forget about it. I always feel it’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.” T. S. Eliot

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“Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”
George S. Patton

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“My capital is time, not money”
Marcel Duchamp

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“Anytime we see a line, the product in question is underpriced.”
Naval Ravikant (@naval) in “The Bitcoin Model for Crowdfunding

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“Opportunity is sometimes hard to recognize if you’re only looking for a lucky break.”
Monta Crane

h/t Gerald Weinberg (@JerryWeinberg)

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“If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is.”
Henry David Thoreau

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“How can so many things I’ve no more use for still have so much meaning for me.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

I feel this sensation most strongly when I look through boxes in my garage that store items I kept from old jobs and old startups. I regret loss of things I threw away: pictures and printouts I posted on the walls of my office or cubicle, chip plots, trade show posters, etc…

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“Execution focus yields a prioritized network of interdependent tasks;
exploration yields a portfolio of risks and options.”
Sean Murphy

I have been helping Patrick Steyaert on a new version of his Discovery Kanban talk. This sentence was my attempt at crystallizing the difference between execution and exploration.

+ + +

“Sometimes you come to an edge that just breaks off.”
Anne Carson

+ + +

“I know the price of success; dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

+ + +

“Luck cannot be duplicated.”
Richard Kostelanetz

h/t James  Geary
Used as a the opening quote for Feeling Lucky is Not a Strategy

+ + +

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
Benjamin Franklin

Used as the closing quote for Feeling Lucky is Not a Strategy

+ + +

“We work to become, not to acquire.”
Elbert Hubbard

+ + +

“A focus on revenue is core to bootstrapping but often at odds with the ‘venture lifestyle business.’”
Sean Murphy

In reply to a tweet by Rashaun P. Sourles (@rashaunps) “@skmurphy: Though my last startup failed, I’ve never forgotten the lessons you taught me about hustling early revenue. Just wish I had listened!”

+ + +

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
John Buchan

I think there are similarities to the early sales process. I can recall once waiting in a conference room with two founders staring at a speaker phone waiting for a scheduled call to start and feeling an eerie similarity to standing at the edge  of a pond with other boys holding our fishing poles with our lines in the water. It led me to write one of my “details as they..” tag lines:

“Details as they stand poised in an expectant silence, like runners before a starting gun, old men waiting for the fish to bite, or a sales team clustered around a speakerphone waiting for the prospect to call back.”

+ + +

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
Max De Pree

+ + +

“Patience is a most necessary qualification for business; many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.”
Lord Chesterfield

+ + +

“Don’t take business advice from people with bad personal lives.”
Frank Chimero “Some Lessons I Learned in 2013

Used as the opening quote for “Building a Business Requires Building Trust.”

+ + +

“The wise speak only of what they know”
J.R.R. Tolkien

+ + +

 ”Fame is something that must be won.
Honor is something that must not be lost.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

Used as closing quote for ”Building a Business Requires Building Trust.”

+ + +

“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”
Neil Gaiman

h/t Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

Gaiman has offered at least two variations on the importance of learning from finishing:

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from  a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”
Neil Gaiman during “Question Time” section of “An evening of awesome with Hank and John Green” (Jan 15 2013) [transcript]

and

“Personally, I think you learn more from finishing things, from seeing them in print, wincing, and then figuring out what you did wrong, than you could ever do from eternally rewriting the same thing.”
Neil Gaiman in “No longer the blog without giraffes

+ + +

“The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change.”
Edwin H. Friedman

+ + +

“The quality I most admire in a man is steadfastness.”
David Mamet

+ + +

“There is nothing so fatal to character as half-finished tasks.”
David Lloyd George

+ + +

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.”
William Stafford

+ + +

“Delivering value is a pre-requisite for sustainably capturing value i.e. getting paid.”
Ash Maurya (@ashmaurya)

+ + +

“An MVP is about delivering real value to customers for the purposes of maximizing validated learning.”
Shardul Mehta in “A Case Study in Defining an MVP

+ + +

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
George Eliot

Update April 2: this appears to be incorrectly sourced to Eliot and is in fact a quote from Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother Theo Sun-Oct-22-1882

“For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together. ”
Vincent Van Gogh

+ + +

“Sometimes one pays the most for things one gets for nothing.”
Albert Einstein  in “What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck” published in ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ on October 26, 1929

h/t Quoteyard

+ + +

“When you’re more susceptible to interruption, you do more out of the box thinking.”
Don Norman (found at  Quotes on Design)

Seems to be based on the last sentence in this paragraph from “Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better

Affect makes us smart, that’s the lesson of my current research into the role of affect. This is because affect is always passing judgments, presenting us with immediate information about the world: here is potential danger, there is potential comfort. This is nice, that bad. The affective signals work through neurochemicals, bathing the relevant brain centers and changing the way we perceive, decide, and react. These neurochemicals change the parameters of thought, adjusting such things as whether reason is primarily depth first (focused, not easily distracted) or breadth first (creative, out of the box thinking, but easily distractible).

[...] Positive affect broadens the thought processes, making it more easily distractible. When the problem requires focus, this is bad, but when the problem is best addressed through creative, out-of-the-box thinking, then this is precisely what is needed.

 

+ + +

“Calvin: I’m a misunderstood genius.”
“Hobbes: What’s misunderstood?”
“Calvin: Nobody thinks I’m a genius.”
Bill Watterson

+ + +

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.
Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
James JoyceUlysses

h/t Shaun Moran (@ShaunM_Dub) offered as a response to Einstein quote: ”Sometimes one pays the most for things one gets for nothing.”

+ + +

If you think lemons are bitter try some of that fruit from the bin labelled “experience.”
Sean Murphy

+ + +

“Change careers like Tarzan: don’t let go of the old until the new supports you, but don’t lose momentum.”
Derek Sivers (@sivers) in “Change Careers Like Tarzan

+ + +

“The shortcut that’s sure to work, every time: take the long way. Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency. And then you won’t waste time doing it over.”

Seth Godin in “The Certain Shortcut

+ + +

Building a Business Requires Building Trust

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, 5 Scaling Up Stage, Sales, skmurphy

“Don’t take business advice from people with bad personal lives.”
Frank Chimero “Some Lessons I Learned in 2013

One of the hallmarks for success in a business-to-business market is the ability to form personal relationships as well as professional business relationships. I am always dismayed when I read advice that advocates bait and switch or other forms of con games that erode trust and make it difficult for any startup to build relationships.

Anyone who always puts themselves first ends up with bad personal life. Startups that are only clear on their own needs rarely outrun the same fate. It’s the difference between a focus on funding or an “exit” and a focus on building a business.

Working with bootstrappers sometimes puts us on teams that are in desperate circumstances. Where they are able to translate time pressure and resource starvation into a bias for action from a change in perspective they often succeed–or at least move beyond the current crisis: success, like the horizon, is an imaginary line you can approach but never seen to cross. But where they use it as an excuse to take shortcuts that abuse prospects trust we sometimes have to part company. It does not happen very often, and it hasn’t happened in more than a year, but perhaps three or four times in the last decade we have had to walk away from a sales or marketing strategy we didn’t feel was in the long term best interest of the startup or their prospects.

“Fame is something that must be won.
Honor is something that must not be lost.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

Related posts

  • Treat Social Capital With The Same Care as Cash
  • De Tocqueville on Concept of “Self Interest Rightly Understood”
    You meet people who have a clear understanding of their own needs and seem to spend no time on anything else. But the deals that they make seem to based only on fear and threat. To create real opportunities in your own business requires that you explore and understand the needs and aspirations of your current and potential customers. To bring them ideas that will improve their lives and businesses requires that they trust you have their interests at heart when they talk about current problems that may expose their weaknesses and shortcomings
  • Keeping Your Customers’ Trust [Includes a Recap of Weinberg's 11 Laws of Trust]
    I think B2B software is often purchased by firms hoping to achieve–or avoid–some sort of change. Like consulting, software is the promise of an ongoing business relationship.  The two essentials in a mutually satisfactory business relationship are trust and an exchange of value.
  • Sustaining Is More Important Than Starting
  • David Foster Wallace: The Only Choice We Get is What to Worship especially this section from Wallace’s talk:
    But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
  • Honesty in Negotiations
    One of the key tasks we help early stage teams with preparing for and executing successful negotiations.  There is a belief among some engineers that the best marketing and sales people are the most accomplished liars. In my experience nothing could be further from the truth. Most negotiations have long term consequences and involve interacting with people that you will encounter again and who know others you will encounter in the future.  I always assume that at some point in the future the folks I am negotiating will know the full truth of the situation and that very few secrets remain that way for long. In George Higgins‘ novel “Dreamland” a character remarks “I never forget and I always find out. ” I assume that about anyone that I am negotiating with.

Great Demo Workshop Attendee: “Holy Crap! My Demos Have Too Much Detail”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, Sales, skmurphy, Testimonial, Workshop

After every Great Demo! workshop we contact the attendees with a short E-Mail that reads in part:

I want to check-in to see how you have been doing using the ideas and skills we covered in our Great Demo! Workshop three months ago.  Specifically, I’d like to hear:

  1. What have been the results so far?
  2. Do you have any success stories to report or share?
  3. Any questions or new situations you’d like to discuss?

What follows is a redacted e-mail from a real attendee at a recent Great Demo workshop. We have his permission to post it, but he asked that we remove identifying information because of his candor about his approach to demos before he came to the workshop.

Hello Peter,

I would like to tell you that your workshop has had a positive impact not only on my demos, but also on my customer meetings in general.

The key message I took away, “Do the last thing first,” has proven very effective at increasing customer engagement in our demos. Our product is a sophisticated one with a long history–what are prospects sometimes describe as “very complex” or “arcane” even “confusing.” We sometimes present modules that–in hindsight–were of no of interest to the customer. This can not only turn a demo into a waste of everyone’s time but also convert a hot prospect into a lukewarm one.

It’s seems obvious now, but getting right to the point and then working backwards based on the customer’s level of  interest (“Peeling back the onion”) has triggered a lot more questions and demos that end in clearly defined next steps instead of “you’ve given us a lot to think about, please let us get back to you.”

The example that really punched me in the gut when I realized what I had been doing was your hyperkinetic  impersonation of someone doing a demo of Microsoft Word. Your first answer to  the question, “Can you print?” seemed  reasonable: you opened the print dialog box and walked through all the print options in detail–portrait or landscape, single or double-sided printing; color or black and white, number of copies, print quality, etc…

But when you did the second take and said “Yes, would you like to see it?” and clicked the print icon I had this terrible sinking feeling.

“Holy Crap! My demos have too much detail,” I said to myself.

Change is hard, but the three of us who attended your class took the “Great Demo” approach back and have seen a difference in the number of demos that now lead to sales that are progressing.

You may be in the same predicament if your approach demos involves one or more of the following:

  • You include a multi-slide corporate overview whether the prospect requests it or not.
  • Demos are viewed as an opportunity to provide training on your product.
  • It’s not uncommon for a demo to end with prospects sitting in stunned silence or murmuring, “let us think about this and get back to you” instead of asking questions.

We have two Great Demo! workshops on on the calendar for 2014 in San Jose

May 21&22, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now
October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now

Learn How to Market Your Expertise March 25 in Sunnyvale

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

Getting More CustomersWhether you are a software startup or a consultant you have to convince prospects that you have the expertise to solve their problems by what you say, what you write, and what others say about you. This three hour workshop will outline a mix of proven marketing techniques for generating leads for your business. Attendees will select one or two that best fit their style, present them in a roundtable discussion format for refinement, and leave with a ninety-day action plan for incorporating them into their business.

When/Where:  March 25, 2014 9am-12:30pm in Sunnyvale, CA
Cost: $90 includes lunch

Register Now

Office Hours: Schedule Time To Walk Around Your MVP

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, Sales, skmurphy

Office Hours ButtonIf you are looking for advice on lead generation or closing deals consider scheduling “office hours” to walk around your current sales process or a particular opportunity you are trying to close. SKMurphy functions as a startup advisor to help you understand the process of building a business. We understand the challenges of selecting an advisor–and advising entrepreneurs–and have blogged about it a few times:

We offer a no-cost, no-obligation MVP Readiness Assessment.
Request a consultation at https://skmtest.wufoo.com/forms/skmurphy-office-hours/

Without A Revenue Hypothesis Your Business Model Is a List of User Activities

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

Q: I am building an app that helps people build nearby interest groups (e.g. local model railroaders, quilters in your town, etc…). I am trying to establish a baseline for my value hypothesis testing and am considering the following metrics:

  • Registration rate of those who come to landing page
  • Rate of registered users who join or create an interest group
  • Rate of interest group members who interact (post etc) in a group
  • Rate of interest group members who log in again after a month

Even if I estimate the each of these rates at 50% I cannot tell what this would mean in terms of validating my business. Also I cannot determine how to use these metrics to determine the features to put in my MVP.

Any advice for where to start in a minimum set of metrics and features for an MVP for this service?

A: For the sake of an initial model let’s accept your estimate of a 50% rate for those four metrics. There are two key sets of hypotheses that you are missing:

  1. What are your hypotheses for how you generate revenue? What will your customers pay for and why? 
  2. What are your hypotheses for the cost of acquiring and servicing a paying customer? How much will it cost to get them to the landing page and to maintain the service?

Your answers to these two sets of hypotheses interact to tell you how long you can stay in business.

Q: Those are great questions but I feel like they are related to growth, something I think I should explore once I have figured out the value testing.

A: Getting paid is proof of your value hypothesis. You need to map your path to revenue. Once you can do that then planning how to do it in a repeatable scalable way is your growth hypothesis. Given that you are zero revenue you need to grow to at least break even to keep running experiments.

Q: OK I understand the importance of the monetization strategy in the hypothesis testing, but I don’t think it’s relevant to my original question. Suppose I added a another metric:

  • Rate of interest group members who convert to a premium account (e.g. for unlimited messaging)

And I assume it costs me $1 to get new visitors to my landing page. So now I have six hypotheses:

  • It costs $1 to get a visitor to the landing page
  • 50% of visitors register
  • 50% of registered users join or create an interest group.
  • 50% of interest group members interact in a group.
  • 50% of interactive group members login after a month.
  • 50% of persistent interactive group members upgrade to a premium account

What does that tell me? I still cannot tell if I have a  good starting point.

A: I think it makes all of the difference in the world, now you are optimizing for revenue in your experiments. The others are all vanity metrics if you don’t have hypotheses for their relationship to revenue and impact on cost.

You can enter whatever you think your conversions will be a priori, and now you can construct a hypothetical business that is profitable.

Without that you don’t have a (profitable) hypothetical business, you have a list of activities that users are engaging in.

Discovery Kanban Helps You Manage Risks and Options In Your Product Roadmap

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, Lean Startup, skmurphy, Tools for Startups

I came across this presentation from LLKD13 (#LLKD13  / storify) by Patrick Steyaert (@PatrickSteyaert) of Okaloa on Discovery Kanban after following some links off a Kanban discussion group last year:

Slides

Video

It’s a complex and challenging presentation that connects a number of different concepts–including fitness landscape models, the Cynefin framework  and its concept of probes, the OODA loop, optionality–into a coherent synthesis: Kanban models can be used not only for managing execution or delivery flow by minimizing the amount of work in progress, but also for managing the discovery process of curating a portfolio of risks and options.

At a high level an execution focus yields a prioritized network of interdependent tasks; exploration yields a portfolio of risks and options.

I had the good fortune to meet Arlette Vercammen of Okaloa a the Lean Startup Conference 2013 and we had a conversation that has sparked an ongoing collaboration around helping Okaloa evolve their Discovery Kanban model both for startups and change agents in larger firms.

Patrick will be providing an updated version of the presentation June 16 in Leuven, Belgium:  ”More Agility and Predictability with Visual Management and Kanban.”

Related blog posts and articles

Q: Should I Persevere With My Product Or Get A Job?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage

Q:  I can’t get people to use my service. For the last 9 months or so I been trying to get it going, trying to validate the idea, but I can’t get people to use it, and I’ve iterated and improved the product multiple times.  I can get people to click on ads  and visit the service but no one will even sign up much less use the service.  

A:  Whom have you talked to about the service? Have you talked to potential customers?

Q:  Up until now, I’ve only really gotten feedback from my family and friends. I thought that marketing would be enough to explain the idea and convert visitors into customers, but it’s not working, and I’ve tried different methods and messages.  

A: How did you come up with the idea for the service?

Q: I got the idea from my Dad almost two years ago and developed the idea into what it is now.  I have been into technology for as long as I can remember and I am constantly dreaming of tons of amazing ideas, but most of them are too complicated to create myself:  when my Dad came along with the idea I saw it as a chance to start fulfilling my dreams. At the time I thought that idea was simple enough to develop into a product. But I was wrong; it was much much harder than I had anticipated.  

A: As Paul Saffo advises, “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.” I can sympathize with the challenges of having too many ideas and ideas that are too complex to make viable. It doesn’t hurt to write them down and in the case of the more complex ones also try to break them into phases or steps and see if you can create a building block that might then enable a second step etc..  How long have you been working on this particular idea?

Q: I took me about a year to develop a minimum viable product; About half way through I dropped out of college to focus on it full time. It has been rough but I have finished developing it.  I don’t know what to do and I can’t keep wasting my time and money on something that’s not working. My parents were supportive at first, but now they are saying I need to get a job. So, any advice on the service  or what I should do would be great.  

A:  A year ago if your parents had said we will support you for a year but if you have no customers then you have to go back to college or get a job would you have agreed? If not, how much time would you have asked for?

You have to treat the friends and family who are supporting you just as you would an investor and give them visibility into your plans and results. It’s also not fair to ask for a blank check: you have to have a stopping rule.

Experienced investors, whether Angel or VC, will impose one on you. But friends and family may find it harder. That’s why you have to agree up front on the limit of investment you are asking for.

You don’t have to give up on your vision, but you need to either earn enough to become self-sufficient to pursue it on your own, or go back to college to finish your education. Here are a few questions you can use to measure your progress and navigate your way forward:

  • What have you learned in the last six months that’s made you more effective as an entrepreneur?
  • In the last three months?
  • What do you hope to learn in another three that will allow you to gain customers?
  • Before you start a new project you need to define your stopping rule or you risk going bankrupt or you force the people who are supporting you to define it for you–or you bankrupt them as well.

Here are “Three Questions to Ask Before Quitting” from pages 66-71 of Seth Godin’s “The Dip

  1. Am I Panicking? Decide in advance when you are going to quit.
  2. Who Am I Trying to Influence? A person or a market? Markets value persistence far more than an individual.
  3. What Sort of Measurable Progress am I Making?

Q: What do you think of the advice a friend gave me: ”You’ll never fail if you don’t give up.”

Be very careful of this advice:  if you keep doing the same thing expecting different results you won’t succeed either. Take a long-term view for a moment. Looking back from 30 or 35 or 40 it’s unlikely you would regret finishing college and perhaps even working for five or ten years to get some real world experience before starting a company.

If your goal is to be an effective entrepreneur then you may learn faster in other situations than by continuing full time on your startup today. Despite what you read on TechCrunch and similar sites very little success is overnight.

Related

Feeling Lucky Is Not a Strategy

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

“Luck cannot be duplicated.” Richard Kostelanetz

Riffing on a Nov-2-2013 TechCrunch post by Cowboy VenturesAileen Lee (@aileenlee) “Welcome To The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups” Ryan Hoover suggests that you should ”Forget What You Know: There is No Right Way to Start Up”[1][2]

“They didn’t talk to people. They didn’t do market research. They didn’t create a landing page to see if people would enter their email. They just built it. For the past year, they invested in the team and technology to prioritize speed of iteration with disregard to traditional methods of customer development and company building.”
Ryan Hoover in “Forget What You Know: There is No Right Way to Start Up”

This is not a methodology, it’s hoping to get lucky. The article cites several startups that may have gotten lucky as proof of…I am not sure, I guess that it’s possible to get lucky.

“Lean methodology and the startup community at large, espouses customer interviews, landing page tests, concierge experiments, and other tactics for testing hypotheses and measuring demand before building a product. In many cases, this is good advice but sometimes it’s a waste of time or worse, directs entrepreneurs away from something truly great.”
Ryan Hoover in “Forget What You Know: There is No Right Way to Start Up”

For every team that gets lucky I wonder how many thousands run through their savings in search of the truly great without talking to customers or testing their hypotheses. Perhaps a more careful and detailed analysis will uncover ways to duplicate the success of some of these startups but I worry that it may be like trying to select the winning lottery ticket: the fact that some people do it does not change the fact that on average it’s a terrible investment strategy.

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” Benjamin Franklin


Ryan’s essay also appeared on LinkedIn and TheNextWeb:

I don’t think this “Forget What You Know” post is representative of the quality of Ryan’s insights. Here are three blog posts by him that I have found very useful and recommend reading:

 

Video from Lean Innovation 101 Talk at SF Bay ACM Nov-20-2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Events, Lean Startup, skmurphy, Video

The video from my “What is Lean–Lean Innovation 101” talk is up:

Here is the description for the talk

“Lean” provides a scientific approach for creating a product and developing new businesses. Teams can iteratively building 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. This talk covers:

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

I want to thank Alex Sokolsky for his outstanding effort on behalf of SF Bay ACM doing the video capture and editing.

IEEE-CNSV Panel Explores Engineering in Japan vs Silicon Valley Mon-Mar-3

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, Events, Silicon Valley, skmurphy

I am helping to moderate a panel 7pm Mon-Mar-3 at IEEE-CNSV on “Innovation: Work and Life of the Engineer in Japan and Silicon Valley” The event takes place at Agilent Technologies, Inc. in the Aristotle Room, Bldg. 5 located at 5301 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara, CA 95051. There is no charge to attend and the event is open to the public.

The event is organized by Takahide Inoue, the Global Outreach Director for the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society at UC Berkeley.

The panel members are:

  • Takashi Yoshimori, Toshiba Semiconductor
  • Laura Smoliar, Independent Consultant, Signal Lake Venture Capital
  • Tom Coughlin, IEEE Region Six Director-Elect, CNSV member and Independent Consultant
  • Kim Parnell, Past Chair, IEEE Santa Clara Valley Section, CNSV member and Independent Consultant
  • Brian Berg, Past Chair, IEEE Santa Clara Valley Section, CNSV member and Independent Consultant

Here are some of the questions I hope the panel is able to address:

  • What are innovation lessons from Silicon Valley?
  • How does Silicon Valley do so many innovations?
  • What are innovation lessons from Japan?
  • How do Japanese engineers sustain their interest in a topic to achieve mastery instead of moving on to the “new hot thing” or next “bright shiny object?”
  • What makes an innovative culture? What can other areas do to create an innovative culture?
  • In Silicon Valley, we tend to celebrate the individual over the group. For Silicon Valley engineers how do you give back to your  community?
  • The Japanese say that “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” For Japanese engineers, how do you disagree constructively with your peers to foster innovation?
  • What advice do you have for engineers for finding an idea that can inspire them to work on for several years before it becomes a reality?
  • How do you see the work of the engineer changing in the next five to ten years?

I hope you can join us tomorrow night. Here are some background material on Silicon Valley’s innovation culture you may find relevant.

Here are five related blog posts about Silicon Valley it’s entrepreneurial culture

Finally Tom Wolfe wrote “The Tinkering’s of Robert Noyce” about the founding and early culture at Fairchild and Intel for Esquire in December of 1983 and updated it for Forbes ASAP fourteen years later as “Robert Noyce and his Congregation.” (Aug-25-1997).


The text of California Historical Marker 836:

PIONEER ELECTRONICS RESEARCH LABORATORY – This is the original site of the laboratory and factory of Federal Telegraph Company, founded in 1909 by Cyril F. Elwell. Here, Dr. Lee de Forest, inventor of the three-element radio vacuum tube, devised the first vacuum tube amplifier and oscillator in 1911-13. Worldwide developments based on this research led to modern radio communication, television, and the electronics age…California Registered Historical Landmark No. 836..Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the City of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Historical Association, May 2, 1970

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