Author Archive

Administrivia in Startups

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Startups

I had lunch with Sylvia Nessan, a veteran of Synopsys, CoWare, and several high tech startups and she made an observation that I thought was worth writing down: the founding team, and CEO in particular, don’t pay enough attention to how much time they waste on administrivia. Hiring an admin or other outside service providers to take care of the four to eight hours a week of work that they really don’t need to do–basic e-mail networking, taxes, finances, office management / operational issues–reduces the number of different balls they have to juggle at once and increases your effectiveness by 25-40% when you take into account that, although it’s an important set of tasks that must be done, the founders don’t have to do it.

Nancy Blachman’s Google Guide

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events

I’m late to the party on GoogleGuide, based on who else has written about it, this blog entry was triggered by Nancy Blachman’s upcoming talk, “What Google Can Do For Your Business,” Tuesday, November 21, 2006 7:00 PM, at the IEEE-CNSV meeting at KeyPoint Credit Union, 2805 Bowers Ave., Santa Clara, CA.

This looks to be a good talk, but if you can’t make that Nancy has a schedule posted for other upcoming talks. And you can always just consult her Google Guide directly. Two sections I found particularly useful were on adwords and advanced commands. And as the Pandia Post Newsletter observed in January 2004

Take a look at her GoogleGuide web site. There she gives away a lot of web search information for free. Actually, if you print out the printer-friendly version of her site, you end up with a very useful book containing some 114 pages of Google tips and information.

Actually, as of Oct-23-2006, the Google Guide PDF is now 149 pages, so Nancy hasn’t been idle in keeping up with Google’s new features. With her very impressive resume (an MS from Berkeley in Operations Research and an MS in Computer Science from Stanford) she should be working at Google..say on an easy-to-use constantly updated guide to how to use Google for novices and experienced users alike. But she may happier running Variable Symbols and letting her husband work there–since 1999 according to this interview.

If you are a technical consultant in Silicon Valley, the IEEE Consulting Network for Silicon Valley frequently runs useful and informative events and is an organization you should consider joining.

 

Nusym De-cloaks 2

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, Startups

Some follow-ups to yesterday’s post on Nusym

  • Why de-cloak? Don’t most stealth startups emerge? Yes, at least according to Google and EET. But a good Star Trek allusion (or is it Harry Potter?) always enriches a blog post and the Duke “invisibility cloakdemonstration announcement had recently gone out over the mojo wire, so it was fresh in my mind. Technically I think you have a cloak of invisibility and boots of stealth, so a stealthy start would de-boot (debut?).
    • you might wonder how they could have been “on my radar” if they were in stealth, but think Jorn.
  • Quiet mode (stealth mode): I am normally in favor of this, but if you are advertising jobs for folks and identifying yourself as associated with the startup in public forums it can’t hurt to at least talk about the problem you plan to solve. Other opinions on “stealth mode startups”
  • Other “stealth mode startups” that have emerged in 20006 according to EE Times:
    • Gear6 (FYI their news page allows you to enter your E-mail to be notified of new developments).
    • Takumi Technology (they “emerge from stealth” here).
    • Micro Magic (reborn in stealth after being acquired by Juniper; their CEO believes “What separates Micro Magic from other EDA companies is that we are actually designers.”)
  • The Company page contains a paragraph that looks to be more appropriate for B round solicitation than a customer oriented briefing:
    • The company’s technology is based upon ground-breaking research done at Stanford combined with 60+ years of design and verification experience of the founders. The company has attracted funding from individuals that are legends in the EDA industry and Silicon Valley and from venture capital firms prominent in the EDA industry. We have assembled a team of outstanding technologists and a seasoned management team.
    • You have to be careful that you don’t base your customer briefing on your funding pitch and instead work from scratch on customer pain points. I guess the counter-argument is that it establishes their financial viability.
  • I got an e-mail from Howard Landman (he of the Law and Lemma) that pointed out Patterson’s Precept was coined by “David Patterson, co-author of Patterson and Hennessy computer architecture book, professor at U.C. Berkeley.” I have amended the original post to reflect this.

Details as they frolic in plain view but beyond understanding, like the invisible ineffable cues that a school of fish use to synchronize their movements.

A WACI Track at DAC

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA

From the Call for Papers for the WACI track

Wild and Crazy Ideas (WACI) at DAC 2007
Submit a paper to the new WACI track at DAC and demonstrate your long-term vision! The WACI track will feature novel (and even unproven) technical ideas that create a buzz and get people talking. The aim of WACI is to promote revolutionary and way-out ideas that inspire and generate discussion among conference attendees.

a quick perusal of the submission form shows the following areas of interest:

  • System-Level Design and Co-Design
  • System-Level Communication and Networks on Chip
  • Embedded HW Design and Applications
  • Embedded SW Tools and Design
  • Power Analysis and Low-Power Design
  • Verification
  • High-Level Synthesis
  • Beyond Die-Integration and Package Design
  • Logic Synthesis and Circuit Optimization
  • Circuit Simulation and Interconnect Analysis
  • Timing Analysis and Design for Manufacturability
  • Physical Design and Manufacturability
  • Signal Integrity and Design Reliability
  • Analog/Mixed-Signal and RF
  • FPGA Design Tools and Applications
  • Testing
  • New or Emerging or Specialized Design Technologies
  • Automotive Electronics

In fact, “Automotive Electronics” is a special theme of the show. Proof that a near death experience, in this case for the automobile industry in the US, can re-awaken a desire for innovation, or at least lower internal barriers against risk taking. Judging from his rather wacky website, the WACI track must be the brainchild of Sachin Sapatnekar, 2007 DAC technical program co-chair, who is quoted in announcing it:

“The DAC community is instrumental in enabling the development of all of the latest innovations in electronics and bringing the latest ideas to reality, enhancing all aspects of life. We are excited to provide a forum for the truly revolutionary and controversial ideas at DAC 2007 with this new WACI track.”

The submission deadline for regular papers and WACI submissions is Monday, November 20, at 5 p.m. MST. This looks like a good opportunity to submit some innovative ideas and trigger some fruitful discussions in San Diego next June.

Born with a Face Made for Podcasting

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Events

So we were up at Office 2.0 last week and Mike Masnick from Techdirt announced that a new offering, the Techdirt Insight Community, was in beta.

I stopped by their booth pedestal in the exhibit area and was surprised to see that I had been selected as a spokesmodel for their new service as I have only been blogging on business topics for two weeks. And yet there I was in the picture on the front cover of their brochure.

Mike assured me that I would be in the “Special Highly Interactive Techdirt” section of the community. I was taken aback because my mother had always assured me that I had a face for podcasting and I assumed that it was there I would ultimately be able to make my mark. It wasn’t until I was in the bar a little later drinking some ice tea, imported from Long Island of all places, that I was able to summon my marketing imagination and jot down captions that Techdirt should consider adding to the flyer when they exit beta. I put them in an e-mail to Mike and then realized I should share them with the four of you reading this blog:

Techdirt Version SKMurphy Version
Take part in interesting discussions with your peers “Maybe if this guy had written this monologue in a blog we might have had the last 30 minutes of our lives back.”
Interact with companies who want your opinion “Is this you, holding forth to a roomful of three people on an arcane topic? If so, you can join our blogging network and double your audience.”
Get paid for your insight “Ever feel like the guy at the whiteboard isn’t really capturing the depth and breadth of your insights? Our blogging network allows you to capture and expose all of your thoughts on a topic.”

Mike offered some clarifications on the program and it’s structure in the comments in response to some speculation by Anne Zelenka.

Details as they are stored in some post-Apocalyptic reliquary whose display case for the 20th century might house a fist sized chunk of the Berlin Wall, a charred fragment from Skylab, and the test tube that contains Edison’s last breath.

Mark Duncan on “New Tools for Increasing Marketing Productivity”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy, Tools for Startups

Mark Duncan gave an excellent guided tour at the October 9 SDForum Marketing SIG of several web based applications that marketing teams should consider taking advantage of in addition to (or even instead of) Microsoft Office. He opened with the observation that

The applications bundled into Microsoft Office—word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, calendar, and mail–are the only software tools that many marketing professionals have learned.

Appropriately enough talk was titled “Beyond Microsoft Office: New Tools for Increasing Marketing Productivity.” His slides were done in the “beyond bullet points style” that very effectively complemented his spoken presentation but would be hard to follow without his spoken linkage and counterpoint. So he also created an article to act as the stand-alone representation of his talk (see http://www.askmar.com/Marketing/Beyond%20Office.pdf )

It’s definitely worth a read. Three good ideas I picked up from the talk:

  1. Many marketing activities and deliverables involve collaborating on a document to reach a working consensus by a deadline. While Microsoft Office applications can make you productive as an individual, they don’t help you to leverage the Internet in gathering information or facilitate review and discussion at a team level. Once there are three people involved it’s no longer clear who has the most recent version of the slides or the pitch or the datasheet. Wiki and on-line workspace tools can offer a team dramatically lower friction and the ability to operate much more rapidly against a deadline.
  2. Read Merlin Mann‘s “43 Folders” blog and the group blog at “LifeHack.Org” regularly for practical personal productivity tips and tricks (christened “life hacks” by Denny O’Brien in a famous O’Reilly Etech talk). These are a gold mine of information for knowledge worker productivity.
  3. Two good sites for low cost digital stock photography: istockphoto.com and Lucky Oliver. Mark’s slides made good use of stock photography to complement his talk.

Mark is a marketing consultant who focuses on emerging technologies, assisting companies in entering new markets and developing new business opportunities.

Blogging from Office 2.0 Conference

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events

I will be blogging from the Office 2.0 Conference[1] for the next two days.

It’s a set of tools that I have been interested in for a while–blogs, wikis, content management systems, chat/IM, VoIP–with a focus on enabling small teams to work more effectively against a deadline. This is the challenge that software startups need to surmount if they are to win the battle of maneuver against their larger, better funded, and more established competitors. I think one of the primary benefits these newer tools offer is that a small team can maintain a shared situational awareness in complex and rapidly evolving environments/markets.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ori Weinroth from Microsoft, during the morning sessions. I was surprised to learn that they also had a product family called Office, because they were not listed as an participant.

[1] Update Jan-18-2011: Office 2.0 website www.office20con.com has been taken over by spammers, links deleted.

Continuing Education In Entrepreneurship

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

I was sitting in one of the nice conference rooms over at Fenwick & West earlier this year at a TVC half day seminar on “Entering the Entrepreneurial World” (TVC offers great seminars by the way, and they rotate the speakers so that the material doesn’t go stale)and I had a strong sense of deja vu for freshman year in college. Normally when I dream of being back in college I am in an exam for a course I haven’t really studied for–although in my case these are more accurately termed “recovered memories”–but this felt like freshman year again, where I slept spent a lot of time in a large lecture halls.

Mr. Garrity and the Ciphers from High Cap Companies

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes

Tom Perkins–the one with his name on the door over at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers–resigned from the board of Hewlett Packard on May 18, 2006. Initially the circumstances of his resignation were characterized as a personal decision by HP, but Mr. Perkins persevered until the true reason for his departure came to light.

I had been following the story, along with most people in high tech in Silicon Valley, and was struck by the phrase “ciphers from high cap companies” when I read it in Rob Preston’s story in InformationWeek titled “Down to Business, What They Didn’t Say at the HP Hearings

It was from an e-mail Perkins wrote to Mark Hurd, H-P’s current CEO, which his attorney, Viet Dinh, included in an Op Ed entitled “Dunn and Dusted” in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, September 26, 2006. I have included the full text of the e-mail but have bolded a phrase I want to explore further:

Dear Mark: A while back I promised you that we directors would clean up our act, and free you from worries about the H-P board. I am really sorry that I didn’t deliver on this, and I apologize for the necessity of raising the issue of illegal activity by the board chairman in today’s email to the board. But, it’s an extremely serious matter, and I have legal obligations.

Aside from this, I worry that Pattie, as new chair of N&G, will ‘pack’ the board with the kind of directors she so admires — ciphers from high cap companies, with no fast-cycle technology background, and certainly no Valley entrepreneurial genes.

I worry that you will wind up with a ‘blue ribbon’ board that will be of zero, or even negative, value to you when the going gets tough. I don’t wish you bad luck — but life eventually delivers tough scenarios to CEOs of big companies — and I doubt if H-P will prove to be the exception.

Anyway, I am rooting for you still, and I hope everything works out as you wish best.

Sincerely, — Tom.

Let’s unpack that phrase: ciphers from high cap companies, with no fast-cycle technology background, and certainly no Valley entrepreneurial genes.

  • Ciphers: the meaning here is a none-entity, a zero; this was a term my father and grandfather would use as a strong insult.
  • High Cap Companies: high market capitalization, i.e. Fortune 50/100/500 (I suppose “Fools from the Fortune 500” doesn’t have the same zing).
  • Fast-Cycle: in this context I believe it’s a reference to being able to make decisions rapidly, to execute the OODA cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) but it also has been applied to product development by Preston Smith and Don Reinertsen among others, to indicate the value of cutting time to market for new products
  • Technology Background: comfortable wrestling with Moore’s Law
  • Valley Entrepreneurial Genes: possibly overrated, except insofar as there is a higher tolerance for failure in the presence of learning, and a celebration of prudent risk taking (vs. rewarding success).

In this succinct phrase is a warning to startups: be wary of “large company advisors” who lack an appreciation for Moore’s Law, don’t understand that delaying a decision is deciding to delay, and who are motivated more by–or perhaps only by–money than a desire to change the world.

To watch HP’s current management team attempt to demean and intimidate someone like Tom Perkins strikes me as stupidity of the first order. I was reminded of the gypsies in the George V. Higgins’ story “A Small Matter of Consumer Protection” (reprinted in chapter 6 of his excellent “On Writing“) who attempt to con and intimidate a nameless silver-haired 70 year old one Saturday morning, only to discover too late he is a retired–well mostly retired–Mafia don.

But the moral dry rot that has set in at H-P that would allow these stupid (my operating principle is that everything you do will ultimately get found out, and the more the effort you make to keep it secret, the deeper the hole you are digging for yourself)–if not illegal–acts, doesn’t appear to stop with Patricia Dunn. Don Tennant, editor in Chief at Computerworld, wrote about A Culture of Evasion detailing Mr. Hurd’s lost opportunity to answer any tough questions at a public forum while the story was breaking:

The entire episode made me think of the irony of a particular line in Hurd’s keynote — the one in which he said that HP is “trying to build a culture of execution and accountability.” Accountability? That’s going to be awfully difficult as long as the company’s CEO demonstrates by his example a culture of dissemblance and evasion.

Witnessing the ongoing disintegration of a Silicon Valley icon like HP gives me a strange Twilight Zone sensation. If only a Jed Garrity could be found to arrange a meeting between the current and former management.

Philipp Lenssen’s Tips For Crafting a Linkable Blog Post

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging

The prolific Phillip Lenssen has leveraged his Googleblogoscope experience to create an extremely useful diagnostic quiz for assessing if you’ve written a linkable blog post (how likely it is that other bloggers will link to your blog post). He advises that

Linkability shouldn’t be your main goal when blogging, but it’s a good indicator of how approachable and interesting your writing is.

Some of his key points that I find useful to remember are:

  • Make sure you write something original, and not just a few sentences. Write about what you know.
  • A small illustrative or explanatory image can go a long way to improve your post. This is great advice that I have yet to follow. I am continually impressed by Dave Pollard’s ability to express his business insights in graphics:
  • Blog daily. I still struggle with this, but I am discovering that forcing myself to write every day, even if I don’t get is finished enough to post, forces me to clarify my thinking on an issue, which is valuable in itself.
  • Re-read and revise for clarity and offer a perspective for someone new to a topic.

The best thing about the http://www.howlinkable.com/ quiz is that it prioritizes it’s advice to offer the top ten add suggestions for improvement; once you have addressed the basics you see more. Also, not everything you can check off will improve your score (something Fleming Funch overlooked); sometimes you need stop doing something to improve. My current linkability is 45% and I need to blog daily, use more illustrative examples and images, and add my photo to my about page to get it to 54%.

One suggestion that Lenssen didn’t make directly that I think is a useful perspective comes from Useful Saheli S.R. Datta’s article “7 Habits of Highly Effective Blogger

Think of your blog as database, not a newspaper-like collection of dispatches. your archived posts should be easy to find through Google and Technorati, so cite authors and publications by name, and use tags, categories, and keywords consistently.

Mr. Aridewa at the Moojik Times  also has a excellent summary and elaboration of Lenssen’s advice.

Here is a list of the questions courtesy of Fleming Funch, for clarity I have added “[Negative]” to those practices that detract:

  1. My post title includes a pun [Negative]
  2. My post title includes more than 10 words
  3. I start off by explaining the post’s core idea
  4. My post contains more than 3 paragraphs of my own writing
  5. I spell-checked my post
  6. The post’s idea was “sleeping” inside my head for several weeks before I wrote it down
  7. I was the first to report on this (as far as I know)
  8. This post might have profound implications for a company, celebrity, or politician
  9. This post might have profound implications for my readers
  10. This post is in-tune with the overall topic of my blog
  11. I illustrated my post with screenshots, drawings, or clip art
  12. I end the post with a “bang”
  13. I use the Creative Commons license to share my content
  14. I emailed friends to let them know about my article
  15. I validated my blog’s HTML after posting
  16. I use a standard blog template
  17. I read my own post for clarity at least twice
  18. I use links, bold/ italics, or lists
  19. I’m blogging daily
  20. My blog is read by many people
  21. My post is English
  22. I’m reporting on first-hand experiences
  23. The subject I’m writing about is close to my heart
  24. My post includes a video, audio file or ZIP download
  25. Readers can comment on my post
  26. I submitted the post to Digg
  27. I submitted the post to Metafilter
  28. I submitted the post to Boing Boing
  29. I sent the post to a mainstream news source
  30. My post is above 250 KB (including images) [Negative]
  31. I checked my blog’s appearance in at least 2 browsers
  32. I include a large ad on top of the main content [Negative]
  33. My ad colors resemble my main content [Negative]
  34. I decrease the font-size quite a bit to make the layout look better [Negative]
  35. I’m citing my sources and delivering proof for what I say
  36. I’m using affiliate links inside my post’s content [Negative]
  37. My post might be considered controversial by many
  38. Some parts of my post make people laugh
  39. My server is fast to deliver pages, even under heavy traffic
  40. My full name is included at the beginning or end of the post
  41. My “About” page is linked in the navigation
  42. My “About” page includes my bio and photo
  43. I’m using several JavaScript widgets (like counters) in my blog [Negative]
  44. I’m checking my blog statistics every few days
  45. I consider myself an expert on this post’s topic
  46. My page includes animated ads [Negative]
  47. My page includes an ad that pops up or is overlaid on the content [Negative]

Beyond Microsoft Office: New Tools for Marketing Productivity Event Mon-Oct-9

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events

Mark Duncan has put together a great talk on “Beyond Microsoft Office: New Tools for Marketing Productivity” for the next SDForum Marketing SIG, next Monday Oct 9 at DLA Piper Silicon Valley.

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
Abraham Maslow

Mark offers a rich set of examples beyond documents, spreadsheets, and slide decks as the only tools at your disposal. His talk provides a rich overview of new software tools and on-line services for increasing marketing productivity both for teamwork–communication, coordination, and collaboration–and for gathering, organizing, and presenting information.

Whether you are an individual contributor in a small startup or a manager in a large firm, these applications will enable you to accomplish more with less time and effort.

The meeting starts at 6:30 with networking, Mark’s presentation will be from 7-8:15PM. I have had a chance to preview it with him and it looks very good.

Just a brief note on the SDForum Marketing SIG, our promise is “Practical tips and techniques for anticipating, identifying, and satisfying customers needs for emerging technologies profitably.”  We are guided by this quote from “Management: Task, Responsibilities, Practices” by Peter Drucker on the importance of marketing:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only these two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Update Aug-8-2008: Mark’s slides are now available here:

Mike Van Horn on “Are You Ready for Growth?”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in checklist, Startups

Mike Van Horn has a lot of good articles on his small business website. One in particular that’s worth reading is “Are You Ready for Growth?”  Here are some highlights:

  • The better teams you can build… the faster you can grow.
    People who grow companies rapidly know how to put a good team in place, then move on to the next thing. They become a leader of independent teams.
  • The better you use your time–the faster you can grow.
    Invest your time strategically; be less concerned with saving time or managing time.
  • The more you think things through ahead of time–the faster you can grow.
    That means planning, including strategic plans, action plans, and project plans, with built-in review and accountability.
  • The savvier your advisors–the faster you can grow.
    You let go of the “lone ranger” approach to running the business. As your business grows, get advisors who are one step ahead of you.
  • The more you insist on top performance… the faster you can grow.
    Do not let mediocre performers dictate your rate of growth, whether they are employees, customers, vendors, or professionals.
  • The more knowledge you can get out of your head and the more systematized you get–the faster you can grow.
    Create manuals, checklists, and training seminars that teach employees all the magical things that you think only you can do. Then you and your people can focus attention on the big, creative challenges.

The first rule is “The more you can let go, the more you can grow.

I Always Google Too Late

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb

Triggered by “Google Me This, Batman” I will try and make some different points. I don’t know how many times I have come back from an meeting (or event or trade show) with business cards or notes on my 3×5 cards and run the people and company names through Google to discover things that would have helped me if I had known them a few hours earlier.

It’s not that hard to use Google, I probably spend an hour or two a day following links from searches I have run. But I tend to start from other on-line articles I am reading and not research in anticipation of who I will be meeting. LinkedIn is probably the second most useful search tool if you are trying to get a context on someone.

Two hours a day in Google? That’s a bet you could have won from me ten years ago. Our TV picture tube died about a month ago and I find I have about ten to fifteen hours a week of extra time (funny how much time is taken up by only watching “a little” TV). I think the big win has been missing commercials. But my DSL went out and I had phantom limb pain for my missing Internet connection the next day, I didn’t realize how much I had come to rely on it.

Anyway, I now try to

  • spend at least five minutes reviewing the Google results (for web and groups) of people or companies I anticipate encountering.
    • if it’s a company, notice what ads come up as well
    • if the company has a website see what publications they list as covering them and search the archives for other articles.
    • check who else is linked to their site using the Google link: command (or use Advanced Search, pages that link to this page)
  • check and see if the person has a LinkedIn profile.
  • Read the last half dozen entries (at least) of their blog, if they have one.
  • Depending upon the industry it may also be worth a few minutes searching some trade publication archives that may not be deeply indexed by Google (e.g. EE Times for semiconductor and EDA firms/players).

I would welcome any comments or suggestions on what you do to prepare for potential or likely conversations.

Welcome Entrepreneurs!

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Startups

Welcome Entrepreneurs

This blog is dedicated to entrepreneurs at any stage of their journey:  as individuals, in teams, and collectively.  We all hope to create a better world for our customers, our employees, our stakeholders, and our children.

Our Focus: Finding Early Customers For Emerging Technologies

Our focus is helping startups find early customers for emerging technologies. This is very different from the traditional sales and marketing at established firms. Correctly identifying early customers who can be references to others is key to introducing emerging technologies.

Although emerging technologies change the rules and often enable far reaching growth most early adopters are focused on near term risks and benefits, and it is to those concerns entrepreneurial teams need to speak to get a foothold. The decision to act as a “beta” software site or early user of new software tools often resembles a hiring decision (does the prospective customer want to “hire the team”) more closely than a technology adoption decision.

Emerging technology marketing is a distinct domain from classical product marketing, most of the traditional market assessment techniques are not effective: focus groups, surveys, etc…

Emerging Markets Require Key Commitments

Emerging markets require a strong commitment by the founding team to

  • appreciating the prospective customer and customer’s view,
  • rapidly evolving the product specification in response to feedback and customer experience,
  • ongoing refinement and delivery of customer focused solutions.

A Blog Is a Dial Tone For a Website

As to why I am adding a blog to this website I was very impressed by a blog entry I read in August of this year by Tim O’Reilly titled Round 2: Dial Tone

New applications often start out requiring operators, but eventually move towards dial-tone. For example, you can look at blogging as the “dial tone” equivalent of creating a web site. For ordinary folks (not most of my readers, but non-technical folks), creating a web site was something that required an operator. You went to a web design shop or an ISP and had them do it for you. The blogging revolution, the wiki revolution, the MySpace revolution, the CyWorld revolution, are really about providing a kind of self-service dial-tone for creating a web presence and community.

I think a blog also acts a dial tone for a website in that it signals a commitment for interaction and participation on the part of the authors. And that’s certainly the case here.

O’Reilly describes his Round 2 series as occasional postings around the theme that patterns and ideas recur. He closes the “Dial Tone” post with:

Once you frame the problem in this way, you understand that one of the challenges for IT departments and companies used to the IT mindset is to get the operators out of the way, and to build new processes that let users do the work for themselves. You also can ask yourself, where is dial tone going next?

I like that “Round 2” captures the sense of recurring business trends that can act as guides: you do not need to innovate in all aspects of your startup, making the technology work can be differentiation enough. I welcome your comments and a chance to learn more about your startup.

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