Archive for April, 2007

“Crucial Marketing Concepts for Consultants” @ PATCA May 10

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Consulting Business, Events, skmurphy

I will be presenting a revised and improved version of the “12 Books for the Busy CEO” presentation on Thursday May 10 at 6pm at the PATCA monthly dinner at the Embassy Suites Santa Clara – Silicon Valley on 2885 Lakeside Drive in Santa Clara.

I will cover a dozen books and offer a synthesis of the key marketing concepts (this is not a sequence of twelve book reports) that they offer. I will have an article on crucial marketing concepts that I will give out for attendees. There is good content here for entrepreneurs, whether they are starting out as consultants or embedding their expertise in software or a SaaS offering.

Spend an hour and leave with a summary of key marketing insights and some rules of thumb for successful innovation in Silicon Valley. You may even identify one or two books that you haven’t read that will be worth your time. I will cover a dozen books that form the basis for conventional wisdom on marketing in Silicon Valley. They provide the terms, the metaphors, the parables–in short the language–that successful high technology firms use to develop their plans and monitor their execution. Some of these books are old–most have stood the test of time, which in Valley years is a decade or more–but still provide succinct guidelines for new product introduction and sales.

I want to thank Mark Duncan for helping us turn a set of black and white PowerPoint slides that were primarily text bullets into a colorful and illustration rich article.

Lessons Learned by Jason Feinsmith at Accomplice

Written by Francis Adanza. Posted in Events

This evening I attended the SDForum SEM SIG, featuring Jason Feinsmith, CEO of Accomplice. Jason gave an excellent no holds bar talk on his lessons learned from starting a company. Accomplice started operations over 2 years ago. The company has developed and commercialized an innovative “virtual assistant” software product and service which has won acclaim from industry leaders, press, bloggers, and thousands of customers. Sound good?

To my surprise, the Accomplice hype and buzz was far from the truth. Positioned as an ad driven free service for small/medium business professionals, the company only had 18,000 users. I say “only” because in order to be a successful venture backed ad driven website, a company must generate $50 million dollars in revenue a year. On average, this is equivalent to to 1 billion page views a month. (ref Jeremy Liew of LightSpeed Ventures on “Three Ways to Build an On-Line Media Business to 50M in Revenue“)

Three key insights I took away from Jason’s talk:

  • Fail early: Make sure you have enough savings to attempt this challenge because most likely you will fail. Set minimum goals at 6 months, one year, and 18 months. Set goals that you believe you must achieve to validate signs of progression. Otherwise you can get so engulfed in the project that one day you wake up and realized you have lost everything. Jason knows people who have taken a second on their mortgage, used up their savings, sold off all of their belongings, and maximized credit cards. He recommends that you set a budget with a time table and stick to it. If you have not reached your minimum goals, it would be a good sign to stop.
  • The truth about raising capital: Jason observed that “raising money without paying customers is a false dream. I am a perfect example. I may not be a name brand executive, but I have held various executive management positions with an attractive track record. I have a Stanford MBA and have several strong relationships within the investor community.” Jason could not even raise his first round of angel money without a finished product and paying customers. He had also invested a significant amount of his own money to show is commitment to the business. 
  • Product Planning: Jason suggests that you plan weekly and make sure your engineers get the job done on schedule. Try to secure your early market customer commitments by making the customer pay for the feature before you build it. If you cannot finish the feature and release it in two weeks, drop it, unless you have a customer willing to pay and wait for it.

Is DodgeBall Duo’s Departure A Harbinger For JotSpot Wunderkinder?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Founder Story, skmurphy

Barbara Darrow (Unblog) April 16 entry was by Stacy Cowley “Dodgeball Founders Defect From, Take Shots At, Google”

Google’s habit of acquiring promising startups and then disappearing them into the Googleplex Vortex is no secret — it left Blogger to languish for years, and closed Web 2.0 wunderkinds JotSpot (wikis) and Measure Map (blog traffic analytics) to new users the minute it bought them, with no word about when, or if, they’d ever reopen.

The buy and ignore habit has long irked users and pundits, but now comes a sign of dissent from within.

Two years ago, Google picked up Dodgeball, a mobile social-networking application for the always-wired set. The deal netted Google two talented Web developers, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, who built dodgeball as part of their master’s degree work for New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

But on Friday, Crowley and Rainert loudly left Google, metaphorically flipping the bird at the company on the way out the door.

You wonder if the dodgeballers mis-read the negotiation process and didn’t get an agreement for a new product or service to be developed based on their technology. Two years is when their Google options probably vest, so if they were on an earnout it couldn’t be based on revenue that Google generated from leveraging the technology. They were in college before the acquisition so Google might just have looked like their first “real job.” The picture where they flip Google off is at “me + alex quit google. (dodgeball forever!!!!)” where they also had this to say:

So…. Alex and I quit Google on Friday.

It’s no real secret that Google wasn’t supporting dodgeball the way we expected. The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us – especially as we couldn’t convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space. And while it was a tough decision (and really disappointing) to walk away from dodgeball, I’m actually looking forward to getting to work on other projects again.

So, what’s next? Starting today (Monday!) I’m joining the kids at area/code who are knee-deep in building all sorts of Big Games (remember PacManhattan? ConQwest?). Alex is moving on to IconNicholson where he took a gig as a Creative Strategist focusing on mobile and emerging technologies. (And sorry, but I don’t know what Google has planned for dodgeball going forward.)

Another perspective by Jason Hahn is here “Dodgeball Founders Quit Google.”

This occurrence certainly sheds a more somber light on the idea of being bought by the almighty search engine. It seems that not even bucketfuls of money can compensate for satisfaction with a job or product, no matter who is paying you.

So far no real news on Jotspot after the acquisition by Google.

3 Things I Learned at WIC Tech Talk

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events, Rules of Thumb, Tools for Startups

I enjoyed the latest WIC (Women In Consulting) South Bay lunch today. Denise Brosseau from Brosseau & Associates talked about tools that she or clients use to run their business. Her talk, “Play Like the Big Guys: How To Use New Web Tools To Easily Build Your Company” was full of ideas and useful tools. Here’s three that I think are worth sharing:

1. Denise used Yahoo Small Business to create her website. It was easily to use and flexible. Her 20 page website took about 2 weekends to create.

2. She loves AVG for virus software.

3. She uses Meeting Wizard to schedule meetings with multiple people.

ASIC Design Starts Dropping: Implications for EDA

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in EDA, skmurphy

I attended a very thought provoking talk tonight on “Factors Influencing IC Design Starts and Future Revenues” by Bryan Lewis and John Barber of Gartner at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the IEEE Components, Packaging & Manufacturing Technology Society. Bryan and John declined to make their slides available but I was able to crib this chart from an EE Times article “Sockets scant for costly ASICs

2000 2005 2006 2007 2008
7,749 3,623 3,391 3,196 3,048

Chip volume and complexity combine to increase total revenues but the design start trend has clear implications for an EDA industry that in the 80’s and 90’s saw ASICs (gate array and standard cells) as key drivers. The other interesting trend is that process lifetimes are elongating considerably. The need to move to a new process was another strong driver in the 90’s as deep submicron and then very deep submicron processes required entirely new back end tool sets to accurately model their complexities and constraints. This is a trend that has been underway for more than a decade as the EE Times article points out

Back in the mid-1990s, any given year saw a total of some 10,000 ASIC design starts, according to iSuppli. A design start is equal to a unique tapeout, but the IC may or may not go into production, Gartner’s Lewis said.

It would seem that the near term EDA opportunities may have more to do with complexity management as complexity continues to increase, and intelligent management and recycling of legacy design data.

Rich Mironov: Service-Model Thinking for Product-Model Folks

Written by Francis Adanza. Posted in Events

This evening I attended “Are You a Chef or Are You a Grocer?” an SVPMA event featuring Rich Mironov. It was an excellent presentation on SaaS (Software as a Service) business models.

Mironov outlined four components as key to a successful SaaS offering:

  1. Build a multi-tenant infrastructure
  2. Manage for slower incremental sales
  3. Commit to continuous marketing
  4. Get real user feedback

Building a SaaS application is more than just hosting. You are responsible for the user’s positive experience. As a provider, you are responsible for choosing the right features, combining them correctly, managing the hours and uptime, and serving the users. SaaS offerings need to be a complete solution that can handle many customers simultaneously. In addition, the customer must feel like they are interacting directly with the service providers.

Build a multi-tenant infrastructure
This type of infrastructure requires your customer to have a personalized experience with a menu of options. There are no excuses when it comes to availability. Customers want service on-demand. The system needs to be private and secure with usage reporting and billing traceability.

A good example of a multi-tenant infrastructure is Google’s Adwords. Adwords is extremely simple to you. In less than 15 minutes, you can see your advertisement on the Google search engine. You can create customized ad campaigns, monitor budgets, and analyze data. All of this is available through a web browser that I can access anytime, anywhere.

Manage for slower, incremental sales
To be a successful SaaS company, it has to be quick and easy for the customer to see the initial benefit. You need to reduce your customers perception of risk by enabling them with a jump start. An example of a jump start would be taking the customers data in and giving them a result that tells them something that they do not already know as an output. If the customer likes the result, they can pay for it. Otherwise they can leave it and walk away.

From your customers perspective, the questions that you must answer include:

  • What is the risk involved?
  • How much time do I have to spend to use the product?
  • How much is this going to cost?
  • What do I get for my money?

Commit to continuous marketing
Traditionally, companies ship CD’s and move on. Now, because software is so cheap to develop competition is becoming fierce. More and more players are fighting over the same market. How are you going to differentiate yourself? With SaaS you can wrap a suite of services around your technology offering. The responsibility of marketing also includes keeping frequent and helpful contact with your customers. Friendly, low intensity touches can be made with eNewsletters, blogs, FAQ’s, questionnaires, testimonials, and success stories.

Get real user feedback
It is important to know how your customers are using and not using your application. Customer feedback can be obtained through customer meetings, third party surveys, sales issues, annual user groups, online forums, industry analysts, and product reviews. By understanding your customers objectives, you can design your product roadmap to be aligned with your customers needs. This way you can get woven into their practice and never be displaced. Furthermore, you can avoid developing features that will never be used.

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