Archive for June, 2011

Startup Lessons Learned 2011 Roundup

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

This is a recap of the presentations from the 2011 Startup Lessons  Learned Conference. My intent is to provide links to the presentations, videos, and relevant blog post for each session.

Update Aug-5-2014: none of the Justin.TV links resolve at this point because of their exit from the video hosting business. As I find other sources for the video I will correct the broken links. The conference personnel have recovered the 2010 presentations but have yet to post the 2011 videos.


Remote Locations


Start Where You Are

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

“Start where you are with what you have. Make something of it and never be satisfied.”
George Washington Carver

People ask me where to get started.  Lately I have been telling them:

Start where you are with what you have.


Sell product and services you can deliver today (“sell what you have”).

Write a blog about events you have attended, people you have met, books and articles you have read: document whatever you have found to be of value.

Write the story of your life so far.

Write to  clarify your thoughts.

Your real business is probably something that builds on what you have already accomplished.

Meet people, help them connect, and explore possibilities.

Knit your network now before you need it.

Try several things at once: two to four.  This will help you stay unstuck without getting spread too thin.

Offer something unique and you can consider how to scale it up after you have learned whether it’s really something you can be passionate about and execute with distinction.

Focus when you feel traction–the ability to reliably set and hit goals.

A Scientific Approach to Startups Won’t Create “A Science of Startups”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development

Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice.”
Peter Drucker

Taking a scientific approach to your startup by formulating and testing critical hypotheses is a great idea.

But I don’t think in the end no matter how often we compare notes or measure carefully that we will converge on a common “beaten path” or definitive morphology of startups. While I think that failure is always instructive, I don’t think efforts to codify a set of successes into “a science of startups” will yield the right way to do a startup™ that’s been scientifically proven.

Startups are not fighting a natural phenomenon like gravity or seismic activity but a co-evolving set of suppliers and competitors who react to–and even anticipate likely moves by–a new entrant. So while you can design and build a bridge based on scientific laws for gravity and engineering principles to resist and ride out earthquakes, competition is less predictable because it’s made of people and not governed by natural laws.

I think there is a deeper problem: just as you cannot step into the same river twice, technology and market spaces co-evolve and the success of an earlier startup forecloses some paths by occupying a niche in the ecosystem and enables others by creating new opportunities and demands.

Franchise models that document and codify a particular business type, e.g. a restaurant, dry cleaners, or ice cream store, will enable an entrepreneur to start with a proven business in a new area that lacks an equivalent. But even though repeated failures may lead to rules of thumb, these may be broken successfully by an an entrepreneur. For example, Sam Walton observed “I guess in all my years, what I heard more often than anything was: A town of less than 50,000 population cannot support a discount store for very long.” This led him to site WalMarts in smaller towns.

See also

Why Your Startup Matters Has Little to Do With Funding

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 4 Finding your Niche

Giff Constable had a great post “Money Raised is a Terrible Metric for Success” about two weeks ago where he made the following suggestion

I would love for our ecosystem to purge the notion that how much you raise should be a valid comparative metric for success. Speaking as someone who has worked for quite few well-funded companies, I know that it is not. […] Raising money is not success. It is an enabler of success. It is supposed to make success easier, but I have seen situations where the opposite has happened. I have also seen plenty of situations where the outside investors were the only ones who really benefited from an exit.

This echoes a similar point by Seth Godin in “Getting Funded is not the same as succeeding

“The goal isn’t to get money from a VC, just as the goal isn’t to get into Harvard. Those are stepping stones, filters that some successful people have made their way through. […]  I don’t care so much how much money you raised, or who you raised it from. I care a lot about who your customers are and why (or if) they’re happy.”

Jeff Nolan suggested in “Why the TechCrunch Economy will Falter” that

If all we care about is starting things then the tech economy will eventually falter because at some point you have to answer the critical question “why do you matter?”. This simple question should be at the top of the list whenever any company or product is written about, I know that it will be for me going forward.

I blogged about “Entrepreneurial Motivation” in January of 2009, highlighting Tim O’Reilly’s thought provoking post “Work on Stuff that Matters” from earlier that month. O’Reilly highlighted three principles:

  1. Work on something that matters to you more than money.
  2. Create more value than you capture.
  3. Take the long view.

that I still find very valuable. I want to work on things that will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. And like Randall Munroe, “I never trust anyone who’s more excited about success than about doing the thing they want to be successful at.”

See also

Book Club: Cohan’s “Great Demo!”

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

We have two sessions on Peter Cohan’s Great Demo! book.
  1. Sep-4-2012 that addressed  “Lessons Learned Implementing The Great Demo! Methodology” We had two change agents join us on the panel: Barry Nelson and Jolie Rollins and our intent, consistent with the Book Club’s promise, elicit actionable insights from the panel informed by the book’s content.  Listen to the session
  2. September 14, 2011. Matt Cameron CEO of, Jon Cline Principal at CirrusPath, and Brian K. Seitz Managing Director of the Intellectual Arbitrage Group join Francis Adanza and Sean Murphy to discuss lessons learned applying the methodology from Peter Cohan’s “Great Demo.” View the recorded session
Great Demo!: How To Create And Execute Stunning Software Demonstrations by Peter Cohan

Cohan Great Demo

Great Demo! provides sales and presales staff with a method to dramatically increase their success in closing business through substantially improved software demonstrations. It draws upon the experiences of thousands of demonstrations, both delivered and received from vendors and customers. The distinctive “Do the Last Thing First” concept generates a “Wow!” response from customers.


Related Resources:

Share your story –

Leave a comment below

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

Additional Book Reviews

The Lean Startup
Managing Oneself
You Need To Be A Little Crazy
Boyd-OODA Moore's Darwin and the Demon HBR article

We Recommend LectureMaker Studios In Silicon Valley

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Testimonial

I  met Ron Fredericks of LectureMaker when I was co-chair of the SDForum Marketing SIG in 2006. Ron was clearly a very bright engineer with a passion for both embedded systems and video (@DoMoreWithVideo). We kept in touch and last year he e-mailed me that he had opened a video studio in Sunnyvale. We have used his studio to create two short videos:

I enjoy working with Ron, he is a true professional in his approach to video production. He is committed to quality work and consistently delivers results that make me and my business look good.  The convenience of his studio in Sunnyvale allows us to do short videos as needed. The option to take two hours and turn out a 30-60 second  for an upcoming event or new product or service have proven to be a very useful addition to our repertoire of extended capabilities.

Ries’ The Lean Startup

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Books, Events

Call-in Book Review on

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

12:00 p.m. Pacific / 9:00 a.m. Hawaii
1:00 p.m. Mountain / 2:00 p.m. Central
3:00 p.m. Eastern

Signup to participate the live review

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup

by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup methodology offers a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups. The Lean Startup offers a way to test your vision continuously, so that you can innovate and adjust while you still have time to do so. It allows entrepreneurs a way to adapt their plans incrementally, inch by inch, minute by minute.

Order NOW

Related Resources:

Share your story –

Leave a comment below

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

Additional Book Reviews

Moore's Darwin and the Demon HRB article
Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin You Need To Be A Little Crazy

Darwin and the Demon: Innovating Within Established Enterprises

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Books, Events

Call-in Book Discussion recorded on August 24, 2011Karen Sage, VP of Technology Alliance and Industry Program Marketing for CA Technologies, and Ellen Chandra, Product Marketing Manager at Cisco Systems, join Sean Murphy to discuss market innovation.

View the recorded session

Moore's Darwin and the Demon HRB article

Darwin and the Demon: Innovating Within Established Enterprises

by Geoffrey A. Moore

Moore offers a periodic table of innovation types–Disruptive, Application, Product, Process, Experiential, Marketing, Business Model, and Structural–that the panel illustrates with examples from their direct experience.


Related Resources:

Share your story –

Leave a comment below

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

Additional Book Reviews

Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin
Managing Oneself
You Need To Be A Little Crazy

Steve Mock Joins 3D Negotiation Panel June 22

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Books, Events

I have been fortunate to add Steve Mock as a panelist for our next Business Impact Book Club on “3D Negotiation” a 2003 Harvard Business Review Article by David Lax and James Sebenius.

Steve Mock (@steve_mock)

Founder or management team of 5 venture-backed start ups. Proven track record of effective marketing and sales strategy, business planning, and execution of successful technology ventures. Drove 150+ distribution deals, acquisitions, corporate relationships, and venture financings ($32M) in 15+ countries. Managed dozens of product launches targeting consumers, enterprises, and OEMs in the Internet, gaming, mobile, enterprise networking, web, and consumer markets.

View session

Father’s Day 2011

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

“When my father died it was like a whole library burned down. ”
Laurie Anderson “World Without End”

Father’s Day has me reflecting on my father’s passing almost four years ago now: there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t wish I could still give him a phone call.  I moved away from St. Louis to go to college in California, at first I would return home every summer  and at Christmas, then just for the holidays and then more sporadically. But we would talk once or twice a week on the phone until he died.

B.V. Jagdeesh on “Startup Leadership Lessons Learned”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 4 Finding your Niche, Events, First Office, Founder Story

Mr. B.V. Jagadeesh gave a great talk on “Lessons Learned Starting, Leading, and Succeeding at Multiple Startups” tonight at the GITPRO meeting.  Mr. Jagadeesh co-founded Fouress (a bootstrapped consulting firm), co-founded Exodus Communications, was CEO at NetScalar (and stayed on after  its acquisition by Citrix as a VP/GM),  was  president and CEO of 3Leaf Systems, and is today  president and CEO of Virtela.  He is an accomplished entrepreneur (more details on LinkedIn and CrunchBase) and he gave a very candid talk on his entrepreneurial journey starting with his arrival in the United States in the early 1980’s to work at Novell.

I have had the privilege of hearing experienced entrepreneurs talk about lessons learned but it’s normally been a small group, a half dozen or dozen folks in a conference room or 15 or 20 around a Bootstrappers Breakfast table. This had that same sense of practical candor but there were perhaps a hundred to a hundred and twenty folks in the Oak Room.  It was a candid an insightful talk punctuated by frequent questions from the audience.  What follows are a few stories that I thought had a particular emotional resonance with the early stages of a startup.

He came from a family of teachers and professors of modest means. They were delighted when he graduated with bachelors degree in engineering and went to Bombay to earn a Masters degree. When he  was able to get a job in America it was unprecedented success. His new job allowed him to buy a used car which was one of the first owned by his family.

This made for a difficult phone call when he called his father to tell him he was going to quit his job to start a company. He had tried to work on it on the side with his future co-founder but came to understand if it was going to move forward he would have to focus on it.

“How much will this new job pay?” his father asked.

“It’s a startup, once we get clients I will be able to make some money” was Mr. Jagadeesh’s answer.

Needless to say his family thought he was making a mistake, but his calculation was that he had enough money saved to live simply for a year, he would pursue his dream of his own company and if it didn’t work out he would go back to being an engineer for a while.

Exodus went on to spearhead the concept of offsite co-location datacenters, changing the model from on-site data center served by an ISP. It enabled a number of companies large and small to establish a significant presence on the Internet.

His tenure at NetScalar saw the company narrowly avoid shutdown and go on to establish a  new paradigm for Internet connectivity management. He had to prepare two speeches for the employees, one where he announced that the company was getting shut down, and one where they announced  new round of funding (from Sequoia as it turns out). He was able to give the second speech and returned 8x to Sequoia when Citrix acquired NetScalar two and half years later.

He had to give the other speech a few years later as CEO of 3Leaf Systems when a key ASIC needed another spin and he was not able to convince investors to help. His point was that in both cases you had to prepare for the likely outcomes and take responsibility as CEO for what happens, doing the best that you can for your employees and investors.

One theme he stressed repeatedly was the need to impose the discipline on yourself and your team to prepare and act with the professionalism that your competitors are going to bring to the market. He talked about one team that he is advising that has met with some initial success. They realized that treating their offices as dorm rooms had been OK when there were a few founders, but now that they were growing and had two dozen  employees they needed to establish a more professional tone–without spending a lot of money. So they spent a few thousand dollars at IKEA and held furniture assembly parties. The new look changed both internal attitudes toward the workplace and those of  customers and potential investors who visited their offices.

He talked about volunteering to help the IEEE Silicon Valley put on events and conferences while he was still working at Novell. They met more than two decades ago in the Oak Room where he was speaking tonight .  By volunteering to find speakers he was able to have conversations with managers and executives at many companies that allowed him to develop a network that helped out as he was growing Exodus and NetScalar.  He felt a sense a coming full circle: he was now the invited speaker in the same room where he first started out as a volunteer.

It was a candid and reflective talk, Mr. Jagadeesh not only offered a wealth  of practical advice, answering a number of very good questions,  but he also communicated a fundamental sense of what it means to be a CEO: you need to take action and take responsibility for outcome of your actions.

Crucial Customer Development Concepts At GITPRO Sat-Jun-18

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, Events, skmurphy

I have been invited to speak at the Global Indian Technical Professional (GITPRO) on “Crucial Customer Development Concepts” this Saturday June 18.  I will outline key customer development insights and some rules of thumb for successful innovation in Silicon Valley. I will cover concepts that form the basis for conventional wisdom on customer development in Silicon Valley. These concepts 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.

There will also be a talk by B.V. Jagadeesh on “Lessons Learned Starting, Leading, and Succeeding at Multiple Startups.” Mr Jagadeesh co-founded Fouress, co-founded Exodus Communications, was CEO at NetScalar (and stayed on during it’s acquisition by Citrix as a VP/GM),  was  president and CEO of 3Leaf Systems, and is today  president and CEO of Virtela.  He is an accomplished entrepreneur (more details on LinkedIn and CrunchBase) and I look forward to his talk

Where: HP Bldg 48 Oak room,  19111 Pruneridge Ave  Cupertino, CA
Sat-Jun-18 4:45 to 6:45
More Info:
Cost: Free, but please RSVP at

GITPRO is the brainchild of Khanderao Kand who was kind enough to invite me to speak. He runs MyBantu and blogs at and

Boyd’s Essence of Winning and Losing

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Books, Events

Call-in Book Discussion recorded on July 27, 2011Panel discussion on John Boyd’s OODA Loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) with Lenny Greenberg of Assistyx and Venkatesh Rao, author of Tempo and the Ribbonfarm blog, Francis Adanza of LeadFormix, and Sean Murphy of SKMurphy. They shared how they have consciously applied the OODA process to business situations. View record session

“Essence of Winning and Losing”

by John R. Boyd

This article provide a good introduction to “OODA Loop”: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Decision makers gather information (observe), form hypotheses about customer activity and the intentions of competitors (orient), make decisions, and act on them. The aggressive and conscious application of the process gives a business advantage over a competitor who is merely reacting to conditions as they occur, or has poor awareness of the situation.

Related Resources:

  • Background
  • Background

Share your story –

Leave a comment below

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

Additional Book Reviews

Book Club July 13 Community of Practice

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Books, Community of Practice, Events

Book Club For Business Impact Call-in Book Discussion recorded on July 13, 2011

Matt Childs, Dave Horner, Francis Adanza,and Sean Murphy review and discuss two Communities of Practice articles. They share example communities that they value and the key insights from the articles. Matt and Sean also share how they look they at running several communities.

View the recorded session

Two Community of Practice Articles

Communities of Practice – a Brief Introduction

by Etienne Wenger

Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge – Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice

by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder

These articles provide a good introduction to what communities of practice are and why business leaders find them useful as an approach to knowing and learning..

Related Resources:

Share your story –

Leave a comment below

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

Additional Book Reviews

Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin
Managing Oneself
You Need To Be A Little Crazy

What Situation Is Your Team Training For?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

Rob Mee, CEO of Pivotal Labs,  wrote a blog post on “7 Myths of Entrepreneurship and Programming” that contains a great reminder on how to achieve team performance under pressure: training (excerpt below has emphasis added)

Myth: Looming deadlines necessitate shortcuts.

Many software teams use the excuse of a high-pressure market and the need to ship product right now as an excuse to do shoddy work. Writing tests goes by the wayside; careful design is forgotten in the rush of frenzied hacking.

But software teams are no different than other teams we’re all familiar with, and the way high-performing teams succeed is not to lose their cool: on the contrary, when the pressure is on, you stay frosty, and let your training carry you through. How many times have we heard stories of remarkable performance under unimaginable pressure – whether it be military, professional sports, or a pilot landing a plane on a river – and the explanation almost invariably involves the heroes saying, “We trained for this situation.”

Realistic training and rehearsal is the key to managing a high level of challenge and outperforming your competition.

  • Rehearse presentations, find a proxy for your real audience to provide tough questions.
  • Decide in advance what steps can be omitted from a process when you are up against a deadline, and what steps can absolutely never be omitted.
  • Share drafts of important e-mails, presentations, and brochures before you send them.
  • If you need to have a difficult conversation with an employee, a client, or a partner find one or more people whose judgment you trust–and who will tell you if you are making a mistake–and rehearse it.
  • Apply the concept of ‘dress rehearsal’ to situations that will require improvisation, apply a ‘fire drill’ model to situations where key steps must be taken in sequence against a critical deadline.

Focus Needs Buffers and Free Time

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb

This is my first day off in about three weeks. A client has been preparing a proposal and presentation for a significant opportunity that they have been invited to compete for and between that and existing obligations it’s been hectic. It’s more clear than ever that focus needs buffers: letting administrative tasks pile up too long causes problems, so does a lack of free time to reflect and learn from experience.

Minimize Work In Progress: Finish–Or Drop–Old Tasks First

I spent the day reading a book I was given “Things We Think About Games” by Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball that contains this paragraph in a chapter written by John August entitled “Seven Lesson Learned from World of WarCraft” (a lightly edited version of his earlier “Seven Things I learned from World of WarCraft.“)

1. Kill Injured Monsters First

The real world may not have druids and paladins but it’s chock full of monsters. At any given moment there may be one monster that looms larger than all of the others, who clearly needs to be attacked. Before you strike, look around for injured monsters–the half finished tasks that probably only need a few more minutes to complete. If you don’t deal with them now, they will be a constant distraction, and may eventually come back stronger.

Focus Needs Buffers: Dan Sullivan’s Buffer Day Model

This reminded me of the concept of free, focus, and buffer days from Dan Sullivan’s “The Great Crossover.”

  • Focus Days:  you work with undivided concentration on key business activities.
  • Free Days: time you spend to relax and recharge with family and friends, no business activity.
  • Buffer Days: time you spend cleaning up, preparing, running errands, and otherwise make your focus days more effective.

Taking the time to kill or complete half-finished tasks may make your focus days more effective.

Theresa Shafer Bio

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Team, tshafer

Theresa Shafer – Program Manager
Theresa has been with SKMurphy since 2003. She was a hardware design engineer at 3COM, AMD and MMI. Theresa also brings experience with budgeting, financial reporting, program management, and market analysis. She is a lead generation and WordPress expert. She has authored an award winning magazine article on line coding in Computer Design magazine. Theresa has a BSEE from the University of Portland.

Blogs and published articles

Theresa Shafer's Linkedin profile

Great Demo! Workshop on October 12, 2011

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

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

When: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 8 am – 5 pm
Where: Moorpark Hotel, 4241 Moorpark Ave, San Jose CA 95129
For out of town attendees: The Moorpark is located 400 feet from the Saratoga Ave exit on Hwy 280, about 7 miles from San Jose Airport and 35 miles from San Francisco Airport

Cost: $590
Before Sept. 28: $566

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

Register Great Demo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Seating is Limited These are intensive sessions and we ask that you arrive at least 15 minutes before 8:30AM start time to ensure you will have a seat and won’t disrupt the session once it is underway.

For more information: Theresa 408-252-9676

Quick Links

Bootstrappers Breakfast Link Startup Stages Clients In the News Upcoming Events Office Hours Button Newsletter SignUp