Archive for May, 2013

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–May 2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

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

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“Hearing is listening to what is said. Listening is hearing what isn’t said.”
Simon Sinek (@simonsinek)

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“Naps are essential to my process. Not dreams, but that state adjacent to sleep, the mind on waking.”
William Gibson, interview with Paris Review Summer 2011

h/t Steve Mays

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“A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”
Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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“Just because everything is different doesn’t mean that anything has changed.”
Irene Peter

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“Every $25k in revenue is another entirely dilution-free Angel investor.”
Ted Rheingold in a comment on “Revenue vs. Value

more succinct than my “Revenue, especially break even revenue, is never dilutive of your ownership.” in “8 tips for evaluating funding alternatives.

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“Reid Hoffman is a genius, with a great vision. I just wish he’d join LinkedIn, and implement some of it.”
Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) in “LinkedIn Annoys Me

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“He who is outside his door already has the hard part of his journey behind him.”
Dutch proverb

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“Okay, are you really ‘experimenting’? How do you know if you’re really experimenting? You’re working on it methodically and you’re publishing the results! It’s not an experiment if you don’t publish the results in some verifiable and falsifiable form, okay?”
Bruce Sterling in a blog post “Transcript of Reboot 11 Speech (June-25-2009)

h/t Jennifer Anne Gergen (@palebluejen) on

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“They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.”
Dorothy Parker

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“We believe the typewriter is obsolete. Let’s prove it inside before we try to convince our customers.”
Mike Scott Apple memo 1980

Found in an Oct-1-1981 Inc. Magazine article by Steve Ditlea “An Apple On Every Desk

Mike Scott ushered in a new age in office procedures. “EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY!! NO MORE TYPEWRITERS ARE TO BE PURCHASED, LEASED, etc., etc. Apple is an innovative company. We must believe and lead in all areas. If word processing is so neat, then let’s all use it! Goal: by 1-1-81, NO typewriters at Apple… We believe the typewriter is obsolete. Let’s prove it inside before we try and convince our customers.”


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“Capability: what kind of value can we provide?
Capacity: how much?
Throughput: how often?”
Torbjörn Gyllebring (@drunkcod)

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“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”
Barbara Sher

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“I learned, when hit by loss,
to ask the right question:
“What next?” instead of
“Why me?” . . .
Whenever I am willing to ask
“What is necessary next?”
I have moved ahead.
Whenever I have taken no for a final answer
I have stalled and gotten stuck.”
Julia Cameron

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“The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.”
Edwin Schlossberg

h/t David Gurteen (@DavidGurteen)

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Ancient wisdom:
deal in personal trust;
your word is your bond;
avoid extremes;
treat the money you invest for others as something sacred;
don’t take any more perks than you would wish others to take;
don’t borrow what you couldn’t suddenly pay back;
imagine the worse case financial scenario and expect it very may well happen;
the wealthier you become the more humble you should act.

Victor Davis Hanson in “Ten Random Thoughts


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“That’s the problem! We need to find smarter prospects!”
VP of Sales from $1B company now at a startup.

Recounted in “For New Products, Prospect Objections Are Valuable Data”

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“Do something.
Do something small.
Do something small but useful.
Do something small but useful now.”
Bob Bemer

Unwrapped from his motto:  ((((DO SOMETHING!) SMALL) USEFUL) NOW!) and used in

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“Truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations.”
John von Neumann

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“A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave.”
Benjamin Franklin

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“Projects shouldn’t start off green, they should start off red.
Risky assumptions have not yet been validated.”
David J. Bland (@davidjbland)

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“Life is short,
skill is long,
opportunity fleeting,
experiment perilous,
judgement difficult.”
Hippocrates in Aphorisms (first one “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis“)

Skill is sometimes translated as “art” but Hippocrates is offering advice to physicians and the Greek word, “Techne” has more to do with skill or craft than art. Here is the second sentence:

The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals cooperate.

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“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”
Buckminster Fuller

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“Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise.”
Bill Walsh

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“Focusing on solving the problem is often the biggest impediment to actually understanding it.”
Torbjörn Gyllebring (@drunkcod)

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“Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work:
the work of becoming expert through study and practice,
the work of finding solutions to problems
and problems with those solutions
the work of trial and error,
the work of thinking and perfecting,
the work of creating.

[…] The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know.”
Kevin Ashton “Creative People Say No

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“A theory should not attempt to explain all the facts, because some of the facts are wrong.”
Francis Crick

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Paul Spaan Offers 3D Printing Show & Tell Fri-May-24 at Mountain View BB

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

Compare notes with entrepreneurs who eat problems for breakfast.Join other entrepreneurs for serious conversations about growing a business based on internal cash flow and organic profit at a Bootstrappers Breakfast®. Paul Spaan, CEO of Spaan Enterprises, will offer a seven minute briefing on “3D Printing For Bootstrappers” and circulate examples of prototype products he has printed. Paul’s briefing will be followed by our regular roundtable discussion format.

When: 9:00am to 10:30am Fri-May-24
Where: Red Rock Coffee, Mtn View (2nd Floor)
Cost: $5 RSVP, $10 at door (order your own coffee downstairs).
Please RSVP

Paul Spaan worked as a mechanical engineer for more than two decades at major Silicon Valley technology firms before launching Spaan Enterprises to explore his long term interest in 3D printing. He will share some lessons learned from the installation and bringup of two 3D printers and bring examples of prototypes he has designed and printed for a seven minute “show and tell” and take part our regular roundtable discussion.

Paul anticipates that 3D printers that now cost less than $20,000–and in many cases much less than $20,000–will enable new categories of small scale manufacturing businesses in the same way that personal computers and high performance workstations enabled new kinds of information and knowledge processing businesses.

Bring your questions about the business opportunities for bootstrappers that 3D printing is now enabling.

Paul believes that we are in the midst of a price performance transition that will have as significant an impact on product design
and production at small firms as low cost laser and inkjet printers combined with desktop publishing software did for the design and production of product printed content.

Update-Thu-Sep-2 Audio Now Available

Founder Story: Ari Halberstadt of Catalee on Founder’s Dilemmas and Residential Energy Market

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, Audio, Founder Story

Theresa Shafer met Ari Halberstadt at a Bootstrapper Breakfast in SF earlier this year and was very impressed with his approach to his new startup, Catalee. Ari volunteered to talk with me about Noam Wasserman‘s “The Founder’s Dilemmas” as well as Catalee. Here is a 12 minute podcast and transcript of our phone call.

Or download AriHalberstadt130404b (MP3) 12 minutes.

Sean Murphy:  Sean Murphy here with Ari Halberstadt. We’re talking about Noam Wasserman’s “The Founder’s Dilemma” and Air’s new startup, Catalee. Ari, do you want to take a minute to introduce yourself, tell us a little bit more about Catalee?

Ari Halberstadt:  Catalee is a startup that will help people improve their use of energy, basically reduce the use of energy in existing buildings and save people money at the same time. I’m looking at residential customers and, initially, small commercial market. These are markets that are somewhat underserved but they are quite large. There’s a large number of buildings and they tend to use energy quite inefficiently. Saving can be quite significant, cost effectively. But there are a lot of barriers to getting it done and I aim to streamline that process for the customers.

Sean:  We’ve been talking about Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemma. I was going to read a little bit from a short passage on page 331 that I thought captured the essence of the entrepreneurial journey.  He says,

“The path from founding to success is a long and winding one with dilemma after dilemma forcing founders to make decision after decision all with the important, and sometimes surprising, short-term and long-term consequences.”

He elaborates on that, a few pages later, and says,

“At each fork in the road, the decision that maximizes value tends to threaten the founders control and vice versa. There is inherent conflict between maintaining control and building value in high potential startups because the latter requires value added players who demand more control.”

At this point, you’re actually looking for cofounders to help you bring Catalee to its full potential. Is that fair?

Ari:  Yes, that’s right.

Sean:  Can you talk about what you’ve accomplished so far, what the next milestone is you’re aiming for, and where you’re looking for help?

Ari:  I’ve looked at the market, and I’m working on approaches that I think could help consumers streamline this process as well as provide potential investment opportunities. I really need to turn that into a testable product, something that is a minimally viable product as well as find some customers to start using that. I’m really in that transition from idea phase to actually having a product out there. That’s basically where I am right now, and I need people to work with me on that process.

Sean:  When you look at this market, the clean tech energy-saving market’s been around for a while. I think that there’s a general proof of need. What led you to focus in particular on residential and small business?

Ari:   Those are very large markets. The residential one is the largest, particularly the single-family homeowner, where you actually have a person that owns that property and could make decisions. It’s quite heterogeneous.

There are a lot of people out there who are at times neglected. Large companies that can come in and help a university or a hospital set up their energy efficiency have been less interested in helping make it simpler for homeowners to access those resources. There’s a very large market with a lot of potential savings.

The small commercial firms represent a smaller market. It’s still a large number of buildings in the commercial sector, but it also has similar needs to home owners who face challenges finding the right services to get energy efficiency projects implemented. Some of the smaller businesses tend to be quite energy intensive.

Sean:  As you think about how your first offering is going to be both minimal but somehow differentiated from what’s out there, what do you see as the key difference or the two or three key differences between what you would offer and what’s already available to the homeowner or the small business owner?

Ari:  First of all, it would be simpler. The homeowner would not need to spend a lot of time trying to figure out certain attributes of their property. We would also not require too much hands-on, up front, from contractors. The service would actually predict in advance what the energy savings could be for a property. That would help to save time and streamline the process.

It would also lead people through the entire process, which right now is so fragmented that people will try to upgrade and sometimes just give up. It can be a cumbersome and confusing process:  I’ve spoken to people who just gave up because it’s too hard for them to go through the hassle when they don’t don’t see the benefits.

Catalee will connect homeowners with the resources, the people, the products, and the services that can help them:  there are contractors, there’s financing available as well as incentives that can be hard  to actually get sometimes. It’s so fragmented.

Sean:  So in terms of the full product road map, that comes into play even more? You’re looking both for an insertion point and then a way to build out a much richer system beyond that?

Ari:   Yes. I’m looking to interact with the entire system of home building performance. There are existing systems out there, but I want to connect them more efficiently. One of those would be a contractor. Another is the finance, which actually would have an opportunity for investment in these kinds of efficiency gains which, currently, it’s hard for them to access.

It’s actually a system that can be addressed more holistically. By doing that, you actually unlock a lot of additional opportunities.

Sean:  When we talked earlier you felt that your top three strengths were technical software development, an understanding of the science and an ability to look at the problem as a system. Do you want to elaborate on that a little bit?

Ari:  I have a background as a software engineer. I’ve worked in that field. That helped me see the utility in how software can analyze the information. A lot of this problem is an information problem. People don’t have the information. It’s necessary to analyze the opportunities available. There are actually tools out there, but they’re cumbersome to use.  I can look at these things and say, “We need to put these things together.” Software is a way to do that. I have a background as a scientist. That gives me some understanding of scientific processes and thinking. In terms of the system, I look at the problems as interconnected components, not just one small element that often people might try to address.

Sean:  When you look at all the other skills or key skills that are going to be required to build a successful first product, take it to market and close some business, what are the key skills you’re looking for in one or more co-founders to help you get there?

Ari:   I need someone with sales experience, how to develop the sales and products. Somebody, more generally, with business, especially somebody with experience in the energy efficiency and energy field, would be very helpful. That’s an area I think I’m a little less experienced in. They would understand how to sell the products and develop the markets.

Sean:   So you’re looking for folks that have an energy experience or some contact or understanding how that works? The ability to do more detailed financial analysis, as might be applicable to either a homeowner or a small business? And then, sales and marketing strength to help you actually go to market and close business?

Ari:   Yes. Those would be key skills that would be necessary to help the business. I’ve tried to approach the problem from, rather than building prototype software, straight out, I’m actually analyzing the market, getting a better understanding of it. And looking at what existing tools I can start using to build an initial product offering. Or maybe even a service.

Sean:  Is that more what they call a concierge or a Wizard of Oz model where you take existing tools and knit them together?

Ari:  Yeah, that’s actually something that I’m exploring at the moment to see how I can leverage some of the existing tools. There are actually many tools out there or programs for building performance analysis. But they tend to be one off or building-by-building solutions are very time consuming for people to work with. I’m exploring ways to work with the underlying engines, for instance, to make that more efficient and streamlined.

Sean:  Are there any key values you’re looking for in terms of recruiting a team? When you think about shared values or values you’re looking for, what would you say would be one or two key things you would look for in a partner or cofounder?

Ari:  The one thing is I’m very dedicated to dealing with is waste of energy that’s leading to climate change. Somebody who shared that kind of a vision would be important, to understand that that’s a key element that’s driving my interest in this business and where the focus should remain.

Sean:  At the Bootstrapper’s Breakfast we talk about founder who are looking for missionaries or  for mercenaries. So one of the high-order bits for Catalee is you want to have an impact on the global warming problem.

Ari:  Exactly.

Sean:  You’re looking for missionaries.

Ari:   Yes, and I think that these markets are big enough that we could actually have a big impact on a large scale.

Sean:  Well, this has been very interesting. Thanks for taking part. If folks are interested in contacting Ari Halberstadt they can reach him at

Reminder: Successful Consulting Engagements With Startups at IEEE-CNSV Tue-May-21

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

Quick reminder:  I will be moderating a panel on “Successful Consulting Engagements with Startups” at the May 21 IEEE-CNSV meeting. I volunteered to pull this panel together after a long thread on the CNSV e-mail list June about the topic.

I have been fortunate to attract three knowledgeable and experienced engineers to take part in the panel, two are also serial entrepreneurs:

  • Chris Apple, Software Consultant at Apple Enterprises
    Chris Apple founded Apple Enterprises in 1981; he specializes in embedded firmware, control software and application software. He develops the embedded product, the PC control application, the manufacturing and calibration application and even the installer: he takes a concept and makes it a product.
  • Kip Brown, PE, Principal at CMBJR Consulting, Inc.
    Kip Clyde Brown, PE is a Professional Engineer with IC design experience in analog and mixed signal. In addition to his consulting experience he does expert witness work and is an at-large director of IEEE-CNSV. He has also founded three startups and will be able to provide insights from both sides of the table on the topic of startups hiring consultants.
  • Arthur Keller Ph.D., Managing Partner at Minerva Consulting
    Dr. Arthur M. Keller is Managing Partner of Minerva Consulting. Dr. Keller serves as an expert witness on patent infringement cases and as advisor to startups. He has served on the board of several startups, including Persistence Software, where he was Chief Technical Advisor prior to its IPO. He has also co-founded several startups, including Mergent Systems, which was acquired by Commerce One.

The four of us had a dry run on Friday and I learned a lot from the stories and lessons learned that were shared. There were often multiple perspectives on key issues, but each engineer’s opinion was based on three decades of experience  as consultants or entrepreneurs.

We have structured it as a very interactive session both among the panel members and with the audience. Whether you are thinking about doing a consulting engagement with a startup or are in a startup  wrestling with options for how to hire a consultant you will get an overview of how to look at the issues and some practical lessons learned.

Startups often need a consultant’s expertise but their limited resources can make for riskier and more complex fee arrangements than larger companies. A panel of three consultants–two of whom are also serial entrepreneurs who have founded technology startups–will offer their perspective on the practical realities of working for startups. This session will outline important tips and issues to consider if you are exploring investing your time working as a consultant for a startup. The panel will share their rules of thumb and stories from the trenches. Consultants and technology entrepreneurs are invited to take part in a candid discussion.


Holly DeVito on Basic Financial Controls for Bootstrappers Tue-May-21 BB in Sunnyvale

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy

Compare notes with entrepreneurs who eat problems for breakfast.Join other entrepreneurs for serious conversations about growing a business based on internal cash flow and organic profit at a Bootstrappers Breakfast®. Holly DeVito, CEO of Sum of All Numbers, will offer a seven minute briefing on “Seven Simple Internal Controls Bootstrappers Should Have in Place.” Holly’s briefing will be followed by our regular roundtable discussion format.

When: 7:30am to 9:00am Tue-May-21
Where: Cocos, 1206 Oakmead, Sunnyvale, CA
Cost: $5 RSVP, $10 at  door (plus breakfast off the menu, separate checks).
Please RSVP

Holly DeVito, CEO of Sum of All Numbers, will join us May 21st in Sunnyvale to offer a seven minute briefing on “Seven Simple Internal Controls Bootstrappers Should Have in Place.” She will also share insights from bootstrapping a service business  that needed to establish a trusted advisor relationship and leveraging cloud applications to collaborate more effectively with her clients–offering a specialized expertise while maintaining self-service access to financial records.

Sum of All Numbers provides virtual account management and payroll services to small business owners. Using industry standard cloud applications the firm enables entrepreneurs to concentrate on revenue generation while their business financials are maintained by experts but always available for review.

Holly DeVito founded Sum of All Numbers in 2006 to pursue her passion for serving small business owners. She is a Certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor with more than a decade of experience in property management, financial services, clothing design, and real estate; she also served the CFO for the American Red Cross, Peninsula Chapter. Holly studied International Business Management at Brigham Young University-Hawaii and Utah State University.

Update Tue-May-21: here are three blog posts covering the event

For New Products Prospect Objections Are Valuable Data

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, Audio, Demos, skmurphy

For some clients we record our working sessions so that they can play them back later and we can listen to them and improve the quality of our interaction and improvisation.

What follows is a 90 second snippet from a recent working session that contains a true story about a conversation I had several years ago with a former co-worker who asked me to do him a favor and look at the demo of a new startup he had gone to work for.

Or download SmarterProspects (MP3) 90 seconds.

We have always talked about “early customers, early revenue.”

The new product introduction problem, the new product sales problem is a distinct problem from the scale up problem.

Getting those first six to twelve B2B sales is a very different problem from scaling.

Whether you want to it call it an exploratory approach or discovery driven sales, it’s a very different sales process than most sales guys are used to.

Very early on I got called in by a guy that I had worked with who had been VP of sales at a billion dollar software company who had gone to a startup. He had gone through 30 sales calls.

We sat down and he took me through the demo. He had two other engineers working with him and they some interesting technology. It was a little bit of a kitchen sink product but it was in an area where VP of sales had connections and they had had 30 visits to prospects.

And the demo went on for about 90 minutes. Afterward I said, “Can you show me the first version of this demo that you gave to the first prospect?”

They asked “What do you mean?”

I said, “Can you tell me how the demo has changed since you started showing it.”

He looked at me and said “That’s the problem! We need to find smarter prospects!

True story. I realized that when he had worked in sales at large companies they didn’t a sales pitch that doesn’t work. So most sales guys assume that what they need to do is handle objections not change the basic pitch.

For the most part for early stage entrepreneurs the objections are actually data: they offer insights for how to improve the pitch.

Take aways for first time entrepreneurs thinking about hiring a sales person:

  1. If you are selling a product that is form, fit, and function compatible with existing offerings you can hire someone who has sold to your customers a similar product and probably do well if you check references and go on sales calls with them for a few weeks.
  2. If it’s a novel product or a new market you need to learn how to sell it before you can hire somebody to sell it for you. You need to develop the sales materials and appropriate checklists for qualifying an opportunity, planning a sale, and closing the opportunity. Once you have closed a few sales you and you have a basic process you can then hire a sales person and teach them how to sell your product. Not how to sell, but how to sell your product.
  3. Six to eight minutes is a good running length for a basic demo. If that triggers more questions or comments then you can take as long as the prospect is interested. But you need to get your key points across in the first few minutes.

Related blog posts

Due Diligence Checklist For Evaluating A Service Business for Acquisition

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

We did some work recently advising a client on  a possible acquisition a small service business and came up with a checklist of items to review:

  • key employees – plan for retention and role in merged entity
  • financials
    • check register – all checks in last two years
    • bank statements
    • income sheet and balance statement
  • contracts
    • existing customer contracts  terms and expiration
    • leases and other supplier contracts and obligations
  • sales pipeline and forecast
  • existing Sales Tools
    • proposals
    • statements of work
    • RFP responses
    • demo examples and scripts
  • customer satisfaction (interview to determine)
    • current level of satisfaction with offerings and relationship
    • what needs to be improved
    • what will be required to secure contract renewals

Key risk reducing aspects of a deal

  • Your team has relevant and deep domain knowledge
  • Your team can sell and manage projects in the areas the firm operates in
  • You know one or more people who can vouch for the character of the executives
  • You have a plan for the future of the business that goes beyond current clients

Here are some other acquisition due diligence lists:

Podcast with Pete Tormey on Forming a Team, Dividing Equity, and Gaining Early Traction

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

Pete Tormey and I decided to do a podcast to address a number of team formation, business formation, and early revenue issues that we have seen in our own startups, in our practices, or hear questions about at the various Bootstrapper Breakfasts® meetings we take part in.

Pete is a serial entrepreneur and patent attorney with Antero Tormey. He co-moderates the Bootstrapper Breakfast group that meets the first Wednesday of the month at Boudin Bakery in Embarcadero 4 in San Francisco. We walk around a number of issues around mistakes that break teams up early or plant the seeds that kill a startup later on.

Or download Conversation with Pete Tormey Forming a Team, Dividing Equity, and Gaining Early Traction [PT130515] (MP3) 43 minutes long

We plan to do another podcast next month, if you have questions you would like to here addressed or want to take part please leave a comment or use the contact form.

They Screwed Up, They Followed Our Specification

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

A story from when I was working at Cisco about how a lack of trust slowed down the solution to a problem.

We had been shipping a successful new midrange router for about a year when we were suddenly faced with a line stop, the boxes were failing final test. The product team was working on new versions and suddenly faced a fire drill to find and fix a problem on a box already in volume production.

A quick investigation showed that a cost reduction effort had phased in a new memory part from a different supplier and the design engineers, in the thick of a new design, were frustrated that they had to go back and undo what they viewed as a short sighted decision by the supply base team. “It’s typical, they try and shave a few cents off a part and end up buying one that doesn’t meet spec.”

I was the acting manager for the component engineering team and we immediately requested some of the new parts to test and start a root cause analysis. A few days later David, the senior component engineer, called me, “Murphy, these parts meet spec.” David was a very careful engineer, but I knew that the design engineers were not going to believe him. I said, “Pull your notes together and let’s sit down this afternoon with Chuck and Tom in the lab.”

We meet and walked them through the testing we had done. They were not satisfied and we ran some more tests on new parts which they also passed. Then David replaced a memory part in an existing box with a part from the new supplier and the box, which had been working, now failed the bootup diagnostic.

So we had a part which passed the spec but caused the design to fail. Tom said, “They screwed up, they followed our specification.”

Based on the nature of the system failure David suspected the problem had to do with one key performance parameter for the memory, he went back and tested several of the older parts and they were well inside the margin for the specification of this parameter.

At this point the design team went back and studied their system timing and realized that they had a problem in the old design, and the next generation designs that they were at work on. They made a change to the production design to allow it to work with parts that actually satisfied the specification and incorporated this into the new designs.

I think because the supply base folks had been less involved in the product team up front they were viewed as less trustworthy and more likely to make a mistake. They thought less like engineers and more like cost accountants, they were measured differently than the design engineers, and most of the conversations involved either criticism of the design engineers sourcing decisions or requests for work on additional sources.

Three take-aways

  • Be methodical in your troubleshooting, especially when there is a lot of pressure to find an answer. Document the steps so that others can follow your test and reproduce them (this is less work than proving you reached the right answer).
  • Always seek common ground, especially when there are others on the team with a different skill sets and frame of reference, communication problems, especially due to a lack of shared context, cause more problems than errors.
  • Have a plan for how you will troubleshoot your contribution to the design. If the problem is serious, consider starting to work this plan before you are presented with strong evidence that you need to reverify your work.

Get Out of Your Batcave: Customer Development for Lean Startups

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in skmurphy, Workshop

SKMurphy WorkshopJoin us on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 for a new class “Get Out Of Your Batcave: Customer Development for Lean Startups” from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM at Education @ PARISOMA in San Francisco, CA.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Establish “ground truth” in an early market
  • Use an MVP (minimum viable product)  to explore the market
  • Apply what you have learned to drive early product iterations
  • Make your offering attractive to paying customers

This interactive class will cover key concepts and rules of thumb for successful innovation by lean startups. We will cover actionable strategies for lean startups bringing discontinuous or disruptive products to market.

Register Now

Why Get Out Of The Batcave To Discover A Market’s Ground Truth?

To Find As Many Surprises As You Can
In The Market
Before Building And Launching Your Product

For more “Get Out Of the Batcave” stories and advice see:

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Rules of Thumb, Sales

A talk I enjoyed by Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

Some great insights from Apple, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers:

  • Why  -> How -> What
  • Why is not “to make a profit” that’s a result..
  • Why is your purpose, your reason for existence.
  • Common approach is What -> How -> Why but much less compelling.
  • People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.
  • Dr. King said “I have a dream” not “I have a comprehensive 12 point plan.”

This last insight reminds me of

“Inventing the future requires giving up control. No one with a compelling purpose and a great vision knows how it will be achieved. One has to be willing to follow an unknown path, allowing the road to take you where it will. Surprise, serendipity, uncertainty and the unexpected are guaranteed on the way to the future.”
George Land in “Breakpoint and Beyond

And a poem by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Build Me a Boat
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If I communicate to my men
the love of sailing on the sea,
you will soon see them specializing
according to their thousand particular qualities:
that one will weave the canvas,
another will fell the tree in the forest,
another still will forge nails
and there will be some who observe the
stars to learn to steer,
and yet all will be as one.
To create the ship
is not to weave the canvas,
to forge the nails,
to read the stars,
but rather to convey the taste of the sea.

Simon Sinek is the author of “Start With Why”

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How To Thrive After An Acquisition

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 5 Scaling Up Stage, Founder Story, skmurphy

Q: I was CTO and co-founder of a small technology startup that was recently acquired by a much larger firm. We have a two year earn out that I would like to collect. I see myself as a serial entrepreneur (this is my first successful acquisition but I have founded or co-founded several less successful startups in the last decade) but realize I should probably learn how to thrive in a large  firm environment as well.  In the next two years I would love to have learned how to operate in a public company  and to have a few solid wins where I’ve shifted the acquiring company’s business in a positive direction. Any advice about keeping sane and happy, and making sure I could actually make an impact at the new company.

First of all these are a great set of goals: stay sane and happy and learn how to make an impact in a large firm. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Attend manager / new manager training: this will allow you to meet other managers in the firm and make connections. It’s also a way to learn the “unwritten rules” of your new employer.
  • Ask to be assigned another manager as a mentor for an on-boarding period (60-90 days), with mutual consent you can continue beyond that point.
  • Attend the “engineering bagel meeting” or “nerd lunch” or brown bag lunches: if there isn’t a regular (e.g. once a week twice a month meeting where engineers present work that they are doing, offering to help organize an event where folks bring in lunch and can meet in a room or over Webex where one engineer presents some recent results and others can ask questions. Presentation might be 6-12 slides 15-20 minutes followed by Q&A and general networking. Rotate speakers from different groups and teams including your own.
  • Attend Miller Heiman sales training or Solution Selling sales training: protecting your budget and “tin cupping” from other departments for requisitions and project funding benefits from sales skills.
  • If your company was not the first acquisition seek out other CEO’s and founders whose company was acquired by your firm–whether or not they are still with the company–and ask for a coffee break or quick call to get some advice on what to watch out for and what they have found helped them.

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