Archive for October, 2013

Quotes For Entrepreneurs–October 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 address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.

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“An explorer cannot stay at home reading maps other men have made.”
Susanna Clarke in “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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“It would be an unsound fancy and self-contradictory to expect that things which have never yet been done can be done except by means which have never yet been tried.”
Francis Bacon

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“The aspect of things that are most important are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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“The dystopia often imagined in the world of artificial intelligence—in which computers somehow take on a life of their own and come to rule mankind—has actually happened in the world of finance. The giant Wall Street firms have taken on lives of their own, beyond human control. The people flow into and out of them but have only incidental effect on their direction and behavior. The firms may not be intent on evil; they aren’t intent on anything except short-term profits: they’re insensible. If anyone attempted to seize control of one of these strange machines and impose upon them a clear moral direction, the machine would hit its own button and he would be ejected.

Stop and think once more about what has just happened on Wall Street: its most admired firm conspired to flood the financial system with worthless securities, then set itself up to profit from betting against those very same securities, and in the bargain helped to precipitate a world historic financial crisis that cost millions of people their jobs and convulsed our political system. In other places, or at other times, the firm would be put out of business, and its leaders shamed and jailed and strung from lampposts. (I am not advocating the latter.) Instead Goldman Sachs, like the other too-big-to-fail firms, has been handed tens of billions in government subsidies, on the theory that we cannot live without them. They were then permitted to pay politicians to prevent laws being passed to change their business, and bribe public officials (with the implicit promise of future employment) to neuter the laws that were passed—so that they might continue to behave in more or less the same way that brought ruin on us all.”

Michael Lewis “The shocking news that Goldman Sachs is greedy

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“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.
You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
C. S. Lewis

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“Bootstrapping does not preclude seeking investment when your active business merits and requires it. But it starts by making a difference and building a real business as proof of both the need for and the value of your products.”
Sean Murphy in “How To Bootstrap Your Startup

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“I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.”
Jonathan Winters

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“Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth.”
C.S. Lewis

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“No man remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.”
Thomas Mann

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“A prosperous fool is a grievous burden.”
Aeschylus in Fragment 383

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“Keep your plan on an index card: key problem, customer, value, and what success looks like in 30 and 60 days”
Anne Kallus

She offered this insight at the SVCC13 Working For Equity Founders Panel, see slide 30 for a summary. This really resonated with me: I find 3×5 index cards as useful as the UX folks find post-it or sticky notes.

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“My old father used to have a saying, ‘if you make a bad bargain, hug it all the tighter.'”
Abraham Lincoln in a letter To Joshua F. Speed,  February 25, 1842

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“Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.”
Bill Veeck

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“I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side.”
Steven Wright

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“It’s when you’re safe at home that you wish you were having an adventure.
When you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”
Thornton Wilder

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“Education is about the only thing lying around loose in this world: a fellow can have as much as he is willing to haul away.”
George Horace Lorimer

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“Never ask a man what he knows, but what he can do.”
George Horace Lorimer

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“An adventure story is fear recalled in comfort.”
Christopher Moore in the “Author’s Note for Fluke

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“Books are all right, but dead men’s brains are no good unless you mix a live one’s with them.”
George Horace Lorimer

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“The limit to innovation in business is not technology, but managers’ obsolete viewpoints.”
David Gurteen

I have learned that whenever I want to figure out what’s holding my business back–or earlier in my life my career-the first place to start is by taking a good look in the mirror and examining my own actions, attitudes, beliefs, and policies.

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“Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain”
Henry Ford

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“You don’t build communities to exploit them, you build communities to be a part of them. You have to think about  yourself as being a member of the community, not just creating and tending to the community…If the whole basis of your company is the success of others, that’s what a true community is: helping other people be successful.”
Chad Dickerson in “Etsy CEO talks offline retail, people power and 3D printers as the new sewing machines

h/t Scott Rosenberg @Scottros

This is why I was moved to start the Bootstrapper Breakfasts, I wanted to be a part of serious conversations about bootstrapping and organic growth, which were very hard to find amidst all of the intake events to the VC ecosystem.

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“I have lived in this world just long enough to look carefully the second time into things that I am most certain of the first time.”
Josh Billings

I used this as a closing quote for a section in “When Exploring Keep A Log

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“Unvalidated hypotheses are the WIP (inventory) of product development.”
Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei)

Making your hypotheses explicit and developing tests or experiments to validate them tends to spread the amount surprise over the development cycle instead of letting it accumulate until launch.

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“I’m always jotting things down on pieces of paper. I’ve got pieces of  paper all over my house.”
Don Henley

Used as the opening quote for “In a Wilderness of Free Association Surrounded by Insurmountable Opportunities

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“Unhealthy people have more time than energy. Healthy people have more energy than time.”
Ed Weissman

Used as the closing quote for “In a Wilderness of Free Association Surrounded by Insurmountable Opportunities

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“It’s better to recall something you wish you’d said than something you wish you hadn’t.”
Frank A. Clark

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“Always be shorter than anyone dared to hope.”
Lord Reading

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“Not everyone who is worth knowing is famous.
Not everyone who is famous is worth knowing.
You meet your community of practice,
those who can help you see the adjacent possible,
in line waiting for the famous.”
Sean Murphy

Triggered by Elia Freedman’s “Accidental Meetings” this was later used as the opening quote for “Reflections on Startup Conference 2014 in Redwood City.

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We need to teach the highly educated person that it is not a disgrace to fail and that he must analyze every failure to find its cause. He must learn how to fail intelligently, for failing is one of the greatest arts in the world.”
Charles Kettering

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“Squint with your ears. Listen to what people are really saying to you.”
Perry Smith #4 in “30 Blazing Flashes of the Obvious

See also his “Rules and Tools for Leaders

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“Every man has three characters–that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.”
Alphonse Karr

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“The main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance,  but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
Thomas Carlyle in “Signs of the Times” (1829)

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“Some people look for things that went wrong and try to fix them.
I look for things that went right and try to build on them.”
Bob StoneConfessions of a Civil Servant

Ed Weissman (@edw519) replied on twitter

“And I look for things that don’t make sense and try to build what does.”
Ed Weissman (@edw519)

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“Think as you work, for in the final analysis, your worth to  your company comes not only in solving problems, but also in  anticipating them.”
Harold Ross

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“Map out your future, but do it in pencil.”
Jon Bon Jovi

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“To ‘see both sides’ of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.”
Idries Shah

h/t Mary Sorber “Polypharmacy Solutions Should Be Multi-Faceted

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“It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.”
W. Somerset Maugham in “Of Human Bondage

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“It’s not about youthful enthusiasm, it’s all about grim middle-aged persistence.”
Bruce Sterling in the “Viridian Design Speech (Oct 14, 1998)

I was re-reading an old e-mail I had sent at Cisco that was a re-evaluation of an existing program and I had cribbed the line “our youthful enthusiasm must give way to the grim persistence of middle age” and I thought “that’s too good to be mine, I must have borrowed that from somewhere.” A web search reminded me of Sterling’s Viridian Design speech. Probably the best overview of the principles he was outlining is in “Viridian Note 00003: Viridian Design Principles.”

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“Pay attention, here’s the thick of the plot.”
Will Smith in “Parents Just Don’t Understand

If only prospects would preface their most important insights with a request to pay attention.  But it’s often the case that an important insight is offered more as an offhand remark.

“Thick of the plot” is a clever play on words for “the plot thickens” For example

“The plot thickens,” he said, as I entered; “I have just had an answer to my American telegram.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “A Study In Scarlet

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Balancing Engineering Vision vs. Customer Expectation

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

I love this ad for the 2012 re-launch of the Dodge Dart.  It captures an engineering team’s desire to build a kick-ass product, unconstrained by financial compromise. We all want to work on a team that’s following Edwin Land‘s motto:

“Don’t do anything that someone else can do. Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”
Edwin Land

MVP Clinic for Social/Community Apps Wed-Oct-23

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

If you are planning a new service offering, involving technologies and social interactions between customers, this clinic on minimum viable service can help you learn your way out of conflicting assumptions, lack of relevant data, difficulty understanding service value, and resource constraints. This is especially the case if you need to get adoption by a newly forming or an existing community, that may be contained within one firm or span many.  Drawing on their experience in new product introduction and communities of practice, Sean Murphy of SKMurphy and John David Smith of Learning Alliances, will demonstrate the value of a “walking around the problem” technique for early service design that they have developed individually and together over many years.
Webinar: Minimum Viable Product Clinic for Social or Community Applications

Our two panelists:

  • Dixie Griffin Good is director of Shambhala Online, a global learning community connected by the meditation teachings of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. For 15 years she consulted with local, state and national education organizations on the educational use of technology. She has a masters in Future Studies and enjoys managing and studying change processes.
  • Terry Frazier is Principal and Senior Competitive Analyst at Cognovis Group. He has been studying, writing about and consulting on competitive and industry issues since 1998 and his work has been used by both Fortune 1000 businesses and international analyst firms. Today he writes at

Each panelist will outline a significant growth challenge related to the social/community aspect of a new offering, describe hypotheses they plan to test, and explain how they will assess the impact.

John and I will ask clarifying questions about the learning happening in target market/ community of interest and suggest experiments / probes. The audience is also welcome to take part in asking questions or making suggestions.

A First Look at BeamWise In Operation

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Clients in the News, Demos, skmurphy

Dr. Giacomo Vacca of Kinetic River will present a briefing on BeamWise™ at the Twenty-Third Cytometry Development Workshop in Asilomar today. Here is a silent four minute video of some key aspects of BeamWise operation he will narrate live as a part of the briefing. Tapio Karras of Design Parametrics will also be on hand to answer questions. The video was created from a screen capture of BeamWise in operation by Hannu Lehtimäki.

Is The Stream Of Your Presentation Stocked With Fish For Your Audience?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, skmurphy

“Memory is a net: one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook, but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Have you stocked the stream of words in your presentation with at least a few of the fish that your audience is looking for?

What do you hope your audience will remember?

“Always be shorter than anyone dared hope.”
Lord Reading

Q: Customer Exit Interview Questions

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 4 Finding your Niche, Rules of Thumb

Q: We have a SaaS offering that has been on the market for three years now and we have several dozen paying customers. Our offering is useful for firms with more than a hundred employees up to several thousand and is licensed at a corporate level. We have only lost two customers, one was acquired by a much larger firm and the other went out of business. We now have a third customer that is leaving and I want to give them a call and get some feedback. Can you suggest some questions for the exit interview?

Here are some questions that I have found useful in uncovering issues you can act on and sometimes recover the account:

  • What were the most useful or valuable aspects of our service?
  • What were the last useful?
  • Did an event or incident or failure on our part trigger your decision to look for alternatives?
  • What new benefits or other value do you see the new vendor providing?
  • Is there a change we can make that would encourage your to revisit or alter your decision?
  • Any other comments, suggestions, or observations.

Trick is to understand reason for change and then determine if you can do anything to change the decision while being respectful of their decision. They may come back in a few months or even a year if you treat them with respect now. You should have the CEO or a founder call and email so that you communicate you are interested in understanding the situation and their needs.

Related posts:

Peter Cohan: Differentiating Your Offers Starts With The First Contact

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

Another excerpt from Peter Cohan’s very insightful new article  “Stunningly Awful vs. Truly Terrific Competitive Differentiation – What, When, and How

From the customers’ perspective vendors are “differentiating”, positively or negatively, with every contact, every meeting, and every deliverable.  Let’s explore possible negative differentiation first.  How do you feel about:

  • Vendors that cold call you – repeatedly?
  • Vendors that take forever to answer your email inquiries – or ignore what you asked?
  • Vendors that leap right to showing you a “solution”, without sufficient Discovery?
  • Vendors whose demos look complicated or confusing, in spite of having a pile of “competitive differentiators”?
  • Sales people that speak ill of their competition?
  • Sales people that are “cagey” about providing pricing information?
  • Vendors that over-promise and under-deliver?

Interestingly – and sadly – the list above is what often occurs with typical, traditional vendors and sales people.  Most of us as customers perceive these items as unpleasant and they contribute to an overall negative impression.  Unwittingly, perhaps, these vendors and sales people have differentiated negatively.

Let’s look at the same list again, but with a different approach to each item:

  • Nurture or “trickle” marketing activities (as opposed to cold calling).
  • Rapid, specific responses to email inquiries.
  • Thorough and intelligent Discovery – before presenting solutions.
  • Crisp, focused, engaging demos of the Specific Capabilities needed by customers.
  • Sales teams that are clear and honest about their own offerings’ strengths and limitations.
  • Clear and transparent pricing information.
  • Building a vision of how the customer will move from their current (painful) state to their desired (glorious) future state with the solution in place and operating.

Generally speaking, these activities are viewed favorably by customers.  Vendors that follow these processes are already differentiating positively in comparison with “traditional” vendors.

My take: a startup is negotiating from the first contact with a prospect. They are negotiating for attention, time, insights, data, feedback, revenue, endorsements, etc.. The more you can do from the very first contact to show that you value your prospect’s time, opinions, and ultimately business by how you treat them, the better able you are to differentiate your startup from many common practices that communicate a lack of respect for the customer and their needs.

Related Blog Posts

 Great Demo! Public Workshop October 15-16, 2014

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

Our next public Great Demo! Workshop is scheduled to take place October 15-16 in San Jose, California.

This is an excellent opportunity for individuals, small groups or for teams that have new hires.

We’ve found that these events are most productive when there are two or more participants from each organization (singletons are also fine). This helps to mimic real-life interactions as much as possible, both when preparing demos and delivering them in the role-play sessions.

FounderSuite Worth a Look for Saving Time On Your New Startup

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, Founder Story, Legal Issues, Tools for Startups

There are a number of forms packages now available for entrepreneurs that provide templates for incorporation, investment term sheets, hiring employees and contractors, etc.. And there are several business model canvas tools that are designed to facilitate useful discussions among founders and advisors (and potential investors) about a new startup. But Nathan Beckord‘s Foundersuite is the first to offer not only forms but facilitate workflows and communication among founders, advisors, prospects, investors, and other interested parties.

I used the idea validation module for the BeamWise planning and launch and found it helpful. Nathan is a friend but I am not an investor or otherwise affiliated with Foundersuite. I think it can make you think and save you time if you are in the early market exploration stages of your new startup.

“In the spring of 2009 I started on ‘Startup: An Owner’s Manual’ a how-to instructional guide for building new companies.”
Nathan Beckord (@startupventures) “Foundersuite Origin Story Part Deux

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