Diane Greene, VMware’s CEO, gave a fireside chat at TiE Silicon Valley tonight. It was outstanding. I had never heard her speak before. I was encouraged by two folks who knew her and she did not disappoint. She was the founding CEO of VMware, which was acquired by EMC in January 2004, and still runs it as a wholly owned subsidiary.
From the Call for Papers for the WACI track
Wild and Crazy Ideas (WACI) at DAC 2007
Submit a paper to the new WACI track at DAC and demonstrate your long-term vision! The WACI track will feature novel (and even unproven) technical ideas that create a buzz and get people talking. The aim of WACI is to promote revolutionary and way-out ideas that inspire and generate discussion among conference attendees.
a quick perusal of the submission form shows the following areas of interest:
- System-Level Design and Co-Design
- System-Level Communication and Networks on Chip
- Embedded HW Design and Applications
- Embedded SW Tools and Design
- Power Analysis and Low-Power Design
- High-Level Synthesis
- Beyond Die-Integration and Package Design
- Logic Synthesis and Circuit Optimization
- Circuit Simulation and Interconnect Analysis
- Timing Analysis and Design for Manufacturability
- Physical Design and Manufacturability
- Signal Integrity and Design Reliability
- Analog/Mixed-Signal and RF
- FPGA Design Tools and Applications
- New or Emerging or Specialized Design Technologies
- Automotive Electronics
In fact, “Automotive Electronics” is a special theme of the show. Proof that a near death experience, in this case for the automobile industry in the US, can re-awaken a desire for innovation, or at least lower internal barriers against risk taking. Judging from his rather wacky website, the WACI track must be the brainchild of Sachin Sapatnekar, 2007 DAC technical program co-chair, who is quoted in announcing it:
“The DAC community is instrumental in enabling the development of all of the latest innovations in electronics and bringing the latest ideas to reality, enhancing all aspects of life. We are excited to provide a forum for the truly revolutionary and controversial ideas at DAC 2007 with this new WACI track.”
The submission deadline for regular papers and WACI submissions is Monday, November 20, at 5 p.m. MST. This looks like a good opportunity to submit some innovative ideas and trigger some fruitful discussions in San Diego next June.
Last night, I attended an SDForum Startup SIG featuring Bill Trenchard, CEO of LiveOps. Bill is a prime example of a serial entrepreneur. In 10 years he has been a founder and CEO of three successful start ups. One of which was Jump Networks, Inc., that was acquired by Microsoft in April 1999.
Bill said that he had learned to do the following things routinely:
- Do not be afraid to ask for help
- Learn from failure
- Understand your limitations
One experience Bill shared was from when Jump Networks started taking off. He received a call from Microsoft stating they were interested in buying his company. At the time, Bill had very little experience with negotiating. He turned to his advisory board for help. The most important thing he learned was, “no matter how big the deal is, sometimes it is best to walk away.”
Another experience Bill shared was trying to start a company that provides software for PDA’s. After designing the software, he realized that the market did not exist. The problem was, at this time, there were only 1 million PDA users. Essentially, Bill had never failed before and he became depressed. Bothered by thoughts of being a one hit wonder, he evaluated his experience, learned from his mistakes, and tried again.
“When you start a new company as an entrepreneur or a founder, you need to recognize that they are building something bigger than yourself.” Good CEO’s can handle pressure and have experience in many aspects of business: Marketing, Finance, Sales, Engineering, etc. CEO’s must have the ability to multi-task and make decisions. “You need to ask yourself if you truly believe you are the one for the job, it is okay to be the inventor and not the entrepreneur.”
For more background: Bill has an extensive video clip set in the Cornell eClips collection (registration required, but this transcript matches last night’s talk pretty closely if you are interested); he was recently profiled by BusinessWeek as one of dozen technology entrepreneurs under 30.
I stopped by their booth pedestal in the exhibit area and was surprised to see that I had been selected as a spokesmodel for their new service as I have only been blogging on business topics for two weeks. And yet there I was in the picture on the front cover of their brochure.
Mike assured me that I would be in the “Special Highly Interactive Techdirt” section of the community. I was taken aback because my mother had always assured me that I had a face for podcasting and I assumed that it was there I would ultimately be able to make my mark. It wasn’t until I was in the bar a little later drinking some ice tea, imported from Long Island of all places, that I was able to summon my marketing imagination and jot down captions that Techdirt should consider adding to the flyer when they exit beta. I put them in an e-mail to Mike and then realized I should share them with the four of you reading this blog:
|Techdirt Version||SKMurphy Version|
|Take part in interesting discussions with your peers||“Maybe if this guy had written this monologue in a blog we might have had the last 30 minutes of our lives back.”|
|Interact with companies who want your opinion||“Is this you, holding forth to a roomful of three people on an arcane topic? If so, you can join our blogging network and double your audience.”|
|Get paid for your insight||“Ever feel like the guy at the whiteboard isn’t really capturing the depth and breadth of your insights? Our blogging network allows you to capture and expose all of your thoughts on a topic.”|
Mike offered some clarifications on the program and it’s structure in the comments in response to some speculation by Anne Zelenka.
Details as they are stored in some post-Apocalyptic reliquary whose display case for the 20th century might house a fist sized chunk of the Berlin Wall, a charred fragment from Skylab, and the test tube that contains Edison’s last breath.
Mark Duncan gave an excellent guided tour at the October 9 SDForum Marketing SIG of several web based applications that marketing teams should consider taking advantage of in addition to (or even instead of) Microsoft Office. He opened with the observation that
The applications bundled into Microsoft Office—word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, calendar, and mail–are the only software tools that many marketing professionals have learned.
Appropriately enough talk was titled “Beyond Microsoft Office: New Tools for Increasing Marketing Productivity.” His slides were done in the “beyond bullet points style” that very effectively complemented his spoken presentation but would be hard to follow without his spoken linkage and counterpoint. So he also created an article to act as the stand-alone representation of his talk (see http://www.askmar.com/Marketing/Beyond%20Office.pdf )
It’s definitely worth a read. Three good ideas I picked up from the talk:
- Many marketing activities and deliverables involve collaborating on a document to reach a working consensus by a deadline. While Microsoft Office applications can make you productive as an individual, they don’t help you to leverage the Internet in gathering information or facilitate review and discussion at a team level. Once there are three people involved it’s no longer clear who has the most recent version of the slides or the pitch or the datasheet. Wiki and on-line workspace tools can offer a team dramatically lower friction and the ability to operate much more rapidly against a deadline.
- Read Merlin Mann‘s “43 Folders” blog and the group blog at “LifeHack.Org” regularly for practical personal productivity tips and tricks (christened “life hacks” by Denny O’Brien in a famous O’Reilly Etech talk). These are a gold mine of information for knowledge worker productivity.
- Two good sites for low cost digital stock photography: istockphoto.com and Lucky Oliver. Mark’s slides made good use of stock photography to complement his talk.
Mark is a marketing consultant who focuses on emerging technologies, assisting companies in entering new markets and developing new business opportunities.
Building a strong referral base is critical to every entrepreneur. Three things you can do today to build referrals:
- Make a list of 30 people you have had a shared success with, go back to school, first job, etc.
- Contact those people tell them:
- What you have been up to
- Here’s what I am looking for, please refer me to people if they are looking for my services.
- Please let me know what you have been up to and call if there is anything I can do to help.
- Write 2 testimonials for people you’ve had a shared success with in LinkedIn
“Tell everyone what you want to do and someone will want to help you do it.”
W. Clement Stone
- SKMurphy Newsletter Archive
- Networking And Referrals
- Model your relationship after the Save-the-Children Sponsor Program: Pictures and Thank you Letters
- Be proactive with Thanks
- Communicate on Progress
- Keep Them in the Loop
- Manage their Reputation
- Deliver for them
- Be clear on service demarcation (small overlaps are better than gaps)
- What Can I Do to Build Referrals
- Tips For Handling Referrals
Related Article: 10 Secrets to Getting More Referrals
Nancy Roebke offers details on these ten suggestions:
- Ask for them
- Reciprocate them: send business to those who help your business
- Reward them: from thank you letters to discounts to fees
- Give them to other qualified businesses
- Use testimonials in your literature and advertising.
- Give out more business cards.
- Community service.
- Sponsor a team or event.
- Be helpful.
- Join a networking group.
Attending Office 2.0 in San Francisco, we discovered some useful tools for consultants and small teams.
What is Office 2.0? Office 2.0 tools are collaboration tools that you can connect to from anywhere. They are perfect for virtual businesses or small teams. Most are sold as software as a service (SaaS) and for a low monthly fee you get web access to the tools. All that is needed on your machine is a web browser.
Here’s what I found interesting:
- Site Kreator – pick a template and get a basic website up and running very quickly. You don’t need to get a web designer or know HTML, Java, etc. It supports wiki, blogs, and forms. Everything is click and point.
- Another way (and the one we selected) is WordPress. We did use a web designer, Dave Horner from Silicon Ridge. But we picked a template and he quickly built our website. I can build new pages, changes pages, or add blog post without coding.
- Invoicing might be a consultant’s least favorite thing, but it’s impossible to get paid without it; check out FreshBooks.
- Do you need a part time admin to put together conference material? Work on your website? Virtual admins are a great way to go. They charge by the hour and can answer your phone or perform other tasks you need.
- One area we have been hunting for quite a while is a shareable calender. Our team is virtual and scheduling appointment used to take many emails. We have been using with WebEx WebOffice and quite happy with it. It is more expensive than many we tried but it fits us the best, so far.
- Podcast/RSS for e-newsletters or training. Podcast and voice in general allows you to make an emotional connection with your audience or prospect. This one is still under construction for us.
- We use wikis (e.g. from Central Desktop, EditMe, Jotspot, and Socialtext among others) with all of our clients. A wiki provides a private work space which we can leave behind after our engagement is over and they cut down considerably on having to e-mail attachments. We have used it for collaborating on datasheets, web site mock-up, backgrounder and other strategy and planning documents.
 Update Jan-18-2011: Office 2.0 website www.office20con.com has been taken over by spammers, links deleted.
I will be blogging from the Office 2.0 Conference for the next two days.
It’s a set of tools that I have been interested in for a while–blogs, wikis, content management systems, chat/IM, VoIP–with a focus on enabling small teams to work more effectively against a deadline. This is the challenge that software startups need to surmount if they are to win the battle of maneuver against their larger, better funded, and more established competitors. I think one of the primary benefits these newer tools offer is that a small team can maintain a shared situational awareness in complex and rapidly evolving environments/markets.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ori Weinroth from Microsoft, during the morning sessions. I was surprised to learn that they also had a product family called Office, because they were not listed as an participant.
 Update Jan-18-2011: Office 2.0 website www.office20con.com has been taken over by spammers, links deleted.
I was sitting in one of the nice conference rooms over at Fenwick & West earlier this year at a TVC half day seminar on “Entering the Entrepreneurial World” (TVC offers great seminars by the way, and they rotate the speakers so that the material doesn’t go stale)and I had a strong sense of deja vu for freshman year in college. Normally when I dream of being back in college I am in an exam for a course I haven’t really studied for–although in my case these are more accurately termed “recovered memories”–but this felt like freshman year again, where I slept spent a lot of time in a large lecture halls.
Tom Perkins–the one with his name on the door over at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers–resigned from the board of Hewlett Packard on May 18, 2006. Initially the circumstances of his resignation were characterized as a personal decision by HP, but Mr. Perkins persevered until the true reason for his departure came to light.
I had been following the story, along with most people in high tech in Silicon Valley, and was struck by the phrase “ciphers from high cap companies” when I read it in Rob Preston’s story in InformationWeek titled “Down to Business, What They Didn’t Say at the HP Hearings”
It was from an e-mail Perkins wrote to Mark Hurd, H-P’s current CEO, which his attorney, Viet Dinh, included in an Op Ed entitled “Dunn and Dusted” in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, September 26, 2006. I have included the full text of the e-mail but have bolded a phrase I want to explore further:
Dear Mark: A while back I promised you that we directors would clean up our act, and free you from worries about the H-P board. I am really sorry that I didn’t deliver on this, and I apologize for the necessity of raising the issue of illegal activity by the board chairman in today’s email to the board. But, it’s an extremely serious matter, and I have legal obligations.
Aside from this, I worry that Pattie, as new chair of N&G, will ‘pack’ the board with the kind of directors she so admires — ciphers from high cap companies, with no fast-cycle technology background, and certainly no Valley entrepreneurial genes.
I worry that you will wind up with a ‘blue ribbon’ board that will be of zero, or even negative, value to you when the going gets tough. I don’t wish you bad luck — but life eventually delivers tough scenarios to CEOs of big companies — and I doubt if H-P will prove to be the exception.
Anyway, I am rooting for you still, and I hope everything works out as you wish best.
Sincerely, — Tom.
Let’s unpack that phrase: ciphers from high cap companies, with no fast-cycle technology background, and certainly no Valley entrepreneurial genes.
- Ciphers: the meaning here is a none-entity, a zero; this was a term my father and grandfather would use as a strong insult.
- High Cap Companies: high market capitalization, i.e. Fortune 50/100/500 (I suppose “Fools from the Fortune 500” doesn’t have the same zing).
- Fast-Cycle: in this context I believe it’s a reference to being able to make decisions rapidly, to execute the OODA cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) but it also has been applied to product development by Preston Smith and Don Reinertsen among others, to indicate the value of cutting time to market for new products
- Technology Background: comfortable wrestling with Moore’s Law
- Valley Entrepreneurial Genes: possibly overrated, except insofar as there is a higher tolerance for failure in the presence of learning, and a celebration of prudent risk taking (vs. rewarding success).
In this succinct phrase is a warning to startups: be wary of “large company advisors” who lack an appreciation for Moore’s Law, don’t understand that delaying a decision is deciding to delay, and who are motivated more by–or perhaps only by–money than a desire to change the world.
To watch HP’s current management team attempt to demean and intimidate someone like Tom Perkins strikes me as stupidity of the first order. I was reminded of the gypsies in the George V. Higgins’ story “A Small Matter of Consumer Protection” (reprinted in chapter 6 of his excellent “On Writing“) who attempt to con and intimidate a nameless silver-haired 70 year old one Saturday morning, only to discover too late he is a retired–well mostly retired–Mafia don.
But the moral dry rot that has set in at H-P that would allow these stupid (my operating principle is that everything you do will ultimately get found out, and the more the effort you make to keep it secret, the deeper the hole you are digging for yourself)–if not illegal–acts, doesn’t appear to stop with Patricia Dunn. Don Tennant, editor in Chief at Computerworld, wrote about A Culture of Evasion detailing Mr. Hurd’s lost opportunity to answer any tough questions at a public forum while the story was breaking:
The entire episode made me think of the irony of a particular line in Hurd’s keynote — the one in which he said that HP is “trying to build a culture of execution and accountability.” Accountability? That’s going to be awfully difficult as long as the company’s CEO demonstrates by his example a culture of dissemblance and evasion.
Witnessing the ongoing disintegration of a Silicon Valley icon like HP gives me a strange Twilight Zone sensation. If only a Jed Garrity could be found to arrange a meeting between the current and former management.
The prolific Phillip Lenssen has leveraged his Googleblogoscope experience to create an extremely useful diagnostic quiz for assessing if you’ve written a linkable blog post (how likely it is that other bloggers will link to your blog post). He advises that
Linkability shouldn’t be your main goal when blogging, but it’s a good indicator of how approachable and interesting your writing is.
Some of his key points that I find useful to remember are:
- Make sure you write something original, and not just a few sentences. Write about what you know.
- A small illustrative or explanatory image can go a long way to improve your post. This is great advice that I have yet to follow. I am continually impressed by Dave Pollard’s ability to express his business insights in graphics:
- Blog daily. I still struggle with this, but I am discovering that forcing myself to write every day, even if I don’t get is finished enough to post, forces me to clarify my thinking on an issue, which is valuable in itself.
- Re-read and revise for clarity and offer a perspective for someone new to a topic.
The best thing about the http://www.howlinkable.com/ quiz is that it prioritizes it’s advice to offer the top ten add suggestions for improvement; once you have addressed the basics you see more. Also, not everything you can check off will improve your score (something Fleming Funch overlooked); sometimes you need stop doing something to improve. My current linkability is 45% and I need to blog daily, use more illustrative examples and images, and add my photo to my about page to get it to 54%.
One suggestion that Lenssen didn’t make directly that I think is a useful perspective comes from Useful Saheli S.R. Datta’s article “7 Habits of Highly Effective Blogger”
Think of your blog as database, not a newspaper-like collection of dispatches. your archived posts should be easy to find through Google and Technorati, so cite authors and publications by name, and use tags, categories, and keywords consistently.
Here is a list of the questions courtesy of Fleming Funch, for clarity I have added “[Negative]” to those practices that detract:
- My post title includes a pun [Negative]
- My post title includes more than 10 words
- I start off by explaining the post’s core idea
- My post contains more than 3 paragraphs of my own writing
- I spell-checked my post
- The post’s idea was “sleeping” inside my head for several weeks before I wrote it down
- I was the first to report on this (as far as I know)
- This post might have profound implications for a company, celebrity, or politician
- This post might have profound implications for my readers
- This post is in-tune with the overall topic of my blog
- I illustrated my post with screenshots, drawings, or clip art
- I end the post with a “bang”
- I use the Creative Commons license to share my content
- I emailed friends to let them know about my article
- I validated my blog’s HTML after posting
- I use a standard blog template
- I read my own post for clarity at least twice
- I use links, bold/ italics, or lists
- I’m blogging daily
- My blog is read by many people
- My post is English
- I’m reporting on first-hand experiences
- The subject I’m writing about is close to my heart
- My post includes a video, audio file or ZIP download
- Readers can comment on my post
- I submitted the post to Digg
- I submitted the post to Metafilter
- I submitted the post to Boing Boing
- I sent the post to a mainstream news source
- My post is above 250 KB (including images) [Negative]
- I checked my blog’s appearance in at least 2 browsers
- I include a large ad on top of the main content [Negative]
- My ad colors resemble my main content [Negative]
- I decrease the font-size quite a bit to make the layout look better [Negative]
- I’m citing my sources and delivering proof for what I say
- I’m using affiliate links inside my post’s content [Negative]
- My post might be considered controversial by many
- Some parts of my post make people laugh
- My server is fast to deliver pages, even under heavy traffic
- My full name is included at the beginning or end of the post
- My “About” page is linked in the navigation
- My “About” page includes my bio and photo
- I’m checking my blog statistics every few days
- I consider myself an expert on this post’s topic
- My page includes animated ads [Negative]
- My page includes an ad that pops up or is overlaid on the content [Negative]
Last Tuesday, October 3, was the first of four seminars in the KASE Entrepreneurship Academy. One of the featured speakers of the evening was a serial entrepreneur by the name of Krishna “Kittu” Kolluri. Kittu was Co-Founder of Healtheon/WebMD, an on-line resource for heath information. While at WebMD he was responsible for key operational and business development roles. Kittu was CEO of Neoteris, the leader of SSL-based Application Security Gateway market. Under Kittu’s leadership, Neoteris excelled and grew considerably despite adverse market conditions. Neoteris was acquired by Netscreen and Kittu became GM of Netscreen’s Secure Access Products. Subsequently Netscreen was acquired by Juniper Networks and Kittu became VP and GM for the Security Products Group at Juniper Networks.
From Kittu’s presentation, I learned:
- The Importance of a Strong Vision & Values
- The Value of Marketing
- Understanding Your Customer’s Needs
The Importance of a Strong Vision & Values
In order to succeed, start ups must develop and follow a sustainable, strategic vision, and they must offer compelling value to customers. All technology driven companies need a compelling value proposition. Compelling value is determined if your technology is revenue enhancing or cost cutting. Furthermore, you must deliver a “must have” solution and demonstrable return on investment. Three questions that can help you determine if you solution is compelling is:
- What is your benefit?
- Can you give your customer a reason to believe?
- What is the dramatic difference?
The Value of Marketing
Most people think marketing is designing colorful fliers and brochures. Collateral is an important aspect of marketing, but start ups need to understand that strategic marketing is mostly about trial and error. Kittu asks, “where do you add value and how will you evolve?” Often start ups try to sell to Fortune 500 companies, but they lack credibility. Put yourself in your customers shoes. They fear you will not be around the following year. Furthermore, they know that nothing new ever works, so they want validation from another customer who can verify your technology.
You can overcome the challenges of building credibility by influencing the influencers. Influencers are analyst, trade press, business press. Talk to start ups in your target market. You will most likely find people intrigued by new technology and that are willing to help you refine your product. It might be that you are targeting the wrong people in the company. If you are not getting the traction you anticipate don’t give up on the company, try the actual end user.
Understanding Your Customer’s Needs
How will you best service your target markets? Take care of the customer. Give them what they need, a product that works on its own and seamlessly with other applications. World class customer care is vital, make customers feel like they got more than what they paid for. Kittu states “customers will tolerate mediocre technology, but will not tolerate mediocre service.” The customer is the ultimate stakeholder. You must have a clear channel of communication within the company. This means vertically within teams, and horizontally across them. Make it easy for the customer to contact appropriate team members and obtain accurate information.
It is hard to take criticism about your baby. Inventors pour hours into developing technology trying to make the perfect application and forget to talk to prospects. Instead of designing something you think some one will buy, go and ask potential customers what they want to buy. Entrepreneurs, you can’t fall in love with the technology and ignore the marketing. Get out there, talk to strangers, and focus on customer care.
Mark Duncan has put together a great talk on “Beyond Microsoft Office: New Tools for Marketing Productivity” for the next SDForum Marketing SIG, next Monday Oct 9 at DLA Piper Silicon Valley.
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
Mark offers a rich set of examples beyond documents, spreadsheets, and slide decks as the only tools at your disposal. His talk provides a rich overview of new software tools and on-line services for increasing marketing productivity both for teamwork–communication, coordination, and collaboration–and for gathering, organizing, and presenting information.
Whether you are an individual contributor in a small startup or a manager in a large firm, these applications will enable you to accomplish more with less time and effort.
The meeting starts at 6:30 with networking, Mark’s presentation will be from 7-8:15PM. I have had a chance to preview it with him and it looks very good.
Just a brief note on the SDForum Marketing SIG, our promise is “Practical tips and techniques for anticipating, identifying, and satisfying customers needs for emerging technologies profitably.” We are guided by this quote from “Management: Task, Responsibilities, Practices” by Peter Drucker on the importance of marketing:
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only these two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
Update Aug-8-2008: Mark’s slides are now available here:
- The better teams you can build… the faster you can grow.
People who grow companies rapidly know how to put a good team in place, then move on to the next thing. They become a leader of independent teams.
- The better you use your time–the faster you can grow.
Invest your time strategically; be less concerned with saving time or managing time.
- The more you think things through ahead of time–the faster you can grow.
That means planning, including strategic plans, action plans, and project plans, with built-in review and accountability.
- The savvier your advisors–the faster you can grow.
You let go of the “lone ranger” approach to running the business. As your business grows, get advisors who are one step ahead of you.
- The more you insist on top performance… the faster you can grow.
Do not let mediocre performers dictate your rate of growth, whether they are employees, customers, vendors, or professionals.
- The more knowledge you can get out of your head and the more systematized you get–the faster you can grow.
Create manuals, checklists, and training seminars that teach employees all the magical things that you think only you can do. Then you and your people can focus attention on the big, creative challenges.
The first rule is “The more you can let go, the more you can grow.“
Bob Bemer, among other things the inventor of ASCII, was guided by “Do Something Small, But Useful Now” during his professional career.
If you don’t have a plan for exploiting a technology breakthrough, then by announcing it all you are doing is lighting the way for your competitors.
Triggered by “Google Me This, Batman” I will try and make some different points. I don’t know how many times I have come back from an meeting (or event or trade show) with business cards or notes on my 3×5 cards and run the people and company names through Google to discover things that would have helped me if I had known them a few hours earlier.
It’s not that hard to use Google, I probably spend an hour or two a day following links from searches I have run. But I tend to start from other on-line articles I am reading and not research in anticipation of who I will be meeting. LinkedIn is probably the second most useful search tool if you are trying to get a context on someone.
Two hours a day in Google? That’s a bet you could have won from me ten years ago. Our TV picture tube died about a month ago and I find I have about ten to fifteen hours a week of extra time (funny how much time is taken up by only watching “a little” TV). I think the big win has been missing commercials. But my DSL went out and I had phantom limb pain for my missing Internet connection the next day, I didn’t realize how much I had come to rely on it.
Anyway, I now try to
- spend at least five minutes reviewing the Google results (for web and groups) of people or companies I anticipate encountering.
- if it’s a company, notice what ads come up as well
- if the company has a website see what publications they list as covering them and search the archives for other articles.
- check who else is linked to their site using the Google link: command (or use Advanced Search, pages that link to this page)
- check and see if the person has a LinkedIn profile.
- Read the last half dozen entries (at least) of their blog, if they have one.
- Depending upon the industry it may also be worth a few minutes searching some trade publication archives that may not be deeply indexed by Google (e.g. EE Times for semiconductor and EDA firms/players).
I would welcome any comments or suggestions on what you do to prepare for potential or likely conversations.
This blog is dedicated to entrepreneurs at any stage of their journey: as individuals, in teams, and collectively. We all hope to create a better world for our customers, our employees, our stakeholders, and our children.
Our Focus: Finding Early Customers For Emerging Technologies
Our focus is helping startups find early customers for emerging technologies. This is very different from the traditional sales and marketing at established firms. Correctly identifying early customers who can be references to others is key to introducing emerging technologies.
Although emerging technologies change the rules and often enable far reaching growth most early adopters are focused on near term risks and benefits, and it is to those concerns entrepreneurial teams need to speak to get a foothold. The decision to act as a “beta” software site or early user of new software tools often resembles a hiring decision (does the prospective customer want to “hire the team”) more closely than a technology adoption decision.
Emerging technology marketing is a distinct domain from classical product marketing, most of the traditional market assessment techniques are not effective: focus groups, surveys, etc…
Emerging Markets Require Key Commitments
Emerging markets require a strong commitment by the founding team to
- appreciating the prospective customer and customer’s view,
- rapidly evolving the product specification in response to feedback and customer experience,
- ongoing refinement and delivery of customer focused solutions.
A Blog Is a Dial Tone For a Website
New applications often start out requiring operators, but eventually move towards dial-tone. For example, you can look at blogging as the “dial tone” equivalent of creating a web site. For ordinary folks (not most of my readers, but non-technical folks), creating a web site was something that required an operator. You went to a web design shop or an ISP and had them do it for you. The blogging revolution, the wiki revolution, the MySpace revolution, the CyWorld revolution, are really about providing a kind of self-service dial-tone for creating a web presence and community.
I think a blog also acts a dial tone for a website in that it signals a commitment for interaction and participation on the part of the authors. And that’s certainly the case here.
O’Reilly describes his Round 2 series as occasional postings around the theme that patterns and ideas recur. He closes the “Dial Tone” post with:
Once you frame the problem in this way, you understand that one of the challenges for IT departments and companies used to the IT mindset is to get the operators out of the way, and to build new processes that let users do the work for themselves. You also can ask yourself, where is dial tone going next?
I like that “Round 2” captures the sense of recurring business trends that can act as guides: you do not need to innovate in all aspects of your startup, making the technology work can be differentiation enough. I welcome your comments and a chance to learn more about your startup.