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Celebrating Failure

2012 October 26
by Rick

Failure has been on my mind a lot recently, especially after Failcon on Monday (great conference, really interesting and entertaining at the same time). So, I really enjoyed finding this page on a VC’s website:

http://www.bvp.com/portfolio/antiportfolio

Nothing like a little humility!

Entrepreneurs Breakdowns and Breakthroughs

2012 October 26
by Rick

Execution

2012 October 1
by Rick

I’ve been thinking a lot about start-up strategies and execution (probably has something to do with my MBA classes) recently.  It’s very clear to me that good execution can make an iffy idea successful and poor execution can easily kill a great idea.  Why are there so many successful companies out there that make you think “that’s so obvious” or “that’s not revolutionary at all.”  I guarantee strong execution has a lot to do with it.  I just came across a great quote in the book Getting Real by 37signals (available for free).

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Be An Executioner

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an nda to tell me the simplest idea.) To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

Explanation:
Awful idea = -1
Weak idea = 1
So-so idea = 5
Good idea = 10
Great idea = 15
Brilliant idea = 20

No execution = $1
Weak execution = $1000
So-so execution = $10,000
Good execution = $100,000
Great execution = $1,000,000
Brilliant execution = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.

-Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby

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I highly recommend Getting Real, it’s free, short, and easy to read.  It’s kinda like a lean version of The Lean Startup.

The London Start-up Scene

2012 July 2
by Rick

Had a great time during my second school residency, this time in London.  The London Business School campus is very nice, the city treated us well, and I got a little taste for the London start-up scene.  On Wed, 6/20, myself and several of classmates went to the “Gopher Hole” (the basement of a Mexican Restaurant) for a Drinks & Demo Night event.  It was great to see the energy and enthusiasm being generated around start-ups and entrepreneurship in London.  The whole thing sometimes feels kind of cliche here in San Francisco these days, but these folks in London are really trying to get something started.  Currently they have a “Silicon Roundabout,” maybe not quite a “Valley” yet, but it’s a start.  I’m excited to explore more how we can create better connections between the Silicon Valley and Silicon Roundabout and look forward to working more with the sponsors of the event, TechMeetups, to foster those connections.

My first Android and the problem with Choice

2012 June 14
by Rick

A couple months back I got the idea in my head that I should buy an Android phone.  Since the only smartphones I’ve ever owned were iPhones (first a 3G, now a 4) I wanted to check it out, plus I’m involved with a couple projects that have a mobile aspect to them, it’s always good to be checking things out on the platforms your users are using (just like today any website should be checked out on Chrome, Firefox, and IE).

That was a couple months ago and I finally a pulled the trigger today.  What took me so long?  The long and short of it was, all the choice!  When I bought my first iPhone there was one, and exactly one, choice: iPhone 3G Black.  When I got my second phone there was really only one choice too, iPhone 4 Black (I’ve never waited around for the release of the white version).  Even today, there is only 6 choices in iPhones, the 3GS, the 4, and the 4S, each available in black or white.  The price point is very different between the 3 models and is most likely the deciding factor for most people.

On the other hand, the options in the Android world are endless, and frankly, overwhelming.  It’s funny because what finally made me go out and get a new phone was I’m travelling a lot for the next couple years for school and I wanted to get an unlocked phone.  One of the course I am taking right now is Leadership and Organizational Change taught by the guru of choice, Shenna Iyengar.  I’m just finishing up her book, the Art of Choosing and her research goes a long way into showing why I was so overwhelmed by my Android experience and why I always feel so good about my Apple purchases.  Apple offers choices, but not too many, and that’s yet another part of their genius.  Not only is each of those products so high quality, but people walking into an Apple store feel better about their purchase decisions because they have choice, but not too much choice.

Of course, not only did I have to choose an Android phone, but I also had to pick a provider.  Thankfully, the fact that I recently decided I wanted an unlocked phone made that easier.  I’m trying out Simple Mobile.  $40 for all you can eat phone, text, and data ($60 for 4G, but I didn’t get a phone that supports 4G).  They resell T-Mobile’s network which I like, why have both of my phones on AT&T (but I still needed a GSM phone for Europe and Hong Kong)?

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with my Android so far, but it’s no iPhone.  I’m really impressed with $40/month, I’m kinda surprised more people don’t go the path of unlocked phones and SIM cards from someone like Simple Mobile or Straight Talk (which resells AT&T).  Sure, the initial investment in the phone is more expensive, but I figure I’ll be a little ahead after one year and way ahead if I stick through two years, the typical contract required to get discounted equipment.

 

 

Facebook…

2012 May 15
by Rick

GM (Number 3 Advertiser in the US) is dropping paid ads on Facebook – Claims low consumer impact.

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Half of American call Facebook a fad

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Facebook raises anticipated stock price - High demand for shares.

This is going to get interesting!

 

 

Microsoft offers Bing to Facebook

2012 April 25
by Rick

Apparently, Microsoft offered to sell Bing to Facebook.  Zuckerburg declined.  I’ve heard rumors that Facebook is working on a search engine, this certainly would jump start that effort.  However, it’s also loosing a lot of money right now ($2.5billion a year).

This could be an interesting way for Facebook to screw over Yahoo for their patent lawsuit, with Bing handling Yahoo’s search.  It’s popular to believe these days that search (ie. Google) is in trouble as social media sites like Facebook develop profiles of their users that will be more useful to marketers and thus advertising dollars will move from search to social.  I’m not sure I really see that.  Sure, Facebook has an idea of what I like, what I’m doing, and who my friends are.  However, Google knows exactly what I’m looking for, when I’m looking for it.  I literally tell Google what I’m looking for when I type in a search query.  There’s a huge value in that, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon.

Facebook buys Instagram for $1billion

2012 April 9
by Rick

Facebook buys Instagram for $1billion!

I hear the bubble inflating!  This seems kinda crazy, just last week Instagram closed a $50million dollar investment at a rumored $500million valuation.  Nice way to quickly double your money.  Instagram only has 10 or so employees.

I’ve long said…

2012 April 5
by Rick

…if you want to know what direction the Internet and Internet technology is heading, take a look at Porn and the Grateful Dead (these days maybe the Jam Band scene more generally).  According to estimates in this article, Porn sites likely make up around 30% of Internet traffic.  One large Porn site alone accounts for 2%.  Anyone interested in scaling website could learn quite a bit from these companies (although most are nearly as secretive about their datacenters and technology as Google is).  Interesting to see the technologies being used (PHP, redis, nginx) by those who will share.

YouPorn (2nd largest porn site) Stats:

  • Over 100 TB of porn hosted
  • Over 100 million page views per day
  • 950 terabytes of data transfered per day on average (28 petabytes per month)
  • Peek 4000 pages per SECOND (100 gigabytes per second)
  • Until 2011 primarily Perl and MySQL, then moved to PHP and redis

Do Start-up Founders Need to Code?

2012 March 30
by Rick

Interesting article from SF Gate: Non-Technical Founders Will Always Make Subpar Products That Fail Slowly.  As a techie founder of a company, I certainly understand the thinking here.  It was great that my time was the only investment I had to make to develop my website and when features were requested by my team and/or my clients I often would stay up late that night coding them.  We landed more then a couple large clients that normally didn’t work with a company as small as ours based on our system’s technical capabilities.  And I remember one of our largest client’s surprise when they asked for an integration feature, we had it ready to go in two weeks, they replied that they didn’t think anyone would be ready that quickly and they still needed a month or two on their end.  And, or pivot on pricing model was quick and painless as I was able to quickly develop the technology needed to make the change.

However, in hind site, I also see many opportunities missed due to my and my team’s general limited business savvy.  Engineers/Programmers/Designers/etc tend to think they know everything, but time and time again I’ve seen the real value that a good “business” person adds.  Of course, “good” is always the key, in all of these positions.  This why even I, a successful entrepreneur, is planning to get my MBA now.  I believe that adding a strong, core business education to my techie/entrepreneurial background is a killer combination.

As an early stage angel investor, my favorite type of team is two people, a rockstar engineer and a rockstar business person.  If the team is lacking one of these, I need to see a solid plan on how those needs are going to be filled.  It is very true that in the Bay Area (and I think the market in general) good tech talent is at a premium, but so are great MBAs that have a true entrepreneurial spirit.

I understand the sentiment in this article, and would encourage anyone thinking of starting their own tech company to learn some coding, there’s no way it can hurt.  But I also think it’s a generalization that doesn’t necessarily hold up.  Did Steve Jobs code?