Month: November 2008
Many technology companies assume if they built great product it will sell itself yet that almost never happens. Usually we’ve found that incorrect assumption is a rationalization of people who love building product, but secretly loathe the business side of running a business. Such a strategy is a great way to lose a lot of money. So constantly ask yourself, are we spending 50% of our time selling? I bet you’ll always realize you’re focusing too much on the product and not enough on finding customers that want it. (Of course the inverse is true. If you love selling you need to make sure you spend at least 50% of your time building product or your sales effort will be for naught.)
In most companies, too few people sell too little of the time. If you are a member of the senior executive team of a company that is trying to become profitable, are you spending 50% of your time selling and generating revenue? If not, why not? And, if you have a board of directors, are your board members selling also?
Down to Business is a website and online show that is a fresh take on the business Q&A. Host Pat Croce cuts through buzzwords and jargon to find out what drives the people who are revolutionizing business in the worlds of media, technology, entertainment, fashion, and beyond.
It’s got some fun stuff on it.
Thanks to the guys at Lookery for making Feld Thoughts their site of the week. As an endless obsessed data weenie, I’m enjoying seeing the data and demographics that Lookery is tracking for my site. Neat stuff.
I made a mistake this morning. I allowed myself to get ramped up during my morning information routine. As I read through my online news and feeds, I kept seeing various permutations of discussions around "the bailout." Which bailout you ask? So did I. Before I knew it I was way down a rat hole of reading about all the various requests around "the bailout", tricks for getting "your share of the bailout", absurd requests from very large established companies regarding "the bailout", some surprising and particularly offensive (at least to me) requests from other companies around "the bailout", and lots of justification for action couched in terms like "economic disaster", "crisis", and "collapse."
You don’t have to go very far to see where I started getting ramped up – just read the front page of the New York Times business section online this morning. Note to self – you are an idiot – you should have gone running instead.
I hate the word bailout. None of the companies I invest in are getting a "bailout." When they make bad decisions, don’t execute, or run out of capital, they fail – which sucks, but it’s part of the economic cycle. I tried calling 1-800-BAIL-OUT to see if I was missing something. They wouldn’t help me, but they let me rant about what I think about bailouts (smart entrepreneurs!)
Everytime I hear the word "bailout" it makes me think of Atlas Shrugged. There’s a good idea – before you are allowed to mention the word "bailout" you have to read Atlas Shrugged – that’ll slow people down a little and make them think.
I’m not against government involvement and financial support in the broad business ecosystem. That’s not what got me ramped up. What got me ramped up is the pervasive and omnipresent requests for a piece of "the bailout" along with endless hyperbole justifying the naked requests for money from the government without clear consequences. This, combined with the endless language of fear and panic from our "leadership", rather than a rational discussion of cause, effect, and proposed solutions makes me nuts.
Fundamentally, I feel like the ethos of "lack of responsibility" is finding its way into every nook and cranny of the discussion. The connotation of "bailout" is "it’s not my fault – please bail me out." By definition, if you are asking for a bailout, you need to take responsibility for your actions and how you got there.
Before I end, I’ll leave you with two things to clean your palate. The first is from my friend Shawn Broderick titled UAW Rip and cuts to the core of the notion of taking responsibility for your actions, understanding cause and effect, and coming up with solutions based on a real understanding of the underlying facts. The second is from another friend – Karyn German (who is one of the execs at NewsGator) titled What I Have Learned About Leadership. Just reading it made me feel better.
It’s been awesome to get to know and work with Ian, Shamal Ranasinghe, and Peter Gotcher – the founders of Topspin. These guys know their business – and the transformation it’s going through – better than anyone else I’ve ever met. My partners Ryan and Jason who spearheaded our investment in Topspin have been looking for their "music investment" since I met them. This is it – and it’s a monster.
If you make music for a living, go visit my friends at Topspin.
Are you into browser Add-on’s? The first Add-on-Con is happening on December 11th in Mountain View at the Computer History Museum. My friends at OneRiot and AdaptiveBlue are organizing it along with Sxipper. The lineup is shaping up nicely to including folks from Mozilla, Google, Xoopit, Alexa, and Microsoft.
It’s only $150 for the day. If you use the discount code "feld" it’s only $100.
Current TV ran a great segment on TechStars tonight. I hung out in the bunker with a bunch of the TechStars gang (including the Foodzie folks who are highlighted.) Following is the longer (better) version – ten minutes of TechStars fun that gives you a sense of some of the personalities involved in the program.
My partner Jason Mendelson makes a surprise (and very entertaining) appearance at 8:50.
At Foundry Group, we’ve been talking about human computer interaction (HCI) as one of our key investment themes. Our premise behind HCI is that the way humans interact with computers is going to change radically over the next 20 years. If you roll forward to 2028 and look back to today, the idea of being tethered to a computer via a mouse and keyboard is going to be a "quaint" as using the punch card or a cassette tape as a primary data storage medium.
Rather than try to explain Oblong, take a look (it’ll take three minutes – it’s worth it, I promise.)
We invested in Oblong a year ago although, as I wrote in my post on their site titled Science Fact, my interaction with the people involved in the company dates back to 1984. John Underkoffler, the original mind behind all of this, also writes about how Oblong came to be.
Now this is innovation with a capital I.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve been an investor in NewsGator since it was one person (Greg Reinacker – the founder). We had a board meeting yesterday (I’d guess it is my 25th or so NewsGator board meeting) and it was the best one yet. I’m incredibly proud of the NewsGator gang – they’ve really hit their stride and have created a real company that is an clear market leader.
One of the things that I love about NewsGator is their focus on building software that their customers actually want. While they have one of the highest quality software engineering teams that I’ve ever worked, we all know that isn’t enough to produce great software that humans actually use. The extended NewsGator team – including the product folks, sales folks, support, marketing, and executive team – are obsessed with their customers in a way that puts them far ahead of most other software companies.
Craig Cmehil (a technology / community evangelist at SAP) describes this better than I ever could in his blog post titled How I Got SAP to Open Their Doors and Start an Epidemic! In it, he walks through in detail how his relationship with NewsGator evolved from introduction to evaluation to negotiation to development to deployment. Craig – thanks for the shoutout, support, and enthusiasm – you are an example of the customer that every company dreams about working with.
I’ve been an unabashed Obama supporter for a while. I’m glad he’s going to be our next president and am optimistic about his leadership. I’ve been enjoying listening to some of the punditry ricocheting around about his coming administration now that I don’t have to listen (or – in my case – try to ignore) the endless analysis about the campaign. A few requests on my part have come to mind as I start to synthesize what I’m hearing. Of course, I’m not so arrogant to believe that President-elect Obama – or for that matter – anyone in the administration – will care about my specific requests, but since this is my blog afterall I thought I’d toss my thoughts out into the wild.
1. Appoint Some High Profile Republicans to Your Cabinet. I believe we need to eliminate the extreme partisan divide that exists in the US today. The best way to start to do that is from the top – if President Obama makes it clear that he has no interest in perpetuating the "partisan politics as usual" dynamic, we actually have a chance to start to change it. The biggest, loudest way to send this message would be to get the absolute smartest and most capable people in the cabinet, regardless of their party affiliation.
2. Veto The First Pork Laden Bill. I continue to be baffled by the dynamics around Pork in Congress. I want my politicians to become vegetarians and reject Pork. TARP is such a disgusting example of this – as far as I can tell, the only major difference between the TARP bill that failed the House and the one that came back from the Senate and passed was the addition of a bunch of Pork. Disgusting. When the first bill hits Obama’s desk that has one key issue in it that is covered with Pork, he should Veto it. He should then get on TV and explain the bill in clear English to the American population. He should describe the single issue in the bill, and then list the Pork – state by state, Congressman by Congressman. He should then insist that Congress revisit the bill, take all the Pork out, and send it back to him for approval.
3. Continue Being Confident But Not Certain: Amy and I had a great brunch in Chicago over the weekend with a bunch of folks from Wellesley. The guest of honor was Madeleine Albright (Wellesley ’59) who was the US Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001. Secretary Albright was amazing and it was so humbling to get to spend some time with her. When asked what advice she’d give Obama, she said two things. First – "listen". Second – "be confident, but not certain." She described Bush as a president who has been too "certain" – he’s "certain that he is correct on all issues and then never listens." In contrast, she wants a president who is "confident" yet willing to listen, learn, and adjust his point of view based on the data presented. That resonated with me – being confident but willing to listen is a key tenant of a great leader in my book.
Now – go download Zynga’s Live Poker on your iPhone and play a hand or two. If you made it through this blog post, you deserve a break.