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Showing posts from September, 2011

Building Teams: The Importance of Evangelism

I had a conversation last night that reminded me of the purpose and power of evangelism: building teams is much more than "recruitment"; it's more like a mission.

Your product is not your company. All of the passion you feel for your product is important, solving the problem is important, serving a customer is critical.

But putting the same energy, passion, and commitment to building an amazing team will make the difference between execution and not, progress and not, an enjoyable, thriving workplace and not.

Recruit True Believers
So where do you find true believers? You can't simply identify them from a stack of resumes. You absolutely must get out and preach the gospel of your vision, and show that passion that inspired you to build a product without a net, and convince friends and family to part with their hard-earned money.

But the most powerful use of your passion is when you get other people to change their lives on your behalf: to come work for the crazy found…

Added a tool...

ATT, it's been too long. Wayyy too long.

Verizon, I hate your customer service. But your actual wireless service is great. I said I would never go back to Verizon. Well, necessity is the mother of hypocrisy.

No, I didn't get Verizon cell service, though that's on the way in February. Today i got the Mifi, a wifi router that connects to the web through 4g cell service.

And it's really quite fast. I just watched HD video without a skip, and I'm not in an optimal setting (large concrete building with lots of steel and more concrete).

Why?

Train. I sat on the damn train for 5 hours without  a web connection.

Team. If I get my team together and we don't have web access, well, we're web-dependent these days. Happened over the summer.

Travel. There is no such thing as a vacation for me anymore, so I need to be connected to keep coding, accessing builds at github.com, etc.

Plus, many---too many-- hotels charge for access.

So for $50 a month and $50 up front, I'…

Switching to Mac from Windows: Getting Used to New Tools

I've been a Windows guy since 3.1--a long painful experience, but you get used to the tools and tech of the MSFT world, and it lulls you into thinking in the limits of that paradigm.

Over the summer I made the switch after repeated config issues with Rails gems on Windows vs Mac. My team is on Mac, so I was the outlier.

I got a Macbook Air--the new version with Lion OS--because I plan to travel a ton and I wanted the latest and greatest. I got the 11" screen so I could work on a plane in the cheap seats without worrying too much about the guy in front of me leaning back.

I'm not what you would call a professional developer--I am not. I can teach myself anything, but I'm slower than the average bear, and it's better to have smarter people than I working on my projects.

Last year we chose Rails instead of--wait for it--Classic ASP, which shows you just how adventurous I was at the time. Rails scales nicely, especially on the Heroku platform.

I use Sublime as a tex…

Help Me Help Them Find a CTO

Two posts ago I lamented the news that a local startup might outsource their core dev. Noooo!!!! I learned that the hard and expensive way. 


And to their credit, they turned it around on me and said "Yeah?" 


And I said "Yeah!", and they said "uh huh!" and I said "alright then". 


So here's the pitch to you, loyal readers and startup fans: Help Me Help Them Find a CTO


Mobile/Web Music Ecosystem Startup CTO

A funded startup in Lancaster, PA & Philly is looking for a developer/architect to join them in a fulltime effort as CTO. 
The right person can design, develop, and manage software projects on both web and mobile platforms (mobile will be on PhoneGap) .Net, PHP, or Rails, Javascript/jQuery/HTML5, work with others, hire other developers, yadda yadda.
They're looking for a true team member--someone who will not just implement a spec, but ask why: they need someone with conviction who will really take ownership, to embrace and shape the vision…

Me for Hire

I've been cranking away on Jawaya for almost a year now. It's never been quite right, and so I've been through a number of prototypes, releases, changes, adjustments, expansions, contractions, etc.

I've done most of the front-end work; back end is by a couple of local heroes who put in time when they can. Everyone has to pay the bills, so without cash flow or investment, we hit it as we can.
For me, that's full time.

As of this week, though you'll notice a little blurb on the right of this blog. I am indeed available for hire. Why?

Well, I feel that to raise capital you need traction, and we simply don't have that yet. We'll get there, but in the meantime I need to pay the bills.

So I'm reminded that this is in fact, business. So I'm listening--how can I help?

Advising
If you're a startup, I'm happy to give you my gut (informed intuition) about your idea/business/software and help you feel confident in the decisions you need to make to move …

Outsourcing

Part of this is from an email I sent this weekend to first-time founders, who are so far down the path toward outsourcing I doubt they'll turn around.


It's hard to watch. Something like $200,000 over 4 months.

There's a huge risk in outsourcing, and huge value you absolutely will not get in doing that: 

institutional knowledge in the form of your key developer, and the discovery process along the way. 
It's hard to explain the second if you've never developed software before, but a lot of innovation occurs at the source of problems encountered on the project and there's deep value in being present for that. 

What happens after the first release? Do you think it will be perfect? "No plan survives contact with the customer". 
Well, you'll invest even more money in someone outside the company developing expertise around your platform.
This is not a lean approach at all. 


What happens when their employee--your key guy--gets a job elsewhere? Your institutiona…

Iterations

One of the biggest disconnects & questions between startup personalities and others working on a project is the idea of when a product is finished.

Answer: It's never finished during the startup phase.

This is tough for traditional developers to embrace and can be frustrating when there are constant changes coming from founders seeking the right balance of features to serve people.

The reality is we really don't know. We have a vision, which leads to concepts and a path forward, and along the way we learn new things and shape the product (i.e., new features or different approaches to the vision), test it out with our friends and family, absorb feedback and let it percolate, and come back with a new list of changes.

"But we just did that". It's frustrating.

Yes, we built this house, and the customer wants the ceilings 3 feet higher and contiguous windows all around the house,like a spaceship.

"But we just did that." Sigh.

That is actually not what we …

New York New York

...big city of dreams


Things are cooking up in the big city. I relish the chance to get up there, and am planning on making it more than just a regular visit.

Starting in October I'm shooting for half the week, at least.

Why?

Conversations about online community, for one. Capital comes in a close second, though once that's in the bank it's a distant memory (note: you are always raising capital as a founder, so don't really forget it, just take fewer meetings).

Finally, people. I'm looking for people who can take the deep dive with me post-funding. We're working on something big (including but not limited to Jawaya), and I need big minds and big hearts to add to the stew, stir it up, serve it hot.

So NYC it is tomorrow, maybe into the weekend next week

Hire This Person

A longtime friend of mine is also one of the most competent, dedicated, accomplished, loyal, caring leaders/managers/HR managers/COO etc etc I've known in my 20 years in business. I can't say that about a lot of people.

She's looking for a new challenge. 
Most of her career was in NYC, serving in a variety of high-level leadership roles in a mixed for-profit/non-profit.

She's currently open to leadership roles (CEO/President/Exec Director/HR/COO) within an hour of lovely downtown Lancaster, which is an hour from Philly by train. Almost any business sector. 
If any of the following apply to you, please email me at my first.last at gmail, and I'll make the intro: You have just the job for herYou know someone who really should interview herYou are an investor or board member in Series A stage and beyond startups that should interview her (no seed stage unless you're looking for a co-founder and have seed $ already)You are a headhunter or know some in the region who can…

Slowly but Surely, Step by Step...

...over the Niagara Falls.

What a long slog recently. When you're largely coding on your own, PT team, you learn a lot by yourself along the way.

And that learning takes time. Too much time. Which is why I'm a better founder than I am a coder. I like getting devs together and cranking in synch in the same place at the same time. What takes weeks for me because I have to learn and experiment along the way would take days, or mere minutes, seconds! for a great team of devs.

Catch 22.0: can't raise enough money without traction, which means product. Can't build the product fast enough without money.

Well here we are, close to Beta 2. It's been a tough road, but at least I have some skills to get a real job if I can't make this float.

The sound of that makes me cringe...back to coding ;)

AirBnb: Great Source for Film Scripts

The possibilities seem endless.

A couple from DC is about to rent the house. Lately I've been back in the mode of wondering exactly the NSA is up to, and connected the two: the NSA can use AirBnb to effectively infiltrate homes and place intelligence devices therein.

AirBnb script number 3...

:) Back to work...

Tax Cuts to Small Businesses Don't Lead to Jobs

Brief one here, but Mr. President, you're simply missing the point.

If my business is doing ok--say making $100,000 net profit in a year on a million in revenue, but because of weak demand my revenue has been that way for 2 years, and demand isn't increasing, I'm not going to hire someone with a tax credit.

There are only two reasons I'd hire: to invest in a new initiative with the belief in future demand, or in response to demand.

Tax credits for hiring don't create demand, and they aren't enough to make it worth my while to take the risk.

Instead, you need to give incentive to companies already sitting on a huge pile of cash, like Apple, for instance, to build new facilities here, hire people, and most importantly, to buy from small businesses.

Promote investment and new initiatives from the largest companies, directed to small companies, and you'll see a big spike in employment.

Unfortunately I don't think he's basing policy on how the real world…

The Real Jobs Solution

Van Jones--the former White House aide who was such a communist he was pushing major private investment in corporate American to build manufacturing in inner cities to get cheap labor...wait...did Glenn Beck have it wrong? 
Van's not a communist, but he's a great speaker. I was his warm-up act back in 2006 at a conference for nonprofits, and he was talking about how to lead by pointing to a vision instead of the problem, and said "Martin Luther King did not say, he did not say, I have a complaint!" And he smile and chuckled "He did not say that." 
I have a dream,  indeed.
The crowd loved it, and so did I, and I've used it so often ever since he might want to ask for royalties. 
So last week I talked about the real jobs problem. And I got into the functional reality that our government serves the uber rich very well, and as Citibank said in 2005, this is by design: we're a plutocracy. 
This post isn't about that. This is about why businesses hire, and…