Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why buzzwords matter.

Engineers loathe buzzwords. Usually they are a precursor to a bad idea, misconceived, and violating several laws of nature or physics. Keeping up with the buzzwords and hype, however, is critical to the engineer-type mind who wants to succeed. Buzzword knowledge makes you look smarter (as long as you don't criticize others misunderstanding), and opens up new opportunities. For example, did you know that Amazon is co-investing MILLIONS of dollars in cloud computing companies: all you have to do is apply...

Here is a list of reasons to keep up with buzzwords:
1.) So you can understand what your boss is saying (or trying to say).
2.) So you can see new opportunities in the convergence of new (old) ideas.
3.) So you can learn about tidbits like the Amazon Investment Fund investing in Cloud Computing.
4.) Because it might help you win in business today.

How can you get a jump-start learning the buzzwords and seeing through the hype to how it can help you?
1.) Read Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin
2.) Read Seth Godin's blog.
3.) TechCrunch: http://www.techcrunch.com/
4.) Read Slashdot.org
5.) Attend start-up conferences and events like those we have here in Austin as part of the Austin Technology Incubator.
6.) What is your favorite source??? (Please share below!!!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Marketing Basics from an Engineers Perspective.

Even my 6yo son knows the marketing formula.... do you? Here it is in C++.
customer_action = customer_need * demand(product(5cs), place(5cs), price(5cs), promotion(5cs));
If you don't understand marketing quite this well or this precise, read on.

I am passionate about learning. I am even more passionate about teaching: I love it. I love learning through teaching. Recently, I decided to start sharing some of my business knowledge with friends and family. My son is helping me (as you can see here!). The topic of this day was "Marketing Basics" and to highlight, this is the view from an engineer-type mind (my own). So you will see, it is simple, straightforward, organized, and logical. Engineers, pay attention, all the marketing basics are IN THIS BLOG POST! After this, you will probably be a better marketer than your VP Marketing (who forgot all this because it wasn't organized or learned as rigorous as science is by engineers). My 5 YO son grasped most of this... you can too.

Marketing Basics:
The goal of marketing is simple.
To build demand, awareness, and action.

Marketing (as a class) has 4 member functions: (The 4 Ps of marketing)

1.) Product - to help define a product/service that satisfies a need, solves a problem, or is otherwise desirable. It's features and benefits SHOULD be defined by marketing.

2.) Price - to set a price which maximizes profits based on demand. (see economic theory). NOTE: this price should be based on PERCEIVED VALUE, not on cost.

3.) Place - to find the best places to put the product/service where it is convenient and readily available to the target customer.

4.) Promotion - to advertise and educate customers about the product/service, price, and PLACE. NOTE: must create 'action' here, and SHOULD be measurable.

Marketing's tools/variables.
Marketing has 5 member variables that must be considered... the 5 Cs of Marketing.

1. Customer - who are they, and what do they want? This is vital information (inputs) to the functions of marketing (the 4 Ps above).

2. Company - who are you, and what do you want? Often this is your competitive advantage and the goal of your business.

3. Competition - who are they, and how are you different/better?

4. Collaboration - who can help you and why?

5. Context - what's going on in society and how can that help/hurt you?

That is it. Really.

Can Marketing be made more complex? Sure... is that good? You decide.

For me, I'll keep my marketing simple. I'll deliver the 4 Ps using the 5 Cs, and get it out there and get it going... to acheive the goal: build demand and create action.

For me, action is sales. A topic for another day!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Giving Birth to Business: The Thrill.

Giving birth to a new business can be a thrill. The word is thrill, not green, as Bruce Willis would say in the blockbuster film The Fifth Element. Green is money: if that is your thrill, go be an investment banker or some other lucrative job. The thrill of success, of building winning teams, and of launching successful companies is what motivates the best of us...

In fact, 'thrill' may be one reason that VCs struggle to put 'process' into small companies. Process can go against thrill if not managed well. For me, I absolutely love giving birth to a new business. I've discovered a process that I think makes for a good recipe for forming an idea into a business. It starts first and foremost with motivation: why are you starting the business? For me it is not just thrill (that is the reward), it is people, passion, and love of the challenge.

Here is my recipe for sharpening an idea and turning it into a business:
1.) Understand your reasons for starting the business!!!
* For me, this is the best part. I absolutely love the challenge of running a new business. I truly enjoy seeing my employees, partners, and bosses succeed. Finally, I am almost always passionate about the need or problem I am solving.
* The real thrill for me though: is doing all this MY WAY: the way that doesn't compromise on values, and is unique. In fact, the best part about starting and running a company for me is hiring, managing, and firing according to the winning values that I believe in (more on that in a future post).

2.) Hone the idea into a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
* For me, I've written about the MVP idea already... but this is so important. If your MVP idea can't solve (by its self) a part of the need or problem: start over. If it solves "too much" and "will take a long time" to get going... or requires a "chicken for your egg" start over.

3.) Build a winning Business Plan.
* A winning business plan to me is one that: a.) clearly identifies the problem or need. b.) has a solid business model, c.) identifies and sizes the target market, and c.) shows how profitability can be achieved quickly. I'll assume that the product/service idea is good... the other parts are almost always the key.

4.) Build a team and a product.
* Based on the business plan, build a small team.. give shares freely for work early, and get the MVP product built ASAP!

5.) Sell it.
* start selling now. I am learning about this myself... it is hard. Be voratios about learning: there are Good sales books out there (i'm on a sales book reading kick right now myself, and i'll post my results soon).

6.) Raise money if needed.
* after you have successfully made a sale, determine if you can keep going and get to profitability, or if you need to raise money now.

7.) Sell it more.
* keep selling. Selling stock. Selling product. Selling vision. Selling culture. Successful selling is THE thing that makes small businesses work.

(photo credits)
Bruce Willis in
The Fifth Element.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Persistence of an Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is REALLY REALLY HARD. You have to persist. You have to put your whole self into it. I often meet with engineer-types and others who are looking to start a new venture. It's almost always an exciting idea, but it is almost always lacking a few key elements. Nevertheless, I never scoff or worry about what is lacking (although I do try to highlight the missing pieces). The reason I don't worry, because I know that if that budding entrepreneur works HARD ENOUGH and persists, they will succeed. The business might not, but they will.

Here are a list of the common things I see advising new young companies:
1. Lack of Business model. (or naive business model)
2. Scalability problems. (marketing, sales, etc.)
3. Weak go-to-market plan.
4. Thinking they can do it all themselves. (no team plan)
5. Thinking fund-raising is easy.
6. Thinking of "raising money" before the product.
7. Too MUCH too soon. (too hard)
8. Chicken and Egg problems.

Feel free to ask questions about the above, if you don't know what I mean.

Oh, and come see me tonight 10/15/09:

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Culture of Pride.

While I was working at Intel, I learned what a truly successful culture looked like. Somehow Intel had cultivated a culture of pride: pride of ones work, ones product, ones company, and ones peers. When I founded Bigfoot Networks with my 2 good friends from Business school (props to Mike Cubbage and Bob Grim), I wanted to somehow ensure that a culture of pride, one where people actually WANT to work was developed.

For four years, I was CEO of Bigfoot Networks, and within the first few months of our founding, I had convinced the team that a formalized culture with certain common values was a good thing. My first draft of our mission and values statement (corny to those who haven't really lived one), was accepted by all without modification (they didn't know what they were in for!)!

Our mission:
We fight lag win Innovation.
Our common Values:
Flexibility & Redemption

These had specific definition so there was no confusion what we meant (see below). In practice these 4 things combined to create a culture of pride, just like at Intel. Many employees have said to me that the culture WAS the reason they joined Bigfoot, and it WAS the thing they liked the most about working there. We took our culture VERY seriously, and everyone made an effort to know it and to live it (most importantly perhaps, myself, as CEO). Ownership was 'lived' in every meeting, where owners were delegated ownership (not tasks). Passion pervaded our work, and those who didn't have it were asked politely to move on (hopefully to something they WERE passionate about). Flexibility was being a startup, but screwing up meant redemption. And all of this in as direct a manner as I know how to live.

Every year, I asked employees to talk about Culture and review what worked and what didn't. Only after 2 years and a team the size of 20 did a new facet to our culture get introduced: Teamwork. It was already implicit in what we did, but we weren't giving it any credit. In fact, we were celebrating owners and not teams. We added that to our mix and it was for the better: we no longer celebrated individuals as a group but instead celebrated wins as a team. (yes I wasn't very good at it, but I tried!)

Now I'm off on a new adventure, starting a new company. We are yet again trying our best to build a culture of Pride... but now in a new unique way. More to come in a future post.


Full definitions of the culture from Bigfoot:

I COMPLETELY OWN the work I am assigned.
Ownership includes planning, execution, and analysis.
Execution includes driving those around me for the things I need to be successful, even the CEO.
Everything that matters has an owner.
I am responsible for the work I do, and the work that others do for my project.
When complete, I am proud of what I've done

I never punish or squash ideas, feedback, or directness, even when its painful.
I listen to others, and I am listened to.
I am direct with feedback and ideas, I never hold back, even when its painful.
I don’t keep Secrets or practice Politics.
I use Constructive Collaboration to strive for a win-win-or-no-deal solution for all.
I don’t discriminate, pre-judge, or harass anyone for any reason: great ideas come from diversity.

I am passionate about what I do.
I know I add value, and what I do matters.
I continue to learn new things in and out of the office: and I share my knowledge when I can.
When I encounter problems or issues, I look at them as learning opportunities.
I know where the company, my team, and myself are going, and the plan to get there.

Flexibility and Redemption:
I enjoy being stretched, and doing things I’ve never done before: whatever it takes.
I make fast decisions, taking calculated risks for speed.
Flexibility is my weapon: I don’t let momentum make me do the wrong things right.
If I make a mistake, I announce it: I know Redemption is possible and flexibility means sometimes being wrong.
If others make a mistake, I give them the opportunity and tools for Redemption.

I celebrate wins as a team.
I recognize individuals only in light of the team.
I never leave a team-mate alone.
I strive to better not only myself but also my team.
The team grows when I teach and share my knowledge freely.

photo attribution

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tytus to speak at IEEE in Austin 10/15/2009 at 6:30pm (Free registration)

The IEEE CTS ComSoc-SP Society invites you to a talk on the "Networking and Computing Requirements for Video Games: Current Trends and Solutions".

The event is free to attend if you RSVP here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/445362090

NOTE: this will be a different presentation that was given at GDC Austin. This will be more "Business & Trend" focused... "Level Up" Networking is the theme. Should be fun!

Speaker Harlan "Tytus" Beverly will delve the dark mysteries of the online gaming market and networked game development in the unusual industry that is gaming. The online gaming market has grown from virtually $0 to over $70Billion/yr market in less than 15 years, and now dominates the gaming industry. Harlan will explore what has fueled this growth, and how specific games and networking technologies have 'leveled up' the industry at distinct moments. Harlan will also explain how networked game development's unique software development, deployment, and testing challenges have led to industry-wide practices that may have applicability in other industries.


Thursday, October 15, 2009 from 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM (CT)

AT&T Labs
9505 Arboretum Blvd
Austin, TX 78759

Harlan Titus Beverly is a passionate entrepreneur, engineer, and gamer (Tytus). While at Intel, he was responsible for architecture and development of corporate server networking products, including the world's first 10-Gigabit Ethernet adapter. He later joined Britestream Networks and developed a 100% CPU off-load network security solution with SSL and TCP/IP processing on one chip. In 2004 he conceived and founded Bigfoot Networks, makers of the Killer NIC, www.bigfootnetworks.com <http://www.bigfootnetworks.com>. The Killer NIC is now a world-wide success and ships in 20-40% of Dell's gaming desktops. Harlan has over 30 patents, has been published in dozens of books and articles, and runs a blog on "Business for Engineers" at http://tytusblog.blogspot.com.

Following is the event registration link:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Partnership Atmosphere is RIPE!

A lot of folks are running wild these days, trying to get sales, trying to get stability, trying to get a job even. One of the most amazing things is, since everyone is a "seller", there aren't that many buyers! What better time in history to go for something 'different'. Go for a partnership instead.

Business Development (Biz Dev) is one of those rare skills that I tried very hard to develop at my last company. It's undoubtedly a hard thing to do, to measure, and to manage. However, the rewards of good business development can be partnerships leading to NEW revenue opportunities for you both!

Seth Godin writes a Blog that everyone interested in building a business should read. A recent post on Business Development has many 'thoughtful' tips on doing business development. Thoughtful tips are good, but in my opinion tactical realistic guides are better. So, without further ado, here is how I go about "doing business development".

1.) Learn the business. Don't try to be the 'master' strategist, just try to learn what the goals and challenges are for the company you are doing Biz Dev for.

2.) Find the targets. Biz Dev should be a 'hunter' activity, not a 'passive, they will come to us' activity. If someone wants to be your partner, then they don't need YOUR skills (maybe just to help negotiate)... your skills should be outbound. Exception: if one of your targets LANDS in your lap by luck, great, close it, put the feather in your cap and move on!

3.) Reach the targets. Great Biz Dev folks have 500+ LinkedIn connections (i'm working on it... so add me already: http://www.linkedin.com/in/hbombers ) Anyways, getting to the target starting the conversation is vital, if you can't get connected you'll never get started. Surprisingly, YOU PROBABLY CAN IF YOU TRY!!!

4.) Don't sell. You are not selling. You are 'exploring' if working together will be beneficial!

5.) Close. If it IS beneficial, write it up... (I like "joint project proposal" form), and lets sign it. Putting this piece of paper in front of a partner, quickly reveals true 'issues', and is a roadmap for getting to close.

6.) Communicate. After the close, weekly or monthly status reports are vital. Ideally these would be phone or f2f accompanied by a report. You initiated the contact, so you do the report and push for awareness. As soon as they 'forget' about you, the project starts to die.

Now get cracking, and close some deals already! The atmosphere for 'joint' money-making ventures couldn't be more 'now'.

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