Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Engineers should NOT start a business.

I'll say it again, Engineers should NOT start a business... unless they are prepared to run a business. So many people I meet are hungry to "have no boss" and "work on what they want", that they forget that to start a business is to run a business. If you are not willing to "work on stuff that needs doing", then starting a business is probably a very bad idea.

Consider the ideal case. You are an engineer. You love doing engineering. You start a business that is just consulting your engineering skills.
  1. Do you think you will always be able to pick and choose your contracts? -Wrong. You work on what the client wants... and if jobs are scare, you take work where you can get it.
  2. Do you really think you have no boss?  -Wrong. The client is the boss.
  3. No accounting? -Wrong. You now track hours, expenses, invoices, etc.
  4. No sales? -Wrong. You have to sell yourself for every bid.
  5. No marketing? -Wrong. Every client is a Word-of-mouth marketer for you.
So... by "starting even the simplest business", you've just made a bunch of work that you probably don't like doing.  You've just created a bunch of bosses where you used to have only 1.  And now you are working harder than ever.  So why do it?

1 word: Profit.

The reason you work harder, you do the extra yicky work, etc. is because you can charge WAY MORE than you were before.  As a variable resource, people will pay more for your services. You just have to keep the pipeline of work filled and you will rake in the extra 25-50% due a contractor/consultant.

If you are starting a business for more "freedom", you might get some... but Profit is a far better reason.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Referral Marketing and League of Legends

First, if you love PC games... or even just like them... you HAVE to try this Free downloadable game: League of Legends.  It is really an amazing game, and it's free.  How easy is that.  Best of all, if you use MY track-able link:  then, I get bonuses for you joining and could even earn the right to "design my own character"!

What was that?  A perfect example of referral marketing in action.  In truth, I do love the free game league of legends, and I do want you to try the game!  Here is that link again in case you missed it: .   Why do I care?  Because IF people use my referral link (which is easily track-able and associated with my account), THEN I get stuff.  Some of it REALLY cool!  

Referral Marketing works.  It worked "before" Facebook.  It works "after" Facebook.  

Before Facebook:  People got paid to get their friends to buy stuff (Tupperware Party), and they could get a discount if they brought a friend, and they could get real hard cash if they referred somebody to somebody else...  

During Facebook: Everybody got crazy about this "Free" system that seemed to do referrals for free... but there was a cost: it was called SPAM.  And Facebook couldn't afford to pay that cost any more.

Now After Facebook (because they virtually removed the SPAM capabilities of viral apps): Referral systems STILL work.

If you are NOT giving rewards for referrals for your business... I ask, why not?  Isn't that cheaper than advertising?

Karmaback has actually built a FULLY track-able Online Referral system.... but we shut down the project once our Sweepstakes began to take off in popularity.

Any interest in us restarting the referral SaaS tool?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marketing is WAY harder than Engineering

I've written on this topic before, but I just thought it would be worth a mention again.  I do think Marketing is harder/more challenging than Engineering, and I'm starting to think I understand why...

  1. Marketers have to figure out "what" to build... Engineers figure out how to build it.
  2. Marketers have to choose what to say, and when to say it... Engineers get to stay quiet in public.
  3. Marketers have to figure out why something isn't selling well... Engineers get to work on the next thing.
  4. Marketers stress over business success and deadlines... Engineers fret over deadlines (sometimes).
  5. Marketers micro-optimize the un-measurable... Engineers optimize the measurable.
  6. Marketers have to deal with shifts in culture, business, and fashion... Engineers work with laws of physics.
Having been (and loved being) an Engineer, I can also make 1 more statement that I think perhaps most interesting of all....

Engineers get to see, daily, their progress and fruits of labor... they are appreciated for it.
Marketers often can't see the effects of their work at all... and many question a Marketers value.

So, pat a Marketing guy on the back next time you see one... believe me, they are likely stressing more than you are!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ALWAYS provide an "Easy Button" for your customers.

It doesn't matter what you sell, who you sell to, or how much you are charging.  There should always be an "easy" button for your customers.  In fact, the most basic, core functionality of  your product should be so easy, it barely even needs a button.  How do you do that, you ask?  Well, simple.  First, find the core functionality of your product.  Knowing that can be a huge help!  Second, make sure that the user can see (and use) the core functionality of your product in 1-click (or less).  If you don't have a software product, let them see/use your product with no clicks... right out of the box... no assembly required.

At Karmaback, we recently improved our entire setup flow to require just 2 clicks.  Yah it's not 1 yet.. (we're working on it!)... but its a huge improvement.  Companies can now setup a fully functional, completely operational, fully hosted Sweepstakes for Facebook or Twitter or Web or all three, in 2 clicks.  Nice. 

How did we do it?  Easy Default Settings.  Simplified setup process... and most of all, the "Save" button.  (see screenshot below)

Setting up a Viral and Social Sweepsakes to run in your Facebook Fanpage or Twitter Feed couldn't be more easier that it is now!  Well maybe a tiny bit easier... we want to get it down to 1 Click... we're working on that.  Maybe we'll call the 1 button "Easy".  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Video Games need more "bosses".

Do you remember the old Nintendo Days.  Finally fighting Ganon in Zelda?  All the "mini-bosses" in Metroid? Or the countless other timeless boss encounters? Or on PC, the "Doom" Demon Bosses?  Probably you remember the feeling of excitement, accomplishment, dread, and relief that was part of the encounter.  Where have all the boss encounters gone? Recently I have enjoyed playing Mass Effect 2 a ton... mostly because it has some decent Boss encounters here and there... but not as many as the old days!  To me a Boss encounter means that the Boss is actually bigger and more powerful than you could EVER be...  and to kill him, you must learn his trick/secret/weakness.  And that makes for some serious fun gaming!

What does this have to do with Marketing you ask?  Well, there are two lessons here:

  1. Marketing isn't just promotion (how many times a day do I say that...).  The most important service Marketing can do is to give product guidance.  In this case, there is a target market that craves Boss encounters because the feeling of excitement, accomplishment, etc.
  2. Your target market might be hungry for Nostalgia!  If you can feed them something they used to love... you could make serious cash!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why do Social Marketing?

Social Marketing is more than just a buzzword.  If you are not doing "basic" Social Marketing, you are missing out in a revolution of internet marketing; and failing to market where your customers live.

This video explains (statistically) why the hype about Social Marketing is important... I'll summarize it: BECAUSE ALMOST EVERYONE IS THERE!  e.g. almost your entire market is spending more and more of their time on social networks!!!

Got it?  Here are 3 levels of Social Marketing you should be considering:
  1. Just be there!  Make a Facebook Fanpage and a Twitter account.  Link Facebook to Twitter, so when you post to Facebook, it posts to Twitter automatically.  And write 1 post per week about something new at your company.
  2. Grow your page by getting more fans, likes, and followers.  Simply run some sweepstakes (using Karmaback of course), or ads, to encourage your fans/followers to join!
  3. Reward your Fans/Followers for following you.. and encourage them to talk to you on Social networks.  You can reward them by doing give-aways (using Karmaback of course), and by offering them special discounts/offers.
Now stop procrastinating and make a Facebook Fanpage or Twitter Account.  It's super easy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bigfoot Networks Acquisition

I am super delighted to announce that a company I founded based on my own original idea (to build products that Fight Lag in Online Games) has been acquired by Qualcomm!  Congratulation to the whole team, and THANK YOU to all my friends and family who helped Bigfoot Networks get here.

It is a great ending to an amazing story of adventure, passion, and persistence.

Founded in 2005, Bigfoot Networks grew out of my own idea, and 18 of my own patents.  The idea was simple: develop networking products that reduce online lag in video games.  I had expertise in networking technology due to my 5 years working at Intel in their Platform Networking Group.  At Intel, we focused almost exclusively on "throughput", often to the detriment of "latency".  Being an avid gamer, I realized that if we simply made a few different decisions about "latency" that we could reduce Lag in online games by 10% or more.  This led to the development of Bigfoot Networks first product, "The Killer NIC", which was released in 2006 to much pessimism and doubt.  It took much less than the $4MM we raised from our investor Venio/Raven Capital Partners.

Persistence and willingness to put our technology to the ringer led to our first big customer, Dell/Alienware.  At Alienware, where gamers were buying new PCs just for gaming, we had some amazingly good success (20-40% attach rates, as has been previously published).

From there, additional research into Lag and Latency led to many more patents and several new products, including "LLR SDK" a network SDK for online game developers to optimize the server side of latency.

With multiple products under our belt, we were invested in by North Bridge Venture Partners and Palomar Ventures to the tune of an additional $8MM.  The new capital was put to use bringing several new products to market, and hiring a California executive team.  Shortly after that I moved on to found a new company (Karmaback, Inc.), but stayed involved in Bigfoot and remained on the Board of Directors.

Now almost 2 years (and quite a bit more money invested) sinceI left Bigfoot Networks, the company that I started with my 2 U.T. MBA friends Bob Grim and Michael Cubbage, finally got acquired!

What a long and awesome road.

I do have several regrets from the adventure:
  1. I wish I had gotten an EVEN BIGGER return for my investors (especially friends and family).
  2. I wish I could have slowed down the company a little earlier... we were growing so fast and furious that we should have stopped and noticed the big wave that was coming: Cloud Computing....  our technology could have really made a big impact in Cloud should we have gone that direction.
  3. I wish I could have finished my ultimate vision for 100% lag-free gaming (for which the Patents were filed)... because even today, I still suffer from too much Lag while playing from my remote ranch in East-Central Texas!

Best wishes to my friends and colleagues in their new career at Qualcomm.

NOW, I get to take all my learning and skills building Bigfoot Networks from nothing, and make Karmaback, Inc. into the next big thing!

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