Building a company and being a founder is sexy these days. But, under the supposedly sexy veneer is an intensity of experience unlike any other I know. Rapidly building a team of extremely talented people to singly focus on building a great product… all driving the same mission forward ‘in an environment of extreme uncertainty’ is exciting! But it takes a toll.
This was not my first company. But, in April I was in an extremely intense growth cycle as co-founder & CEO of a German cloud technology company when I felt myself ‘disappearing into the fire’, as Jerry Colonna put it in his blog post from last December…
“One of my all time favorite blog posts about entrepreneurship is the Disappearing Into The Fire post written by my former partner Jerry Colonna. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and go read it.
Jerry has been a highly successful VC, then disappeared into the fire himself, and emerged as a fantastic CEO coach who I recommend so much he can’t take any more clients right now. So he’s responding to that problem by cloning himself. Well actually not quite. Jerry is starting to do workshops so he can help more entrepreneurs and CEOs.”
Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
I learned of Jerry’s General Assembly workshop from Fred’s post and reached out to Jerry. Over the past months, we have been working with Jerry Colonna & Ann Mehl to bring them to Berlin for another installment of the successful General Assembly workshop + several other events for entrepreneurs and investors here in Berlin. We agreed that it makes sense to contribute to the startup ecosystem – to focus on ways we can help us all learn to be better entrepreneurs and build stronger companies.
Our team has spent many hours and engaged many people to make it possible to bring Jerry & Ann here for a few days in September. If you are in or near Berlin and want to build a stronger company AND survive the process intact, come join us.
Are you finding yourself lost in your work? Is your startup requiring you to run at a ‘sprint’ pace for a ‘marathon’ distance? If you are looking to expand your thinking about success, fulfillment and possibility, join us for a one-day workshop which will give you the tools to:
- Reconnect with yourself to define the essence of what you want
- Gain clarity on your goals
- Develop an actionable blueprint
Online Event Registration with amiando
I’m sending the manuscript of Pendulum to the publisher this week. Like the tower, it turned out profoundly better than I had imagined. Here’s what the reader will find on the front page of the book when it hits the bookstores next spring:
“If you will see into the heart of a people, look closely at what they create. Examine the inventions to which they pay attention. Read their bestselling books.
Listen to their popular music.
This is how you will know them.”– Roy H. Williams
Having made my 90-minute presentation on Society’s 40-Year Pendulum to 241 auditoriums full of people in the past 8 years, I began this book by trying to disprove my own 40-year hypothesis.
My friend Dr. Kary Mullis, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, said,
“Roy, there are few, true scientists left in the world. Too often, a scientist will develop a hypothesis and then look for supporting evidence. They identify with their hypothesis and they want it to be correct. This is bad science. When you have a hypothesis, your job is to try to disprove it. No one knows more about your hypothesis than you do. No one else is as qualified to discover its flaws. When you believe a thing to be true, your first responsibility is to do everything you can to disprove it.”
I’ve long been a fan of Roy Williams & Wizard Academy. Years ago I was granted as scholarship to attend Roy’s Magical Worlds Workshop and there I first heard of his ’40 Year Pendulum’ – it changed my perspective on people, culture and business!
As Roy has been writing his new book, as he explains above, he is being forced to re-examine his hypothesis to ensure his science is true and unbiased. This reminds me a great deal of the early stages of building a technology company today.
As a founder of a technology company and as an advisor to several others, it is key to seek to prove our hypothesis – not just assume it is accurate and drive forward writing code. That is what the lean startup, customer development and MVP is all about.
The Sunpop StudioPOD
A StudioPOD is a professionally designed, remotely controlled video studio, with all the power of an in-house video department and none of the headaches.
A StudioPOD takes up about as much room as a large cubicle. Once installed in your extra office space, you can efficiently produce professional video content that grows your business.
The cameras, robotics, microphones, and computers, are accessed and managed remotely through your broadband internet connection. From hundreds, even thousands of miles away, Sunpop’s directors can remotely control your StudioPOD equipment and produce amazing videos with you and your business.
My favorite video production company in the world, from my home of Austin, TX, just released a really cool way to work with them from anywhere! Very cool – nice job guys. Maybe we’ll bring one to Berlin!
If launching a startup is like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down, then lean startup principles are the kiddie parachutes you deploy to buy yourself time before you hit the ground. While they’re no guarantee that you’ll land safely, they do minimize your chances of a spectacular crash and burn.
To the uninitiated, the lean startup movement advocates maximizing learning and minimizing cash burn during your search for a sustainable and scalable business model. If that seems like a mouthful, here’s a summary: put your stuff out there as fast as possible, see how it does, and keep iterating until you succeed. Do both qualitative and quantitative research to figure out whether you’re building a product people actually want and whether it’s possible to acquire customers in a cost-effective way. This usually entails taking a hard but honest look at the assumptions you may have about your product, target users, monetization models, competitive landscape, and distribution channels.
I just completed a 2-week business trip from Germany to Puerto Rico to Utah and back. As you can only imagine, this left tons of time on airplanes & in airports. I used much of this time to re-read some older business books & catch up on a bunch of new ones. This was all about generating new ideas & innovative thoughts for our business (@scaleup) at a very interesting & critical growth time. While I’ve been a fan of the iPad & all it can offer for some time, this trip proved the most useful combination of tasks in a single device that I’ve found. Now back with 3-4 pages of solid actionable notes distilled from my reading – nice.
I read or re-read the following during this trip – highly recommend them all if you have not read at all or lately. (remember, I had LOTS of plane & airport time…)
Do More Faster – David Cohen, Brad Feld & many involved in the TechStars ecosystem. Great insights from a bunch of founders, mentors & investors.
Pitching Hacks – depending on your prior experience, tremendous short reminders or new insights on how pitch – good stuff
Getting Real – The 37 Signals Classic
Running Lean – the just completed book on lean approaches to building a SaaS company. I followed Ash Maura along the process as he iterated on his book but am just now diving in again to read the final version from the beginning. Great insights into a process that works.
Tons of articles I’d saved using Instapaper – if you don’t use it, you are missing a great app!
Six signs you may be dating a venture capitalist this valentine’s day
6. He had no interest in you, and then suddenly did once he heard five other guys were courting you
5. You often wish he looked at you the way he looks at Apple products
4. Refers to contraceptives as downside protection
3. One night he got drunk and asked if you’d be willing to have a syndicate
2. When things started getting serious, you introduced him to your parents; he introduced you to the rest of his partnership
1. When you ask if he’ll ever propose, he says he’s not sure if he can “get there on your timeline”
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awesome! shared to me by @scottsanchez
The promise enterprises are seeking is the “ultimate notion of disposable apps” said Jones. The meaning of such is clear: one can subscribe to an app, use it until it is no longer fit for purpose and then simply replace it with something new that better fits your changing business requirements.
“IT can empower individual business units to address their specific needs for tactical applications; freeing central IT from having to be involved in every project but assuring a standard infrastructure,” said Jones. “As these tactical apps become more enterprise critical then it will be much easier for corporate IT to take ownership without having to re-write them like many situations today — a much more efficient overall approach to IT.”
We’ve been hearing the same from our customers over the past year. Less about cloud, more about streamlining IT operations through self-service deployment of scalable enterprise applications on-demand. Empower the business-user… this has been our mission in building our Cloud ‘Point of Purchase’ management platform @scaleup
Another critical element of a truly successful private cloud deployment is service catalog driven “end user self-service provisioning”. In a similar way to how AWS’ Console and prior to that, the ElasticFox plug in for Firefox, made EC2 a much better experience than navigating the service offerings by command line, a true consumerized approach to “empowering users” must include a simple but intuitive UI that provides authorized users with “point and click” capability to manage their application workloads through the entire lifecycle.
It is great to read industry blogs from the enterprise IT side, who have real experience with private cloud implementation, demanding the kind of solution we are building at ScaleUp. I’m not implying any sort of endorsement – just that we both believe in the same perspective as to what is necessary for enterprise private cloud success.
This is a very, very cool simulator that makes it really helpful when having a discussion with team members about the impact of raising equity financing & understanding resulting dilution. No idea who is behind it – but it is simple & impressive.
My only request to the developers is to create a currency selector so that I can illustrate without having to say “imagine the $ says €” 🙂
Brand APIs as Value Platforms
Ironically, it is because of this proliferation of devices that the overall demand for content and utility is increasing. Brands should create value in the form of content and utility and distribute it via platforms that extend in reach beyond proprietary channels.
Apps () are just channels. To establish value platforms, I propose that brands should consider creating their own APIs.
What is an API? An API, or application programming interface, is a hook. It’s one part of a software program that makes it easy for other programs to make use of a piece of its functionality or content. When APIs are made open, they can be accessed and used by anyone.
With APIs, you let other developers do your R&D for you. The benefit? You get development at scale with minimal investment. You effectively outsource risk because failures don’t cost you anything.
Brands need to think like startups. They must devise experiences that not only meet the demands of content and utility that audiences crave, but that are readily consumable in bite-sized chunks so that audiences can devour them on their own terms — and developers can serve them on theirs.
This last point is critical because it allows innovation to happen rapidly and without sustained investment.
The broader brand API drum beat continues. Man, again, we were way too early with @vibe.