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10 core startup mentality principles

January 27, 2013 1 comment
climing

Startup mentality

It does not matter if you work in a company of 5 people or on a team of 10 in a 400k employees corporate, start-up mentality could be created anywhere, and this culture is what differentiate one team from another. In addition to the hard skills I wrote about in How to become an all-round software developer, adopting the right culture is crucial for getting valuable results(or any results).

Here are the 10 core principles of a startup culture wherever exists.

  1. A Sense of Urgency – the team needs to create value and to deliver it to the market quickly enough in order to stay ahead of the competition
  2. Risk Aversion- doing something that has never been done before. Something big and meaningful! Not playing it safe. Willingness to try new things.
  3. Teamwork – dropping everything else and getting up to help a teammate asking for help – including over the weekend.
  4. Willing to take Extreme measures – Over night delivery – we call it white night:)
  5. Learning – this is the fun part. In other words, assembling the parachute on the way diving!
  6. Optimism – it may look and smell like a sausage, but will make it work!
  7. Volunteering – pull vs. push system.
  8. Dictatorship of the Mind – The best idea wins regardless who came up with it. The team will rally around the best idea!
  9. Commitment to the product, the team, the company- Time estimates are always wrong and underestimate the effort. The last reaction to slipping is to move the date and the first one is to stick to one’s commitment.
  10. Generosity and Serving – reusability, building frameworks, information, tools, and tricks.
  11. Yea, right- overachieving!!

These principles should be reminded every time a new person join the teams. If there is a mismatch between the team and the new teammate, there is a risk of the entire team loosing the startup mentality. This is the time to bring these principles back to the team’s awareness. This is when the expectation that any team member must have only positive influence on the rest of team should be communicated and set as a goal.

Did I forget a principle?

Aligning your SaaS Product Design, Marketing and Sales Strategies

January 7, 2013 Leave a comment

imageWhen you think about your Software as a Service company sales, and marketing strategy you’ll need to consider the product complexity, who is your target customer segment, and what other players will be involved in the sale process(not full 4Ps analysis here). In each of the cases below different levels of effort and cost to market and sale your product(s) is needed. Partner recruiting is selling, which means, leads generation, sales cycle, value proposition, and some form of an inside sales team. Working with the channels requires investments, competing on VAR attention is selling, and the competition is growing with every new SaaS solution developed. Growing SaaS companies like HubSpot, Marketo, ConstantContact and more as well as giants such as Oracle have been already investing in capturing these channels. The alternative of going directly to the customers is not financially viable in the case of a small start-up company selling to the small and medium business(SMB). The complexity of the product will determine how long is the sale cycle, the onboarding process, and the need for Management Service Provider(MSP) participation. Considering whether the product should become a platform requires considering the implications on your go to market strategy like setting and governing the quality of the add-ons(certification) and pricing.

Here are some combinations to look at.

Vendor Type Billable Customer IT Reasonability Likely Exit Strategy Product Strategy Sales & Marketing Strategy
Startup SMB SMB owner Building a cash cow – why sell? Simple, limited functionality, self served Online, inbound marketing
Large Enterprises Corporate IT Department M&A (sell to one of the big players: SAP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft) Perfecting one use case, or developing strong protected IP – proprietary algorithm Direct sales. POC/paid pilot, partnering with other solutions.
B2B marketing: thought leadership, trade show.
Young growing company SMB(<;2000 employees) MSP/VAR Going up the market, or M&A through Vertical integration Building Platform as Service (PaaS), OEM(embed other products)
Requires customization and integration with add-on
Partner recruitment. Referral program.
Working with partner on developing strong value proposition and go to market strategies.
Sponsored conferences, Webinars.
MB MSP/VAR IPO, M&A Become mission critical Ad above and recruit strategic partners
Large Enterprise developing SaaS SMB MSP/VAR N/A Medium complexity. Open API, web services, enabling value added services Partner programs. Account executive to harvest strategic partners
Large Enterprises Corporate IT Department N/A Hybrid between on premise and hosted Direct sales, rebranding

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I’m sure that there are other combinations of vendor and customer types, product, sales and marketing strategies. However, some combinations could lead to successful outcome while other be disastrous!

I like the wallpapers generated by Wallstagram new mobile app

December 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Wallstagram is a new iPhone app from Webstagram that selects randomly pictures from your instagram feed (there is also an option to let it pick from the popular feeds) and stitches those together into a wallpaper(one picture). If you don’t like the result just ask it to start over.
One thing that I would like to see is an option to replace only one of the selected pictures.

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Guess what is missing from the MBA program? Sales!

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

imageI’m now two and half years into the part-time MBA program with Boston University with a little less than one year to go. One thing that surprises me the most is the lack of Sales Management class in the core program. I was educated about managerial accounting, finance, operation management, organizational behavior, marketing, economics and corporate strategy, but not a word about sales. When I got to the time to select my electives I knew that something was missing, so I found only one class called Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy (that I later heard was offered only every other year) and signed up for it. Only one class in the whole program that talks about sales. When I checked with my friends who went to other universities for their MBAs I was even more surprised to hear that this is the common case. Sales is not part of the MBA program!

The irony is that Sales (as I was reminded by my Sales Management professor during our very first class) is the only activity that contribute to the positive side of the income statementSmile.

I’ve learned a ton about running a business so far, but this class was the most transformative one in the MBA program for me. It does make sense to allocate this class later in the program after understanding key frameworks like DuPont analysis, Five Forces analysis, the time value of money, pricing, marketing positioning, among others, yet sales management can help to tie all these things together in a coherent manner with a very clear goal in mind.

Here are some of the key subjects from the Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy class:

  • Business Models and Value Propositions
  • Building a sales organization – hiring, compensation, organization, and management
  • Direct, Indirect and Channel Sales Strategies
  • Importance and development of strategic partners and alliances
  • Understanding the Selling Process and Sales Cycles
  • Implementing Pipeline Management Principles and Forecasting Techniques
  • Repeatable Sales Models – what they are and why they are important
  • Keys to successful selling including Solution (consultative) selling vs. product selling
  • Sales Management, Positioning a sales force as a barrier to entry -  differentiation and competitive advantage
  • Major Account Selling, Team Selling, Global Sales Strategies

During the course we participated in two team sales activities:

  1. Sales Challenge – the objective of this activity was to engage in a complete sales process including building the value proposition and sales funnel, leads generation, leads qualification, cold calling, navigating the target organization, and closing. We had to convince a VP of Sales from a company with over 100MM annual revenue to participate in a panel with more VP of Sales from other industries at the university in one of the class evening.
  2. Sales Audit – each team was assigned a company(a real one), to execute a complete sales strategy and management auditing consulting project, and to come up with recommendations. We got the chance to meet with the CEO and VP of sales in the assigned company, to hear about the strategy and sales activities, and to gain  access to real business data.
    The Sales Audit project was one of the highlight of my MBA program so far, I learned during this activity more than I could ever learn from case studies discussions in class. This company is a young SaaS company (Software as a Service), selling mainly through partners (MSP/VAR) and growing their booking more than 45% in 2012.  We mapped their entire sales process, identified areas for improvements, and came up with two major recommendation plus other areas for further research. After delivering the presentation in class we also travel back to the company to report our findings.

The key outcomes from this projects were:

We made a difference – the company is actually revamping it sales process following some of the input from our recommendations.

We build great relationships with the CEO and VP of Sales

One of our team mate who graduated after this class was hired by this company

We earned a real consulting experience and learned how sales works in the real business world

We got an ASmile

I know I did good choosing Boston University for my MBA program!!

In summary, the motivation for writing this post came as a result of a comment I heard during our second visit to the company that we audited, it came from both the CEO and the VP of Sales saying that this material was never taught in their MBA program(one of those was done at Stanford). I believe that Sales Strategy and Management are a core managerial skills, even if you end up working as a general manager, business or financial analyst, in operation, it is important to understand your value proposition to the organization and how your activities contribute to the sales activities. For the ones going for an MBA program with the aim working in Sales, Marketing, Strategy, or to start their own business, learning about sales is a must!!

Ourcast – useful?

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

How do you make weather forecasting social?
It seems somehow useful for micro local real-time weather reporting.

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Categories: iPhone App, Software

VivaStream – how to know “who to know?”- during DMA2011 conference in Boston

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

imageI’m going to the DMA2011 conference in Boston next week, and this year the focus is on Real-Time marketing. What could be more relevant than that?

Learning about the different marketing methods that are leveraging mobile, social, and real-time data will be one goal of this event and networking is yet another (not a side effect).

VivaStream is a startup that is building a real-time mobile app and web-site that aims to take networking during business events like DMA11 to the next level.

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Before the event starts: you setup your profile, select the conference, browse the schedule, and press the Attend button for the sessions that you plan to go to. Any of your actions is broadcasted to the VivaStream stream telling others about you. VivaStream also offers a reach lists of relevant topics and you can select from one of the two following options: I’m Interested or I Can Help. VivaStream uses this information among other factors to suggest people that you should connect with. There are more useful features and details, but this is the basic.

During the event: Since this is my first event using VivaStream, I’m yet to see the real-time capabilities in action. As you can see in the picture above, VivaStream plans to share some of the statistics based on the information gathered from users’ activities, and to let us know about interesting presentations and spontaneously organized after parties – IN REAL-TIME.

After the event ends: there is a strong possibility to see VivaStream building a new professional social network for networking with a purpose, based on interest and need, and fairly quick.

VivaStream is a very busy start-up, but here are few suggestions for additional features that I would like to see:

  • Show me my agenda (calendar view) built based on presentations that I planed to attend to.
  • Allow users to enter topics
  • Create multiple streams based on different activities (it could get too noisy in a single feed stream)
  • Allow users to shout-out (for example: book signing now next to room ###)
  • Check-in to a session (and maybe check-out, or leave a comment)
  • Number of people interested in a certain topic (next to the topic)
  • Number of people attending a presentation (next to the presentation)

VivaStream has the potential to become an important component of any business event. It is fairly easy to see the value to the event organizers that can learn in real-time about activities within the conference rooms as well as outside, the presenting vendors looking for leads, and for the consumers that are looking for relevant help and experience.

Now, I’m looking forward to see how it all plays out in real-time. Go Viva!

Guest post: Why you should play Tap Zoo an app for iPod touch,iPhone, and iPad

August 6, 2011 2 comments

Guest post: This is a guest post by my son Johnathan, he loves computer games.

imageYou should play Tap Zoo the game for iPhone, iPad, iPod because it is a lot of fun. You have rankings, you buy animals, you can breed animals, you can visit neighbors zoo, you can cross breed and you can cure sick animals. You try to get three things: coins, stars, and experience.

You are able to get coins and experience from revenue. You need animals to get revenue. Let’s say that you have two monkeys and each monkey gives you 25 coins and 2 experience points every 5 minutes, so you end up with 50 coins and 4 experience every 5 minutes. The way to get to the next level is by getting amount of experience. for example, the way to get from  level 7 to 8 is by getting from 10,000 to 13,000 experience points.

It also has ranking. The way to see your rank is to tap the bottom right square and then find “Other”, tap it, then you’ll see the word rank, tap on it and you can see your ranking. If you want to know ho to make your rank better, the way to do it is by looking at the bottom left and read what to do.

Note from Dad: I looked at this game and am very impressed by its level of complexity and sophistication. It enables the player to make many different decisions for improving the zoo quality, visitor experience,  and business. Kudos to the team at Pocket Gems, Inc.

Go Landgrab – Instagram first directory

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Here we go again – the full adoption cycle – just a little quicker this time.

Instagram has now a new self registration directory – not ran by Instagram.

Go: Follogram

And here is mine: @kerendg

Update: 12/30/2010 Instagram asked the Followgram team “to remove the access to the users photos and refrain from using their API”. Now we need to wait till the Instagram team will officially release a public API before we could see more cool services like Followgram. I hope that we don’t have to wait long.

Apple’s future profitability heavily depends on mobile!

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Will Apple be able to mitigate the impact of strong competition in the mobile market on future earnings?

The information is taken from Apples 2010 10k (numbers in Millions)

Net Sales by Product: 2008 2009 2010
Desktops $5,622 $4,324 $6,201
Portables $8,732 $9,535 $11,278
iPod $9,153 $8,091 $8,274
Other music related products and services $3,340 $4,036 $4,948
iPhone and related products and services $6,742 $13,033 $25,179
Peripherals and other hardware $1,694 $1,475 $1,814
Software, service and other sales $2,208 $2,411 $2,573
iPad and related products and services $0 $0 $4,958

From 0 to 5 Billions in one year – iPad success

iPhone sales almost doubled in each of the past two years (in 2007 when the iPhone was firstly introduce, sales were “only” 630 millions).

Apple also managed to significantly increase laptops sales(Portables), thanks to Apple’s success selling other products and building strong brand name. Yet, not at the same rate as iPhone revenue growth.

iPad sales is going down – it is now inside the iPhone?

Apple’s iPhone become a big source of revenue

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Apple’s iPhone share of revenue is growing significantly relative to the other products

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Apple is a multi-markets player: mobile, media, b2c hardware, b2b hardware, software and services.

Apple can always surprise us with a new blockbuster product changing another market.

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