I, like almost every US citizen, have been watching the news about the NSA PRISM scandal which involves mass spying on US citizens.

Earlier in my career, I spent 10 years as an engineering manager building operating systems at Microsoft (Microsoft Windows).  Quite a bit of that has been in security training and making passes hardening the operating system to security attacks.  

What most citizens don’t know is that there is a way to put up a BARRIER that would be a COMLPETE SOLUTION to blocking the NSA spying.  Encryption could be used and built into computers, tablets and phones that would completely block out the government from spying at all.

I’ve created a fun way to visualize how this would work.  It is called DARKnet OS.  And I’ve put it on DARKnetOS.com.  It was also designed to show how easy it could be, so every citizen could use it, no matter how much of a technology novice they are.  

DARKnet OS      Visit DARKnetOS.com

It is coming soon.

This has been meant to be “visionary” in the sense that it couldn’t be installed today on your computers.  It was meant to be visionary in the sense that the NSA could NEVER get past it, unless they could get physical access to your life (house, car, purse, etc.).  In the few rare cases that the NSA could find a software defects (like in the Linux OS) that lets them get inside of security.  However, DARKnet OS is designed to kick them out and re-secure the computers and communication channels.  In these rare cases, the citizen may have some of their data accessible to the NSA for a short period of time (a few months) if the NSA had a dedicated attack and got around security, but the DARKnet OS would kick them out and re-secure things after that.

DARKnet OS is designed to be VERY easy to use, and work with all of the common things citizens use computers, tablets and phones to do everyday.  It is a cryptographically strong system, but hides the technical parts.  It also builds an encrypted layer, called the DARKnet Internet Layer, that runs over the normal internet.  This lets people use the internet connections that are available everywhere, such as: home WiFi, Hotel WiFi, any WiFi, internet connections on their phone with their carrier over cell towers, and any other internet access.   It accomplishes this by building an encrypted layer to build “DARKnet Internet Layer” and that can then run over any internet connection, and in a safe way.

-Bryan
SPARKON.com has launched

We here at SPARKON help young people visualize their future, and then build it.

The SPARKMAP that we provide parents and their children is pretty amazing.   I’ll share my own SPARKMAP:

Open it here
Cover Page



GeekWire 2  has a wonderful article on our SPARKON.com launch.

The article is here, and here are some great quotes.

Do you have a teen who’s trying to find a direction in life?

“Life in a box”

The service, primarily targeted towards teenagers and their families, uses a student’s interests and a pair of personality tests to create what Sparkon calls a “SparkMap” – a large, interactive document that outlines opportunities for teens to explore their interests as well as potential college majors and careers.

“It’s like a life in a box for them to build up their entire life,” Starbuck said.

We are working hard on SPARKON.com.  Empower.me will be transitioning to SPARKON.com.

SPARKON.com will allow students from high school, college and middle school to visualize their future in our SPARKMAP.  The SPARKMAP is a 20 to 30 page report that is generated by decoding the teens internal passion, which comes from our personality tests and more.

We then have fun online videos where teens can pursue their interests and build their future.  These videos are learning videos and their Sparkmap generates a custom curriculum based directly on the student’s most interesting areas.

We are still testing and putting on the final touches to SPARKON.com.



Come check out SPARKON.com.

This blog post was co-authored by Bryan Starbuck and Janis Machala.

Recently Bryan did a search on Seattle Interim or Contracting CFOs across who specialize in working with startups.   Below are the set of CFOs where we filtered through to final discussions and reviewed them in-depth.  These are CFOs where we’ve heard great things about them from various people who have worked with them.

The above list was the "short list" for the final stage of Bryan's consideration for his open position.  Due to time constraints, Bryan didn't interview CFOs from many of the firms in Seattle.  There are many more excellent CFOs and great firms that are used by Seattle startups, such as Atlas Accelerator, CFO Selections, CFO2GO, vCFO, Tatum and many more. This blog was not intended to be a compendium of all resources but feedback from the in-depth interviews and experiences we have had with a subset of the pool.

 

Pricing:

The rates vary from $140/hour to $185/hour, with a few exceptional people at $125/hour or greater than $185/hr.  Many prefer retainers in order to not have to count hours or to encourage overly minimizing hours.  

There is a challenge for startups that are really early stage.  They may have raised less than $50-100k in external funding and want to work on financial projections for fundraising.  The challenge can be if a CFO wants a minimum retainer of $3k/month to make it worth their while for just a minimal number of hours per month, but then that ends up being equal to 70% of the salary of a $50K/year full-time employee.  The impact on the startup is that they almost increasing their expense rate by a full head-count for even the minimal number of hours for a CFO.

 

Finance Department:

Bryan is a fan of having one strong general person to act as a "one person finance department" handling everything from bookkeeping up through controller level work for $50/hour to $65/hour.  The CFO can still be required periodically to augment the process for reviewing senior level work or for more sophisticated financial modeling and capitalization scenario development.

Many financial firms spread the work across 3 or 4 people: bookkeeper, accountant, controller, and VP of Finance.   Bryan feels that this can be a  challenge because when you need to make decisions, the knowledge is in pieces in different people's heads and you need to get them all together in order to get decisions made.   This requires paying hourly rates for several people for an hour meeting.  The meeting can then be inefficient while the finance people ask each other questions to get the full set of facts during decision making.  

It is hard to find someone for $65/hour that can do the controller level work on down, but they can be found with enough searching.   For early stage startups, they may only need 5 to 10 hours per month to complete all of the accounting.  In those cases, Bryan finds paying $65/hour and having one person with all of the information and only needing one person in meetings can be useful.  It does not seem optimal to get a bookkeeper for $25 to 50/hour (and others for other rates) as worth the cost savings when the startup only needs them 5 to 10 hours per month. As your complexity increases, you’re venture funded, start having customers you may find the span of a bookkeeper, controller, CFO makes sense.

 

Janis is a fan of hiring an Office Manager who can do a broad range of duties. Have the Interim CFO or Controller develop the chart of accounts and assemble a schedule for what government (state and federal) forms need to be filed by when and then train the office manager on simple bookkeeping with QuickBooks or find an office manager with prior bookkeeping experience. By having one person dedicated to broad office duties they can be the glue between the Interim CFO and the executive team members. There’s so much to be gained by having administrative help (a person to run errands, go to bank/Coscto/post office, ensure office supplies and vendor management occurs regularly, scheduling meetings with outsiders/insiders, coordinate travel, competitive research, employee morale, etc.). Then the CFO is monitoring cashflow, developing monthly dashboard/metrics, prepping materials for board meetings, negotiating with banks and investors. One gets a lot of mileage out of a can do junior level person and a seasoned part-time war horse who’s seen it all. Oh, outsource payroll…not worth the headaches associated with all the government reporting!

 

My new startup is Empower.me.  (http://www.Empower.me).  

I gave this talk at the Eastside Incubator in Washington state.  The incubator is across the street from Microsoft and has a lot of Microsoft people looking into joining a startup.

The talk is also focused on big companies employees to learn startup techniques to bring back into their work in a big company.

The founder that turns into the CEO needs to grow their skills quickly.  When they raise capital and have a board of directors, if they aren’t at or ahead of where they need to be, they will be replaced.

This talk is for creating companies, being the CEO and growing the skills in that area.  This specifically talks about the startup’s first two years.

 

Here are the slides:

Here is the video

 

 

With my background in startups and recruiting, I’m always asked about how to hire for early stage startups (three people asked last week).   This blog post is for startups with 1 to 10 employees that don’t have enough funding to hire a recruiter as an employee.    The goal is for startups to hire high quality talent without letting the position remain open for an extended period of time.

 

I created TalentSpring.com because of how hard it was to hire top Talent at Microsoft.  4 years later and after the acquisition, I’m still a big believer that the TalentSpring search model is the best way to get top talent resumes in minutes.  I’ll include all techniques that tiny startups use to show the full range of techniques.

NOTE: Hiring brilliant talent is fundamentally hard.  Without a tool like TalentSpring, it will require around 10 to 40 hours of labor — if you want to guarantee the position will fill in 1 to 3 months and with quality candidates.  It can take less time if an additional 6 month lag is okay for your business.

 

Techniques:

#1: TalentSpring: The best way with the least hours of work is TalentSpring.  However, the market we focus most on are agency recruiters or companies that have a recruiter or team or recruiters inside of their company.  The details are here.

#2: Track people who Applied: I recommend startup companies use an “Applicant Tracking System” in order to take notes and track as they reject or progress candidates.  They will generate new resumes because they will drive free organic traffic from SimpleHired.com, Indeed.com and other sources.  My company (Talent Technology) sells HireDesk as an ATS.  There are a wide range of great ATSes from free ATSes (JobScore.com) to bigger and more sophisticated ATSes (Taleo, VirtualEdge, Oracle, and more).  Since price isn’t a problem, there is no reason not to have one to save time tracking which resumes you rejected and which are progressing.   Opening positions in the ATS will get them advertised for free so open those job postings SOONER rather than LATER.  The traffic from SimplyHired/Indeed you will receive for free will deliver “n” resumes per month per job posting, so keep job openings open over time to get resumes for free and in quantity to help hiring later.   Also, use the URL to your ATS job posting (with Apply button) when you post it everywhere (Job postings, tweets, etc.) because it will funnel people to apply directly into your ATS so you never have to upload their resume or enter them in your ATS.

#3: CraigsList Job Postings: The fact that CraigList charges between $25 to $75 per job posting makes it much cheaper than most other job postings.  The quality is often lower at CraigsList, however the right candidates periodically come through.  CraigList is so cheap, purchasing a job posting is often worth while simply because it is so inexpensive.  Hopefully you receive 15 to 30 resumes from the job posting, however only 3 to 5 resumes may reach the quality you are looking for.   You must write your job description and subject line to have a strong pull to attract candidates, and that can increase the number of people who apply up to 400% over boring job postings.

#4: Tweet/Facebook/LinkedIn: I recommend posting on Twitter, Facebook and in Linked-In’s stream mentioning the types of open positions you are filling.  Include a bit.ly link to your ATS job posting for people to apply.  There is no silver bullet to hiring so getting the word out as far as possible helps.   Adding a line to your email signature helps (“We are hiring a VP of Engineering and Sales Manager”)

#5: Your Website: Your ATS creates a “Job Site” website that is publicly visible, and often brandable to be consistent with your company website.  Adding a “Careers” link will further get a small amount of traffic, but that traffic will often be a strong culture match (passionate about your business, startup employees, local candidates, salary compatible, etc.).   Also, posting on your blog about your new open positions is helpful.

#6: Networking Events: Attending local networking events that match the people you need to hire is also useful.  Attending different events and only visiting each event only once will gain access to the most social circles with the least time investment.  An important technique is to mention to people “We are hiring xxx”.  The person at the networking event may not be a right match, but they may know someone.  People at networking event strengthen relationships by connecting people who are a match in business.

#7: Recruiting on Linked-In: When getting certain positions filled is critical, such as executives, and when top quality is a must, there is a lot of value in spending 4 hours focused on deep searches in Linked-In.   Most of the other items in this list mostly deliver a flow of resumes over time for free and with little labor (but are valuable only with 3 to 5 months of flow).  This technique is useful when you must guarantee someone is hired and sooner than later.  Google searches in the following pattern can be helpful:  “Seattle Area” Ruby EC2 “VP of Engineering” site:linkedin.com -jobs.   You can browse your Linked-In first degree connections for people who are high quality and browse their connections for people who match the job titles you need.   TalentSpring is a paid service that makes getting resumes nearly instantaneousness from this source and many others.  However, if you have absolutely zero budget and are willing to spend 4 hours to 20 hours, you can often find some of the potential that exists in Linked-In.

#8: Hiring an recruiter as an employee: Startups who raise $3m+ and need to hire several employees in the next quarter or two often hire an employee to be a full time internal recruiter.  This could be less expensive than an agency recruiter.  The issue is that there is a huge difference between a great recruiter and a mediocre recruiter, and that will show up in positions just not getting filled or the quality that you receive being low.  I have seen several companies close a VC round, hire a recruiter and then realize months later that they were low quality and having to replace the recruiter and the positions never filled.  This can result in the worst of all situation so the risk must be managed.

#9: Hiring an Agency recruiter: Recruiting high quality employees inescapably takes 10 to 40 hours of labor if you don’t want filling the position to drag out.  As a business leader, you need to also need to visualize the “time value cost of money” of the position taking an extra 2 to 6 months to fill.  Understanding the amount of lost revenue or value is lost every month the position remains open will be helpful in opening up your mind to paying money for paid services: job postings, TalentSpring (Talent Technology’s external search) or an agency recruiter.  Using an agency recruiter is a way to free up your time, only pay on success and that person will put in the hours on all of the labor listed above.  Most startups that I know don’t rely on a single recruiter and instead allow several agencies to work on the position in parallel.  This allows the company to win because they benefit from the strongest agency since poor quality agencies won’t deliver at all, won’t deliver soon, or will deliver low quality candidates.  Agencies have a rack rate of 25% to 33% of first year hired, however these fees are highly negotiable.  Startups have paid agencies as low as 15% to 10% of first year hired salaries at the very lowest range of the spectrum.

 

I wrote this post for startups with less than 10 employees who often have no budget, almost no time and no access to an internal recruiter.  Recruiting is always hard work so I hope these techniques are helpful.   It is useful to think of recruiting as “How many people have learned of my job opening” per month and “How many qualified resumes have I read” each month.  Recruiting is the process of getting these to scale.   If the numbers don’t scale up, then the months to fill the position expand out.

 

Happy recruiting

-Bryan

Most of my friends are getting iPads and/or iPhones.  Here are my notes on my favorite apps.   This is a great match for startup employees and engineers.

 

Apps for work productivity: (Especially startup company builders)

  • Reeder: This is my Google Reader application.  It stays in sync with Google Reader feeds & unread statuses.  I consider this my "Learning machine"  (iPad, iPhone?)
  • Zenbe: Great TO-DO app with separate lists.   Great web page version for laptops that stays in sync with iPad & iPhone.   (iPad, iPhone)
  • Quickoffice:  I have my laptop PowePoints, Excel and Word docs sync to DropBox.com.  I then can read and WRITE to those files using Quickoffice on the iPAD.  I don't have to remember to "upload" from my laptop, so I can edit files without having to "prep" them before leaving my laptop.    (iPad, iPhone?)
  • iMockups & Sketchy: These are wireframe creating apps for people who design software product UI.  I love mulling over ideas in comfortable places with the iPad and later moving them to the laptop at later stages.
  • Kindle: Having your ebooks on your iPAD is great for reading books whenever time opens up (at home, lunch at work, vacations).  Never have to remember to drag books with you.
  • MindMeister: Mind mapping software that is very good syncing the files across the WEB version for my laptop, my iPad and my iPhone (iPad & iPhone)
  • Skype: I pay $10 into my account so I can send text messages with skype.  This allows me to easily send them from my iPad or iPhone.  I have to use the iPhone version on my iPad.   (iPhone)
  • Instapaper: Send good web pages to be saved to be read later
  • Keynote & Numbers: I use these to sketch out raw ideas in a coffee shop.  This is great to get past the creative huddle early in a comfortable place.  Then later I email them to my laptop in order to do serious business modeling in PowerPoint and Excel.   I never use the "Pages" spreadsheet.  I recommend buying that later only when you need it.  (iPad)
  • TripIt: Great for travel  (iPad & iPhone)
  • WeatherBug: Good for getting the weather (iPad)
  • SugarSync:  I stopped using SugarSync, but this app was great when I used SugarSync.  I found Dropbox to be the best.  (iPad)
  • Textnow: Free text message
  • Friendly:  This is the free facebook application.  I never get a chance to use it.  (iPad)
  • Find iPhone: Use this in case you want to find your iPad when you lose it (iPad & iPhone?)
  • Wi-Fi Finder: Great to find a place to use your laptop (iPad)
  • Kayak HD: Find hotels or flights (iPad)
  • iLunascape: This is a multi-tab browser.  This is great for web pages to load in parallel for fast flipping between tabs to already loaded web pages.

 

Games: (for people who like a thinking challenge instead of arcade games)

  • Slay: More complex than risk, but relaxing  (iPad)
  • Cover Orange: Good planning with physics
  • Cut the Rope: Good planning with physics
  • World of Goo: Build with physics and be strategically efficient  (iPad)
  • Beyond Ynth: Logic physics and puzzle
  • Plants vs Zombies HD: This is Plants vs Zombies and a fun planning app (iPad)
  • GodFinger (& All Stars): Grow a civilization with resource & time constrints
  • Angry Birds: Good planning with physics.  Catapult game
  • ACrawler HD: Truck driving physics
  • MX Mayhem: Motorcycle riding physics
  • TradeNations: Good for relaxing building, with time constrained resource allocation
  • Galcon Fusion: Fun for a while
  • Control Freak: Fun strategic resource control game
  • Montezuma: Find the best path
  • My Kingdom for the Princess: I only played a few minutes
  • Cave Run: Jumping and action
  • Gravity HD: Physics and planning
  • Castle Warriors: Take over resources
  • New York: Great roller coaster physics
  • Crack Code: Decrypt the code using permutations
  • Hotel Mogul: Resource Planning
  • Bumper Boats: Directional planning

 

Great for 2 to 4 year olds:

  • Geared HD
  • Toyshop
  • XmasTale
  •  Doodle Buddy
  • Art of Glow
  • Paper Toss HD
  • Virtuoso
  • Touch Hockey
  • Talking Tom
  • Talking Harry
  • New York: Great roller coaster physics
  • Cover Orange: Good planning with physics
  • Cut the Rope: Good planning with physics
  • World of Goo: Build with physics and be strategically efficient  (iPad)
  • Plants vs Zombies HD: This is Plants vs Zombies and a fun planning app (iPad)
  • GodFinger (& All Stars): Grow a civilization with resource & time constrints
  • Angry Birds: Good planning with physics.  Catapult game
  • Galcon Fusion: Fun for a while
  • FarmStory
  • Friendsheep 

 

Other:

  • NetFlix: Stream movies or add and manage your queue.  (iPad & iPhone?)
  • XFinity: A great way to see upcoming TV shows, and possibly set your DVR. (I never get time to use this)   (iPad & iPhone?)
  • Fandango: Great for movies.
  • Zappos: Best shopping for shoes ever.
  • Flipboard: Worth checking out for news.  I didn't get into it
  • Twitteriffic: Twitter client

I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.

This is too interesting not to share.

Reposted:

In the 20th century, this would have been a job for James Bond.

The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that weapon harmless and escape undetected.

But in the 21st century, Bond doesn’t get the call. Instead, the job is handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only crippled Iran’s nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of computer security around the globe.

Intelligence agencies, computer security companies and the nuclear industry have been trying to analyze the worm since it was discovered in June by a Belarus-based company that was doing business in Iran. And what they’ve all found, says Sean McGurk, the Homeland Security Department’s acting director of national cyber security and communications integration, is a “game changer.”

The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.

Simply put, Stuxnet is an incredibly advanced, undetectable computer worm that took years to construct and was designed to jump from computer to computer until it found the specific, protected control system that it aimed to destroy: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.
When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.

And finally, after the job was done, the worm would have to destroy itself without leaving a trace.
That is what we are learning happened at Iran’s nuclear facilities — both at Natanz, which houses the centrifuge arrays used for processing uranium into nuclear fuel, and, to a lesser extent, at Bushehr, Iran’s nuclear power plant.

At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component — the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemans that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges’ control panel.

At Bushehr, meanwhile, a second secret set of codes, which Langner called “digital warheads,” targeted the Russian-built power plant’s massive steam turbine.

Here’s how it worked, according to experts who have examined the worm:

–The nuclear facility in Iran runs an “air gap” security system, meaning it has no connections to the Web, making it secure from outside penetration. Stuxnet was designed and sent into the area around Iran’s Natanz nuclear power plant — just how may never be known — to infect a number of computers on the assumption that someone working in the plant would take work home on a flash drive, acquire the worm and then bring it back to the plant.

–Once the worm was inside the plant, the next step was to get the computer system there to trust it and allow it into the system. That was accomplished because the worm contained a “digital certificate” stolen from JMicron, a large company in an industrial park in Taiwan. (When the worm was later discovered it quickly replaced the original digital certificate with another certificate, also stolen from another company, Realtek, a few doors down in the same industrial park in Taiwan.)

–Once allowed entry, the worm contained four “Zero Day” elements in its first target, the Windows 7 operating system that controlled the overall operation of the plant. Zero Day elements are rare and extremely valuable vulnerabilities in a computer system that can be exploited only once. Two of the vulnerabilities were known, but the other two had never been discovered. Experts say no hacker would waste Zero Days in that manner.

–After penetrating the Windows 7 operating system, the code then targeted the “frequency converters” that ran the centrifuges. To do that it used specifications from the manufacturers of the converters. One was Vacon, a Finnish Company, and the other Fararo Paya, an Iranian company. What surprises experts at this step is that the Iranian company was so secret that not even the IAEA knew about it.

–The worm also knew that the complex control system that ran the centrifuges was built by Siemans, the German manufacturer, and — remarkably — how that system worked as well and how to mask its activities from it.

–Masking itself from the plant’s security and other systems, the worm then ordered the centrifuges to rotate extremely fast, and then to slow down precipitously. This damaged the converter, the centrifuges and the bearings, and it corrupted the uranium in the tubes. It also left Iranian nuclear engineers wondering what was wrong, as computer checks showed no malfunctions in the operating system.
Estimates are that this went on for more than a year, leaving the Iranian program in chaos. And as it did, the worm grew and adapted throughout the system. As new worms entered the system, they would meet and adapt and become increasingly sophisticated.

During this time the worms reported back to two servers that had to be run by intelligence agencies, one in Denmark and one in Malaysia. The servers monitored the worms and were shut down once the worm had infiltrated Natanz. Efforts to find those servers since then have yielded no results.This went on until June of last year, when a Belarusan company working on the Iranian power plant in Beshehr discovered it in one of its machines. It quickly put out a notice on a Web network monitored by computer security experts around the world. Ordinarily these experts would immediately begin tracing the worm and dissecting it, looking for clues about its origin and other details.

But that didn’t happen, because within minutes all the alert sites came under attack and were inoperative for 24 hours.

“I had to use e-mail to send notices but I couldn’t reach everyone. Whoever made the worm had a full day to eliminate all traces of the worm that might lead us them,” Eric Byers, a computer security expert who has examined the Stuxnet. “No hacker could have done that.”

Experts, including inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, say that, despite Iran’s claims to the contrary, the worm was successful in its goal: causing confusion among Iran’s nuclear engineers and disabling their nuclear program.

Because of the secrecy surrounding the Iranian program, no one can be certain of the full extent of the damage. But sources inside Iran and elsewhere say that the Iranian centrifuge program has been operating far below its capacity and that the uranium enrichment program had “stagnated” during the time the worm penetrated the underground facility. Only 4,000 of the 9,000 centrifuges Iran was known to have were put into use. Some suspect that is because of the critical need to replace ones that were damaged.

And the limited number of those in use dwindled to an estimated 3,700 as problems engulfed their operation. IAEA inspectors say the sabotage better explains the slowness of the program, which they had earlier attributed to poor equipment manufacturing and management problems. As Iranians struggled with the setbacks, they began searching for signs of sabotage. From inside Iran there have been unconfirmed reports that the head of the plant was fired shortly after the worm wended its way into the system and began creating technical problems, and that some scientists who were suspected of espionage disappeared or were executed. And counter intelligence agents began monitoring all communications between scientists at the site, creating a climate of fear and paranoia.

Iran has adamantly stated that its nuclear program has not been hit by the bug. But in doing so it has backhandedly confirmed that its nuclear facilities were compromised. When Hamid Alipour, head of the nation’s Information Technology Company, announced in September that 30,000 Iranian computers had been hit by the worm but the nuclear facilities were safe, he added that among those hit were the personal computers of the scientists at the nuclear facilities. Experts say that Natanz and Bushehr could not have escaped the worm if it was in their engineers’ computers.

“We brought it into our lab to study it and even with precautions it spread everywhere at incredible speed,” Byres said.“The worm was designed not to destroy the plants but to make them ineffective. By changing the rotation speeds, the bearings quickly wear out and the equipment has to be replaced and repaired. The speed changes also impact the quality of the uranium processed in the centrifuges creating technical problems that make the plant ineffective,” he explained.

In other words the worm was designed to allow the Iranian program to continue but never succeed, and never to know why.

One additional impact that can be attributed to the worm, according to David Albright of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is that “the lives of the scientists working in the facility have become a living hell because of counter-intelligence agents brought into the plant” to battle the breach. Ironically, even after its discovery, the worm has succeeded in slowing down Iran’s reputed effort to build an atomic weapon. And Langer says that the efforts by the Iranians to cleanse Stuxnet from their system “will probably take another year to complete,” and during that time the plant will not be able to function anywhere normally.

But as the extent of the worm’s capabilities is being understood, its genius and complexity has created another perplexing question: Who did it?

Speculation on the worm’s origin initially focused on hackers or even companies trying to disrupt competitors. But as engineers tore apart the virus they learned not only the depth of the code, its complex targeting mechanism, (despite infecting more than 100,000 computers it has only done damage at Natanz,) the enormous amount of work that went into it—Microsoft estimated that it consumed 10,000 man days of labor– and about what the worm knew, the clues narrowed the number of players that have the capabilities to create it to a handful.“This is what nation-states build, if their only other option would be to go to war,” Joseph Wouk, an Israeli security expert wrote.Byers is more certain. “It is a military weapon,” he said.

And much of what the worm “knew” could only have come from a consortium of Western intelligence agencies, experts who have examined the code now believe.

Originally, all eyes turned toward Israel’s intelligence agencies. Engineers examining the worm found “clues” that hinted at Israel’s involvement. In one case they found the word “Myrtus” embedded in the code and argued that it was a reference to Esther, the biblical figure who saved the ancient Jewish state from the Persians. But computer experts say “Myrtus” is more likely a common reference to “My RTUS,” or remote terminal units.

Langer argues that no single Western intelligence agency had the skills to pull this off alone. The most likely answer, he says, is that a consortium of intelligence agencies worked together to build the cyber bomb. And he says the most likely confederates are the United States, because it has the technical skills to make the virus, Germany, because reverse-engineering Siemen’s product would have taken years without it, and Russia, because of its familiarity with both the Iranian nuclear plant and Siemen’s systems.

There is one clue that was left in the code that may tell us all we need to know.

Embedded in different section of the code is another common computer language reference, but this one is misspelled. Instead of saying “DEADFOOT,” a term stolen from pilots meaning a failed engine, this one reads “DEADFOO7.”

 

Here and here are some of the sources.

 

50 Awesome Quotes on Vision

 

1. "If you can dream it, you can do it." - Walt Disney

2. "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, and magic and power in it. Begin it now." - Goethe

3. "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." - Michelangelo

4. "It's not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?" - Henry David Thoreau

5. "You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." - Ken Kesey

6. "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens." - Carl Jung

7. "The empires of the future are empires of the mind." - Winston Churchill

8. "If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

9. "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible." - Jonathan Swift

10. "Management has a lot to do with answers. Leadership is a function of questions. And the first question for a leader always is: 'Who do we intend to be?' Not 'What are we going to do?' but 'Who do we intend to be?' - Max DePree

11. "Vision without action is a daydream. Action with without vision is a nightmare." - Japanese Proverb

12. "The best way to predict the future is to create it." - Alan Kay

13."Where there is no vision the people perish." - Proverbs 29:18

14. "Vision without execution is hallucination." - Thomas Edison

15. "Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." - Warren Bennis

16. "If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise." - Robert Fritz

17. "Create your future from your future, not your past." - Werner Erhard

18. "To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind." - Seneca

19. "You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction." - Alvin Toffler

20. "To accomplish great things we must dream as well as act.: - Anatole France

21. "A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it." - Soren Kierkegaard

22. "A leader's role is to raise people's aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there." - David Gergen

23. "The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet." - Theodore Hesburgh

24. "Determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shall find the way." - Abraham Lincoln

25. "Dreams are extremely important. You can't do it unless you can imagine it." -George Lucas

26. "Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements." - Napoleon Hill

27. "Pain pushes until vision pulls." - Michael Beckwith

28. "Vision animates, inspires, transforms purpose into action." - Warren Bennis

29. "The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both." - Buddha

30. "Rowing harder doesn't help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction." - Kenichi Ohmae

31. "It's not what the vision is, it's what the vision does." - Peter Senge

32. "In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield." - Warren Buffett

33. "A leader will find it difficult to articulate a coherent vision unless it expresses his core values, his basic identity. One must first embark on the formidable journey of self-discovery in order to create a vision with authentic soul." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

34. "The best vision is insight." - Malcolm Forbes

35. "You have to know what you want. And if it seems to take you off the track, don't hold back, because perhaps that is instinctively where you want to be. And if you hold back and try to be always where you have been before, you will go dry." - Gertrude Stein

36. "The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." - Albert Einstein

37. "I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That's were the fun is." - Donald Trump

38. "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." - Arthur Schopenhauer

39. "People only see what they are prepared to see." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

40. "The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision." - Helen Keller

41. "Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." - Jack Welsh

42. "A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more." - Rosabeth Moss Kanter

43. "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton

44. "The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." - John Scully

45. "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours." - Henry David Thoreau

46. "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

47. "Looking up gives light, although at first it makes you dizzy." - Rumi

48. "You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." - Mark Twain

49. "In order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles." - - David Ben-Gurion

50. "The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

 

We created our high tech company, TalentSpring, with a vision, “Deliver products to recruiters that they LOVE using and that gets POSITIONS FILLED.”.   A recruiter filling positions for white collar positions is a very challenging task because all of the candidates filling the interview need to match exacting requirements from the hiring manager, they need to be strong performers and they need to match the company culture.

 

As our employees build the product to achieve “product/market fit” — the approach we used was to focus on “end-to-end success”.   In our case, this was making sure that our product filled positions for employers at more efficient rates than anything else they could use.

 

We recently sent out a quick request asking our customers about their successes.   Our company had a little celebration internally after we were delighted by the number and the amazing things our customers said.

 

We achieved our “Product/Market fit” by:

a) Talking with customers each month on the phone and listening to their needs

b) Iterating on the product

c) Attending industry conferences and talking to the leaders in the recruiting industry.  We would pull out high leverage ways to get positions filled (each of which often took months to build).

 

NOW HERE ARE THEIR STORIES:

Note: We have Future 500 customers but most of them aren’t allowed to use their company name.  I love the recruiter who filled 20 positions with TalentSpring!!! (from a single recruiter)

 

 

Jeff Tudas, Recruiter, Information Control Corporation

“I have really enjoyed using TalentSpring.  It has revolutionized the way I source for candidates.  The combination of advanced searching and across the board results is the most efficient tool in the industry.”

 

Ken Winters, CEO of Staffback

“TalentSpring is an innovative new technology that provides exactly the type of economies of scale Staffback clients expect as part of our cost effective hiring solution.  We are pleased to be in a long term agreement with TalentSpring and are committed to providing this value added service to Staffback clients without any increase in our flat hourly rates.  The new economy demands using technology to make process improvements without increasing overhead, and TalentSpring has been one of our key advances in 2009.”

 

Bill Crago, President, The Executive group

“We have found that Talent Spring has been one of the best purchases on any new products we acquired in 2010.  Our recruiting firm has over 25 years in service to our region and we constantly need a good talent pool that can be quickly sourced.  We have found the ease and flexibility where additional talent sources can be added or taken away independently from the internal source pool built in to the network.   It will remain one of our mainstay investments.”

 

Dan Staggs, Managing Partner, iMatch Technical Services

“TalentSpring has allowed our recruiters to find valuable candidates faster than they could previously and has been a critical tool for success.”

 

Learn how the product delivers these results in the Whitepaper:   Semantic Search for Recruiting Whitepaper

 

Matt Schreyer, President, Instigate, Inc.

“TalentSpring has greatly reduced our recruiting team’s time-to-source and at the same time improved the overall talent pools for each recruitment effort.”

 

Jason Wilde, Owner, JWilde & Associates

“TalentSpring makes finding qualified candidates quicker which frees us up to focus on matching and recruiting.  In addition, the TalentSpring interface makes it easy to organize search terms and candidate lists and rewards when set up thoughtfully.”

 

Doug Sprague, Principle, Priority Solutions

“I have been working with Kevin for over a year now. He was low key and yet very focused on our needs. As a recruiter it can be difficult to find quality fits and TalentSpring really helps speed up that process. There system is clean and easy to use and gives me access in one spot to many excellent resources. A true time saver.”

 

Amy L Dewey, Recruiter, OCE North America Document Printing Systems

“TalentSpring enables Recruiters to focus more time on recruiting and less time on sourcing. The system offers flexibility to source job boards and databases all with one click. You set the criteria and the system does all of the work!”

 

Walt Youngblood, Corporate Recruiter, RTUI

“We have a need; a need, for speed! Managing large numbers of multiple Job Board resumes for several dozen Field Managers nationwide, had become next to impossible. TalentSpring provided us multiple resume database search aggregation, precision and organization; cost effectively! Our positive TalentSpring results were immediate and dramatic. The TalentSpring Customer Service and Training Team made transition to TalentSpring Semantic Search successful, quickly.  Now, we can provide almost instant zip code specific, semantically ranked and fully qualified candidate results to our Field Management, on demand. We just cannot achieve the same level of recruiting success for our Management…without TalentSpring! We highly recommend this excellent tool and look forward to many more excellent improvements to this indispensible product soon!”

 

Learn how the product delivers these results in the Whitepaper:  Semantic Search for Recruiting Whitepaper 

 

Steve Ahlquist, Director of Staffing, Dynamics Research Corporation:

“What the recruiting team at DRC likes about TalentSpring are the multiple job board and social networking sources that are captured from each search string entered.  This saves a considerable amount of time in finding qualified candidates.”

 

Ron Bloch, Senior Recruiter, Dynamics Research Corporation

“One of the reasons I like to use TalentSpring is the ability to easily create a database of candidates from LinkedIn”, “TalentSpring keeps evolving and yielding better results, e.g., through semantic search.” “ TalentSpring creates a targeted database of qualified professionals, including passive or explorers,  whom I can reach out to .”

 

Randy Marsh, Talent Acquisition Specialist, StaffBack

“Conduct multiple job board search assignments with one click of the mouse”

 

Walt Youngblood, Corporate Recruiter, RTUI

“TalentSpring helped RTUI hire one high-profile South Florida Sales Professional in one hour ~ flat; Start-to-Finish.”

 

Learn how the product delivers these results in the Whitepaper:  Semantic Search for Recruiting Whitepaper 

 

Semantic Search whitepaper

October 7, 2010
Shally Steckerl and I co-authored this 17 page whitepaper on semantic search to make understanding semantic search for the recruiting industry easy to understand.

The whitepaper focuses on how to achieve sourcing candidates for better than is possible with Boolean search by using Semantic Search that is taylored for the recruiting industry.    

Semantic Search is about accomplishing the first pass at QUALIFYING candidates against a job opening (requisition). 

The TalentSpring product for example enables spanning 120 million resumes (across Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, Dice, niche job boards, open web, etc.).  It can then efficiently find the best resumes almost immediately from those 120 million.

Semantic Search for Recruiting Whitepaper

Semantic Search for Recruiting

Semantic Search for Recruiting Whitepaper

Whitepaper Co-authored by:
Shally Steckerl
Shally Steckerl
VP at Arbita

Bryan Starbuck
Bryan Starbuck
CEO of TalentSpring, Inc.

We also have videos that illustrate various aspects of Semantic search for recruiting.

Video #1:

Video #2:

 

I often have friends who are going to create a high tech company and they ask if they should start by writing a business plan.

I get asked this often enough, that I’ll post the answer here.   The following are just my opinions and they are worth what you paid for them.  :-)

 

 

 

Short Answer:

  • First time entrepreneurs have the problem of: a) wasting too much time on the wrong things in a creating a business plan, b) not talking enough to customers and other successful entrepreneurs, c) not going deep enough in the few critical areas before they shift into execution mode.
  • Create a pitch deck first
  • Talk to many target customers ASAP
  • Talk to many CEOs who created successful startups in the past about your plans
  • Do deep planning in: a) Is your market big enough, b) model a single financial transactions, c) make sure you can sell enough transactions to reach your revenue goals, d) make sure your business model is profitable
  • Create 3-year Projected Financials to make sure the math works.  Your individual financial transactions, cost structure, and everything else coming to be a big enough business with enough profit margin.

New entrepreneurs can be surprised that 3 months goes by before they can finish a real business plan.  The problem is that people who do this are often spending 99% of their time planning in their own head, without talking to other people.

If you wrote a business plan nobody would ever take the time to read it (it would be 40+ pages).   The pitch deck is the forum where other people can give you feedback.

 

 

Pitch Deck is the big picture:

Creating the pitch deck first, will be the fastest way to find if a problem exists that makes your company inviable — so you can go back to the innovation blackboard.

The pitch deck will give you a full plan at the 100,000 foot level.  It will also require you to go deep in areas that are critical:

a) Market Size:  Is your market big enough,

b) The Transaction:   model a single financial transactions, 

c) 3-year Projected Financials:  make sure you can sell enough transactions to reach your revenue goals, 

d) Make sure your business model is profitable

 

 

Talk to Target Customers ASAP:

I recommend finding 10 exact target customers and then getting their feedback (with the pitch deck of course).

Mistake #1:  Founders often talk to a friend who works in that industry, and not the exact target customer.  For example: the company plans to sell to Directors of Online Marketing of mid-market companies (2,500 to 30,000 employees).   The founder’s friend’s friend is a marketing manager in a 10,000 person company.   The founder talks to this marketing manager, which is the mistake.  The founder should take time to get to the “Director of Online Marketing”.  They may get directed to the “Director of Marketing”, but they should spend the time to make sure they talk to the person responsible to the Online side of “Director of Online Marketing”.

People who are exact matches will give different feedback.

Founders naturally ask, “Do you think this idea is good” — which is the wrong question.  The response is often “Yes” with an implied “I think it is great that you will create a little something-something to make my life a little easier — but I’m not thinking if I would cut other purchases to actually spend money on this”.

The question should instead by “Would you pay $199/month for this service today?  Who makes that purchase decision?  Would you buy now, or have to wait for a budget cycle?  Are there other things in your budget that you would CUT in order to buy this.  Who would need to sign off, to make the purchase final?   What features would be required before you would purchase?”

I think every entrepreneur has amazing surprises at this stage.

Some people say to not talk to the customer.  They think a customer in the 1890s would say  ”I want a horse that goes 100mph” instead of “I want a car, which is something that doesn’t exist yet”.

This isn’t a problem:

  • Your customers don’t do the innovation.  (“I want a car.  It doesn’t exist yet, but I know I want it”)
  • You focus on validating their needs.  ”Do you feel you waste too much time in travel?”  ”Do you not make a trip because the travel time is too long?”
  • After you innovate and create the idea, then you can validate it with customers.  Remember to focus back on what is their core problem and is it being solved.    ”If you could travel at 30mph instead of 7mph, would you spend $3,000?”

 

Talk to formerly successful startup CEOs ASAP:

I highly recommend talking to CEOs who created a company from scratch and had success with it (IPO, acquired, reaching $10m+ in sales, etc.).   You often want people who have had to raise $5m+ in capital along the way.

They will give you a large category of feedback that you won’t get elsewhere.

The kind of feedback you will get will often come in this form, “You think you will get data to run your product by method x.  I think you won’t get the data you need unless you do a business development deal with company Y.  I think they will never do a deal with you because your fundamental value is changing the marketing in direction Z which fundamentally attacks their business model around owning asset A.  Let’s talk back and forth about the deeper details in this area”.

Or their feedback may be, “You think you can build this business after raising $3m in capital.  I think you couldn’t build this business unless you raise $9m in capital because of these reasons.  And the normal funding sources won’t fund you because of reason X.  You would probably have to go to source Y for the funding you need.”.

You will get feedback from this group that you just won’t get from customers, non-executives, non-entrepreneurs, etc.

 

You will have “Founder-itis”: (Your are too close to your business idea)

All entrepreneurs have founders-itis.  Their innovation abilities lead them to a break through.  They always have to sell the cool-aid to get people to see a market changing to depend on a product that hasn’t existed in the past.

Founders then always start by falling in love with HOW they have solved the problem.   Their passion is often now 90% on HOW they solve the problem and not WHAT problem is solved.

This can lead to:

a) They are solving something that isn’t very important to the buyer (who needs to part with their money in order to buy)

b) They get too stuck on HOW they solve the problem.  They aren’t open to having the problem solved other ways.

The fix is to…TALK to customers and startup CEOs.   Many of them and ASAP.

 

“Don’t plan, just build it” — is Wrong:

Some people in the startup community say, “Don’t plan at all.  Just build and get it into the market”.

I think this is a bad trend (the kind that creates bubbles).  I think it can also lead to people 18-months or 2-years later finding out the market is too small, it can’t turn profitable, the customer-acquisition-cost can never be lower than the sales price, or the customers don’t care enough to part with money.

There is a category of company that is the exception:  That is an idea so crazy that it can’t be tested until it is in the market.  I think TWITTER is an example of this.  I can’t think of many companies that fall into this category.

 

Do your planning in areas that you HATE:

Most entrepreneurs avoid creating certain pitch deck slides (or sections of the business plan), specifically the ones that they hate.

These are the most important to create and validate.  This often focuses on the areas that the entrepreneur has not yet mastered in their business career.

For some people, this is corporate finance and 3-year projected financials.  For many people in internet companies, understanding how channel is important (separate from marketing and sales) is a challenge.

 

Plan the Work, then Work the Plan:  (Operating plan instead of Business Plan)

People often say,
“Create the plan, and then work the plan”.   The goal is to look 10 steps ahead instead of running your business looking 1 step ahead.

The pitch deck should give the long-term view ahead (or it wasn’t done correctly), but only at a high level.

I think entrepreneur’s want to have a light-weight “operation plan” penciled out as they go into execution mode.  Many people think of their business plan solves this problem.  However, I think it focuses them to spend too much time in the wrong areas, and not focusing on excellent planning for execution (which is their goal here).

 

 

Projected Financials:

Entrepreneur Organization did an informal survey and ~70% of entrepreneurs don’t have a natural ability to view their business clearly in corporate finance terms (balance sheet, cash flow, income statement, operating metrics rolling up to corporate finance objectives, etc.).

Whether people are good at it or not, creating projected financials can flush out fundamental and unfix-able problems early.

I recommend spending $150/hr on a rent-a-CFO for 6 hours if that is what it takes to get 3-year projected financials that validates a rock solid business model (and a plan to operate against).   I like running a very lean low-burn rate company for the first year.  Spending money here is often worth it (even when trying to pinch every penny).

 

A Bonus Trick:  (the trade show)

This is a trick I wish I would have learned earlier.   GO TO TRADESHOWS that include your target competitors and target customers.

  • You can get access to more of your exact target customer — talk to them
  • You can learn about competitors and details about what they know
  • You can find and talk with the rare industry leaders.  The people who know nuanced trends on where the industry is going from a fundamental point of view.

I’m a fan of pinching pennies at the early stage of creating a company.  But this is often penny-wise, pound foolish to save money here.

 

Pitch Deck Template:

I’ve seen several pitch deck templates.  I highly recommend the Alliance of Angel’s pitch deck template.

I recommend sticking strictly to their format.  People often deviate for two reasons:

a) they hate a topic and they cut it out or only partially-cover it,  (and this is actually a real problem for their company)
b) They generate a 20 to 30+ slides instead of keeping to a short 10-15 slides.   They just aren’t pressured to keep it short (until it becomes a problem later when they show it to other people).

 

Most people recommend a Pitch Deck over a Business Plan:

Many other people have wrote about this topic and have great detail in related areas:

I’d love to see your opinions in the comments.


7 Fatal Sales Mistakes CEOs and VP Sales Make

Avro — format for scaled out data on massively parallelized systems (Hadoop)

 

This blog post is interesting covering Avro.

Seattle Tech Startups is a local group that helps advise new startups on how to get started.  I gave a beginner talk there recently for the earliest stage companies.  This was specific to phone sales, known as “inside sales”.

My talk was on:

  • Is the best sales strategy for your specific company a) phone sales or b) eCommerce
  • How to build out phone sales in a newly founded company
  • How to manage long-term growth in an inside sales company

Here are the slides for the talk:

Phone sales / Inside Sales for Startups

View more presentations from Bryan Starbuck.

Here is the video for the talk:  (My talk starts 24 minutes into this video)

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/seattle-tech-startups

There is much more information verbally in the talk than in the slides.

Kabir Shahani was nice enough to also make his slides available.

10 Immutable Laws Of Sales

View more presentations from Bryan Starbuck.

Tony Wright’s talk on Monetization in the Trenches is too good for me not to share.

Tony’s blog is here: Blog Post

The book “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” is a great technique when building companies to use customer feedback before launch to iterate and improve the business model from day one.

Here is the talk from Steve Blank:
 
The Four Steps to the Epiphany book is here.   Steve Bank’s blog is also great.

Our building at work uses Qwest for internet access. Qwest is now blocking some of our ports in the 9000 and 3000 range to the internet.

This blocked our engineering team from using our bug tracking software, which is a real pain.

I wish ISPs would have to publish when they block their customer’s traffic before the customers buy, so customers can instead purchase a competing ISP service that doesn’t block traffic.

I’m passionate about the process of product design for website based products.   Many or most of today’s mass market products and services are now web based: Online banking, online shopping, as well as many used in the work place.
Smashing Magazine has a great blog post here that lists philosophies in designing these kinds of web sites.

Legacy Locker is an example of great web design:

I’m in a life long persuit of building and refining my philosophies in life.  This includes for my personal life and professionally (building companies, building products, success for customers, etc.).

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos has his presentation below on his philosophy.  He has wonderful ideas so I’m sharing them below…

Notes from AngelConf

March 25, 2009
Steve Poland‘s blog post covering AngelConf was good enough that I wanted to post it here.
My apologies for any typos, etc. These are some blurbs I made notes of from the AngelConf conference put on by Paul Graham of Y Combinator.
Ron Conway
  • “have to have a portfolio, to have hits”
  • “it’s not fun; it’s hugely interesting to talk to entrepreneurs who literally in front of you are telling you the future”.
  • “spend 25% of my time in philanthropy”
  • Need to be very dedicated to angel investing.
  • Don’t invest in someone you don’t really like; life is too short. Have personal chemistry.
  • You have to have value to add; you won’t get into the great deals [they have allocation problems; you have to fight your way in].
  • Be patient;
  • I recommend investing in a bunch of companies. [he invests 50k-100k]
  • 10k-25k to get your feet wet.
  • 1/3 of them will go out of business. Failure is part of learning process.
  • Pick a sector you like; I like sectors that are Internet and have massive growth. Invest in several companies in that sector.
  • Great deal flow (respect for entrepreneurs to get the access) and due diligence = great portfolio.
  • Build a referral network of entrepreneurs that you can invest in with, etc.
  • Reputation is very important – screw 1 entrepreneur, you’re screwed.
  • As lead angel, you need to take the entrepreneur to Sand Hill Road and you help them get funded.
Dave McClure
  • 13 deals personally in 4 years.
  • Plan to screw up the first 10 investments.
  • If goal is making money, this isn’t your thing.
  • How does an entrepreneur define success
Paul Bucheit
  • No signing of an NDA; if an entrepreneur requests one, they probably don’t have a clue.
  • Assume the money you invest is gone; it’s like lottery tickets.
Andrea Zurich
  • SGVentures
  • Do I like the product? Would I be proud to speak about it at thanksgiving or to my parents?
  • Can you explain it quickly?
Page Mailliard [Page Mailliard is a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where she specializes in corporate, securities, and venture capital law.]
  • Who are clients? Do they have contracts with them?
  • Is there a provision on change of control they can terminate?
Paul Graham
  • You buy either stock [shares like preferred stock] or convertible debt; either works; don’t worry about it.
  • Pick the right startups. When they talk about you, it’ll be, “He invested in Google!”
  • You care about valuation and amount of money you put in.
  • Dilution occurs next.
  • Invest 10k – 2mm; how much? If startup raising 1mm, 50k is OK – 10k isn’t worth the work for them.
  • Valuation – no rational way; no answer.
  • If the idea doesn’t seem a bit crazy, then you’re probably too late to the deal. It’s ok for it to be a bit crazy.
Naval Ravikant
  • Need tons of deal flow
  • Use time efficiently; yours, the entrepreneurs.
  • Deals from social friends;
  • High quality deals come from other angels [they are putting their money in it].
  • Don’t forward deals to other investors unless you’re investing in it.
  • What’s your brand as an angel? [I’m the VentureHacks guy; I’m of Y Combinator]
  • 2-3 founders.
  • Don’t take board seats – waste of time.
  • Very risky business
Michael Dearing
  • Orbiting the giant hairball – book.
Mike Maples Jr.
  • #12 – minimum number for statistical diversification.
  • Met with 100 investors in 100 days
  • $25k per quarter; 1 deal per quarter.
  • Lived in Austin; moved to valley 4 years ago.
  • If the startup cant be one of the big billion dollar businesses, not worthy of your time. We want the big deals in the end, be apart of the excitement.
  • Book by ‘talo’ – ‘fooled by randomness’
Ariel Poler
  • Balance your time – might spend 1 day a week with a company at first; then every other week; now at 500 people, hardly ever.
  • Once a quarter, organize a lunch for 4-5 entrepreneurs; choose a topic. Get them to help one another.
  • Connecting entrepreneurs with the right people is a big piece.
  • Panel of Dave Hornik and Greg Mcadoo from Sequoia:
  • Must tell the story efficiently as an entrepreneur
  • Big business opportunity.
Aydin Senkut
  • Don’t do convertibles.
  • “how do you differentiate and add value to something?”, so that others can talk about you and recommend you.
  • You need to be a connector; you need to meet people 1on1, and that’s how you meet really great people and companies.
  • 40 investments; 4 exits.
Jeff Clavier
  • 32 investments in 18 months; 250k each.
  • Big weights: founders, market scale, etc. Eventually scale tips.
  • Not being sure it’s a sure shot, but taking the shot anyway.
  • 74 deals in one year.
  • Don’t write the first check; don’t lead the investments as a new angel. [you need a syndicate of others that’ll join you]
  • Be content dealing with shit 24 hours a day.
Jim Young
  • Why should a good entrepreneur pick you?
  • There’s more money, than possible investments.
  • Takes less money now to do a startup.
  • Will the company benefit from your advice? [not money] If no, it’s likely a bad deal.
  • Contacts, experience, advice.
  • Only invest in things you know about, otherwise you’re a spectator buying a lottery ticket.
  • Find people to invest with.
  • “why you want to do this?”
  • You’re at bleeding edge of technologies.
  • Very very high chance you’ll never see the money back.
Michael Arrington
  • It’s “co-opetition” – they are all competitors in the crowd, but helping you to become another new competitor.
  • “More than a hobby, than a job”
  • If you enjoy doing what you do, you’ll have better access to deals, and firmer friendships with other investors.
  • Have to be nice.
  • As an angel, you’re shepherding the entrepreneur through a process.

 

Recruiting is my passion

March 17, 2009

Anyone who knows me, knows that my passion is in recruiting. I have a separate blog where I cover my work in recruiting or work my company does.

That blog is: blog.TalentSpring.com

Here is a good overview of our work at TalentSpring:

-Bryan

Here is a good video on the root causes in the economic collapse.   Details here on CDOs an Credit Default Swaps.

This video is definitely worth watching.

One thing Microsoft can do very well is pull in the future directions across all of the product teams, and paint a picture of what is likely to happen in 2019.

Here are a few points worth calling out:
  • Your cell phone (or mobile device) could be your “key”.  It doesn’t have to carry all of your information, but merely “unlock” your information.
  • You could walk up to a “surfaces” (walls in a room, computer screens, etc.) that can act as a computer monitor
  • Your mobile device would take over the screen and “unlock” your private information to be viewable there, until you walk away.
  • This prevents having to sign-in, transfer information around, and allows the benefit of large viewing areas.
  • Having all of your photos, email, news updates, and everything else available anywhere within 2 seconds would be nice.  All of it tailored specifically for you.
  • Geeks worldwide (myself included) have always been fascinated by a StarTrek type of teleporter.  The power to interact with new places can feed the imagination.
  • The use of large wall sized monitors with video cameras can enable remote conferencing that could feel like a teleporter.  A school kid in Atlanta Georgia can talk to someone in Osaka Japan and feel like they are 10 feet away.

The wonderful thing is that all it takes to make this a reality is writing more software.  (And moderate hardware refinements)

This is the area that Michael Marlett loves to cover in his Cloud Recruiting blog.

I gave a talk at the December Seattle Tech Startups event. The talk was on: Analysing your business model, fund raising, managing a company, and how marketing is handled in a startup.

The video is here:

Slide Deck:

Dave McClure has the master slide deck on marketing for Startups:

I have built the “10x” philosophy by liberally copying the work of Guy Kawasaki’s ‘Art of the Start‘ book, Positioning work in marketing, Branding work in marketing, and Seth Godin’s book ‘The Purple Cow‘.

Here are the higher level points I would make between my slides and Dave’s slides.

Point #1: CPC Marketing is a Base-Line
CPC gives you a) Qualified visitors, b) A reasonably low cost, and c) traffic at scale. Trying to acquire customers less expensively will often cause a problem in the scale of the traffic, the visitors not being qualified, or require too much human labor to accomplish.

Point #2: Business Model Planning
When you are planning a business model for a concept of a company, use CPC as a guideline. If you can be profitable with CPC costs, then that will be your marketing solution. (Until later when you can slowly build out alternatives)

Most B2C companies need a much lower CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) than CPC can provide. The impact is that when going into such a business, the founders should worry heavily on how they will acquire the quantity of customers at the CAC levels need to make a profitable business.

Point #3: SEO
In my model, SEO is part of organic traffic. SEO for most companies has a ceiling. All companies should get as much milage out of SEO as possible, but after a while you are likely to reach a ceiling. It can’t be scaled on demand to solve all customer acquisition needs.

Point #4: Viral, Widgets, etc.
Some companies try these advanced methods. These are a long shot for them to make up the bulk of acquiring customers. It is great for the few companies that can make these work.

Point #5: Email Nurture Campaigns
Email Nurture campaigns are very important. Often free accounts will convert into paying accounts after an email nurture campaign in month two or three. All marketing (especially CPC) should use these campaigns to close sales from their marketing spend.

Point #6: Small & Early Startups
Dave McClure’s slide deck will show every possible method of marketing. Companies that are small and early often don’t have one or more dedicated people who can perform these extensive marketing campaigns. These companies should see CPC plus email nurture campaigns as their mostly automated marketing solution. This will enable them to focus on the product and serving their customers. It will also give them scale as long as the business model supports the CPC acquisition costs.

I could give another entire talk on marketing, however the above points are a good summary for very small companies who don’t have the people to do the full range of Dave McClure marketing.

Here is an excellent video of causes of the economic issues going on.


Juan Enriquez (2008) Pop!Tech Pop!Cast from PopTech on Vimeo.

Seattle is a hotbed of really smart people creating companies.   It is exciting to see all of the support in Seattle to add structure to shaping an entrepreneur’s business model, market research, marketing, and other aspects of these companies.

I found the following interesting pattern that is worth a blog post.  This shows how entrepreneurs that I’ve seen go from a PROPOSED PLAN for a business to a plan VETTED by experienced business leaders and industry experts.  The following is what I see other people doing, and what I have seen work most efficiently.

Step #1: Pitch Deck version of Business Plan
A “Pitch Deck” is the PowerPoint slide deck that covers all parts of the business.  Business Plans often take 200 hours (or about 3-months) to complete.  Then they quickly become obsolete and nobody will ever read them.

Pitch Decks cover the CRUX of each vital part of the business.  They are in a form that will be reviewed by EVERYONE of importance: a) prospective employees, b) advisors, c) prospective investors, and d) the CEO as he/she constant reviews the direction of the company.

I found that the Alliance of Angel’s pitch deck template is the ultimate template:

 

 

This is exactly what VC investors and Angel investors will need.  It also covers the CRUX of each important part of the company.

NOTE: The AoA template has great advice in the notes of each slide.

HUMOROUS SIDE NOTE:  All new entrepreneurs come with strengths in some areas and little experience in other areas.  For example, an engineer will often lack marketing or sales experience.  I’ve seen that new entrepreneurs get frustrated with some slides, and those are pointing out their weak areas (often that they didn’t realize).  Those slides are hard because they don’t have experience doing business analysis in that area.  For example, a “channel” for an internet company is how they can acquire traffic at scale at the traffic costs needed to scale their business profitably.

A pitch deck should only take a few days to fill out.  So instead of spending 3-months on a business plan on your first draft of your business, instead you spend that time getting feedback from industry experts.  That will shape and change your business to remove the problem areas and more deeply engage in areas to make your business succeed.

Step #2: Picking Reviewers
The next step is to pick people to review your business, which are often in these categories:

a)    Great CEOs who created a company and grew it to a successful exit.  They will point out if your company isn’t “balanced” because the business is weak in one area.  They will also give advice on how to get over the “hump” to profitability.
b)    Vice Presidents in Successful companies:  This is useful to get feedback in areas new to a new entrepreneur (Marketing/Sales if the founder came from engineering.  Engineering if the founder came from Marketing, etc.)
c)    Industry Experts:  Getting feedback from industry experts is very important.  They will flush out important issues that are non-intuitive.
d)    Customers: This feedback will bring real world issues to the front.  The data from these meetings will shape the product, sales approach, positioning, and issues that will block sales.

Entrepreneurs should challenge themselves to get access to people who are the TOP in their area.  This includes getting a meeting with a VP of a fortune 1000 company, or CEO of a company with $100MM in revenue, or the top industry expert that lives across the country.  It will be a challenge to do the networking, but the payoff will be worth it.

HUMOURS NOTE: Most first time founders are VERY worried about someone copying their idea.  Great people won’t sign NDAs (it’s insulting to ask).  I found there are 3 kinds of people: a) some people will never leave their big company job, so they can’t steal your idea, b) they are entrepreneurial but are fully engaged taking their company to success, or c) they are entrepreneurs looking for the idea for their next company.  Detecting if someone is in the C category is pretty easy to identify and avoid, so this becomes a non-issue.

Step #3: Time Constraints
After getting a meeting with someone exceptional, you will be limited to a 1-hour meeting.  The best approach is:

a)    The founder has 10-minutes to present the ENTIRE company with the PITCH DECK.  This requires a succinct pitch deck with very clear communication.
b)    This leaves 50-minutes for the advisor.  The advisor will then direct the 50 minutes into the biggest problems of the company.  This will best benefit the company and utilize their IQ and experience.

Step #4: Email Vet of Pitch Deck
When you get someone to agree to meet, send them the pitch deck a week before the meeting.  They will ask the obvious questions before hand.

Step #5: Tough Questions before Meeting
These are tough questions that I personally think should be answered in the pitch deck before meeting:

10x Questions:

  • “10x” means 10-times, as in you need to provide a 10x better product than the competition.  Otherwise you won’t be able to standout in a busy market.
  • The four “10x” questions are:
  • What is the 10x Pain Point the customer has?
  • How does your product FULLY address this 10x pain point?
  • Will this kind of customer pay?
  • Can you get enough of these customers to reach your revenue and market share projections?

Transaction Metrics:

  • What is the transaction of the company?
  • How much revenue comes from each transaction?
  • What is the cost for the company to complete the transaction?
  • How much money in Marketing or Sales does it cost to acquire and close this sale?

Marketing / Sales / Biz Dev Strategy:

  • What are the strategies in these areas?
  • What kind of sales team will be built up?
  • What strategy is used to acquire the internet traffic?  (Biz Dev, Viral, CPA/CPC/CPM, etc.)

Internet Marketing Costs & Conversion Rates:

  • What are projected costs to acquire traffic to the landing page?
  • What is the projected COST-PER-FREE-ACCOUNT?   (This includes the marketing cost to drive the traffic to the landing page)
  • What is the projected COST-PER-PAYING-CUSTOMER?   (This includes the marketing cost to drive the traffic to the landing page)

 

Step #6: The Meeting
The meeting is all about diving into the problem areas of the company.  After the 10-minute mark, the person advising is in charge of directing the meeting.  This will be a very dynamic meeting moving into the hardest parts of the company.  The entrepreneur should be frantically take notes.  (Capture the questions to work on answer later)

Entrepreneurs should know that advisors will often hold back on feedback, not wanting to be harsh.  Entrepreneurs should very actively request as much feedback as possible.  It is very easy for everyone around an entrepreneur to not want to give them negative feedback.

Step #7: Communication in the Pitch Deck
Often a meeting doesn’t go as well as an entrepreneur wants.  Sometimes it is because the presentation needs to communicate better, and other times it points out real problems in the business plans.

All of the feedback that goes into making a clearer presentation is just as valuable as problems in the business plan.  A clear presentation is required to have success with investors.  It will also shape how to position and communicate the product in the product’s marketing.

Once the presentation is made clear, the entrepreneur then needs to trust that advisors being pessimistic will indicate serious problems in the company.

Step #8: Next Steps
Entrepreneurs normally receive feedback from a wide range of people.  Over time, they can pick formal Board of Advisors from the people they have met.  They can find someone that fits the needs of their company and someone that they work well with.

Here are some other great links for startup companies: Startup School, Startup Company Documents.