It’s more complicated than that

Quick. Name something that sounds easier than it actually is…

How about:

1. Raise a Venture Capital fund

2. Do a strategic business development deal

3. Sell free software

These are just a few of the things I’ve either done successfully, or tried like hell and failed.  In each case they were each more complicated than I first thought.

1. Raise a VC fund

Find some wealthy folks, convince them to commit a heap of capital to your fund, find great emerging companies to invest in.  Invest, manage, sell, merge, IPO, etc. Make you and your investors a bucket of money more than they invested.  Repeat.

Reality: this is really hard.  The team, the strategy, the timing, the track records, the history of working together, the toughness of the first LPs, the ongoing management of the fund, the ability to compete and get into the best deals, the nuance of being a helpful board member, the insight to see a bigger strategy and coach your investments, the knack for understanding and helping with exit negotiations.  It all adds up to a unique and talented set of individuals who can pull it off successfully – for 3 successive funds.  One hit wonders don’t count.

2. Do a strategic business development deal

Figure out a win-win for you and another company.  Get an agreement in writing.  Rollout the “strategy” and both of you reap giant rewards. High 5’s all around.

Reality: doing the deal is the easy part.  Its the devil in the details and the ongoing execution that makes this one really hard to pull off so everyone wins.  Most BD deals are done by BD people who’s primary nature is to be elephant hunters and “relationship” managers.  A different set of DNA is required to actually make a deal go and succeed.  It involves day to day attention to details, managing through hiccups, finding common ground and most of all, getting the other side to do the same.

3. Sell free software

Linux is “free” (not like free beer, unfortunately).  People that have UNIX will love that Linux open source shit.  They pay for only support and maintenance which is mouse-nuts compared to AIX, HP-UX, or Solaris.  Everybody wins.

Reality: not so fast sparky.  I had this hit me over the head with a sledgehammer when I first pitched CIOs and IT execs at companies like GE, HSBC, AT&T, Wyeth, Safeway, Humana, First Data, JP Morgan, and the like.  Turns out that running a big company’s IT is really hard and that things like uptime, backward compatibility, staff training, software vendor support, device drivers and all sorts of other things that actually keep big IT departments up at night are way more valuable than the few dollars they save by going to Linux (or name the other OSS of choice).

Its human nature to boil things down to the simple and straightforward.  I think that’s a good thing and the best, albeit imperfect, way to get things moving.  Otherwise we’d all sit around and fret over how freekin’ hard things are.. The trick is that if you want to succeed it actually takes hard work, thoughtful attention to detail, and a general willingness to do whatever it takes to follow through on the execution, no matter what.  Generally speaking, It’s more complicated than that.

Even more company rules

#73 Work is inextricably intertwined with life.  If you don’t believe me you probably need to get a new one.

#19 Saying you’ll do something and actually doing it is not the same thing.  This is even worse if you’re a repeat offender.  This is somewhat related to #963: we don’t get paid for activity.

#327 Doing more than what’s expected is expected.  This is sort of a derivative of rule #107.

#11 Your job is to add value to a customer.  If you don’t do this directly, then at least make sure you support someone that does.  If neither are you, then you should become a Buddhist monk.

#31 Any large technology purchase will be immediately followed by other large technology purchases.  A management console.  Additional power.  Cabling.  And eventually a desktop support person. Note: this rule provided in cooperation with FalsePrecision.

#4 Marketing’s job is to make sales superfluous.  Marketing people usually fall in one of 2 camps, those that understand this, and those that have short life-spans.

Fun, easy, and everyone can do it

That is.. make fun or snicker at Twitter’s lack of an obvious economic model.

Nearly everyone I talk to that has any sort of intersection with Twitter loves to talk about the company’s apparent lack of an economic model.  I think that’s a bit shallow and overplayed.

My $0.02

1. If a tweet falls in the forest and no one is around to read it, does it matter?

This is probably the largest barrier to a clear economic model.  I wonder what the “tweet read” stats are?  Subscribers and Tweets are 2 underlying components, but they miss the critical point of how value is conveyed.

2. Ads in Twitter search (summize) is dumb

When affinity gets too close the potential for clicking on an advertisement diminishes.  This is the problem with MySpace or Facebook Ads.  Its also the reason Ads in IM don’t work.

3. The beauty of Twitter in all its various access forms/applications is the Achilles heel.

The open-ness of the platform is its beauty and its power.  Multiple inputs, multiple outputs, open and free to everyone.  Awesome! but all that comes with a giant elephant in the room.

My experience may be a-typical, but I see Twitter as an incredibly powerful tool for:

1. Mass one-directional communication

Imagine, companies, emergency services, municipalities, soccer moms, cycling clubs, whatever.  There are real communication needs here – economics can’t be far behind.

2. Customer service

We use Twitter expensively at Lijit for customer service, outreach, responding to inquiries, etc.  It’s incredibly effective – and immediate.  Again, huge value for companies and brands that care about what people are saying.

3. Innocuous contact

I’m not sure how much business development, networking, or job seeking starts on Twitter, but I think a lot.  Unlike other forms of communication, Twitter enables people who don’t know each other to strike up a conversation in passing.  It can grow, but it starts with a ‘curve of the earth’ high-level contact.

oh yeah… one final reason I think most people tweet: Wasting time.  How many people (really) tweet just to pass a dull moment?

Follow me at: http://twitter.com/wtknapp

Thanking the firefighters at the Altona Grange

Altona Grange hosted a ‘thank you’ event last night for the firefighters that worked so hard to save so many homes during the Boulder fire.  Jenn and I volunteered to help and we had a great time, met a ton of neighbors, and collected donations.

I’m pretty sure the Grange was never meant to house so many people.  It was wall-to-wall with likely 300-500 people packed in upstairs and down.  Way more than enough food, beer, sodas, and a good amount of donations for both the woman that lost her home and the firefighters fund.

Mostly, people just milled around and said their version of ‘thanks’ to the 50 or so firemen and women that showed up.

caleb grange

Some company rules

#213 Family members in a company never work.  At least in investor-backed, fast moving, companies.  It never turns out well.  I’ve seen enough husband-wife, brothers, Father-son, debacles..  I always hear the same “we’re different” excuse.  It never works.  See also, rule: #214 intimate relationships in business never work.

#107 Doing just your job will eventually get you fired.  Its never enough just to work hard.  Anyone that tries can work hard. Even really really hard.  Its about going outside your comfort zone and doing something that helps the company go faster, get bigger, or do something more than just your job.

#23 If I don’t hear from you, it means things are not going well.  This goes for nearly every situation I’ve ever been in.  If I don’t hear from a CEO where I’m on the board, it means something is wrong.  If I don’t hear from a product manager it means the schedule is slipping.  If I don’t hear from a sales exec it means she is going to miss her number.  No communication = bad.

#589 No one is ever too busy to return an email.

#961 Early adopters who absolutely fall in love with your product will kill your chances of success.  Listen instead to those that are frustrated, hormonal, and want to be loved.  They give you the best feedback.

#11 Despite our best intentions, no one ever hires a generalist.  It sounds great, and I’m all about the true business athlete.  Problem is: it’s a mythical role.  People get hired to do certain things.  You have to be really good at some ‘thing(s)’ in order to be a great generalist.

A "good problem to have"…

I always think that phrase is overused, but in this case its absolutely true.

Lijit Networks is breaking land-speed records and growing faster than we had planned.  We need more great people – NOW.

Our most immediate needs:

1 – Database Architect (with high-volume, large-scale performance experience)

2 – UI Web Developer

3 – Java Developer

4 – PHP Developer

5 – Web/Graphic Designer

If you know someone – or are someone – then send us your resume now.

Updated.. Choice Colorado Cycling Events

The ACA is moving stuff around left and right.  Here is an updated cheat sheet..  Check out the ACA website for more.

Koppenberg Circuit Race    Superior
March 30, 2008
www.americancycling.org

Boulder Roubaix          Boulder
April 6, 2008   August 16, 2008
www.americancycling.org

Haystack Mtn TT     Boulder
April 12, 2008
www.americancycling.org

Boulder Road Race
Boulder
April 20, 2008  
www.americancycling.org

Rabbit Mtn TT     Hygiene
May 4, 2008
www.americancycling.org

Sunshine Hill Climb     Boulder
May 10, 2008
www.americancycling.org

Carter Lake Road Race     Boulder
May 17, 2008
www.americancycling.org

Iron Horse Classic     Durango
May 23-26, 2008
www.ironhorsebicycleclassic.com

Sunrise Century     Boulder
June 14, 2008
www.bikerpelli.com

Mike Horgan Hill Climb    Boulder
June 15, 2008
www.boulderracing.com

Triple Bypass
Evergreen
July 12, 2008
www.teamevergreen.org

Mt. Evans Road Race
Idaho Springs
July 19, 2008
www.bicyclerace.com

Copper Triangle
Copper Mountain
August 2, 2008
www.coppertriangle.com

Buffalo Bicycle Classic
Boulder
September
www.buffalobicycleclassic.com

Cyclocross Season Starts
September
www.americancycling.org

Do ‘hostile’ takeovers work in high-tech?

I’m still trying to wade through all the stories and opinions related to the Microsoft – Yahoo! deal announced Friday.  I haven’t yet had the chance to step back and form an opinion of whether or not it makes sense, much less what it means to the Internet competitive landscape, but one thought did occur to me: do hostile high-tech takeovers even work?

It seems like hostile takeovers work when there are hard assets that can be predictably monetized, liquidated, or broken up and sold in pieces to multiple willing buyers.  Does that same hold true for MSFT + Yahoo!?

Microsoft has a reputation for competing with unrelenting zeal.  Most of the people I’ve met that are either current or former Microsoft employees are either spooky-smart or willing to work 2x as hard as their competition.. sometimes both.  Do they need to buy Yahoo!? or is it a bulk-up and box-out strategy?

How cool is blue?

I had a thought after my last post..  There are a lot of things I liked about going to college in Boston.  It’s a great college town – and the summers living and working on Nantucket were pretty hard to beat.

I came across this video which seems to sort of sum up the funny downsides of the east coast "blue" image.  This is some seriously funny shit!