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Archive for June, 2010

Does it Matter if your Product is Minimally Viable or Maximally Buyable?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I was reading this article by Dharmesh Shah on the OnStartups blog where he indicates that a Minimally Viable Product (MVP) is “a product that has the minimum set of features needed to learn what the market wants” and conversely he defines that Maximally Buyable Product (MBP) as “the set of features needed to capture the maximum potential opportunity in a market.”  Dharmesh then goes on to give 5 features of the Maximally Buyable Product.

I think the interesting point that is made in this article is not with the MBP but instead the Minimally Viable Product (MVP).  How does a company know when they have completed building their MVP?  When is an MVP “finished” enough in order to increase online sales and not result in abandoned carts of potential customers at checkout?  I know that when we were putting our finishing touches on our MVP one year ago for our KikScore trust seal product that it was very difficult for us to know when it was more important to get the product to market and when to add that one last feature that our customers would love.

My point here is that I think that building the MVP is not the most difficult thing most of the time.  Usually the entrepreneurial spirit inside of the people that are involved with MVPs is such that dreaming up and building the MVP is not the difficult part.  The difficult part may sometimes lie in the area of limiting the scope and defining the lines of exactly what the first iteration of the ultimate product is going to look like.  Initially, the MVP may be just a shell of what the founders of the company initially dreamed up but the team needs to decide as a whole when it is close enough to “learn what the market wants.”

How did your company define your MVP and how is your MVP different from your MBP?

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Archive for June, 2010

Bad Calls at the World Cup: Any Business Lessons From This Pain?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

My KikScore partner, Travis, challenged me to find any good that has come from all of the terrible calls made during the World Cup.  Not one to turn down a decent challenge (sorry Raj, but that White Snake challenge was weak at best), I am presenting the business lessons from the referring debacle that is the World Cup:

1.  Any Press is Good Press:  Let’s face it, all the terrible calls (and the video replays of the terrible calls) prove the point that there really is little difference from being famous versus infamous.  Either way the event is well known.  For the first time since 3rd grade, I’ve been paying attention to soccer — and so have a lot of other non-soccer fans.  People unfamiliar with the sport are now watching the games, learning the rules, just so they can talk about the bad calls.  The business lesson here is obvious.  Getting the word out trumps pretty much everything else.

2.  The Best Team Doesn’t Always Win:  England should have trounced the U.S.  The U.S. should have beaten Algeria.  But that’s why you play the games.  And sometimes the best team doesn’t win.  Same goes for products and businesses.  Sometimes the best service becomes a niche player.  And sometimes a third party (a referee, a very litigious individual, or a government) intervenes and makes the decision for the marketplace.  Just like soccer matches, your product has to survive in the real world, which isn’t a completely efficient marketplace of ideas. 

3.  Anger enough people, and The Rules Will Change:  The flip side of my first point is that if the current rules set in place promote incompetence and anger enough people, tradition will be sacrificed and the rules will change in an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the same issue.  So there is no instant replay for FIFA games.  With all the anger about the blown calls, there is now serious talk about creating instant replays.  Same goes for business.  If you creat enough ill-will, the rules will change for your business.  Just ask Goldman Sachs.

Feel free to share any other business lessons learned from this outbreak of bad calls.

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Archive for June, 2010

Video Tips On How to Run a Startup from Laurel Touby, founder of Mediabistro

Monday, June 28th, 2010

This is a great 5 minute video of Laurel Touby, founder of Mediabistro, on tips for startups and running your business:  In case you need some background on Laurel Touby here is a great Inc. Magazine article about her.  In this video, she covers:

1) Hiring and using a Lawyer;

2) The need for contracts;

3) Marketing;

4) Creating buzz;

5) Online and offline activities to sustain buzz about your startup; and

6) Dealing with investors.

Check it out.  It is a good, quick video.  Let us know what you think.

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Archive for June, 2010

What We Can All Learn From the US Soccer Team's Success in the World Cup

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Most of the country is still talking about the US’s last minute victory against Algeria on Wednesday (well except for New York who just cant quit Lebron James).  I have watched a lot of sports in my life – so much that it drives my parents and my wife crazy- but that game may have been one of the most exciting sports moment that I have ever experienced.  Then again the bar is not that high for me since I am a Cleveland sports fan.  I digress.  Wednesday’s match was so big that there are reports that the game set all sorts of internet traffic records and it brought Twitter to its knees right after Landon Donovan knocked in the game winner in the 91st minute of the game.

Now the US team that came into the World Cup was criticized and heavily scrutinized for a number of reasons.  People said that the team had not jelled, there was questions about the leadership potential of key veterans, this was the coach’s first time to the World Cup and parts of the team were huge question marks like the entire defensive unit.  So you can say there were lots of concerns and doubts about this US team.  So what did this team go on to accomplish over the last few weeks:  merely going undefeated in their group play that included the mighty English team, clawing back from dead after being behind from a nearly insurmountable 2-0 deficit to Slovenia, overcoming a terrible blown call that should have given them a monumental and historic victory against Slovenia and then finally winning their group after coming back from yet another blown call against Algeria when they scored in the final minutes of the soccer match of the century (at least for us Americans and our fans!).

The US team has a long way to go as they have just reached the “knock-out round.”  Nevertheless, there are so many lessons learned from this team and the group of US players that are applicable to business, startups and life in general.  These lessons are born out of how the US team played, were coached, executed their game plans and relentlessly played each game.  Here are a few that come to mind.

1) Have a Strategy

2) Make Sure that Strategy is Flexible

3) Put Yourself & Your Team Members in the Right Positions to Succeed

4) When Needed, Substitute in Team Members to Help Drive Change in the Strategy

5) At All Times, Make Sure Your Leaders are in a Position to Create Opportunities

6) When You Get Behind, Be Super Resilient and Do Not Lose Faith

7) Even if You Initially Fail, Keep Trying and Taking Chances (i.e. keep shooting the ball!)

8.  Move On & Keep Pushing Ahead Because Some Calls Do Not Go Your Way

9. Trust in Your Teammates

10. Always Play with the Passion Like Its Your Last Game

11. Even After a Big Win, Get Up & Get Ready for the Next Game

Now on the other side of the spectrum of the US soccer team is our friends in France.  Their World Cup was a widely publicized disaster.  The French team literally did the opposite of everything on the above list and were the antithesis of the US team in that they had serious infighting, their coach and players got into fights, they played with no energy and were a bunch of selfish malcontents that went out of the tournament in grand fashion with loss to the much lower rated host country South Africa.  Their follies could be the subject of an entirely separate post on more lessons learned, but I point out the French team’s approach just to draw the contrast of what is also possible on the other side of the pitch.

So as you watch the rest of the World Cup (and especially tomorrow for the US v Ghana match)- see what other lessons you learn.  Now that the “knock out” stage has started, the stakes will be higher and I am sure we will be able to learn a few things about leadership, strategy and team execution when teams, players and coaches are under far greater pressure than the first round games.

Please tell us what did you learn from the first round games?

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Archive for June, 2010

Is a Start Up the Same as Gambling? I Hope Not

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

This week I’m in the city of New Orleans for a conference.  I’ve never been before and it has been eye-opening.  As with anything, there are pluses and minuses.  The minuses — the weather and 3 inch long cockroaches.  In fact I just left a fancy dinner, barely eating my food because one NO’s finest cockroaches scurried across my table. 

The upside to N.O.?  First, if I lived here, I would lose a lot of weight — as I don’t eat sea food.  The second: they have a great casino dowtown.  Last night I played blackjack for 2 hours, and I was thinking about joining a poker game. 

You often hear that starting a new business is a gamble.  Well I certainly hope that’s not the case.  I get the point that starting a business involves risk, but risk doesn’t equate to risk for me (so long as it’s a calculate risk).  Last night, as I was playing cards, it seemed pretty clear that most of what was happening was pure chance — no strategy.  I mean, you could have a betting strategy, but if you followed it perfectly, it still gets you to a coin-flip chance of winning. 

I don’t envision the same type of discipline (or lack thereof) with starting a small business.  Sure, you still may go bust, but that doesn’t mean strategy was essentially pointless.  With a business, a good team and idea should get you a better than toss-up chance to succeed.  Whether you recognize if you have a good team or idea is another story.  By the way, I lost $100 last night…so I hope I’m a better business person than gambler.

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Archive for June, 2010

Don't quit on me!

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

When starting a small business, everyone wears multiple hats and jumps in to assist where needed.  As your business grows, you work to hire people to fill specific roles so that:

1) the founders can focus on more strategic direction

2) to drive the business forward

3) effectively execute on key initiatives.

You proudly get your entire team staffed up and people are working hard in their roles and the business grows exponentially – everything is on the up and up, customers are fascinated with your product line and you have a backlog of requests to implement… and then, somebody quits.

So this perfect (well at least manageable) entourage you have created to implement your product roadmap now comes to a screeching halt, or at least imposes a very large mountain to navigate around. To keep business moving, you must revert back to wearing multiple hats, which in turn impacts growth and forces you to re-prioritize efforts, at least until you can back fill.

In larger companies, the back fill process can be lengthy and daunting.  What tends to happen is until the position is refilled, the tasks of the resigning employee are dumped on other employees… it becomes a juggling process to continue forward momentum.

While you cannot 100% prohibit turnover from happening, you can implement processes to ensure smooth transition in the event and also back fill (or redistribute effectively) so that you don’t end up pushing further resources out the door from overload.  People leave for a variety of reasons, but when building a team for a small business and growing your company, retention can be critical.  Then again, sometimes, that resignation is music to your ears

How do you motivate your team to stand by you? What transition plans do you have in place in the event of a mutiny?

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Archive for June, 2010

When Virtual and Real Worlds Collide

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Last night the real and virtual worlds kep colliding.  How did it start?  With a happy hour.  Which is always a nice way for the evening to start.  My good friend from my old workplace was in town.  He was there for a conference and met with some of the attendees after the first day. 

Here comes the first collision.  I didn’t get a call from my friend that he was in town…instead he tweeted me the location.  My wife and I showed up. 

The second collision was that most of the happy hour attendees knew each other from social media.  When I was asked how I was connected to the happy hour, my answer of being a former co-worker of the organizer seemed so antiquated.

I’m having a very nice time at the happy hour — talking technology, KikScore, other businesses (like BumperTunes.com).  At the end, as I was leaving, I realized that I knew the Twitter handles of people instead of their actual names. 

As we decide to go to dinner after the happy hour, we of course jump on our available smartphones and make a reservation on OpenTable.  We go to dinner and my buddy proceeds to take pictures of the food and outline what his Yelp review i going to be of the establishment. 

At the end of the night, we said goodbye and then my friend thanked us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Archive for June, 2010

Does Your Twitter Profile Picture Really Matter if You are a Business?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

So we at KikScore have our brand name and a picture of our logo as our Twitter picture (avatar is shown above).  It has suited us just fine over the last six or so months as we have been on Twitter after we launched KikScore.  We really have not received many complaints or even questions about our Twitter profile picture.  Frankly that is not surprising as we would expect the Twitter universe to ask us other questions if they came across KikScore – like tell me more about your product, or what is your background or give us comments like you have a cool service and homepage etc (all actual questions and comments received on Twitter).

In a prior post, we posed a question whether it is better for your company to have a personality on Twitter?  We generally came out with the answer that a personality is good because it gives the community, your customers and your followers something to identify with when they think of your business.  For example, if you spark a conversation, express an opinion on matters, have funny tweets, retweet interesting content, it probably will be good for your brand as people know what you stand for as a business.  If your customers and the community know more about your company, the greater the chance that a bond/relationship can form between you and your customers.

So what about your company’s Twitter profile picture?  Should you have a your brand logo or should you put a real person in your Twitter profile?  I have now heard from multiple people at numerous events and conferences – these would be the social media gurus that live and breathe social media everyday – who almost all suggest having a picture of a real person along with your company’s logo.  They suggest the person pictured could be your social media manager, a group picture of some of the folks from the company or maybe even a rotating picture of different employees every 60 days or so.

Why do they recommend this?  I have heard psychologically that customers, the community and people in general will generally identify more with a person’s face than a picture of a company’s brand name.  I actually think there may be some merit to that.  Think about it. If you see a logo, it is generally nameless and faceless and has no personality.  It is just a logo and you really do not get much of a connection with that logo.  Logos can even become largely interchangeable after you see enough of them.  Now change that logo, even to someone that has a picture of a real person standing in front of a company’s logo and make that a Twitter profile picture – you will probably get my attention.  First, you get a sense of who is behind the Twitter account for that company.  Second, you can now in some ways put a face to a brand name.  Thirdly, I have to say this because I do this even now – when you think of that brand name you actually think of that person’s face.  So in some ways a picture of a real person with a logo could appear to create a great connection, even if it is just a subtle psychological one.

So where does this all lead us?  Look out as I think we will be changing our Twitter profile picture for KikScore later this week.  I will make sure its not a picture of me because that will scare too many people off.  Lets see if it makes a difference to people and if we get any reactions. We will let you know.

Do you think who or what is on your Twitter profile picture matters for a business?

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Archive for June, 2010

TECH Cocktail During DC Week Rocked – Event Pics & Wrap Up

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Techcocktail 9 #dcweek by ShashiBellamkonda.

With Digital Capital Week upon us, last night was a great time for the huge (and growing!) DC tech community to come together for Tech Cocktail.  As with previous Tech Cocktail events, this event was billed as a time for us all to “connect, educate and amplify” the local tech signal all while having a few drinks.  A number of startups also put on demos on the second floor of the party at Lux Lounge.  The great thing about this Tech Cocktail compared to others as it took place right in the middle of the first ever DC Tech Week.  DC Tech Week has been a week full of great tech related activities dealing with a whole range of issues from social media, government, future of media to a bunch of cool tech events, lectures even a 140Conference too.  It was also cool to have the backdrop of the World Cup going on too.

Here some of the pictures from last night.  The event got off to a great start and kept rolling.  There just was not enough time to talk to everyone, but it was great to see so many friends and meet a bunch of new people too.  I brought the KikScore force for our east coast team last night as our Colorado team will have to wait for the next one in Boulder.

Techcocktail 9 #dcweek by ShashiBellamkonda.

Picture of Raj Malik from KikScore, Deanna McNeil from among others Ruiz McPherson, Steven Fisher from Appsolve, Browncoats Redemption and Network Solutions and Andrew Bates from Eye Traffic.

Techcocktail 9 #dcweek by ShashiBellamkonda.

Picture of Keith Casey who is Austin bound and the CTO of Blue ParabolaSteven Fisher a filmmaker and author and  Justin Thorp, Social Media Guru at ClearSpring.

Techcocktail 9 #dcweek by ShashiBellamkonda.

Joe Loong from DelTek and the best title creator for a blog! and Jeremy.

Techcocktail 9 #dcweek by ShashiBellamkonda.

Rob Pegoraro Technology Correspondent at the Washington Post and Fast Forward Columnist, Melissa Pierce, Twitter Star & and documentary film maker of LifeinPerpetualBeta.com and Raj Malik, Co-founder and blogger at KikScore and speaker at SXSW 2009.

There have been Tech Cocktail events now in Chicago, DC, Boston, Boulder, San Diego (look out Ron Burgundy) and Barcelona. So look out for one of these events coming to your city soon.  You will not regret attending. Thanks to Frank Gruber, the founder of Tech Cocktail, for putting on last night’s event.

Did you attend Tech Cocktail last night? If so, tell us your stories.

Pictures care of the Social Media Swami, Shashi B.

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Archive for June, 2010

Netflix Sounds Like a Pretty Cool Place to Work

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

This article about Netflix on TechCrunch gives a summary of a 128-page PowerPoint deck (that is also included in full at the bottom) that was apparently originally intended as a communication to new employees in order to share the “Seven Aspects of our Culture” at Netflix. 

Most of the ideas in this deck seem like they were written by asking a group of employees of any company, “What policies do you wish your company had?”  A couple of the Netflix policies in this deck that fall into this category would be the  “take as much vacation as you feel you need” policy and the “pay employees more than they could get anywhere else” policy.  These sound like great ideas if you are a potential candidate to work at Netflix but I think that these policies can only work in certain cultures where only the cream of the crop work.

There are also a few Netflix policies in this deck that really seem like good ideas no matter where you work.  One of the policies basically says that if you think about one person on your team that you would do anything to keep from leaving you should then look at the other people on your team and consider firing them so that you open a spot for a new “superstar” employee to take.

Another idea in this deck that is very interesting to me is that Netflix apparently doesn’t believe in offering their employees training or “career development” as they put it.  They think that they are helping develop their employees by simply allowing them to interact with their other colleagues at Netflix.  They also make a good point that high performance people are often very resourceful and will find ways to develop their own careers and should not rely on a corporation to do this for them.

There are a lot of other interesting ideas in this Netflix deck…check it out and let us know what other ideas you like.

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