Archive for the ‘ strategy ’ Category

Entrepreneurship Talent + Opportunity : The Unmet Promise

The TiE Boston Software SIG had a unique networking event last night at a restaurant, with ‘family-style’ appetizers. No hot chai, though.

One engaging topic of conversation (amongst a few of us) was about making the startup market more efficient and effective …  more so around matching talent and opportunity. The Boston region has over 140 organizations catering to startup needs and interests. Yes, that is over 140! I did a market and product analysis involving 14 organizations, and found that most of them tend to overlap in terms of services and promised value-add.

There barely seems to be a month when there is not another startup-facilitation organization brewing.

Yet, you have what essentially is a market with a finite number of players that in the startup ecosystem at any given time. There is bound to be a point in time when we hit the problem of plenty.

So, instead of starting yet another startup oriented group or networking event … how about these 3 ‘obvious ideas’? (everything is obvious … after the fact) …

1) Find a way to identify Top 3 current pain-points and needs within existing funded ventures … and publish those ‘open source’ to invite other ventures / entrepreneurs / people that might have an interest and ability to address those needs. A healthy partnership and alliance strategy can go a longer way in creating synergies than more networking meets and events.

2) Find a way to socialize Top 3 goals and gaps within existing growth companies with over $10M revenue … and offer early stage ventures an opportunity to bid for real business with the potential to generate real revenue. A real customer with a real need met leading to revenue is more valuable than more idea-meets and products being developed without market validation.

3) Make a promise to ourselves that we wont just “talk the endless entrepreneurship talk” with a hue of ideas and promises, hoping to randomly find someone in networking events that could somehow, somewhere, someday add value. Believe me, I believe in the power of networking and mutual value add … yet, there is bound to be a point where you hit the problem of plenty.

This is really about finding focus … what do you think?

Obviously,

Sai

http://www.obviousideas.com

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Is this my Billion $ idea? Desh Deshpande @ TiE Launchpad

TiE Boston, part of TiE, the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to entrepreneurship hosted Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande last week as part of TiE Launchpad.

TiE Launchpad is a program that I co-chair, dedicated to helping first time entrepreneurs make the journey from an idea to a venture. Through a series of 7 – 10 workshops, TiE Launchpad will help leaders transform promising business ideas and technologies into commercial ventures.

Check out the Billion $ Idea Top 50 Takeaways DESH DESHPANDE file … for a crowd-sourced collection of take-aways collated within 24 hours of the event.

What do you think? How have you transformed an idea into a business venture? What lessons learned are you willing to share? Go ahead, join the conversation …

Obviously,

Sai

www.obviousideas.com

Startups … not bailouts

You can count on Thomas Friedman to write a punchy piece. In today’s New York Times article, he advocates that startups create more high quality jobs than bailouts of big car companies or road construction projects. Makes total sense. Of course, one could get into a Keynesian argument supporting higher government spending in toto. However, fact remains, that startups are the engines that create economic growth, prosperity and net new jobs. Think Google or Sun Friedman says.

Immigrant founders + free markets = Innovation.

I spend quite a bit of time in the Boston area startup community. Whether its a 15 year old in a TYE Startup competition from TiE-Boston or a first time entrepreneur, or a serial entrepreneuer, the optimism, energy and vision seems boundless. Everyone wants to change the world. One startup or venture at a time. There is no sense of self-pity or entitlement.

Yet, the single biggest roadblock is source of quality funds. I am not talking big numbers. I am talking $50K to $500K to take a shot at starting the next innovative venture. I am talking solid business models with working technology and passionate teams.  Yet they are caught in a bind … unable to access capital at costs and dilution-levels that can continue fueling their passion.

So, here are my …

3 obvious ideas:

a. First-time venture fund: If we can have a first-time homebuyer tax credit, why not a first-time entrepreneur fund? where the government sets aside $50000 per year for 2 years for each first-time founder of a startup. not as a bailout. but as investible angel capital from the government of the usa. why not? If Techstars or Y-Combinator can do it, why not the tax-funded entity called the GOTUS? $50K is enough to feed a family in most cities, while keeping the entrepreneur hungry enough to want to start a company.

b. Tax-cut for entrepreneurs: Why not? In addition to ‘increasing G’ why not ‘cut T’? Mix the left and right here. For the same 2 years, give the entrepreneurs a deep tax cut so that there is incentive and ability to reinvest for growth. Growth that can create real jobs that in turn pay taxes. Neat, eh?

c. Startup-competition: If the GOTUS can fund primary research in leading universities, why not have a true startup competition where funding can be allocated as advocated above? Mix funding with classical financing stage gates, to ensure that even this $50K is allocated based on real outcomes. No vanilla bailouts.

Why not? If innovation means truly socially disruptive practices, and these ideas are disruptive, then so be the spirit of innovation … thoughts? Comments?

Obviously,

Sai

www.obviousideas.com

“Sustainable” competitive advantage in tech

I spend a lot of time thinking about “sustainable” competitive advantage in the world of consumer-facing technology-enabled services.  The once volcanic MySpace now appears to be a cooling lump of lava rock.  Of course there is news today that AOL is finally on its own.  Wonder how many really miss Geocities today.

All this leads me to look more closely at valuations of these firms.  During the .com days, at least we had ‘eye balls’, inaccurate as they might have been.  But at least they provided a frame of reference.  Today, we could use ‘clicks’, ‘unique users’, ‘growth rate’ and a slew of other metrics.  However, the big, I guess Billion $ question is … how long will success last?

Twitter came out of … literally nowhere.  Fledgling Facebook overtook MySpace.  AOL, the grand daddy of ’em all risks becoming totally irrelevant to a Facebook-fed generation. 

3 obvious ideas to ponder upon … as an investor / user / competitor:

a) What’s feeding your success? Ironically, it appears that the very hand that feeds success gets bitten.  Consider that the inherent power of Facebook that comes from its millions of users can itself be a liability.  There is literally nothing stopping Facebook’s competition to use the power of Facebook groups to launch its competing set of services.  Of course, there is nothing that could stop users’ leveraging their own social networks to create a tsunami-exodus to a more attractive alternative. 

b) What’s the abandonment rate? The moats keep getting destroyed.  Switching costs are pretty low.  While there is an inherent lock-in that comes in with the network-effect, there is nothing stopping someone from trying a more attractive alternative.  And then, one by one, the network joins.  Until the entire herd migrates to greener pastures.  Almost like humans did in ancient times.  Maybe, just maybe, we are meant to be that way.  Seeking.  Searching.  Settling Down.  Seeking.  Searching.  Settling Down. … … …

c) What’s the innovative alternative? Human time is limited, attention spans even more so.  There are reports that youngsters in Japan spend more time on electronic devices than “on” the Internet.  As we get older, our own preferences change.  We hang out in different places.  Our kids might consider our hangouts ‘uncool’.  Any bets that Facebookers’ kids will find their own hangouts?

So, wither valuations?  What is “sustainable” competitive advantage?  Sure these properties can add features, integrate with other properties and acquire interesting upstarts.  But, in many cases, they risk losing the very simplicity that attracted users in the first place.

sai@obviousideas.com

www.obviousideas.com – the Business Value Alignment™ firm, linking Strategy | Organization | Execution

sensible tech supply and demand

what do samsung and barnes&noble have in “common” today?  well b&n seems poised to lose out a golden opportunity create a market for nook. they wont have the nook in stores for sales or demos because … get this … excess demand for its devices!  hmmm …

on the other hand, samsung announced that is has beat its 2009 handset demand handsomly (pun intended).  50M units by end of nov 09 vs. 10M units by end of nov 08.  wow ….

so, what’s with the difference between ‘hmmm…’ and ‘wow…’ … and whats it got to do with the economics of tech supply and demand?

3 obvious ideas:

a. plan for success … blazing success: whether you are an old hand at tech a-la samsung, or a newbie like b&n, plan for success.  if you truly believe in your product, plan to have a product on hand when that elusive much-anticipated customer comes calling.  especially during holiday shopping.  there is no charm in gifting someone a nook gift-card.  get the real deal.  or be ready to see your competition kindle a hotter fire this year!

b. strategy focused operations: got to get your operations right and have it aligned with your strategy.  strategy without operations is like a hot air balloon without the hot air.  operations might be the plain ‘old boring stuff.  but thats what makes organizations run … or soar.  if you cant make a holiday delivery during the holiday season, its time to re-examine your operations.  what are the kinds of cascading management decisions that led you to this mess?  some over-compensation for the bull-whip effect?  cludgy inventory holding costs that held a supplier back?  a vendor management policy that turns up with unintended consequences?  oh, pray.  what made a ‘wow’ a ‘hmmmm’?!

c. marketing buzz and magic: whatever you do … whatever you do … dont forget the power of marketing.   even scarcity is an opportunity … if marketed well.  (apple seems to get this right all the time).  why, even google, the purveyor of digital goods has made scarcity an art form … and used it to generate hyper demand.  no wonder you see waves of interest in google!

sai@obviousideas.com

www.obviousideas.com – the Business Value Alignment™ firm, linking Strategy | Organization | Execution

business value alignment … keeping it simple

i cant but help think about what the world might have looked like about 50 to 100 years ago.  before we had alphabet soups and tons of buzzwords.  when the world was a much simpler place.  yet a place that saw tremendous transformation. 

first commercial flight.  first radio broadcast.  why…. even first cup of instant coffee.  we went through so much change as a human race, yet were not bombarded with noise about the change.

organizations typically go through change all the time.  whether they acknowledge it or not, there is always an undercurrent of organization change and transformation.  some of course, are more pronounced or planned than others.

so, why do we generally approach this topic with a mix of trepidation and trite proclamations?  why do we start with the typical notion of “here is the change cycle… you go through denial, acceptance, … etc etc.”?

shouldnt the conversation really be about business value alignment?

in lieu of the 3 obviousideas, check out my interview on pmopodcast

http://www.thepmopodcast.com/mp3/The_PMO_Podcast_175_Value.mp3

sai@obviousideas.com

www.obviousideas.com – the Business Value Alignment™ firm, linking Strategy | Organization | Execution

teachable moments … in technology leadership

the world of technology leadership is long overdue for its share of ‘teachable moments’.  i was going through some old trade rags and business mags that seemed to have escaped the eventual journey to the recycle bin … for about 7 or 8 years!  i was struck by how the topic of ‘business-IT’ alignment seems to have barely progressed in the last half decade or so.

the pain points, promises and pontifications on business-IT alignment have not seemed to change a lot.  indeed, that is depressing.

i would have hoped to see the dialog progress in some direction.  hopefully progressive, not regressive.  but status-quo is dangerous.   even disastrous.

3 obvious ideas:

a. from buzz to business-need: we need to step back from the din of new buzzwords and tech, and ask ourselves a fundamental questions: “what do we want to achieve with technology?” “what are we able to?” “what are we not able to?”

b. from cost to competency: we need cio’s to move away from a focus on cost-containment to one on organization competency-creation.  “what can we do with technology to enable business value creation?”

c. from staffing-for-operations to staffing-for-success: we also need cio’s to shift their staffing from a vertical domain-orientation to a horizontal competency-orientation.  while engineering and operations oriented teams will still be needed, we will need to see more artistic analysts and creative consultants within the cio organization.

what do you think?

sai@obviousideas.com