Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

The Seattle 2.0 Awards: Recognizing the Best from Seattle

March 10, 2009

I was recently contacted by Seattle 2.0 to be a judge for a new award activity. I was intruiged by the idea and quickly signed up. Of course I was asked to post about the event and help spread the word (the word is below)…

Before I get there, I wanted to comment on the interesting observation about all of these tech awards and demo events that are getting more and more popular in the tech community. It is obvious that they all are introspective and exclusive to the tech community. It is less obvious that this lack of publicity is a contributing factor to a decline in enginuity from US born/raised citizens.

Everywhere we look these days we see studies of US engineering capabilities declining, US business enginuity declining, modern innovation from the US declining, and all of the people with extra money dumping some of that money into the school system to prevent these declines. In fact a story today about the gates foundation putting in another $7.2M into the Seattle School system. Amazing that we can continue to dump money into our school systems as well as start trying things like standardized testing and charter schools etc – yet we still turn around and spend the real money the billions per year congratulating actors, singers, etc on their acheivements for capturing the largest audience with their art. This with no thought in mind that the amount of money spent and the audience captured for these ceremonies is what inspires teenagers to drop out of school to join a band, throw up a YouTube video and strike it rich. The message is that we value entertainers and artists far more than ethical business people and truly innovative creations (no wonder when we grow up and try business after a failed garage band we resort to creative accounting & lending – creativity makes money).

I am not saying that art and entertainment is not valuable. I certainly appreciate art, listen to music, and watch movies!! I am saying that national and global awards seem to be missing the attention to things like the Nobel Prize – um where is the red carpet, prime time show for those awards – the Pulitzer Prize – do your kids even know what this prize is for – or even more local events that pay tribute to the amazing startup technologists or product designer. Ok, maybe the Seattle 2.0 awards aren’t a replacement for the Nobel Prize or the Emmy’s – but it’s recognition like this – recognition of true acheivement that our younger generation is lacking. There is no reason to pursue great acheivement from a young age, no public role models, no cultural norm of appreciation for acheivers. Yet our schools continue to try and give our kids the tools for great acheivement. These kids aren’t in acting classes, they aren’t in batting practice, they aren’t in singing class – they are in classes to learn math, science, etc – so why don’t we at least give them a few roads to use these tools.

Yes, it is hard to force someone down a road with those tools, but showing them where the roads are is THE biggest step in the right direction. So why don’t you show your kids the roads they could travel with the tools they are learning in school, why don’t you let them make heros out of smart people with ambition, why not take the time to bring your kids to an award ceremony where hard work is recognized. Show them that acheivement at innovation and passionate pursuit is valuable….

Why not take them to the Seattle 2.0 award ceremony this year?

Re-posted from the Seattle 2.0 blog:

Startup life is hard. Startup life during a down economy is harder.  Entrepreneurs don’t found, join, invest in, or work with a startup to make their lives easier. They do it to make meaning. They do it to change the world. They do it to fulfill an inexplicable desire to make things better, faster, smarter and easier.

    Today, I am proud to announce the first annual Seattle 2.0 Awards – a series of awards to recognize the people and companies who make the Seattle startup community happen.
 
    We have a great website to the awards, and you can start nominating your favorite individuals and companies as of today for the next 2 weeks. After that, a panel of 30 of the most influential CEOs, founders, investors, service providers, journalists and bloggers in Seattle will select the top 3 on each category. Then we’ll open for public voting until late April.
 
    Join us as Seattle 2.0 hosts the awards ceremony at Pacific Science Center on the evening of May 7 with food, drinks, and a chance to spend time with the people you care about in the startup community.  There will be a startup showcase and master of ceremonies, Renay San Miguel (King 5/NWCN), will be announcing the winners in each category.
 
    As always, we are very open to ideas and feedback on how to make this award prestigious, the event pleasurable and the overall idea a success so that we can keep honoring the best of the best every year.  Registration for the event will open shortly.
 
    A special thanks to our early sponsors: Kismet Communications, Fenwick & West and Sampa, and our media partner Mashable.
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Startups, small businesses, and definitions – oh my

December 1, 2008

I was recently commenting on a nPost’s blog about What Defines a Startup and ran out of room for an effective comment so wanted to expand on it here.

 
First let me re-cap the basics of nPost’s blog entry…

 
Nathan poses the question, what defines a startup and offers a few thoughts about what might define a startup. Things like:

  1. Having been around for less than 5 years?
  2. The number of employees it has?  If so, how many would that be?
  3. Whether they are bootstrapped, a sidestartup or funded?
  4. Their growth rate?  If so, how quickly do they need to be growing? 10% a year? 500% a year?
  5. A scalable business?  Can a lifestyle company be defined as a startup?
  6. A product company?  How about a professional services firm, are they a startup?
  7. Simply “I know one when I see one!”

A good discussion follows in the comments about these seven suggestions and a number of additional suggestions that are along the same line. Eric Koester has a similar post on his blog, My High Tech Startup. More opinions about how much money a company has, how long the company has been around, or how it is funded as effective measures of startups.

I pose that none of these general properties of a business define a startup. Properties like amount of cash, where the cash came from, how many employees, what the growth rate is, what the potential total market share is, etc are all properties that any kind of business can have. Whether it is a services business, a retail business, or a manufacturing business, a multi-national conglomerate, a national chain, or… a startup, any company can have any combination of these properties.

If we look past the generic properties of the business and into the core we can easily recognize a startup. If we look at the core of a business we see two basic things:

  1. What a company has to offer (product, service, etc)
  2. How a company will make money with that offering

When we look at traditional businesses – consulting firms, web design firms, data center hosting firms, coffee shops, etc, etc. What comes to mind is a well known offering and a well known way the company plans to make money with those offerings. These types of companies can meet nearly all of the generic properties listed above, it just depends on how it’s being run, what the goals of management are, etc.
Any type of business owner can build these traditional companies; they can be built as business lines for well-established companies, as new ventures (locally or worldwide), as lifestyle businesses, or be as any other kind of new business scenario. The fact that they are a traditional company does not necessarily make them less fun, less interesting, or in some way less cool, or as Eric puts it – less sexy. That is all up to management.

 
If we look at a startup though, we see something different. We see a company that has something different from the traditional companies above. These different companies, these startups have been around for a long time; however, they only seem to be abundant during large societal advances (such as the industrial revolution, the internet revolution, etc). The properties of the startups that we relate to (high risk, high reward, generally VC funded, generally small teams, generally dynamic in nature) are all a byproduct of the fact that the business the startup is in, is bringing something new to the world. Bringing a new product to the world and offering it in a way that will make them money in a new way. This is hard to do with a business that has properties different than those we generally associate with a startups (most banks won’t give loans to unproven ideas, large teams make the flexibility hard, etc).

It doesn’t matter if that new product is new to the world, new to a segment, so long as it is new. If it is a net new product on the market (not a new shoe design, but a new product) AND is being produced to make the creating company money in a new way, then the company definitively falls into the category of startup.
For tech companies, the examples are easy to dig up…

 
Web 1.0 companies like; homegrocer.com, pets.com, and eToys all fall into this category – new product (offering groceries, pets, and toys for sale online) – new business model (no store front, just a web front w/inventories managed in various ways). Yes I know pets.com didn’t sell pets, but maybe they should have.

 

Of course, these companies failed, they didn’t quite get the right mix of product and business model (which is another property we associate with startups – high failure rate). There are others that did get the mix right – amazon.com for one, was able to stay flexible and fluid until it could find a way to make this online sales thing work with a business model that made money. Others like paypal and ebay all found the right mix of product offering and business model that worked. These were all startups and are now in established markets with products and business models that aren’t new, so they are no longer a startup.

 
Fast forward to 2008, companies like Amazon are continuing to build startups within their existing companies; Amazon Web Services is definitely a startup – new product offering, new business model. Facebook is definitely a startup – new product offering, new business model – time will tell if it will truly be successful, but it’s definitely a startup. There are lots of other startups around with new products, new business models. More are cropping up in clean tech, bio tech, and continuing to pop up in other areas as well. Look at the iPod and the online music store – incremental innovation over the walkman (new product) and a new way to buy music (new business model)… voila – another startup within an existing company.

 
On the other hand there are lots of companies that are high tech companies that are not startups. There are lots of young companies that have products or business models that are well known and at least moderately understood. They are simply trying to execute better or with different goals than other companies who have done it before. Some of these companies are even in funky spaces, have long working hours, and the look and feel of a startup (VC funded or bootstrapped, under 20 employees, work out of a loft in pioneer square, etc); however, they are building a business that has been built before – which means – not a startup. A small business, a high growth company, call them something else (something other than a startup).

 
If you are looking for a good measure to evaluate your status of startup against, take a look at the case studies at the major B-Schools, take a look at the existing companies that are out there, take a look at your competitors, and take a look at what business models and products are the hot topic these days. If you fall into one of these categories – if your product and business fall into an existing group – you are not a startup. On the other hand, if you are innovating with your products and your business model, well – welcome to the club!!

 
I’m sure there are lots of other opinions about this, Wikipedia has some random definitions that I think need updating as I’m sure all of you do.

Moving POP3 email to Exchange Online

November 25, 2008

The guys over at the Microsoft Online Services blog recently released a PDF guide for migrating from a POP3 environment to an Exchange Online environment. After reading through the pdf, I found that the basic overview did well to cover the steps necessary to migrate (handy in fact considering I was in the process of planning a migration for a customer)… 

Given that Exchange Online has just barely been available to customers, it is impressive that there is really this much guidance already. There is a Solution Accelerator for planning your move to Microsoft Online, the IPD guide (Exchange Online – Evaluating Software-plus-Services) I talked about earlier, and various blogs and websites like MSExchange.org discussing the ease of use, the Microsoft Exchange Online Forums, among others

The cost thing is something to consider, my friends over at Ferris Research have commented on the expense, and I am working on a calulator to compare the full costs of MS Exchange Online vs. the other possible solutions (Exchange on-premise, another hosted service, etc) that I should have completed shortly and will be happy to share.

Microsoft Online – Summary

November 13, 2008

Microsoft Online is definitely a good addition to the Microsoft suite of offerings. The administrative interface and AD-sync options allow customers to engage with the solution easily and for those smaller organizations really take the leap to shared uniform messaging without the bother of an internal shared network. With that as a starting point, organizations can grow into a dedicated offering where mailbox sizes and customization is at offered and will cater to much more complex customers. My earlier reviews of the sign-up process, setting up a new domain space, Accepting inbound email on Exchange Online, Creating Users, Accessing email, and service requests are all a place to get more information.

One area that is skipped in most of the Microsoft offered planning excersises is how to grow from Exchange Online Standard -> Exchange Online Dedicated -> Exchange Server On-Premise (or Exchange Server On-Premise – remotely managed). The roadmaps seem to skip this and the marketing material seems to focus on migrating the other way for smaller customers.

Microsoft’s roadmap is fairly clear, Directions on Microsoft has reposted this graphic on their site…

 

Getting access to the system is reasonably straight forward. Microsoft announced with the initial announcement at their partner conference a number of customers who are moving toward the system, so it will be interesting to see how their enterprise level feedback does or doesn’t change the user login/authentication experience.

My friends over at Ferris Research think the Microsoft Online may be too expensive, what do you think? For the services that are being offered? Is Microsoft’s $15/month too much? The Google Apps offering is much cheaper and with Cemaphore’s Mailshadow offering or Zimbra’s new Hosted offering which is starting with a .edu target audience, there is going to continue to be a lot of competition in the space….. That said, the full suite (Exchange + Sharepoint + OCS) is compelling.

Ryan over at MS seems to have more time than I to put together screen shots and post them to his blog. If you want to see more of the technical details, I recommend going over to his blog, Microsoft Online Technical Discussions & Information and checking it out. The team has also put together a blog, titled Microsoft Online Services. This blog has more details on all of the goings on and answers questions that everyone seems to be having… yes there is activesync (so you can connect your iPhone), yes you can connect with Entourageyes there are two offerings – dedicated & Standard…. btw, my day job is helping you decide which is right for you, so don’t hesitate to email me to help you with this decision :)

You don’t need to take my word for it though…. Have a read through the IPD guide. I had a few friends help write it and did the peer review on it (similar to the peer review I did for EHS), but more formal I guess.

Seattle Startup Resources

August 11, 2008

This is the list of organizations that everyone should know about. Its broken into Frequent events,  Infrequent events, Entrepreneur support/educational institutions, Funding sources, and Web Resources.
Startup Minded Events: where in Seattle where you are likely find technical people, hanging out having fun while working on changing the world.

Frequent Events (Every week or month):

Open Coffee at Louisa’s Coffee on Tuesday mornings: Early stage entrepreneur and investor networking in Seattle.
Occurs Every Tuesday Morning at 8:30Am 2379 Eastlake Ave E Seattle, Washington http://asack.typepad.com/a_sack_of_seattle/2007/04/seattle_open_co.html

Saturday House: Seattle Saturday House is a weekly gathering of several people who meet and do … whatever they want! People work on projects, people talk about ideas, people conspire and hatch plans, and people play games with each other.
Every Saturday at Giraffe Labs in Pinoeer Square http://www.saturdayhouse.org

Seattle Lunch 2.0: Learn about cool local Companies and technologies over your lunch hour – Various locations and times http://seattlelunch20.wetpaint.com/?t=anon

Seattle Startup Drinks: A simple concept: startup culture in cities around the world gathers around a bar to have a pint and discuss what they are working on, what they need help with and what they can do for each other.
Occurs the Last Friday of every month at various locations.
http://seattle.startupdrinks.com

Seattle Tech Startups (STS):  A group of entrepreneurs in the Seattle area who give and seek advice on running technology startups.
We meet about once or twice a month. This is targeted at founders of, employees of, or those folks interested in joining local technology companies. Be ready to talk shop, get into technical arcana, and discuss the nitty-gritties of running/working at/launching a tech startup.
Occurs first or second week of the month at The Douglas Forum at the Executive Education Center, University of Washington http://www.seattletechstartups.com

Six Hour Startup: A group of hackers/designers/entrepreneurs  meeting to try and build and lunch a startup in less than six hours.
Second Weekend of every month at various locations.
http://www.sixhourstartup.com

Venture Breakfasts (NWEN): A monthly breakfast with a featured speaker talking about startup related issues.
http://www.nwen.org/index.php?option=com_events&Itemid=15&cat=Venture+Breakfast
Infrequent Events: (Every few months, it is best to find out about when these events occur from sites like MeetAtThePig http://meetatthepig.com or Seattle 2.0 http://seattle20.sampasite.com, or Gary’s Guide http://seattle.garysguide.org)

Barcamp: An ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment.
http://barcamp.org/seattle

Ignite Seattle: Ignite Seattle is a geek event that combines on-site geekery, sharing, and innovation (and drinking) http://igniteseattle.com/

Mindcamp: Seattle Mind Camp is an unconference that is held annually in Seattle. http://mindcamp.gearlive.com/

NPost: nPost networking Event for tech startups, Demos and getting to meet members of the local startup community.
www.npost.com

Think Tanks (NWEN): Evening Knowledge Exchanges that are recognized as the go to forums for new ideas.
http://www.nwen.org/index.php?option=com_events&Itemid=15&cat=Think+Tanks

Workshops (NWEN): Graduate School level workshops on various topics such as VC Financing, Human Resource, Bootstrapping, IP Protection and more.
http://www.nwen.org/index.php?option=com_events&Itemid=15&cat=Workshops

There are a lot of other events that occur here in Seattle which attract interesting, smart technical people : Bizjam, Startup Weekend, Dorkbot, Powertool drag strip races, Seattle Scrum, Seattle X-Coders, Seattle Ruby Brigade, Python Users group…. Its best to subscribe to a few of the calendars above to find out about those events.
Entrepreneur Support/Educational Institutions:

Biznik: Is a Seattle based social network for entrepreneurs, they have a wealth of events and information on starting up a company.
http://biznik.com/

Score: Small Business Administration, hosts workshops, offers conseling and has a wealth of resources for startup entruperumers.
www.seattlescore.org

Freelance Seattle: good for finding freelancers to help with design/code/branding/localization/etc…
http://freelance-seattle.net/

MIT Enterprise Forum: Hosts several different types of events though out the year, Dinner Programs which can be a companies presentation of key issues the company is experiencing or has experienced or an experts panel with a featured topic of interest, Venture Lab workshops which is a lecture series on various topics and Global Broadcasts from Cambridge aimed at different topics.
http://www.mitwa.org/

NorthWest Enrepreneur Network (NWEN): Has Venture breakfasts, workshops, pub nights, and hosts the Early Stage Investment Forum yearly.
http://www.nwen.org
Funding Organizations:

Alliance of Angels: www.allianceofangels.com/

Founders Co-op: www.founderscoop.com/

Funding Universe: www.fundinguniverse.com

Ignition Partners: http://www.ignitionpartners.com/

Keiretsu Forum: www.k4seattle.com/
Web Resources:
John Cook’s Venture Blog: Explores startups, Venture Capital and Life in the Pacific Northwest Technology Community http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/

Meetatthepig: A calendar for geeks, makers and other world changers.
http://meetatthepig.com

Seattle 2.0: Marcelo Calbucci’s website with local startup events, and the Seattle Startup List of Seattle Internet startups, includes an extensive list of Seattle Startup Blogs.
seattle20.sampasite.com/

Seattle Tech Startups: A fairly high traffic email list of various founders and others involved creating new internet companies.
http://seattletechstartups.com/doku.php