On the Ropes

I had a plan last night of listening to the debate in the background while working.  I accomplished this for close to 30 minutes when I put down work and paid full attention (as much as I could) to the debate.  Wow, Romney killed it.  Detailed, factual, on point, spoke great, made President Obama uncomfortable.  If Romney is able to seize the momentum from this debate, he might now have a shot at the Presidency.

Over the course of the last month, Obama has obliterated Romney (Romney has also obliterated himself).  Romney knew that this debate was his last shot at salvaging the campaign.  He knew he could not do well, or win, he had to trounce Obama.  Romney was on the ropes and on the biggest night of his political career he was able to sting like a bee and float like a butterfly.

Romney stepping up to the plate got me thinking of other great men who have stepped up to the plate.  FedEx as we know it today, almost did not exist.  In the early years of the company while undergoing difficult times and not able to meet payroll, FedEx founder Fred Smith took what left of the company’s savings and went to Vegas.  His company was on the ropes, Smith went to Vegas and won a large amount in blackjack and promptly wired the money back to his company.

Another notable example is when Steve Jobs returned to Apple.  His company was on the ropes with only a few months left before going bankrupt. Not only did he cut workforce and streamline the product, but he turned to one of his biggest competitors for a lifesaving investment.  Jobs turned to Gates and Microsoft for 150 million dollar investment in order to buy him the necessary time to turn around the company.

During the financial crisis for a time it looked like the country was going to be plunged into a period of crisis worse than the Great Depression.   The largest savings and loan in the country, Washington Mutual went out of business.  Bear Stearns was bought for peanuts, Lehman Brothers went out of business.  New Meryl Lynch CEO John Thain, saw that his company was on the ropes.  Thain saw the writing on the wall.  Thain made his move and sold the storied bank to Bank of America.  Although not as bold as Smith or Jobs, Thain also saved his company.  Both employees and customers did well.  In hindsight, Thain’s move was genius: without question Meryl Lynch would have gone out of business; Meryl’s balance sheet forced BOA to go to the government for an extra 25 billion in TARP money.

Everybody goes through difficult times.  The ability to persevere is essential.  However, perhaps an even more important ability is to step up to the plate during uncertain times.  Great men from Drew Brees as a future free agent with no contact taking his team to win the Superbowl or woman such as Meg Whitman who chose top step up to the plate in order to save HP.

However, life is not a movie.  In one of the most iconic examples of stepping up to the plate Curt Schilling single handedly shut down the Yankees offense in the World Series.  Under extreme pain and with a bloody ankle, Schilling was the main reason why Boston won the first World Series in franchise history.  The “bloody sock” will go to the Hall of Fame.  Schilling recently got into the startup game.  With his company on the ropes Schilling stepped up with a 12 million dollar personal loan guarantee.  The company went bankrupt, now famed pitches Curt Schilling is going bankrupt, and is forced to sell the famed “bloody sock”.

Perhaps Teddy Roosevelt puts it best:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Eliminating Distractions: A fast focus hack

Everybody has distractions from personal life to business life.  I am going to focus on business life and a way to eliminate distractions that I will test out and report back if it works or not.   I came across an article about an extremely efficient person who literally blocks out every waking hour of his calendar.  Everything has a set time, even breaks and meals.  The person religiously follows the schedule which has enabled him to do the work of 4 people.

A few years back Paul Graham spoke about the different between managers and makers efficiency. In the article he speaks about how creative people often need large blocks of hours in order to complete taks, while a manager or business person usually has hour long block of time for meetings/tasks.

distractions

Often in a startup you need to combine both a business schedule: speaking on the phone/meeting with people/routine tasks and a maker schedule of coming up with new ideas and building them out.  It is difficult to flow between the necessary and creative spheres.  Often in transition massive time gets wasted on email/business reading/hundreds of other items.

I am going to combine both the maker schedule and manager schedule while attempting to block out most waking hours.  During all blocked out times, I will hide everything else from phone calls/alerts/email/articles/time.  I am going to write a javascript code that will take the time and automatically either email or alert me when it is time to switch tasks and what the new task is.

Going to aim for Wednesday as the first day to try this out.  Organize.Alerts .  I will post all the code here and screenshot of calendar.

Startup: Ramen Noodles

Anybody who is founding a startup will be familiar with Ramen Noodles.  Fast, cheap, and sort of tasty.  Newly minted early stage startup godfather Paul Graham mentioned Ramen Noodles in an article he wrote: Ramen Profitable.

Lets go into some of the math of what makes Ramen Noodles great.  Maximum 2 minutes to make with the only necessary ingredient of hot water.  Comes in handy if you often do not eat until 11 at night.  At a cost of around .30 cents a box it costs it means you can eat 5 meals for less than the cost of a pack of gum. Kicker is that it actually tastes good.

Last night for first time I looked at ingredients.  WOW.  14grams of saturated fat per box and if you eat 2 boxes (enough for a dinner) you are looking at 28 grams of saturated fat.  According to National Cholesterol Education Program a normal person is only supposed to eat 16 grams of saturated fat per day.  Bottom line: in one meal alone you are eating more than double suggested saturated fat intake for the day.  This includes nothing else but one single meal of Ramen.  Looking at saturated fat alone one meal of Ramen is equal to:

1) 3 Big Macs

startup mac

2) 2 Mcdonalds Sausage Eggs and Cheese

3) 2 Medium sized Dairy Queen Malts

4) 3 T-bone steaks

5) 1 Cheese Pie from Dominoes

Congratulations you are well on your way to becoming obese.  We can extrapolate the Ramen Profitable concept to low income areas and begin to understand why America is  transforming from the land of the free to the land of the obese.

Census Data: 14 billion dollar cost

The last census in 2010 cost the government over 13 billion dollars.  Projections for the 2020 census now stands over 26 billion dollars.  I am not going to mention the massive waste in costs associated with the census or ways to improve using digital technology (secure government e-mail on a dedicated government only site/server).

Under the current census system on a community by community level (even down to a property block level) one can look at a detailed breakdown of demographics,industry,race,income,job types, homeowners, and more.  Everything is now digital so you can see how communities and regions have changed over the years.

With this massive data set achieved at great tax payer cost and made available to the public, what startups could be created or how can this data be used to assist existing small medium enterprises?

Here is website where you can type in search terms and what you are looking for: http://factfinder2.census.gov/.

 

Self Motivation-3

Have not been hitting goals lately.  Last three weeks, I am already down $100 for not hitting goals.  Have not created any ridiculous goals, all doable.  What to do?  I have been experimenting with negative consequences for missing targets.

However, I am not in high school reporting to a principle so I am going to switch it up to positive reinforcement.  Also have been creating goals on a weekly basis, but sometimes it takes time to achieve them, so I will give myself until August 5th.

bold startups

If I can accomplish these goals, I will spring for Las Vegas Labor Day weekend. If I can accomplish 3 out of 4 it will be gametime decision.  If less than I am shit out of luck.

1) Completely competent front end engineering

2) Launch a company with paying customers

3) Redesign this website

4) Again focus on 1 good deed a week for anybody.

Startup? Move to Silicon Valley

If you want to kill it in Hollywood become you move to LA (to become a struggling waiter).

If you want to kill it in finance you move to NYC the Investment Banking Capital of the World.

For tech make the move to Silicon Valley. Just do it!

Here is an email I got from somebody I met at an event who was visiting for a few days:

Hi Danny,

It was great meeting you last week at the startupweekend event at Google’s SF office.   After talking with you and other folks at the event, I think I have to move up to nor cal.  Being down here in the LA area just doesn’t have the network and startup culture like it does up there.  So I’m trying to look for any jr. development jobs up there and I was looking into angellist.co.  If you could recommend anything else, that would be great.

I took a look at your web blog.  Very interesting and inspirational stuff.  I especially liked the goals you set out for yourself of networking and meeting new folks.

 Oh, and while I was walking back to the hotel, I saw this.  I like the color scheme you used to highlight the classiness of the place:
Inline image 1
Keep in touch,
______________

 

Rainmaker

Previously at Nuqudy we have used the word Rainmaker to foster both competition and as a joke.  It started something like this “Danny you might be a Rainmaker, but I am the father of the Rainmakers”.  Naturally my response was “I am the grandfather of the Rainmakers”.

This conversation got me thinking of what a Rainmaker is.  Anybody can be a CEO.  There are tens of millions of CEO’s on every street corner.  Over the last 2 years, I have met hundreds of CEOs.  However, I could count on one hand the amount of rainmakers I have met.

In addition a Rainmaker does not have to be in charge and can be anybody from a janitor to engineer.  After searching here is a definition that I came across that I like:

“In everyday usage, the term “rainmaker” can apply to anyone – from the salesperson who always finishes first in sales to the engineer who consistently finds innovative ways to present a company’s products. In the purest sense, a rainmaker is a difference maker”

Recently a former investor at a top venture capital firm who saw my profile on LinkedIn wrote:

“danny, do you really have rainmaker in your profile?  obviously you’re new to the area.  word of advice.”

Although my definition of a Rainmaker is different than the commonly thought of definition, this guy had a solid point.  Over the years I have done some cool startups in a few different countries but now that I am in Silicon Valley it is sort of like being in the Major Leagues. So far I have done nothing compared to some of the people before me.  (Only a month ago a 19 year old raised 7 million Series A for his startup)

So now at 23 years young, I am changing the title on my LinkedIn to Rit.

 

Deadlines

Hitting Deadlines.  The difference between a corporate deadline and a tight deadline.

A deadline pushes a person or a team to a goal.  A deadline holds people accountable which should be the number 1 objective for anybody in any field.  I once read a post on somebody who stated that they “wake up early every day and never seems to get anything accomplished”.  James Altucher told the person to make a list each morning of items that you want to get done for the day, then review the list at night and see how you rank.  Deadlines are targets, miss a target, and you loose your job, miss a big target and your stock price will decrease or your startup will close.

When you work in a corporation or in public government different teams have different dates to accomplish their project.  These dates usually offer plenty of time for thinking, feedback and doing.   The team feels no sense of urgency because the deadline gives them to much time.  Without urgency a deadline is useless.

Successful startups do not set realistic dates, for a project.  They set impossible deadlines.  Steve Jobs used to set targets nobody thought would be possible and then he used his reality distortion field to make people believe they could hit these targets. His tactic often worked well, except for the Mac which he promised in a year but it took his team almost two years.  However, without his deadline of a year, the project could have taken 4 or 5.  Unlike large corporations the idea is tested right away by the users, not the company; feedback is continuous, and an intelligent company will make necessary changes continuously as the feedback comes in.

Quality vs Speed.  With the concept of minimum viable product, MVP baby, it is better to set a deadline and launch at deadline.  If you cannot meet a deadline and are close to a complete product, then launch.  Who decides what is close? You along with some impartial users decide.  When in doubt: launch. Launch!

Company Cancers: Traits of Bad Startup Employees

In a startup, the success of the company depends on the early employees.  ”A players hire A players, and B players hire C players”.  When you work in a startup you have a core position and then you are in charge of or a part of (depending on how advanced startup is) 5 other areas.  For instance if you are a sales guy, you are in charge of sales, usually business development, and involved in accounting, marketing, and building the overall team.  Startups do not have the money to hire 1 person for each position, instead startups looking for talented experts in one area who are flexible and could be a star in many areas.

Not only do early employees set the culture of the company, but they also play a huge role in building the company.  That is why every startup is so serious about all major stakeholders in the company approving the candidate.  Everybody from the CEO down to the new employees direct manager.

What if an early employee does not work out?  As long as the company moves quick, it might be a setback but the company will move on.  What if the early employee is a cancer? If the cancer is allowed to linger it will spread and destroy the company.

What makes a bad startup employee:

  1.  A person who is not flexible and needs a defined role and cannot alter from that role.
  2. Somebody who needs to be supervised or told what to do on a daily basis.
  3. A mercenary who comes in and works for a large paycheck.  These are the first people out the door and the last ones in.  When the company struggles these are the first people to bail.
  4. A person who thinks instead of does.  There is a specific person who talks about grand plans, then plans, then plans more, and then evaluates those plans before even thinking about which part of those plans are practical.  Weeks of planning is for IBM not your early stage startup.
  5. Somebody who lacks product enthusiasm.  They work hard but they do not believe in what they are doing.  They are dedicated so they are not out of a job, not because they look forward to building an awesome service.  These people destroy the startup culture slowly.

Traits of a Startup Cancers:

  1. Distractions. They would rather talk about anything but product or business.  These people can go on forever about politics, life, or anything but the issue at hand.  They can distract the entire team.
  2. Not reliable.  If you ask for something there is only a certain percentage that this person will get it done for you.  Although these people could be talented if you need something on Tuesday there is only a marginal shot you will get it by Thursday.
  3. Argumentative.   These people will argue for the sake of arguing.  Going way past the devils advocate role, this group of people just loves to argue the opposite side.

The main difference between bad startup employees and startup cancers is that a startup cancer will sink the entire team quickly while a bad startup employee will do so slowly.