Why Big Co. Why, You Have So Much Potential to Do Good…

Big Co. asking to present at New Tech Boulder via email:

My name is ___________. I am Big Co. Evangelist here in _____. We have not met. Hi!

“Anyway, I have something special to offer your community of Start Ups. Big Co. bundles all of its software in a single package called the “Subscription” – in fact, this subscription has some software only available through this package. It costs about $12,000 for each subscription, then about $4,000 a year to renew. It’s an amazing resource and if you were to survey most of the Fortune 5,000 companies they would have these subscriptions for most of their developers – as a minimum.”

(/wondering if this technique of selling actually works in 2014)

“But, I have recently been given the authority to give these subscriptions to every Start Up building software and by-passing any cost and our typical review process this would include.”

“Honestly, it would be something like this: “Hi, my name is “N”, this is your code, here’s the URL to sign up … wait for them to fill out the form … great! You’ll get an email when it’s turned on. If you have any questions you can contact me.”

My Question:

How is this different than Big Co. existing subscription program?

Big Co’s. Response:

“This is a streamlined version. It’s a kind of test program. It means StartUps should be able to get signed up immediately. Sometimes StartUps get tossed around in the process. This prevents that. It’s also meant for individuals who might be moonlighting, too. It’s quite an offer, to be honest. But in its heart, it’s Big Co’s existing program. Just easier – maybe better.”

Big Co. Presents at bdnt

Fast forward a month – Big Co’s. True Colors

“I have heard from a score of you that you have been rejected from Subscription.”

“First, we must review Subscription. Though several hundred of you got it right, a few misunderstood subscription to be an entitlement to every single developer in my presentation.”

(wait you said in the first email “It’s also meant for individuals who might be moonlighting, too. It’s quite an offer, to be honest.”)

WTF Big Co.

You’ve already alienated the ENTIRE last generation of developers and entrepreneurs, Microsoft do you really think this type of behavior is the best way to get in good with the next?

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Windows 8.1 tiles vs. Pointcast

Wow – times have changed or have they.

Technology has away of fooling us into believing we are ready. Look at interactive TV or Push technology.

Remember Pointcast: In August 1998, PointCast debuted its push technology screensaver, designed to display news (and ads) while your computer protected your monitor from screen burn-in in. Leveraging an exciting new technology called “push”.

“Users don’t hunt their way through what the Web has to offer. Instead, they simply enter a variety of interests and needs into a server-side database. Then the server collects all the information it feels is relevant and pushes the data to the user’s desktop via client software, which is sometimes a standard browser but is often a proprietary interface.”

Now look at the tiles on Windows 8, desktop, phones and tablets, what’s changed 10 plus years later?

 

 

Design, sure, but more importantly infrastructure. This data, which during the pointcast days crushed large corporate networks is now delivered and updated regularly to cell phones.

Infrastructure takes time to mature and evolve and as entrepreneurs its our job when picking our next startup to determine which problem set you want to solve. New infrastructure or an application that exploits an emerging infrastructure advancement.

These are a few of the trends I’m following: shopping, real time algorithms, 3D printing, DNA sequencing,  sensor networks, small batch manufacturing techniques, community and localized power. I’ve stopped following app stores, data compression, and big data.

What are you following?


First Sale Doctrine Goes to the Supreme Court

When I started Openspace Store I had a grand vision to change the Terms Of Use (TOU) document that is part of the sales process for all app stores. The First Use Doctrine effects the first sale of any app/song/video/book and our modifications to the TOU made it very clear that the copyright holder was supporting the resale/gifting/lending of their copyrighted material. For those of you not up your copyright law, the first-sale doctrine is the rule adopted by the Supreme Court, in 1908, and basically says that once a copyright holder sells a copy of his work, the buyer is free to resell that copy (or rent it or give it away) as he sees fit. This doctrine is being tested YET again today by the Supreme Court. As you can imagine the copyright holders are on one side Vs. the marketplaces that profit from the current doctrine on the other. Marketplaces include players like: eBay, GameStop and Goodwill, but it also includes libraries.

We modified our Terms of Use Document to avoid and explicitly grant appropriate permission. This way a level of transparency between the copyright holder and the purchaser was clearly identified, prior to first purchase. Below are the sections of the TOU that reflect these rights. I would suggest looking closely at section 5.2 sales.

5.1           Purchases. 

  • (a)            If You are a Registered User, You will be provided with the opportunity to make purchases of licenses and other rights to access and use Software, Content and other Products through the online marketplace operated by OpenSpace through the Service (“Purchases”).  In addition to this Agreement, each Purchase will be subject to any additional terms or conditions applicable to the Purchase provided or displayed in connection with the Purchase (“Additional Terms”).  All Purchases are final and are not subject to exchanged or refund.
  • (b)            Unless otherwise expressly stated in any Additional Terms that You may enter into (or may have entered into) with OpenSpace or its Affiliates applicable to a Purchase, all Purchases of Software, Content or other Products through the Service provide You with a personal, limited, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, non-transferable (except as set forth herein) license to the Purchased Software, Content or other Product solely use in accordance with the following conditions:
    1.  You may download a single copy of the Software, Content or other Product from the Site.
    2. You may install and use the Software, Content or other Product on an unlimited number of OpenSpace-authorized devices owned by You.
    3. You may use the Software, Content or other Product solely for Your own personal, noncommercial purposes.
    4. You may not transfer, sell or otherwise convey the Software, Content or other Product (or any rights therein) except as expressly set forth in this Agreement.
    5. You will otherwise use the Software, Content or other Product only in accordance with this Agreement and any Additional Terms.
    6. Your license to the Software, Content or other Product will terminate immediately upon any breach by You of the terms of this Agreement.
  • Unless expressly stated in any Additional Terms applicable to a Purchase, You are granted no licenses or other rights, whether by implication, estoppel, or otherwise, in or to any Software, Content or other Product or any Intellectual Property Rights (as defined below) therein or related thereto other than as expressly set forth in this Section.  You will not and will not allow any third party to, modify, copy or reproduce, perform, display, modify, create derivative works from, decompile, reverse-engineer, disassemble, attempt to derive the source code of, republish, post, transmit, sell distribute, sublicense, or in any way exploit any Software, Content or other Product (or any portion thereof).  Upgrades or updates (if any) to any Software, Content or other Products will be governed by the terms of this Agreement, unless accompanied by any Additional Terms.

5.2           Sales. 

  • (a)            If You are a Registered User, You will also be provided with the opportunity to conduct sales or transfers of the licenses or other rights to access and use the Software, Content or other Products you have Purchased through the online marketplace operated by OpenSpace through the Service (“Sales”).  In addition to this Agreement, each Sale will be subject to any applicable Additional Terms.  All Sales are final and are not subject to exchange or refund.
  • (b)            Unless otherwise expressly stated in any Additional Terms that You may enter into (or may have entered into) with OpenSpace or its Affiliates applicable to a Sale, all Sales of any Software, Content or other Products must be conducted in accordance with the following conditions:
    1. All Sales of any Software, Content or other Product must be conducted solely through the Service.
    2. No Software, Content or other Product may be sold, transferred, distributed or otherwise conveyed through any means other than the Service.
    3. Upon any Sale You may not make any further use of the Software, Content or other Product subject to the Sale.
    4. Upon any Sale You will delete all copies of the Software, Content or other Product subject to the Sale made by You or otherwise in your possession or control.
  • Following any Sale You will retain no right, license or other interest in or to the Software, Content or other Product subject to the Sale or any Intellectual Property Rights therein or related thereto.

6.              OWNERSHIP.  All Software, Content and other Products available or accessible through the Site or Service are protected by the intellectual property rights of OpenSpace and its partners, affiliates, and licensors (“Affiliates”), including, as applicable and without limitation, copyrights, trademarks, patents (and patent applications), trade secrets and other proprietary and intellectual property rights (“Intellectual Property Rights”).  All Software, Content and other Products are licensed, not sold, to You under the terms of this Agreement.  As between You and OpenSpace, all Software, Content and Products, and all Intellectual Property Rights therein and related thereto, are and will remain the sole property of OpenSpace and its Affiliates.  Use of any Software, Content or other Products other than under the express terms of the licenses granted under this Agreement will result in an infringement or misappropriation of the Intellectual Property Rights in the Software, Content or other Products.  OpenSpace reserves (on behalf of itself and its Affiliates) all rights not expressly granted to You under this Agreement.

7.              FEES AND PAYMENT.  You agree to pay all fees applicable to each Purchase as specified on the Site or through the Service in connection with that Purchase (“Fees”).  All Fees will be due and payable at the time of Purchase.  You grant OpenSpace (or a company chosen to act on behalf of OpenSpace) authority to charge or debit the credit card, debit card, bank account, online payment account, mobile payment account, or other payment method You provide in connection with Your Account or any Purchase for any Purchase You make on the Site or through the Service.  All Fees will be non-refundable once paid to OpenSpace (including upon any termination or suspension of this Agreement).  Purchases and Sales may be subject to additional fees or charges stated on the Site which are also non-refundable and You agree to pay all fees or charges incurred by You in connection with any Purchase or Sale.  Until paid in full, all past due amounts will bear an additional charge of the lesser of 1½% per month or the maximum amount permitted under applicable law.  OpenSpace may change any portion of the Fees by posting the changes to the Site or otherwise notifying You through the Service.  Such changes will take effect as to any Purchase occurring after such notice by OpenSpace.  If OpenSpace requires use of collection agencies, attorneys, or courts of law for collection on Your account, You will be responsible for those expenses. You will be responsible for all use, sales, and other taxes imposed on the Service provided under this Agreement.

If you’re interested in reviewing the remainder of the Terms Of Use document send me a note and I will happily share it.


Are you really a startup?

I’ve always struggled trying to describe when a startup is no longer a startup and I personally like Steve Blank‘s, author of the Startup Owners Manual, definition.

Steve also suggests their are two stages to building a company, Search and Execution but i believe the startup to company transition actually happens over 3 stages.  This additional stage happens after search and just before execution. The time period when you are just starting to execute, raise money and hire as opposed to actually having enough money and the momentum behind your repeatable, scalable, business model to fund operations and growth. I add this level of clarification primarily because in my experience they are operationally different and can also be mapped to employee risk and company structure.

The law of diffusion of innovation is a great way to view the lifecycle of a company and to determine where you as an individual are probably going to find the most happiness and satisfaction on the job.

If you are startup junkie you love the innovator through early adopters stage, and if you’re into minimal structure type you will enjoy when a company reaches its tipping point through the end of the early majority and last if you really enjoy all of the processes and procedures being in place the late majority through laggard stage is probably the best type of company for you.

Knowing the level of risk and structure in a company will help make everyone in the process happier. The tension on the edges is where CEO’s get replaced,  employees turn into jerks and where most people are miserable and complain.

/

Two other thoughts:

  1. A later stage company can experience all three stages during periods of innovation. This is important because its the place large companies can get employees excited. Organizations like Google use the 20% of your time concept to keep people passionate.
  2. Some people can move up and down the entire stack Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and  of course <your name here>
  3. If you are thinking about starting a high tech business you should read the Startup Owners Manual, review the course online or take my graduate level class at University of Colorado.

A Letter to Steve Ballmer

Steve –

We’re already hearing stories of people trying to run the latest version of Windows on older machines and having issues, but that’s not the biggest issue IMO. My fingers are crossed for the success of Windows 8, but i’m concerned. The first OS to try and pull off multi device support is going to be riddled with platform design issues. The post PC era is all about designing mobile first, but which mobile device: phone, tablet or laptop. Combine this with resolutions spanning 320×640-to-2560×1440,  varying processor speeds depending on the device and a large majority of our existing designers trained in print or TV are we destined for a UI/UX nightmare.

One thing i do know Steve, If Microsoft is going to crack the mobile apple/google juggernaut it has to focus on the designer/developer. IMO traditional ad spends like this one below is a waste of money in the next 8-12 months.

Steve, you need to keep innovating and take as many risks with the marketing budget as you did with design and vision of Windows 8. You need to modify your launch budget ASAP to focus on the designer/developer ecosystem and I would suggest the following:

  • Create a 100 million venture fund
    • Average deal size of 100k
    • Lead deals and do not wait for co-investors
  • Allocate  100 million to designer/developer education, mobile design patterns, and community evangelism
    • make everyone better and Microsoft will become the cool kid again
  • Spend 100 million on ads to get developers excited about the platform
    • The families and friends of IOS and Android developers should be asking why they aren’t developing for Windows
  • Allocate 50 million to design and engineering schools across the county
    • 25K in product per school
    • 50K in cash for research on multi device

Now the really crazy part, all of this activity needs to be driven from your retail stores thats right urban malls are now VC’s offices.

  • The retail staff should be made up from product evangelists, developers, support people, VC’s, but no sales people
  • No commission
  • Appropriate salaries to attract awesome local developers
    • Weekly hackathons, developer presentations, end user support – you are building up the ecosystem in local communities across the world
  • All employee bonuses are tied to the success of the investments made in each store

Steve its time to Think Different, I know you can do it.

-robert


Endorsement’s – The New Like for Skills?

Endorsements are a light weight method of aligning your social capital with a colleagues specific skills. Below is my current snapshot.

What I am finding interesting is the perception vs reality. I primarily think of my self as an entrepreneur/innovator who has specific skills around UX, UI and business process, and the world so far has aligned itself with the entrepreneur/innovator. This is good, I think, but it clearly shows I am missing the mark on educating people on my other skills. I have since added a few portfolio pieces via an app from Behance. I wonder if it will change the perception or if my reality is off.

Offering a simpler way to align ones social capital feels right, but i wonder how it effects us in 10 years. The attention economy needs to be revisited, now that we have all of these subtle signals: likes, endorsements, thumbs up. The bigger social question, if we take a step back, is how will the like/endorsement change our society. The simple answer is personalization. Whats the real answer?


The Impending Mentor Shortage

What can we do as a community to encourage/engage people to become mentors? Than as Pandora’s box opens with individuals, accelerators, incubators and conferences all looking for time, what can we do to keep the tap from getting shut off?

I never go into a mentor/mentee meeting expecting anything, but a thank you if am the mentor.  I have received them in different ways: socially twitter/facebook/g+/linkedin/blog post, mail digital/physical and every once in a while a gift. Sometimes I get nothing, which always surprises me, but as a shy person i get it.

If you are unsure of the proper etiquette here are some rough guidelines:

  • Mentees
    • Always send a personal thank you via email within 24 hours (independent of the value of the meeting – this is about time not value)
    • If the meeting offered concrete suggestions independent of the value, use some social capital and thank the person publicly (if you are not willing to thank the person publicly you should not request or accept the meeting)
    • If the person introduces you to someone always respond in a timely manner and thank them in the email
    • If the person gives you additional time and helps connect you to other people on a regular basis think about asking them to be an advisor for your company or a personal mentor
  • Mentors
    • Never expect anything, but a thank you
    • Never ask for money or stock in the company

What are your thoughts on mentor/mentee etiquette?


Am I A Brilliant Jerk

Hmmmm - Let me ponder this question for a minute, perhaps you should tell me?

The New York Times did a piece on this concept over the weekend titled “What Do You Do With the Brilliant Jerk?” and its making its way  around the startup community. People are arguing both sides, but what i find most interesting is where they suggest this type of person excels, innovation.

Innovation is a tricky thing and it requires: persistence, stubbornness, and vision, which if broken down could easily be miss-interpreted as “brilliant jerk”.

I can tell you first hand that one of the most frustrating parts of having a vision is the time that it takes to get others to understand it; days, weeks, months and in most cases years. This does not fit well into our Twitter based world of elevator pitches, million dollar 30 second spots, or coffee shop conversations. As the slow food movement is providing an alternative to our fast food obese society, I wonder if giving the Brilliant Jerk some extra time, early on, will make him/her just a brilliant person.


Integrated turn-by-turn directions or more features – duh

The latest version of the IOS has dropped Google maps in favor of an Apple proprietary maps app. Their is an awesome lesson in here for startups and consumers. Leveraging a closed platform limits choice.

With that said, I have been using iOS6 for a few months and the integration of turn-by-turn directions is so much better then the previous Google maps integration that i do not believe they should even be compared.

    • I am not suggesting that Apple is the first mobile OS to offer this feature, their solution is better than other turn-by-turn apps or  that the current implementation choice was the best one for the community.

I am simply saying as a consumer, and someone who is direction challenged, having turn-by-turn directions integrated directly into the OS is f”ing awesome and the way it should  have been since the beginning.


Buying Retail Does Not Have To Suck

I have been researching what i think is a fascinating change happening in retail and I’m noticing 5 concepts merging at the same time, which is wreaking havoc on the entire industry:

  1. Brick and mortar stores are becoming showrooms for online purchases
  2. Products are becoming more sophisticated
  3. Sales people are clueless
  4. Interrupt advertising is not working
  5. Companies are clueless about social

I recently did some research around buying a smart phone. I visited all 3 major carriers plus a big box retailer. These are the best one liners I heard during my conversation with the employees:

  • Sprint told me all Apple apps cost money and all Android Apps are free
  • Verizon said Android is open sourced so the apps are better then the iPhone
  • AT&T said all Android phones could be upgraded to the latest OS
  • BestBuy said the camera on the the latest Samsung was an awesome camera in low light and the sales person illustrated this by taking out his personal phone and taking a screen shot of the home screen

Besides lies and nonsense, none of the representatives could tell me anything really useful about the devices and several told me to go read the reviews online. I was shocked, BestBuy did not even have actual phones on the floor, only slugs. Getting me in the door is hard enough and these companies spend billions to make that happen. I am not sure who had the great idea of telling their employees to send customers home to do their own research.

One interesting note:  If you ask them about the plans, they new the higher level details to sound educated. At first you would say ok they’re the carrier and not the device maker, but if you look at the latest plans for these devices:

  • Verizon Share Everything plan is $40 for unlimited calling and text in the US
  • AT&T Mobile Share is slightly more complicated but it starts at $45 for unlimited calling and text in the US

What’s so fascinating is the complexity is now switching from the plan to the device, and the retail environment is not keeping up leaving me unsatisfied again. A classic one step forward two steps back.

Why are these people selling your products its not just Smartphone and its not the sales people’s fault. This is bigger issue and it needs to be solved in a completely new way.

Hmm, i have an idea.


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