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.


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.

Fear and Panic

Everyone has boundaries both physical and emotional. Pushing through those boundaries/truths is hard. The common statements: how do i start, I can’t, it’s hard, I don’t understand, I’m going to fast, things are not happening are all places where fear and panic kicks in. As entrepreneurs and humans we have to learn how to experience these boundaries.

A friend of mine who loves to cave dive shared a story with me that has always helped me when I am stuck. He was looking to explore some new caves, and after an extended period of time found what looked like an amazing one to explore. He swam around for awhile and did not realize the cave was getting smaller and smaller until it was to late. Now you know the end of the story, because he was able to share it, but let me recount a few of the details and the most important part as it relates to fear and panic.

I do not remember why he was not able to detect the size of the cave, but I do remember that he said it was black and the top and bottom of the cave had things sticking out. He realized the cave was getting smaller when his gear started to scrape. He quickly slowed down and tried to move his body and thats when things went from bad to worse. He was stuck.

I like to joke with my kids in these situations PANIC and thats exactly what he did. Many many thoughts raced through his head, most of them negative and judgmental. Then his training kicked in. His brain slowed down and started to compartmentalize.

He looked at his gauges, his lights, his gear and began to device a plan. Yes, this is the james bond part with the clock counting down he slipped out of his gear push himself backwards and before running out of air,  made it back to the boat.

Compartmentalizing saved his life and I speculate when those moments arise for you, and they will. if you can compartmentalize your thoughts you will find away out of the quicksand.


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