Startup School 2014

Ron Conway from SV Angel
  • How do you tell you are driven enough?
    • Are you willing to work 24/7. The company is the first in line. Once you are willing to make this commitment, then the work ethic will be a non-issue.
  • Good qualities of an entrepreneur:
    • Good communicator
    • Have to be able to excite others
    • Can educate you self on skills that you are not born with (DYI learning).
    • Your idea has to be infectious enough to find a co-founder.
  • People typically find co-founder who know each other
  • SVAngels invested 750 companies
  • When you are older/wiser: better at giving advices
  • Younger people are better pickers
  • What should people do before start a startup?
  • Startup Ideas
    • When THE idea comes to your mind, you would say,“this is it!”.
    • It’s typically based on personal experience.
    • You stop what you doing and go work on that idea.
    • It’s based around a need/idea, which can create huge companies because other people might have the same need.
    • After coming up with the idea, then startup need to find product market fit.
  • The more compiling the story is, the more excited the investors become. This is what investors are looking for: “What inspired you to start the company?”
  • Investors also observe how co-founders interact. If one does the talking while another one interrupts/questions the other, it’s a red flag.
  • Co-founders typically co-worked on the idea together to build the idea together.
  • There are single founders, but very few. YC received 1/2 applicants as single founders and few actually got accepted.
  • How do people know the idea is bad?
    • A lot of ideas, appears to be bed, are actually huge. SV angels can’t tell if ideas is big/huge, they invest in people.
  • What traits a successful founders have?
    • Rightful focus on the product to the point of being rude! This focus enables building huge company.
  • Sometimes angels are over opinionated about the founders and make mistakes on missed star founders.
  • Both angels and founders are in it for the excitement to work on an interesting project/product/solution, not for the money.
  • What do Ron not fall for?
    • Ron look for focus on the product. If not focus on the product, the an alarm goes off. For the product to be successful, the number of users will grow. (i.e. focus on the users as well)
  • What do young founder do wrong?
    • If the idea is not working, ask “what do we need to do to make it work?” i.e. too prone to be trapped in denial. Your team will recognize it before you, but they will not discuss it with you. When the founder recognize it and openly discuss it with the team, the team’s moral actually goes up because the founders actually join the understanding of the rest of the company.
Danae Ringelmann from Indiegogo
  • About Danae
    • Daughter of 2 business owners. Parents bootstrapped on their own for 30 years. Danae grew up seeing her parents having hard time to gain access to funding.
    • First job in Wall Street in investment banking. Attended a Hollywood meets Wall Street event and was the most popular girl at the event because she was the only person from a bank. Everyone at the event was hoping to find investors. A man wrote her a letter asking for money. She felt angry about how unfair the world is, called mom and mom said, “why don’t you do something about it?”. So, she tried to help organizing a fundraisers for a broadway show and couldn’t get it to work.
    • She went back to HASS business school. Started Indigogo to democratize access to capital.
  • Lesson #1: Know your WHY
    • Why are you starting this company? Why do you care so much?
    • Your WHY gets your ego out of the way
    • Your WHY gets you through the early years
    • Your WHY informs your strategy: For Indigogo it is Open, Global, Customer Happiness, Optionality
    • Your WHY attracts amazing people
    • Your WHY attracts amazing customers
    • 5 Whys exercise, keep asking why again and again, until you get to irrational and that will discover the root motivation.
  • Lesson #2: Be Intentional with Culture
    • Make an intentional effort.
    • Diversity
    • Strong Culture (See: Dave Kashen’s How to build an Awesome Culture)
    • I work at Indigogo because ….
      • Distill your Values (Based on the above response) Below is a list for Indigogo
        • Fearlessness
        • Authenticity
        • Collaboration
        • Empowerment
      • Define and revisit your behaviors
        • For Indigogo, this is “Ruthlessly prioritizes.” — Focus on high priorities and say no to everything else.
      • Operationalize
        • Hiring — alignment with the mission
        • Rewards
        • Rituals
      • Measure
        • eNPS — happiness, How likely you recommend friends working here
        • OKR Grades — productivity
  • Lesson #3: Technology is just a means, not an end.
  • Raised 40m a few months ago.
Kevin Systrom from Instagram
  • Grew up outside of Boston.
  • Love to do a lot of different things.
  • Read a book called “The New New Thing”.
  • Loves Stanford for the culture of work hard and play hard.
  • Taught himself Ruby on Rail to build app to help Stanford students to trade at end/beginning of the school year. Created “Treelist”.
  • Studied at Florence for 3 months and launched the app.
  • People’s positive response and their usage helped him to continue work on. Through this experience, he learned how to market an app to other people.
  • There is no perfect next move.
  • Bias toward action. Movement and progress will help you. Learning will also help. Every little experience you have can contribute toward your future initiative.
  • If you plan to do a start-up, “it’s all going to be fine”.
  • He was working as a marketing job at Google. Go to where the people are.
  • Joined NextStop and the job prepared him for his next job/startup.
  • Combinatorial Entrepreneurship – a technique to use combination of terms to brainstorming.
  • Nicole is his girlfriend
  • Took 8 weeks to build the first version of Instagram.
  • Hiring before you need people
  • Be relentless You have to be your own advocate. No one is incentivized that your idea is going to work.
  • At the time of launch, their server was underpowered.
  • He felt lucky to be at the right place, right time.
  • Values: Community first (Your users are your greatest asset. If you take advantage of them, they may go away.)
Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn
  • After sold off Paypal to eBay, Reid took 3 weeks off and started working on LinkedIn
  • First thousand users was easy, using invitation. Linkedin added the feature to allow users to upload their address book to check who else are on LinkedIn.
  • Open capital market: 5x more competition, not just capital, also talent, noise, etc.
  • Ideal time to start company is during downturn
  • How you break the noise is a problem. Do something that is contrian, not airbnb for dogs.
  • Every valuable startup has weeks or months where the confidences goes down.
  • Raise more money than you need to make a milestone. If you raise too much capital, it can impact the sharpness of your operation. If you need 10, raise 15 or 20, but don’t raise 50. It’s the market that gives you the time, not the money. LinkedIn raised 4.6m. Identified goals for the next round of funding while raising for the current round.
  • Misconception: “Network equals network effect” The more nodes are in the system, it makes the system more valuable and harder to leave. Just having a network does not mean you have network effect.
  • A great idea:
    • Can it reach millions people
    • Is this what the world should be
    • When 2/3 of the people said that your startup idea is stupid is an indication that you should start.
  • Bitcoin: Is it the first or last crypto currency? Bitcoin is adding more wallets per week than others.
  • Recommend book: Peter’s Zero to One
  • The role of gov: It create the legal structure, edu env, finance law for the startup community. We need to make the gov better.
  • Entrepreneurship can be learned. Gov can help facilitate this.
Jan Koum from WhatsApp
Jim Goetz from Sequia Capital
  • Jan came from Ukraine, majored in computer science. Dropped out of college to join Yahoo for 9 years. Learned how to scale Yahoo from 500 servers to thousands of servers. WhatsApp has about 20-25 employees to manage the servers that serve 400 million users.
  • Jan never thought about starting a company, just want to build a product, just wanted to build a messaging app. In Jan 2009, Jan bought an iPhone. At the time the SDK came out and he tried to build an app, not a messaging app initially. Later, he pivot to messaging. In the Summer 2009, he was able to launch an initial version of WhatsApp.
  • Jim pointed out that Jan focus on end-users and ignore other people.
  • Jan made the decision to support Windows/Nokia 5 years ago, which paid off when those users migrate to Andropid/iPhone and still use WhatsApp.
  • Jim pointed out the level of focus Jan had on users and products is tremendous and ignored investors. At around 100 million users, Jan started to hire customer support staff.
  • Use fee to slow growth, so the company can focus on building infrastructure, making sure server is fast and customers are happy.
  • Jan prefer not to be in the press, which can be a distraction to the employees.
  • Jim said that the company had no marketing and encouraged Jan to hire a marketing team and respond to TechCrunch request.
  • Jan wanted to have the simplicity to use phone number and tap into the address book as the social network.
  • Jan tried to remove features that only 1% people use and that still has millions of users.
  • Erlang – enabled WhatsApp to scale, clustering, sync across servers.
  • WhatsApp helps people to stay connected.
  • WhatsApp always grew internationally.
  • Jan focus on how to grow and make the product successful, rather than focus on the financials.
  • During the early days of the company, Jan wanted WhatsApp to be on every smartphone.
  • Jan wanted to do the following in addition to be on every smartphone:
    • How to make the app startup faster
    • How to make the app more efficient and other little details.
Eric Migicovsky from Pebble
  • Eric studied industrial design. He wanted to see who called/text him while he bicycled and made a prototype by himself. After that, he went back to last year of his school, entered pitch competitions and won a competition. He also had funding from parents, who thought that was cheaper than grad school. In Waterloo in 2008, Blackberry was popular. So, Eric created a prototype that only worked with Blackberry. He worked with an industrial designer to create the first real watch.
  • By Mid-2009 and 2010, he were able to show a watch to people. 2009 is still early for 3d printing. By end of 2009, Eric launched the product publicly. One week before the actual launch, he sent to crackberry, a blog, about his product. On Oct 10, crackberry featured “First Images: BlcakBerry Watch is FOR REAL”. It caused a wave of excitement. On the following week, Eric followed-up to all media sites and everyone post again about the new product.
  • The company was based in a garage. The founders went back to the Waterloo University to build the first 500 units. Around this time, the company applied to YC. End-users had great product enhancement. Eric moved to Mountain View after joined YC.
  • The first version of the watch didn’t show current time. So, he launched firmware upgrade a week later.
  • In 2011, the company released a SDK. Within 2-3 months, over 100+ apps became available for the watch.
  • Initially the watch did’t work with iOS. After received feedback from the initial launch, the company was really to build the next iteration to wok with the phone.
  • He spent one month to talk with investors and couldn’t get funding. So, the company turn to Kickstarter and it changed Eric’s life. Eric reach his initial fund raising goal within two hours and raised millions of dollars in one month.
  • The company had 5 people when starting the Kickstarter project. None of them had prior experience on consumer electronics. They went to China to start working on the manufacturing.
  • Apple started moving this space. Google is going into this space.
  • Pebble tries to build a watch that is open, hackable, inexpensive and has a community.
  • Watchface generator for pebble enable Pebble customers to create watch faces.
Live Office Hours
  • 4 types of office hours:
    • Group office hours: For helping founders to understand the tempo and issues
    • Individual office hours: Similar to the office hour on stage at Startup Schoo, helping the founders with their challenges by helping them to figure out heuristics of solving problems rather than telling the founder what to do. Founders should go into this office hour with a specific agenda/problem. Partners do not want to go over the same challenge over and over again over multiple office hours.
    • Company office hours: Google, Amazon and other companies come in to help the founders with technical problems.
    • Investor office hours: Helping companies to get ready for demo day
  • Divide.io is data storage company and launched public beta on Monday that runs on Android. Divide.io is open-source and extensible. Divide.io is trying to implement RedHat/Mongo DB business model.
    • YC Partners recommend them to get as many people to sign-up, get feedback, explore for-fee support, build the community.
  • Kuona.co is a mobile app for building shopping list with location-based and price comparison features. Kuona has 11,000 users, mostly in Mexico. $0.1 to $0.2 for cost of user acquisition. Kuona is trying to make money from brands.      Kuona provided targeted advertising and analytics for brands. Kuona’s challenge is stickiness to grow the users.
    • YC Partners recommend to focus on growing the users. Once Kuona has users, brands will follow.
  • UtilityAPI solve data problems for solar and utility company to help them solving customer acquisition challenge.
    • YC Partners are not very clear about UtilityAPI is when looking at the web site.
Andrew Mason Detour/Groupon
  • Andrew was a developer before going back to grad school. In 2006, he received an in-bound $1M offer for him to drop-off school to work on a start-up, The Point. He started in 2006 and about one years later pivot into Groupon.  Groupon was started as a side project in parallel to The Point. The Point had about 1000 visitors everyday, but the traffic would reduce. The Point product wasn’t working and the investors wanted to take their money back.
  • Andrew had a hard time to motivate his team to work on Groupon. So, he hacked a WordPress web site for the first coupon deal, which is a 2-for-1 pizza deal. After a couple weeks, it was clear that they were up to something. If this continuous on the same growth rate, Groupon would be the fastest growing company.
  • In the early days, they would use a FileMaker database to create coupons and use mail.app to open emails. First mover advantage made a difference for Groupon. Groupon was built in one-month, easy to start. Scaling was difficult.
  • Groupon was adding people so fast that it was hard to maintain a global value system. One area Groupon did well was that they identified an unit for each city and use a playbook to repeat it over and over. Groupon expanded after received funding in 2009 and at that point, they knew they need to figure our their international operations quickly and expand ASAP as clones pop-up.
  • If Andrew do over again on acquisition, he would make sure that values would align before doing the acquisition.
  • Yahoo approached Groupon to make an offer to buy the company for $2B range. Andrew didn’t want to sell at all and did not sell to Yahoo. Andrew approached Google and that went well. The board decided that given the growth was going off the charts, it didn’t make sense to sell. Andrew also didn’t want to sell. A business is an opportunity to inject an idea in the world.
  • Going to public is awful. At least 10% of your time will be nothing to do with building a great company. The incentive to think short-term is very strong. Andrew think it’s bad for entrepreneurship. Andrew would recommend to put off going to public a long as possible.
  • Andrew is starting Detour, a location aware audio tour. Detour has 90-day company goals.
  • Values — The principles that you follow religiously. Examples: start with customers and work backwards. The difference is having the courage to have this convention and see it pay off.
Michelle Zatlyn CloudFlare
Matthew Prince
  • 5 years ago, Michelle and Matthew were in the audience’s seats.
  • CloudFlare is building better Internet, faster, more secure, load balanced, Cisco as-a-service. 3000 people sign-up everyday.
  • There is no silver-bullet to how to get started.
  • Sharks and misquotes: Matthew worries about sharks, which only kills about 10 people per year. While misquotes kills hundred of thousands of people.
  • For the first year, the founder built the product and open private beta. The founders knew the products wasn’t ready yet. They signed-up 10 friends and took all 10 down to improve it before bring them up again.
  • Matthew asked their customers to donate servers. 70% of the customers responded and donated non-working machines. So, the founders build their first CloudFlare server with these donated parts. While picking-up the servers, Michelle asked customers for their feedback.
  • Matthew and Michelle have different skills and trust one another.
  • As a startup, your momentum is your asset.
  • When you hire someone, you can have two schools of thought: 1. high title, 2. low title. If Matthew had to do this over again, he would give engineer title to everyone. On the first board meeting, everyone has VP title.
  • Diversity: The number of their team members with prior web infrastructure experience is very small. Many came from adjecent industry. By not having the in-industry context, it opens them to explore out-of-box thinking.
  • Work on big challenges, work on hard things. It’s going to be hard no matter what you do. If you end-up protecting the democracy in HK, it matters.
  • Average time to IPO is 8 years.
  • Do pick something that you are willing to put your sweat, tear, and blood into.
  • Having other people you trust and value can really help to cope with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
  • Surround yourself with the right people, board member, employee, etc.
  • When looking for investors, make sure their vision is aligned with the founders. Once you take money from the investors, it’s hard to undo.
Hosain Rahman from Jawbone
  • Jawbone started with a customer problem, which led the company to voice recognition. Jawbone invented a noise cancelation technology. Then Hosain tried to talk with device manufactures, but no one wanted to integrate the technology with their device. DARPA funded the company for battle field technology. At the time Jawbone had 8 engineers and moved to SF in 1999.
  • If you believe what you have is right, then stay in that course. That’s why Jawbone was taking the un-conventional funding source from DARPA. The funding enabled Jawbone to productize the technology. Hosain eventually decided too make their own hardware device after not getting commitment from potential licensee partners. At the time, around 2002, there were not many prior hardware start-ups. Jawbone started to think seriously on design in order to make the product great. Jawbone launched the first headset product.
  • Hosain got a chance to meet Steve Job and received brutal honest feedback on many flaws the product had due to all the compromises that the founder made due to other constrains. Hosain sent Jobs a thank you letter showing his appreciation and the time for the honest feedback. The initial product wasn’t successful, the investors kicked the founders off the board and wanted to shutdown the company. This failure taught Hosain a lot. He realized that paying attention to details and resolved the issues is important. He went back to re-work on the next product using another DARPA funding and no salary for two years.
  • Hosain got a deal with Cingular/AT&T. However, the company had no money to get the customs to release the product. The company found an investor to get the needed funding, to get the product in store in-time for Christmas. With this overnight success, Hosain had to start building the company growing from 6 employees. After the launch, some of the units were breaking. Jawbone tried to focus on the customer, send apology letters, refund and work through the issues.
  • In 2011, Jawbone had to start building software from scratch. It was hard to have both hardware and software people work in a way that the whole thing work well together to solve a customer problem.
Emmett Shear from Twitcch
  • For the first start-up, the team had not so good idea and unable to stay focus for more than 5 weeks. Emmett was able to generate 6 startup ideas in a year an half. As a result of working on several startup ideas, Emmett was becoming a better programmer.
  • Second startup-up idea was to build a reality TV show around Justin’s life and got support from YC. The team was able to get the funding before they were able to deliver the result. Then the company hired 4th co-founder, Kyle. 4-person co-founder can be a bad idea, but it worked for the team. This startup got the attention of the whole country. Then, the company open-up the platform to enable anyone to broadcast live TV show. The team had a lot of down-time and learned how to scale the platform. At some point, the team couldn’t figure out why they are not growing. By 2008, the team tried really hard trying to make money. The company had two ideas for growing: 1. Mobile 2. Gaming. So the company setup two teams working on two projects, one on gaming and one on mobile. Emmett led the gaming project. At that time, 5 years into startups, Emmett felt a light bulb went off. Emmett learned how to talk to users, which is one key skills for building products for users.
  • 4 moth later, he launched Twitch TV. Emmett talked to the users, broadcasters, to learn more about them. For startups, don’t do a business development deals. It’s only useful for bigger companies.
  • Don’t Give Up — Emmett took 3 tries. If you don’t love it, then you won’t be able to make through. It took Emmett 8 years.

Book: How Will You Measure Your Life?

how_will_you_measure_your_life

“How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen

The book club at work are reading this book. So, I figured that I should give it a read as well. Given that the author is a Harvard Business School professor, the writing certainly reminded me of cases I read in business school. Although the book started out talking about personal happiness, there are a lot of examples and advice on how to manage a business or an organization. Mr. Christensen do explain how these business examples can also apply at personal level to improve one’s own happiness. I was delighted to see a professor’s name referenced, which was Morgan McCall and I took his leadership class. :)

Here are a few highlights:

  • “Good theory can help us categorize, explain, and, most important, predict.”
  • “People often think that the best way to predict the future is by collecting as much data as possible before making a decision. But this is like driving a car looking only at the rearview mirror–because data is only available about the past.”
  • “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of heart, you’ll know when you find it.” –Steve Jobs
  • Motivation theory: “It acknowledges that you can pay people to want what you want–over and over again. But incentives are not the same as motivation. True motivation is getting people to do something because they want to do it. This type of motivation continues, in good times and in bad.”
  • “On one side of the equation, there are the elements of work that, if not done right, will cause us to be dissatisfied. These are called hygiene factors. Hygiene factors are things like status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices.”
  • “Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. Feelings that you are making a meaningful contribution to work arise from intrinsic conditions of the work itself.”
  • “I had thought the destination was what was important, but it turned out it was the journey.”
  • “I concluded, if you want to help other people, be a manager. If done well, management is among the most noble professions. You are in a position where you have eight or ten hours every day from every person who works for you. You have the opportunity to frame each person’s work so that, at the end of every day, your employees will go home feeling like Diana felt on her good day: living a life filled with motivators.”
  • “For many of us, one of the easiest mistakes to make is to focus on trying to over-satisfy the tangible trappings of professional success in the mistaken belief that those things will make us happy. Better salaries. A more prestigious title. A nicer office. They are, after all, what our friends and family see as signs that we have ‘made it’ professionally. But as soon as you find yourself focusing on the tangible aspects of your job, you are at risk of becoming like some of my classmates, chasing a mirage. the next pay raise, you think, will be the one that finally makes you happy. It’s a hopeless quest.”
  • “The theory of motivation suggests you need to ask yourself a different set of questions than most of us are used to asking. Is this work meaningful to me? Is this job going to give me a chance to develop? Am I going to learn new things? Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement? Am I going to be given responsibility? These are things that will truly motivate you. Once you get this right, the more measurable aspects of your job will fade in importance.”
  • Options for strategy: “The first source is anticipated opportunities–the opportunities that you can see and choose to pursue… When you put in place a plan focused on these anticipated opportunities, you are pursuing a deliberate strategy. The second source of option is unanticipated–usually a cocktail of problems and opportunities that emerges while you are trying to implement the deliberate plan or strategy that you have decided upon.”
  • “If you have found an outlet in your career that provides both the requisite hygiene factors and motivators, then a deliberate approach makes sense.”
  • “But if you haven’t reached the point of finding a career that does this for you, then, like a new company finding its way, you need to be emergent. This is another way of saying that if you are in these circumstances, experiment in life. As you learn from each experience, adjust. Then iterate quickly. keep going through this process until your strategy begins to click.”
  • “Strategy almost always emerges from a combination of deliberated and unanticipated opportunities. What’s important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests, and priorities begin to pay off. When you find out what really works for you, then it’s time to flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one.”
  • “In the words of Andy Grove: ‘To understand a company’s strategy, look at what they actually do rather than what they say they will do.'”
  • “successful companies don’t succeed because they have the right strategy at the beginning; but rather, because they have money left over after the original strategy fails, so that they can pivot and try another approach.”
  • “When the winning strategy is not yet clear in the initial stage of a new business, good money from investors needs to be patient for growth but impatient for profit. It demands that a new company figures out a viable strategy as fast as and with as little investment as possible–so that the entrepreneurs don’t spend a lot of money in pursuit of the wrong strategy.”
  • “once a viable strategy has been found, investors need to change what they seek–they should become impatient for growth and patient for profit. Once a profitable and viable way forward has been discovered–success now depends on scaling out this model.”
  • “Many products fail because companies develop them from the wrong perspective. Companies focus too much on what they want to sell their customers, rather than what those customers really need. What’s missing is empathy: a deep understanding of what problems customers are trying to solve. The same is true on our relationships: we go into them thinking about what we want rather than what is important to the other person.”
  • “the path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.”
  • “It’s natural to want the people you love to be happy. What can often be difficult is understanding what your  role is in that. Thinking about your relationships from the perspective of the job to be done is the best way to understand what is important to the people who mean the most to you. It allows you to develop true empathy. Asking yourself ‘What job does my spouse most need me to do?’ give you the ability to think about it in the right unit of analysis.”
  • “You have to do that job. You’ll have to devote your time and energy to the effort, be willing to suppress your own priorities and desires, and focus on doing what is required to make the other person happy. Nor should we be timid in giving our children and our spouses the same opportunities to give of themselves to others. You might think this approach would actually cause resentment in relationships because one person is so clearly giving up something for the other. But I have found that it has the opposite effect. In sacrificing for something worthwhile, you deeply strengthen your commitment to it.”
  • Outsourcing: “The theory of capabilities gives companies the framework to determine when outsourcing makes sense, and when it does not. There are two important considerations. First, you must take a dynamic view of your suppliers’ capabilities. Assume that they can and will change. You should not focus on what the suppliers are doing now, but, rather, focus on what they are striving to be able to do in the future. Second, and most critical of all: figure out what capabilities you will need to succeed in the future. These must stay in-house–otherwise, you are handing over the future of your business.”
  • “children will learn when they are ready to learn, not when we’re ready to teach them.”
  • “Culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way.”
  • “A culture is the unique combination of processes and priorities within an organization.”

Book: Becoming A Technical Leader

Becoming a Technical Leader “Becoming A Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-solving Approach” by Gerald M. Weinberg

This is another book published over 20 years ago. There are still some useful information. Here are a few highlights:

“Leadership is the process of creating an environment in which people become empowered.”

  • “Instead of leading people, as in the threat/reward model, organic leadership leads the process. Leading the process is responsive to people, giving them choices and leaving them in control.”
  • MOI model of leadership:
    • “M: motivation–the trophies or trouble, the push or pull that moves the people involved”
    • “O: organization–the existing structure that enables the ideas to be worked through into practice”
    • “I: ideas or innovation–the seeds, the image of what will become”
  • “Leaders are leaders of change — change in other people, change in working groups, and change in organization. Above all, leaders are leaders of change in themselves.”
  • Learning Curve: “There are plateaus, but you don’t really leap, you climb. In order to climb, you must leave the sure footing, letting go of what you already do well and possibly slipping downward into a ravine. If you never let go of what you already do well, you may continue to make steady progress, but you’ll never get off the plateau.”

learning_curve

“as leaders grow older, they often add a second type of leadership to their repertoire. Instead of simply charging out at the head of the troops, they organize the troops so that when the time comes for battle, they’ll charge off by themselves.”

  • “No-Problem Syndrome”: “a condition in which the ears are not properly connected to the brain. The sounds enter all rights, but they trigger a stereotyped response that has nothing to do with their meaning. One person describes a terribly vexing problem, but the other merely responds with a callous, ‘No problem.'”
    1. “You describe your very difficult problem.”
    2. “The respondent says, ‘No problem!'”
    3. “You say, ‘Oh, that’s terrific! could you please describe my problem that you’re going to solve?'”
    4. “If the respondent then describes your problem, even erroneously, that’s not a case of NPS but only a case of Enthusiasm.”
    5. “If the respondent describes a proposed solution to your problem rather than the problem itself, then sadly it’s NPS. The kindest thing you can do for all concerned is smile and walk briskly to the nearest exist.”
  • “According to the MOI theory, you’ll need three things to succeed at transforming yourself into a more effective problem-solving leader: motivation, organization, and ideas”
  • “copulation: putting together two ideas to form a new one that’s better than either of its parents.”
  • “The first big lesson from studying careers is this: It’s not the event that matters, but your reaction to the event”
  • “Everybody has failures, if only because their success leads them to fail.”
  • “People don’t become leaders because they never fail. They become leaders because of the way they react to failure.”
  • “The first great obstacle to motivation is a different kind of blindness: the inability to see yourself as others see you…. We simply have no reliable way of anticipating the reactions of other people.”
  • “Incongruent communication is deadly to motivation, which depends on the free and accurate flow of information about how we respond to one another.”
  • “My gift-giving technique can almost be reduced to a formula: Tell them what you perceive, how you feel about what you perceive, and if possible how you feel about that feeling.”
  • “If the job isn’t highly technical, the leader need not be competent, but can lead by fear.”
  • “People with strong technical backgrounds can convert any task into a technical task, thus avoiding work they don’t want to do.”
  • “Leaders who don’t care about people don’t have anyone to lead, unless their followers don’t have a choice.”
  • “No amount of caring for people will hold your audience if you have nothing to offer but pretend you do.”
  • “Task-oriented leaders tend to overestimate their own accomplishments”
  • “Very little work we do is really so important that it justifies sacrificing the future possibilities of the people doing the work.”
  • “When the work is complex, no leader can be absolutely sure that plans won’t ‘gang aft agley.'”
  • “In a complex environment, even the most task-oriented leader is forced to put people first, or the task won’t get done.”
  • “To be a successful problem-solving leader, you must keep everybody’s humanness at the forefront.”
  • “If you are a leader, the people are your work. There is no other work worth doing.”
  • Helping
    • “Wanting to help people may be a noble motive but that doesn’t make it any easier.”
    • “If people don’t want your help, you’ll never succeed in helping them, no matter how smart or wonderful you are.”
    • “Effective help can only start with mutual agreement on a clear definition of the problem.”
    • “Always check whether they want your help.”
    • “Even when people agree that they want your help, that agreement is not usually a lifetime contract.”
    • “People who want to help other people generally expect to get something for themselves, though they may not be aware of it.”
    • “Most people understand that helpers are selfish, but also thing they are exceptions to the rule.”
    • “Attempts to help are often interpreted as attempts to interfere.”
    • “The ability to love others–and thus to help others, and thus to lead others–starts with the ability to love yourself.”
  • “If your whole team consists of novice programmers, your expertise will give you considerable power; but if the other team members are also experts, they will attach less importance to your technical expertise. In that case, they’ll pay more attention to organizational power, like the power to acquire an extra terminal, to extend the schedule, or to capture a more interesting assignment.”
  • “If you don’t know what you want, power is as useless to you as a Ferrari to a blind driver. You might accidentally steer along the track, but you’ll probably crash somewhere.”
  • “So, when you see a chance for power, ask yourself what you want power for. If you don’t know that, you’re sure to falter and lose your way when your old power starts to crumble, as it must before your new power starts to grow.”
  • Maturity
    • “be clear when they deal with others”
    • “be aware of their own thoughts and feelings.”
    • “be able to see and hear what is outside themselves.”
    • “behave toward other people as separate from themselves and unique.”
    • “treat differentness as an opportunity to learn and explore rather than as a threat or a signal for conflict.”
    • “deal with persons and situations in their context, in terms of how it is rather than how they wish it were or expect it to be.”
    • “accept responsibility for what they feel, think, hear, and see, rather than denying it or attributing it to others.”
    • “have open techniques for giving, receiving, and checking meaning with others.”
    • “the first step in creating a problem-solving environment is to work on your own maturity, but this can’t be accomplished through gimmicks.”
  • “power conversion: You use power you have in one form to gain power in some other form you want more.”
  • “They’re all doing the best they can, under the circumstances. If I don’t think they are doing the best they can, then I don’t understand the circumstances.”
  • “With new powers comes the responsibility to learn new ways to use those powers. Paradoxically, the greater the power you have, the harder it becomes to do what you have to do to learn those new ways.”
  • “In the real world, you shouldn’t get graded on your job by adding up all the parts, but by multiplying.”
  • “The person at the top makes the rules, which is another way of saying, breaks the old rules. Cowardly conformists don’t make it to the top, but then neither do blind rebels.”
  • “By and large, technical workers tend to be stronger on the planning side than the personality side. They often complain that they know how things should be run, if they could only get someone to listen. That’s why computer programmers are so happy working with their machines: Personality doesn’t influence computers.
    At the higher levels of management, planning strengths also count heavily, so computer programmers might make terrific top executive, if only they had the personality strengths to get them through the intermediate ranks. Mostly, though, they just get shoved out the door.”
  • “By practicing many small achievements, I learn how to deal with the unfamiliar feelings that might hamper me when I try for some big achievement.”
  • “Don’t redo work you’ve assigned to others. When you do, you pay several times for the same work: first with the time to explain it to them, then with the time to take it back without hurting their feelings (which really won’t work), then the time to repair any damage they’d done, and finally the time to do it yourself… I’ve finally learned that you must let them make mistakes. It’s part of the price you pay, and it’s more efficient in the long run.”
  • “Avoid trivial technical arguments to prove your technical superiority. ‘As your career advances,’ Dirk said, ‘you have to let go of certain things.'”
  • “Choose your own priorities and don’t wait for a crisis to organize your activities.”
  • “Pay attention to what you do when there’s nothing to do.”
  • “Listen to what other people have already learned.”
  • “Let other people show you how smart they are.”
  • “Some people in my support system want me to stay the same; these I call my Conservatives. Others want me to change; these are my Radicals.”
  • “Change in your support system are seldom painless, but if you intend to grow, you cannot avoid some pain. Several times in my life, I’ve had a particularly wonderful relationship that I wanted to freeze, so it would never change. Each time I did that, I killed the relationship: The best relationships have been the ones with people who wanted both of us to grow, even if it was sometimes difficult.”
  • “The paradox of problem-solving leadership is that you have to change in order to remain the same.”

Hiring for potential, Not Just Experience

interviewClaudio Fernández-Aráoz, senior adviser at Egon Zehnder, and author of the new book, It’s Not the How or the What but the Who, explains how to gauge potential when evaluating job candidates. In this video, he explains that the hallmarks of potential are motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. Here is the link to the video:

http://hbr.org/video/3603876266001/hire-for-potential-not-just-experience

Book: “Dynamics of Software Development”

Image “Dynamics of Software Development” by Jim McCarthy

Although this book published almost 20 years ago, it has some timeless rules that are still applicable today. Here are a few lines from the book:

  • “If the leader can then resonate with the team’s complex emotional state–identify with it, articulate it, and give the whole constellation of feeling and thought a visible, concrete reality in his or her own personal voice or gesture–the boundaries among the individual team members and between the team members and the leader will collapse.”
  • “The truth is hard to take, challenges your character, but whether the truth is offered by someone else or you discover it independently, you have to listen to it eventually… Not only must you listen to the truth, but you must broadcast it to the rest of the team. And the medium for transmitting truth among humans, like it or not, is emotion.”
  • “not to slow the pace of change, or to create more stability; but to get good at change, at managing technology in motion.”
  • “you are not going to get away with many more than two developers for every one QA person”
  • “If a balanced group of people are mutually accountable for all aspects of design, development, debugging, QA, shipping, and so on, they will devise ways to share critical observations with one another. Because they are accountable, if they perceive it, they own it. They must pass the perception to the rest of the team.”
  • “leadership in software development require a high degree of sensitivity to the human nature of the enterprise, an awareness of the underlying drives and emotions that determine the team’s behavior.”
  • “if you are having a hard time understanding something about the team, you can look to the software. If the team and the software both tell you the same thing, you can act on it with some degree of confidence. Conversely, if the software hasn’t reach the desired state, the way to fix it is to analyze the genesis of the problem in the team.”
  • “Freedom is the cornerstone of empowerment, freedom to develop and apply judgement, freedom to think and say what needs thinking and saying, freedom to take risks without extraneously punitive consequences.”
  • “Empowerment is the result of teaching and learning, not neglect and anarchy.”
  • “invest significantly in paradigm-shifting features… Once you make a breakthrough in the paradigm arena, your competitor will be forced back to the drawing board, even if he or she is momentarily ahead in the feature shoot-out.”
  • “Shipping is the hardest thing to do. If you’re better at shipping than y our competitor, you’re likely to be better than y our competitor at virtually everything. Timely, frequent shipping is the manifestation of well-being on a software development team.”
  • “Teaching becomes the primary function of leaders and managers.”
  • “in a product that had unity, each element would be essential to the value of the whole and all essential elements would be there… since everything the customer needed would be there, the customer wouldn’t be tempted to go beyond the present experience, and that since nothing would be there that wasn’t required, the customer’s absorption into the world of the product wouldn’t be disturbed.”
  • “It should be a fundamental dogma that the person who has to do the work should predict the amount of time it will take.” “The ultimate act of disempowerment is to take away the responsibility for the schedule from those who must live by it.”
  • “You need to build schedule meticulously from the bottom up. Each person who has a task to do must own the design and the execution of the task and must be held accountable for its timely achievement. Accountability is the twin of empowerment. The two together can create a reasonable software development plan.”
  • “As a development manager, you’re working with only three things: resource (people and money), features (the product and its quality), and the schedule.” “When considering the possible solution to a schedule shortfall, keep in mind there are only four possible: add time, subtract feature, add resources, or do some combination of the three.”
  • “when something is unknown, the best policy is to state that simple fact, even if the unknown is not knowing when the software will slip.”
  • “The goal on a software development project is not to have the correct plan in advance but to make the right decision every day as things that were unknown become known.”
  • Team interdependence as a motivational factor to deliver software on-time: “The goal is to create a network of self-motivated individual commitments.”
  • “If you have an ‘empowered development team’ deliverables are negotiated among developers, writers, program managers, and testers. ‘Management’ has virtually nothing to say about deliverables.”
  • “Slipping isn’t the problem. Being surprised by slipping is the problem. A slip doesn’t say that the product is too hard to develop. Being surprised by a slip says that the organization is broken. People aren’t thinking. People aren’t talking to each other. People aren’t aware of the global situation.”
  • “A good general rule is that you don’t reset the schedule until the total extent of the slip is known for each component, the cause of the slip are understood, and remedies are in place.”
  • “The biggest mistake I see managers make as they hire people for software development team is that they overvalue a particular technical skill… Much more important than a particular technical skill is a history of relevant skills accumulation.”

Book: “Notes to a Software Team Leader”

Image“Notes to a Software Team Leader” by Roy Osherove is a refreshing read. I like his way of explaining concepts, making them easy to understand. His perspective that “a team leader grows the people in their team” is inspirational. Here are a few lines from the book:

  • “To get out of survival mode, you have to worry about one thing: creating slack time as a standard in your work process.” This is necessary for the team to find the time they need to acquire new skills, knowledge and capabilities to better handle challenges.
  • “To get to the next stage and to become much better than you are, you have to let go of the things you already know. You have to let go of the safety of the current position you’re in, so that you climb to the next level.” The concept of letting go what you already know is a new concept to me.
  •  “What’s under their control? Usually, their time and what they choose to work on are the only things under their administrative control.” This means that an engineer can’t reliably guarantee that s/he will be able to fix a bug by tomorrow. Instead s/he can commit to spending at least 6 hours today and 6 more hours tomorrow to work on fixing the bug.
  • “What are you going to do about it?” This is a question a leader can challenge his/her direct reports to learn how to handle a challenge by him/her self and commit to do something about it.
  • Forces that can influence behavior change: personal ability, personal motivation, social ability, social motivation, environmental ability and environmental motivation. Personal ability and motivation are straight forward. Social ability and motivation covers people around the person that is attempting to make a behavior change. Environmental ability and motivation extends not only the physical environment, also the organizational environment that controls the pay, bonus, etc.
  • “Team leadership is about creating an environment in which everyone can flourish to the best of each person’s ability–including yours.”

AfterShot Pro 1.2.0.7

It’s great to see that Corel released latest update to support new cameras. However, the new version would not import Canon 5D mark II RAW files correctly. After an import, the images would look blank when it supposed to have image content. Here is a screen capture of what I see:

aftershotpro

 

 

 

 

A look in Corel’s forum led me to a post that suggested to remove the files in cache folder (i.e. .AfterShotPro/cache in Linux). It worked for me! :)

Scale agile to the enterprise with distributed teams

Here is a podcast that might help managers and senior individuals managing multiple projects to better managing resources and planning projects. :)

The Project Management Podcast:Episode 231: Agile, Coffee, Tea and Trains

http://www.project-management-podcast.com/index.php/podcast-episodes/episode-details/481-episode-231-agile-coffee-tea-and-trains

HowTo: Setup GWT remote logging

I find the official documentation on remote logging wasn’t complete. Here are my notes based on various web sites I visited (here, here, and here). Hope this helps!

App.gwt.xml

You should add the inherits statement below. You should be able to adjust the log level to any of the following: ALL, FINEST, FINER, FINE, CONFIG, INFO, WARNING, SEVERE. I find the popup log console in the browser annoying, so I disabled it.

<inherits name=”com.google.gwt.logging.Logging”/>
<set-property name=”gwt.logging.simpleRemoteHandler” value=”ENABLED” />
<set-property name=”gwt.logging.logLevel” value=”FINEST”/>
<set-property name=”gwt.logging.enabled” value=”TRUE”/>
<set-property name=”gwt.logging.consoleHandler” value=”ENABLED” />
<set-property name=”gwt.logging.popupHandler” value=”DISABLED” />

web.xml

The following code is necessary for the server to receive log information and redirect to server log file.

<servlet>
<servlet-name>remoteLogging</servlet-name>
<servlet-class>com.google.gwt.logging.server.RemoteLoggingServiceImpl</servlet-class>
</servlet>
<servlet-mapping>
<servlet-name>remoteLogging</servlet-name>
<url-pattern>/YOUR_MODULE/remote_logging</url-pattern>
</servlet-mapping>

java

Here is the example code you can use in GWT client-side.

import com.google.gwt.logging.client.SimpleRemoteLogHandler;
import java.util.logging.Level;
import java.util.logging.LogRecord;

SimpleRemoteLogHandler remoteLog = new SimpleRemoteLogHandler();
remoteLog.publish(new LogRecord(Level.INFO, “log message”));

Bluetooth Keyboard

Motorola bluetooth keyboard just arrived today and I am happy to use it to type this blog post. :) The only thing I wished it can do is to support Asian language keyboard layouts with Android.  Besides that, I did notice that the keyboard would cause one of the keys to trigger multiple times when I only pressed the key once. This happens a few times while typing this blog post.