Keep a Pitch in your Pocket

jacketpocketWhatever you are working on, being able to quickly, clearly, and effectively communicate it to a potential customer or approval executive can dramatically improve your chances of success.Some people are gifted with a golden tongue, the ability to on the spot pitch an idea in a way that just sounds awesome. But most of us have to work at it. And it’s likely that those people that seem so gifted put in their time perfecting their abilities. While it seems effortless now, none of us saw the years of effort that went into getting there.

So how do you perfect a pitch? Well a good pitch has a couple qualities: Continue reading

Write the Ad First

draperTaking a shot at writing an advertisement for a product before the first line of code is written has tremendous value.  Ad writing requires the team to become crystal clear about the message they are trying to portray, and the action they are trying to cause.  To help you get started, here’s a structure we used extensively at one of my day jobs.  What you want to do is capture who you are writing the ad for, what their problems are and how the unique solutions the product provides to the user.  Finally it closes with why you are the best company to deliver this product.

We typically think of the advertisement as the tool we use to communicate a product’s value to the market once the product is built and ready to ship. And most ads are written after the product is ready to launch, as its important to keep products in front of target customers, and you need to iterate the advertisements to ride market trends, and also keep end customer interest.  Imagine how boring it would be if we were all still watching Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial 30 years later…  But writing an ad for you product idea is a great way to solidify your thoughts. Continue reading

Learning Rails vs. Learning to be a Rails Developer

evolutionA little over a year ago I started on my first Rails app.  I’ve been off in the business world for the past 10 years, and have been itching to get back into application development of some kind again.  Some of my still developer friends had been talking about Rails and it sounded really interesting, so I thought I’d make that the focus of my first development side project.

I had an idea I wanted to implement, and searched around for some sort of Rails documentation or tutorial.  In a short period of time I found Michael Hartl’s Rails tutorial and dug in.  What an awesome resource!  I mean, Rails is pretty complex, and takes care of a lot, and I didn’t know any Ruby yet… but my first night working on the tutorial I had something really basic working, and I was hooked.  The nomenclature was weird, I didn’t understand the makeup of the whole stack, and a lot of times things seems to work magically and fail mysteriously, but but I got enough positive feedback I knew I could get better.

After a couple of months I had the initial version of Wikiometer up and running, Continue reading

20 Million backspaces later…

backspaceI’ve been using computers since 1989. More than two thirds of my life has required interacting with a keyboard, writing papers, browsing newsgroups, writing software, building excel spreadsheets, generating power point presentations… I’ve done a little back of the envelope about how many keys I’ve pressed and it’s in the hundreds of millions. And I realize, I am hardly unique in this.

But I never learned how to type. I just learned to get by. Continue reading

Changing Direction

change_directionI’ve had a vcf like personal webpage up here for a couple of years, and it’s time to change. Time to blog like it’s 2002 and I’m a 13 year old with things to say! Seriously, I’ve been working out a ton of ideas recently, and want a place to put them out. Even if it’s just for me, the pressure of putting together cogent thoughts for an audience that is not me will help crystalize these thoughts, and hopefully others.

If you’re into technology, psychology, software development, micropreneurship, music… you might find something to think about here. Stay tuned…

The complete product

There is a difference between core functionality and a complete product. The difference is success or failure in an organization’s ability to win in the market. Core functionality might get you in the door with an early adopter, but it doesn’t scale to the bigger market. So what makes up the complete product? Here are some attributes:

  • Packaging
  • Ease of installation
  • Documentation
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Ongoing user experience
  • Integration with 3rd party utilities
  • Sales support materials
  • Channel support materials
  • Technical support materials
  • SDKs and sample code (for platforms)
  • Development Partners (for platforms)
  • Demos

It is so easy to become excited about the proof of technology, and we should. And the next thing we should do is Continue reading

Old dogs and new tricks

For the 3 years, I worked on a new business unit inside an established company. Before that I was working on new product launches for another established company that was looking for new growth opportunities. In both cases, it was apparent that the core company did not want to embrace the change needed to allow the new venture to succeed. At the heart of the problem is that the new business unit / product division needs to use different tactics than the established business uses. The established business process have been refined and perfected over years by those who are now the senior management.

What makes these practices so valuable for the core business is exactly what makes them deadly for the new ventures. They minimize risk to the existing business by rejecting / killing other processes that might introduce instability. The new venture is by definition a risky process, if it is even a process at all yet. It is like our own immune system… Continue reading

“… and we allow the user to choose …”

At a recent startup event, I asked one of the founders to talk about their product; it was a consumer focused web application. During the description I was struck by the number of times she said “… and then we allow the user to choose…” I appreciated the freedom they “allowed” me, but I was exhausted!

What really struck me was the dual-nature of providing user choice. One perspective is that it exposes functionality and customization to the user, which sounds like a good thing. Alternatively, providing choice is just avoiding making a decision for the customer. I mean, ideally, I’d start to use the product and the experience would just be intuitive; I wouldn’t have to choose.

It is easy to see how a company gets stuck Continue reading

Podcast Review: Reach Your Escape Velocity

Geoffrey Moore is a great thinker and communicator. In this podcast he describes a couple of frameworks from his new book “Escape Velocity” (book review in the works). One of these frameworks is designed for product and solution managers, a group he calls offer managers. The framework is to look at a product and understand

  1. Differentiate – What features of the product are 10x better than the competition
  2. Neutralize – What features of the product need to meet market parity
  3. Optimize – What stuff should the product team stop focusing on so they can refocus on driving 1) or 2)

This framework is so powerful because it allows a product manager, or an entrepreneur to focus on effort than can make a meaningful difference, and to recognize effort that would be wasted. It doesn’t make sense to apply resources to features that cannot become 10x better than the competition, so just make sure they are good enough. Refocus the energy you would have spent driving this feature to neutralizing other threat dimensions or driving your key differentiators further. Thanks Geoff!

How disruptive is your idea?

The other day I was trying to convince my wife that it would be a good idea for me to go out on the town with my cousins while she took care of our 4 month old.

Sometimes you can get an idea across in a couple of minutes, maybe only in a sentence. Other times it seems like you just can’t get the point across.

Next time you have a new idea to share, try Continue reading