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great service from OlarkSocialize
The service integrates seamlessly into my workflow: When I'm online on my laptop (well technically, when I'm online with Gtalk), then Olark shows the "Chat with the CEO" tab pictures above. When I'm not online, Olark automatically shows a "Leave the CEO a Message" dialog. When someone pings me through the website, it shows up as an IM from a Gtalk user named "Olark visitor".
I originally didn't know if I'd get too much spam or intrusive, non value-add pings by putting this on our company website. But I felt that it was worth the risk since a really high-touch user experience is key to the way that we do SDK marketing. And it's turned out to be a really great way for me to stay close to our userbase of mobile developers.
Just today I had a chat with a prospective SDK user that was pretty incredulous that s/he was actually chatting with the CEO. Below is a summary of the chat (every chat is emailed to me for archival after it concludes):
On Tuesday Feb 12th, the US Patent Office is holding a roundtable in Silicon Valley to discuss issues surrounding the patenting of software, and I have an opportunity to get a seat at the table.
I'll attend if I get some opinions from other entrepreneurs on the topic.
The recruiter business is broken -- at least in San Francisco. I get multiple calls each day from recruiters and they're all pitching the same "exceptional candidate" that's perfect for our company's needs. I always politely tell them to take me off their lists, but yesterday I had a recruiter refuse to do so. Then he sent me the email below, extorting me by saying he would take me off his list only if I'd look at his candidate. Below is how I responded to him. I cc'd a manager at his company, and Lowell Isom & Erica Jarmen at the National Association of Executive Recruiters.
If you're a recruiter and you're reading this, you need to re-think your approach. It's not working. And because of bad apples like the guy below, I won't use any recruiter.
If you're an entrepreneur looking to hire top talent, what I do recommend is AngelList's Job board. It's very, very good. And you cut the recruiters out completely, which is a nice bonus.
Here's the extortion letter I received, with my response at the top:
As you've probably figured out, I do what I can to help entrepreneurs get great press, work as efficiently as possible, raise angel funding, find great, startup-friendly space to work in the city, and generally be as successful as possible. Three years ago, I reviewed a new space called SOMAcentral, which then also grew to encompass a location at One Market street. I also previously reviewed a new spot called Startup HQ.
My startup, Socialize, decided to take space at SOMAcentral on Townsend st, in SOMA by the AT&T Ballpark. We've really enjoyed the vibrancy of being on a floor with 40 other startup companies.
I come from a world of project deadlines. Until two years ago, I swore by them.
When you're in business school, you're taught that every project needs a deadline to even have a chance of being successful.
But what I've learned in my time out here in the Valley is that the reality of the situation is much more nuanced than that. Deadlines often hinder the achievement of objectives much more than the help. I'm going to try to explain why.
In a nutshell, the issue revolves around the arbitrary nature of deadlines. None of us can predict the future, and so by setting a deadline out in the future, we've put an arbitrary stake an the ground indicating that a certain result has to be achieved by a specific date.
I recently got an email from a friend that said simply "I am getting too many e-mails. How do I organize them? Sometimes I need to research an answer, but then forget for whom it was and I totally forget about it as they get buried. How do you manage your e mails?"
Here's how I do it:
No software email client: I used to use an email client like Outlook or Thunderbird, but I found that by switching to a web interface for email I have much more control over it. I have multiple inbound email addresses -- two work addresses, a gmail address, an Apple email address, an alumni address, etc. I have all my mail forward into my personal email account, which is a Google Apps-hosted address. Here's what that looks like:
Using the web-based email interface also lets me leverage all sorts of great advanced stuff, like using Rapportive, Boomerang, and many other email tools that I rely on. Also, using the Google Apps interface for my email allows me to use Google's powerful "important and unread" feature which prioritizes emails from people I know or that Google otherwise thinks I should see first.
2009 Nat Geo article about The Hadza
The article provides an amazing contrast between that lifestyle and the "modern" lifestyle the rest of us lead. One passage got me really interested in how the change happened. The author wrote about how the Hadza lifestyle is one that's free of disease epidemics, war, famines, social stratification and more.
And even more intriguing was that for over 2 million years, humans' forefathers lived as hunter-gatherers. But then 10,000 years ago, something changed, and we started to domesticate plants and animals. As the article points out, that means for 99% of our existence we were hunter-gatherers, and only very recently did things change.
I did some research to try to figure out what caused this change, dubbed the Neolithic Revolution. Was it one tribe that figured it out? Was it an environmental factor such as an ice age? Why did humans (and those that came before them) life a nomadic lifestyle for many millennia, and then abruptly switch?
There's a great article by Robert Strauss in Stanford magazine describing how his startup failed.
Kudos to him for writing the article. It's a golden opportunity for us to highlight some of the things he did wrong.
I'd love to hear your comments -- if you decided to go into the exact same business he did (selling a condom on a keychain), what would you have done differently?
The most glaring immediate error I see is that he pursued large quantity orders without fully testing the market. He was so focused on buying units in quantities of 10,000 that he didn't gauge demand and define success by making just a few prototype units first.
Audible.com has a very mature customer acquisition and retention strategy. I originally signed up for Audible after they sponsored of one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. Audible was offering a free audio book, just to try the service. I decided to try it.
Little did I know that I was entering the Hotel California of software subscription services. I'm not upset with them -- it's more that I'm in awe of their ability to keep me as a customer for a year longer than I expected.
The reality is that Audible is expensive -- around $15/month to be able to purchase one audio book per month. After using up my free month, and then paying for two additional months, I realized I wasn't going to use it enough to justify the cost since I'd only listened to one audio book in a three-month span, and I went to cancel it.
Audible then offered me a deal: Just $5 for me to keep my existing credits for the next year. Since I had two audio books I hadn't read, I took the bait. But I never used those credits so when the renewal came up, I knew I really wanted to cancel.
Here's what the process was like when I just tried to cancel the account:
Recently, one of our investors asked me to make a short video & screencast introducing myself and my company to a group of foreign entrepreneurs that wanted to peek under the covers and see what the life of a US startup CEO is like.
Since I believe in capturing content for knowledge sharing, I decided to go a step further and write this full post about how I work, so this investor would not only have the video he requested, but also have a URL to send to these foreign entrepreneurs with specific tips.
About me & how I work:
I've written passionately about Scrum before, and how it's a great way to create an agile development environment in a startup. I've adapted a flavor of Scrum for my personal daily routine. (This isn't full-on Scrum since it's something I just use personally, but it adheres to the most important principle: At any given point in time. You should be focused on whatever is most important, regardless of any arbitrary deadlines).