you want something done…

December 25th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

standard answer is ‘do it yourself’ of course, but that’s actually not correct or efficient.

as entrepreneur, you have to find ways to scale yourself / delegate. if you want to still believe tasks will be done well, you have several choices:

  • find someone who has done it before. a professional, who will not waste anyones time. usually expensive but predictable.
  • find someone between 15-25 years old, who is immortal and will move mountains. only works if you are able and willing to coach and mentor them, and have patience for occasional mistakes. 
  • find a professional in adjacent field, who is eager to prove herself in new space. this is hard to find, but usually decent alternative to the first one.

btw, all of these apply to yourself as well as a 3rd person – you will only be successful if your background can be explained in one of these three narrative styles.

product is a whole

December 22nd, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

unique ability of product people is their imagination that allows them to see the whole product even before any of the parts are built or even designed. that’s what we call product vision.

if you have product vision, you can communicate it, you can rally the troops behind you, you can fundraise, you can architect the solution, you can design and build the product. if you don’t have the vision, you can still do all these things, but you will never end up with any meaningful results.

but let’s go a step further, and claim that ‘a product’ is always a compound of parts, yet it behaves as a separate entity. a product is a whole, that is greater than the sum of its parts. users like or hate the product and their experience with it, not it’s components. that’s why a product with all same or even worse components, but slightly better product marketing, usually wins, because it communicates the vision better, which enables the users to identify with it better.

because the product is a whole it’s really important to communicate the whole. especially while still in the process of building it. when i work on products, be it in my job, or for hobby, if i work alone or with a team, i always try to keep the product at “some stage of completeness”. this means that natural milestones of development could be described as ‘mini mvps’ – functional end-to-end experiences with rough edges are much easier to demo, than polished sub-components.

engineers sometimes complain that this type of simultaneous development is inefficient, because they need to switch contexts a lot. arguably, you loose some engineering speed of parts, but gain significantly in communication and understanding of the whole.

Do ask for forgiveness instead of permission

December 18th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

working in a fast-paced environment requires special kind of trust in a team.

the mantra “dont ask for permission, ask for forgiveness” speaks and relies on this trust. if team mates can’t forgive you for trying to do the right thing on your own, than you have bigger issues.

however, there is a flip side that is completely ignored – you do have to ask for forgiveness! if you just do something out of the ordinary, you most probably knew you will need forgiveness, and if you wait until others discover it and ask you about it, you are actually just being arrogant.

MVP is not a shortcut

December 15th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

product development has been totally dominated in past few years by the ‘lean methodology’, preaching that we should all focus on less features, more iterations and a lot of customer interviews. all good and well, but i have also seen a lot of misunderstandings of this approach, leading to dysfunctional teams and products.

I believe the most problematic concept of all is the MVP – minimum viable product. everyone is pretty sure they know what MVP is, and yet, they continue to deliver either dysfunctional prototypes, or confusing ‘betas’.

sometimes, what people call the ‘lean mvp’ is actually just an excuse for sloppy design and coding. these i hate the most, and explain the fallacy with an engineering comparison:

MVP of a bridge is not made of two ropes, connected with occasional rotten wood planks that happened to be lying around. this lethal construction would serve only as a practical illustration of a concept, a sketch on the napkin, not even demo-ware yet.

MVP of a bridge is a healthy trunk carefully mounted over the river. you can use it to cross the river; you might have to learn how to walk it, but you can be sure it will carry your weight.

designing and building MVP is not a shortcut, it should take notable time and effort to do it.

business haiku (efficient emails)

December 11th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

English: Graffiti found on the back of a busin...

English: Graffiti found on the back of a business in Austin,TX. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

in today’s world, ‘working closely’ often means exchanging emails most of the time, which causes lot’s of people challenges trying to survive overwhelming amounts of it and managing all those communications. i have had the pleasure of working closely with some of the smartest business people on the planet, and one in particular – fred wilson. he always responds promptly to emails, almost regardless of the time of the day. and even if he doesn’t respond, you can be sure he reads it, but simply has no response to make (yet).

after observing his style for a while, i realized his emails follow a pretty rigid form. i’m not sure if even he is aware of it, but I believe he would agree nevertheless. let’s look at an example and dissect it. this email was sent years ago to john battelle:

John

please meet Bostjan, co-founder and CEO of Zemanta

he’s returning to the US shortly and will be on the west coast in early June

maybe he can swing by Federated and spend some time with you

one notices several key elements:

  • short, simple sentences. very rarely will there be a paragraph in his messages. if it can’t be summarized to a simple point, it’s better discussed.
  • no decorations – only essence and actions. everything else is a waste of recipients time.
  • one conclusion. not two, or one and a half – one email means one message to be acted upon.
  • three sentences form a haiku – he rarely uses one or two sentences, or more than three.

so a very efficient email to a board member should have three sentences, clearly separated, where each communicates one part of the message. for instance:

  • status – theory – action point to verify
  • context – action proposed – estimate of costs
  • three is also just enough to follow one of the ancient patterns of making an argument, syllogisms, so you have 16 more patterns to follow.

after i realized this pattern, i started using it more and more as well. it makes your thoughts and communication sharper, which some people find offensive or rude. incidentally they are usually the ones drowning in unread emails.

best questions i ever got

December 8th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

here is a list of questions, i feel every entrepreneur should be able to answer anytime without thinking. i have received them over and over again, in many different situations, by very different people.

these questions describe the essence of entrepreneurship. i ask them myself every day.

  • what keeps you up at night
  • how many employees you have
  • elevator pitch
  • which transaction you sit on
  • how much cash do you have
  • how much you spend every month
  • who would take over if you got hit by a bus / who do you trust
  • how many users do you have
  • which little part of the world you’re trying to improve

happy to discuss any of them in more detail, vote for them in comments ;)

adria airways

December 4th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

Adria Airways Airbus A320-231 at FRA

Adria Airways Airbus A320-231 at FRA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“the articles and words on this blog do not necessarily represent the position of their author. strong sentences, especially such that describe people or companies or events are here to express an abstract point, and not to pass or enable or encourage judgement. please refrain from taking them as facts, but rather as building blocks of a story. author accepts feedback and complaints under comments and on email.”

i had to defend adria’s airplanes again. this happens a lot, against people who find the embraers ‘crap’, not fancy enough, obsolete, not real airplanes. i totally dissagree and tell them everytime that regional planes in USA are far worse, and that i find adrias’ planes cute. that usually shuts their mouths.

there is however a different list of complaints i have after using adria service for several years now. i had to write them up eventually as they don’t go away by themselves…

  • i’ve heard of stories of planes fully boarded, waiting for an hour and a half for the last two checked-in passangers to arrive, before taking off. never happened to anyone i know though. what did happen repeatedly, to me, my investors and friends, was that we were checked into a connection, inbound flight had small delay, adria took off without us, leaving us behind to spend a night in a foreign boring place at their expense. in my mind this positions adria as a service that doesn’t care about me at all, and kills any chance of customer loyalty they might gain in any other way.
  • hand luggage on small planes is an issue, i get that. giving passangers a chance to take hand luggage to the gates, stash it in luggage section, then give it back as they disembark, seems like a reasonable hack to improve service. but, i find it completely insane, to let the whole plane full of people wait in front of open doors of freshly landed plane, while waiting for the handful of hand-luggage is unloaded and prepared for those few who had to give it up. whatever insane regulations require them to keep everyone in the plane, rather than let everyone out while the few wait on their stuff, should have been oposed and overturned by airliners such as adria.
  • i book all my tickets trough a travel agency. yet, somehow, adria got hold of my email and started sending me spam disguised as flight notifications. i didn’t even bother clarifying it, but it sounds like data theft to me.
  • however, even though they clearly have my email and phone numbers, they are not using that for emergency communication. like for instance right now, when my evening flight home from munich was first delayed twice for technical issues, then at midnight rescheduled for midday next day, then delayed again for technical issues, until it was ultimately canceled 22 hours after original scheduled time, and each time we received only scarce information available to the airport staff, that we should wait another hour. and another. and another. i understand it’s hard to coordinate all the parties in such cases, but i’d expect the airliner to at least try to communicate with us what they know.

… i fly enough to know that adria is no worse than any other airline really. but being a small company in a small country sounds like it might be an opportunity to be better, if only they tried harder.

oh, and in case someone relevant reads this – if there is any way i can help, i will.

sizing slovenian markets, everything is 10M potential

December 1st, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

lots of entrepreneurs in slovenia want to work with slovenian market first. nothing wrong with that, as long as you do your homework. marketing and go-to-market in slovenia must be very different than it would be in a larger society.

most important excersise of the go-to-market is always the sizing. and sizing a small market is particularly tricky – usually at least one of the important numbers is large enough to give you some slack, but in slovenia you must be careful.

i use a rule of thumb to quickly asses two variables:

  1. number of potential customers that would be interested in the given product / service; based on how many people are receptive of the problem the product / service is solving
  2. appropriate / expected pricing of the product / service, which is essentially what the disposable income of the population is – how much can your target customers spend without causing themselves existential threat

in slovenia, i believe that we have rule of tens.

for luxury items, this means:

  • 1000 people can afford to spend 10.000 eur
  • 100 people can spend 100.000 eur
  • 10 people can spend 1M eur

and for everyone else:

  • 10.000 people can spend 1.000 eur
  • 100.000 people can spend 100 eur
  • 1M people can spend 10 eur

so you have to know your potential appeal with the product, and then cross check with the pricing you had in mind, to see if your customers can afford it at all.

then you take those targets, and start devising detailed operational plan of activities that will get your product / service in front of those exact 10/100/1000/10.000/100.000/1M people.

and then you can come raise funds to execute the plan. ;)

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