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Year: 2013

12/31/13

12/31/13

Good morning, All,

It’s been quite a year. Dell went private. Twitter went public. And so did Edward Snowden. The bottom line: we learned that technology is a double-edged nuclear weapon. We always knew we were being tracked. For years now, any google search showed us that, given the targeted ads that we were then delivered. We just were unaware all of our information was being turned over to the government. By all of the big players.

Transparency, wasn’t  it? Read More...

12/17/13

12/17/13

Good morning, All,

First, don’t forget that our breakfast is tomorrow morning, so don’t forget to register!

We were guests of Dell World last week, and despite the fact that this list is filled with entrepreneurs who hope to someday go public or be acquired, we must say that there was a special energy being knee deep in employees of a company whose founder had just taken it private again. No shareholders to look over his shoulder and second-guess him. The freedom to focus long-term, rather than having to keep an unwavering eye on the bottom line, to the exclusion of all else, in order to appease shareholders. Elon Musk was other keynote, and while he didn’t overtly comment on shareholders, he certainly did imply that with the wild fluctuations in the Tesla stock price, he certainly had his share of challenges – and shareholder lawsuits. Read More...

12/10/13

12/10/13

Good morning, All,

We came across a statistic that hiring was up 4% in the tech sector in NYC. We expected it to be higher as well, considering that there is a ‘tech shortage’ and is there a company in the city that isn’t screaming for tech help and even help in other areas? They may be screaming, but they just don’t seem to be pulling the trigger and there lies the rub. We come across articles all the time about how to hire your next employee, culture fit (which is more or less code for ‘no one over 30 need apply’), and on and on. The fact is that most startups not only don’t know how to hire: they really don’t understand the process.

  1. Recruiters have been demonized. There are those recruiters who ‘smile and dial,’ which is the offline equivalent to blanketing linkedin or whatever medium they’re using, with little understanding of a potential employee’s skill set. They’re looking at key words, rather than the overall picture. That’s what many startups do as well.
  2. People have figured out how to work with keywords and someone might look great on ‘paper,’ and have all of the right qualifications. But why do they job hop every four months. Are they ADHD, consultants/freelancers, or is it that those keywords seem to get them in the door every time, but they just can’t do the job. Period.
  3. Startups turn to recruiters when they’re having trouble filling a position, but… All well and good, but more often than not, they figure that since they have to pay that recruiter, they need to find someone who can do two jobs in one. We kid you not: we were once asked for fill a spot for a marketing director – who would also be the lead developer and creative director. Three very different jobs; three very different salaries, and of course, the base salary was one that reflected the lowest position. New York cab drivers can defy the laws of physics and create three lanes of traffic where two should be. A Boston-born recruiter could no doubt do the same – but could not find a marketing director/lead developer/creative director. Not someone who could do all three well, or probably even adequately. Pick one, and remember, with employees as with hard goods: buy good or buy twice. Simple physics.
  4. Internet speed. Things happen fast online, but that doesn’t mean that someone with five years of experience can do the job of someone with 15 years of experience. Things happen in cycles and someone who has been through it three times a long is much more likely to know where the landmines are. They may cost you more at the onset, but we all know how expensive mistakes tend to be. Again, buy good or buy twice.
  5. Everyone is looking for good talent, so when a recruiter presents you with the perfect applicant in the first resume, it’s because that recruiter knows what he or she is doing, and doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time. Startups ask for several candidates. Fair enough, but when presented with a number of good candidates, the startup client often can’t decide, so they ask to see more candidates, or decide to wait. Don’t expect that that first candidate you met, whom three months later you decided was absolutely perfect, will still be available.
  6. Do not hire a kid out of school as your internal HR person or recruiter. Seriously, you’re going to tell us that someone who has never held a job before is going to be your gatekeeper? That’s a serious position. Hire a serious person, who knows what he or she is doing.
  7. Try not to hire by committee. Not everyone is going to like every candidate who comes through the door. Fine to get consensus, but is there someone on your team who might feel threatened by the new hire? You might miss out on a good one. Listen, but keep your own counsel.
  8. Our personal favorite: startups that post a job, then bring in candidates and ‘test’ them by asking that very seasoned candidate to write their five-year marketing plan, or ask the business development candidate to write their five-year expansion plan. That’s not a test: that’s trying to get work for free. Pay for that experience. It’s called a consulting fee. Not everything is free – especially not experience. Would you ask a mobile developer to build the product, as a ‘test.’ Give people with expertise in other disciplines the same consideration.
  9. Most job descriptions we personally see that come across from startups are more or less wish lists. They want to spend as little as possible so will slip in the phrase, ‘nice to haves,’ and if you do that, remember, it doesn’t say ‘requirement.’ Either be honest about what you really want/need and compensate accordingly, or be prepared to waste a lot of time searching for someone who doesn’t really exist in either of the two known universes.
  10. Hire entry level coders/programmers/marketers/whatever, too. We know that in startupland, one has to hit the ground running. Again, we saw a statistic that one in two graduates with a computer science degree can’t find a job – or can’t get hired. (We’ve personally had that experience with a Georgia Tech grad, who participated in hackathons almost weekly – and won or placed second in every single one. There wasn’t a NY company who’d hire him, so he sent his resume to ten companies on the west coast and got six job offers). New Yorkers tend to be in such a hurry to get out and grab that pizza for lunch, that they overlook the filet mignon dinner that’s waiting for them at home. Don’t just look at what’s on your plate: consider the big picture.  And if you’re bringing on interns, offer an incentive: that there may well be a job there for them.  We do understand that not all Millenials are the same, and that there’s a reason why there is a bifurcation: that GenX was followed by GenY – and GenWrecks.

And remember: you’re building a company and hiring talent, not looking for your next BFF. Choose wisely. Make a decision. We know it isn’t easy: hiring is always a bear. Onward and forward. Read More...

12/3/13

12/3/13

Good morning, All,

Kool-Aid is so 90s, and since soylent is the Drink of the Future, we’ll play.

We’re getting to that time again – end of the year, when everyone comes out with their Top Ten This and Best of That. We personally believe it’s the perfect time to take a hard, cold look at the past year, and be honest about the state of the industry. Read More...

11/26/13

11/26/13

Good morning, All,

That was for Stargate SG-1 fans. Short week, so we’re keeping it short.

For anyone who has ever cooked a turkey, and the full Thanksgiving meal, you know that it takes time. It’s part of the ritual, in fact. The bird goes into the oven (we are not into that deep-fried thing: it’s just wrong) and stuffed or unstuffed, it takes hours. And needs basting and attention every now and again. And then there are the vaious and assorteds to prepare, and from start to finish, it takes days. Read More...

11/19/13

11/19/13

Good morning, All,

Snapchat just turned down a $3B offer from Facebook. The company, headed by a 23-year-old (sound familiar) has no revenue, but it does have a very loyal and growing – and extremely sticky – user base (sound familiar?).

When FB turned down the big buyout from Yahoo in 2006, it was considered insanity, if not tech suicide. What was young Zuckerberg thinking? Facebook had no particularly propriety technology or patents in its arsenal (sound familiar?). When Twitter turned down the big buyout offer, again, insanity. When Andrew Mason headed up Groupon and turned down…wait, yes, that was insanity. Read More...

11/12/13

11/12/13

Good morning, All,

Unless you’ve opted out and there’s still time, your name and face can be used in Google ads, starting today. Not everyone who uses Google products is a sophisticated web user, and how long before there’s a hue and cry – not to mention a lawsuit? (We’re personally looking forward to the SNL parody, which should be a wake up call to those who don’t read the fine print or follow the tech press.) But whatever happened to the days when the customer was always right? Has the faceless world of online changed that? Careful there.

We are personally not fan of walled gardens: they tend to put too much power in the hands of the few, and what subsequently tends to happen is that people react with their feet. Google recently changed the comments section on YouTube in an attempt to drive people to Google+. Oops, we mean to prevent pedophiles and the likes from commenting. This ditty pretty much sums up users’ reactions: “F*ck You, Google+”, An Adorable Song About YouTube’s New Comments. Remember Beacon? It was a FB program that announced your purchases/song or movie selections to your friends. You had 10 seconds to opt out – not a long time, if you could find the damned opt-out button at all. There was a class action lawsuit (Supreme Court notes ‘disconcerting’ Facebook settlement, will eye future charity deals). Yes, FB did remove Beacon, and in lieu of offering remuneration to those harmed, the company gave to a charity – and gave the charity a board member from FB as well. Consumers were cut out of the settlement. The lawyers were paid. Read More...

11/5/13

11/5/13

Good morning, All,

Ok, we’re mixing metaphors today, thanks to a tweet by @davemcclure: driving entrepreneur education, building community, making bets *b4* traction are more reliable+sustainable foundations 2 finding unicorns.

We know the usual VC drill: Invest in successful serial entrepreneurs (which, for the record, not only doesn’t always work out, but in such cases, they tend to invest more money than necessary and well, we know what that end result it. And yet, lemming-like, many a VC holds hard and fast to that rule); invest in the team, which usually means the co-founding team, like Tumblr’s David Karp and, wait, no co-founder there; and putting money on Ivy-educated entrepreneurs is always a better bet, like Steve Jobs (oops, no, he dropped out of every non-Ivy League school he ever attended. Oh, David Karp. Nope, again, non-Ivy, nor is Jack Dorsey, who, like Jobs, never finished college). As for the mixed parables: the blind men are all standing at different parts of the elephant, and each has a theory of what’s before him. Of course, none is right, as each experiences only part of the animal. And an elephant in the living room is something that’s so big that despite the fact that it’s standing right before you, you can’t see it: you miss the obvious. Read More...

10/29/13

10/29/13

Good morning, All,

When LinkedIn launched their social network nearly ten years ago, they were the underdog. Facebook was miles ahead of them, but LI had a niche: they meant business, and that was their focus. And LinkedIn means business. With their diverse revenue streams, their revenues jumped 59% last quarter, and the company is still going strong, and growing.

We'd like to know why so many companies in tech that start out as the underdog, grow and then decide that they're the new sheriff in town? Read More...

10/22/13

10/22/13

Good morning, All,

We exhibited (bonniefoods) at the Javits this past week, and a huge thank you to the SOS members who volunteered. We literally could not have done it without you. Starting any business isn’t easy, as we well know, and starting a food business is bloody difficult, especially when you have little background and/or experience in the sector, and you’re appealing to a so-called specialty market. In our case, we developed all-natural confections for our Type 2 diabetic other half. They also happen to be gluten free, but unlike other gluten free products on the market, which substitute wheat flour with a rice flour/potato starch combination, we use oats. Rice flour and potato starch are too heavy in carbs for a Type 2. And we had a sneaking suspicion that it would only be a matter of time before Type 2 diabetes hit the gluten free/celiac community. So we changed our marketing this time out and instead of focusing on diabetes, we focused on being the ‘Healthier Gluten Free Alternative.” It resonated. It turns out that it seems Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in the gluten-free and celiac community. It didn’t happen overnight. But it’s happening. And we found ourselves addressing a whole new audience, who were literally lining up for our products.

The lessons: Read More...

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