A Simple New Year’s Resolution: Wake Up!

A Simple New Year’s Resolution:  Wake Up!

Perhaps my New Year’s Resolution should be to blog more since I haven’t posted here since July!  This post diverges from the regular tech and startup material (for more of that, see my recent guest post on the 500Startups blog, “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Conflicting Advice“)

And so 2010 comes to a close. Another year has passed meaning it’s once again that time when we start listing down goals for the next year. Resolutions can range from reasonable to downright optimistic, and are usually rather long lists…but for 2011 I have a single, elegant New Year’s resolution:  to wake up every morning no later than 7am or at the sunrise, whichever is earlier.  And I plan to strictly follow this each and every day for the entire year.

Why?  It’s elegant:  just one simple goal.  And yet I believe waking up early will carry many benefits.  The brain is most receptive to new ideas in the early morning.  There are significant health benefits to waking up early.  I’ll get more time to spend with my family without sacrificing work hours.  And I’ll be able to enjoy the simple pleasure of seeing the friggin’ sunrise.

Rising early in the morning is not a new concept. Rather, it is one of the best characteristics which our earlier generations had. Thomas Jefferson was a famous advocate of waking up early in the morning and once said that the sun had never caught him in bed for over fifty years. A notable English theologian and economist of the 19th century, Richard Whately, was also quoted as saying, “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.”  The American journalist George Horace Lorimer, who worked during the 20th century, proves my earlier point that more productive work is done in the day if one wakes up early in the morning. He said, “You’ve got to get up early every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.”  One of the most prominent cliches of all time reads “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” (Benjamin Franklin)

I can’t even count how many times I’ve hit the snooze button in search of a few extra minutes of sleep pleasure only to find myself rushing to my first appointment having skipped breakfast.  Waking up early will ensure that I always have proper and nutritional breakfast. This is a very important benefit as the breakfast is known as the most important meal of the entire day. It sates our hunger for a long time and thus effectively compels us to have a light and healthy lunch. A full breakfast also revitalizes our body in the morning. Besides being very beneficient for health, waking up earlier also allows us to have a regular schedule for the whole day. By fixing a time to get up, I would have an opportunity to set a schedule for the week and be assured that I can follow it since my wake-up time will be constant. This will easily result in much more flexibility in carrying out the day’s work.

I’m no longer going to miss one of the wondrous features of nature – sunrise.  Pausing in silence to observe the first rays peek out over the horizon need not be limited to those times you’ve scale the summits of Rainier, Mt. Fuji or scrambled up some sand dune in Morocco…I’ll be taking a moment every day in 2011 (admittedly, this part isn’t very realistic since I’m in Seattle).  I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but a few extra moments to contemplate the natural beauty of the sun can’t do any harm.

However beneficient the advantages of waking up in the morning are, everyone is bound to have their own resolutions for the New Year and I really want to hear yours. Whatever they are, however, I wish you a very happy and productive New Year and sincerely hope that you are able to follow your resolutions.

Add logs, pour fuel (VC money), light match (beta release day)

I often bump into entrepreneurs while they’re in the midst of fundraising. I usually ask “why are you raising money?” and what I often hear is, “because we are running out of money” or “in order to quit my job and so I can hire 3 people” or something like that. The arguments often boil down to “I need to raise money to hire these 3 people, so i can do XYZ, and then I’ll have a business.”

This seems backwards. Don’t get me wrong, unless you have a lot of savings and can afford a lot of personal financial risk, money can be a practical enabler of taking the first step, but STILL: what is it about the core of the business that needs the money? Why is the business pulling you in? Why does the business deserve investment? The most compelling rationale for fundraising focuses on why the startup matters, the early traction it has and how the investment will fuel what’s already heading in the right direction vs. overcoming financial constraints (personal or business).

To use a campfire analogy….

….The best campfires (startups) aren’t the ones where you throw some big logs in (ideas), soak everything in fuel (money raised) and the light a match (beta release day). Those fires can be spectacular and short-lived, flaring up and then going dim again just as fast, and consuming a lot of fuel quickly.

….The best campfires are the ones where you prepare the fire pit, gather and arrange kindling (seed ideas, prototypes), arrange smaller sticks in a pyramid (relationship building for early sales), light a small fire (your proof points) and then make sure that flame is growing (validation). THEN, because now you know you have a real fire, you might choose to add fuel (money raised) to fuel the growth quickly.

My point is that the core of the fundraising argument should be about the business, not about the salaries. I get that the biggest expense of most internet startups in the early stages are the salaries, but still, the justification for raising money has to be about the business concept, not just about enabling the people to overcome their personal financial constraints. Simply saying “I’m building a startup but I need money to get paid” is like saying “We’re building a campfire, but I need gasoline to keep warm” – it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of investing. (Alright, this campfire analogy is getting old)

Counter-point: being penny wise and pound-foolish isn’t a good idea either. Sometimes adding fuel can get a great fire going quickly, and struggling along with insufficient funds can be too limiting. To illustrate, here’s a video of Mark Maunder and I attempting to make a fire without matches (skip to 1:14):

Comments Closed

LeadsCon: a crash course in “show me the money!!”

LeadsCon: a crash course in “show me the money!!”

Any entrepreneur looking for a quick crash course in how to extract money from online, and who learns through immersion, should attend LeadsCon in New York City on July 26 – 27, 2010. (update: see discount links below!) 

Whereas at a web 2.0 or Twitter conference you might participate in any number of fascinating discussions about such things as privacy implications, societal impacts of social media and which startup has the most compelling office space, at LeadsCon you’re going to hear something different:  people talking about money and how to make loads of it.
Intelligent, creative, friendly people who understand how to turn traffic into cold hard cash.  You’ll learn lean startup and agile development techniques for getting massive piles of cash into your bank account.  It is refreshing and useful.  

There is no other conference like it.  At the last LeadsCon in Vegas, long time attendees remarked how “our little industry is starting to get big”.  Recent successes like QuinStreet and LendingTree have attracted silicon valley VCs and web 2.0 entrepreneurs to the mix.  Momentum is building and it is definitely a good time to get involved.

Take it from Dave Schappell of TeachStreet who entered the conference skeptical and left salivating at the prospects of turbo-charging his classes and courses business.  Read about that here on TechCrunch.   

Jay Weintraub (the organizer) has given me some discount links, and the biggest discount expires THIS Friday, June 25th at midnight — $250 off the full ticket price. Here it is:  after that, the discount is $150. 

See you at LeadsCon.

New York Times 50 Most Challenging Words (defined and used)

New York Times 50 Most Challenging Words (defined and used)

The New York Times recently published a list of 50 fancy words that most frequently stump their readership. They are able to measure this data thanks to a nifty in-page lookup mechanism, which you can try here. Try double-clicking the word “epicenter”.

Since the NYT didn’t include definitions of these words, I decided to post a job to MediaPiston to produce an article defining and using each word in the list. Voila! Just a few hours later, here it is. So avoid coming across as jejune and laconic in your speech. Dive in to this list with alacrity!

The New York Times 50 Fancy Words (defined and used)

1. Inchoate: just begun and so not fully formed or developed; I am glad your inchoate proposals for integrating the company were not accepted this time, thus saving us face.

2. Profligacy: recklessly wasteful; wildly extravagant, profligate behavior; Anderson’s profligacy cost him his job and its better you tighten up your belt before you go the same way.

3. Sui Generis: being the only example of its kind, unique; Mr. Bill Tandy generated his sui generis theory based on little research and more hypothesis, thus finding no takers for his pet project.

4. Austerity: severe and morally strict; the quality of being austere, having no pleasures or comforts; Every major war on this planet were followed by many years of austerity.

5. Profligate: using money, resources, etc., in a way that wastes them; The firm’s profligate spending only hastened its downfall.

6. Baldenfreude: Satisfaction derived from the misfortune of bald or balding individuals (coined by NYT columnist Maureen Dowd); Humpty Dumpty’s antics remain a constant source of baldenfreude for children and adults alike.

7. Opprobrium: harsh criticism, contempt; His ludicrous attempts at mimicry in the office only earned him the opprobrium of his colleagues.

8. Apostates: pl; a person who abandons a belief or principle; The millionaire technocrat and his cronies were publicly derided for being apostates, after they were exposed of polluting the environment while purporting to have spent large sums for water conservation.

9. Solipsistic: the theory that the self is all that can be known to exist; His solipsistic view about life ensured that he lived in social isolation.

10. Obduracy: refusing to change in any way; Anthony’s obduracy in his legal case expedited his impeachment.

11. Internecine: causing destruction to both sides; The African states’ internecine conflict continues to extract a terrible toll on innocent human lives.

12. Soporific: adj; causing sleep; The soporific drug caused Tony to fall asleep in the board meeting.

13. Kristallnacht: German, night of (broken) glass : Kristall, crystal (from Middle High German, from Old High German cristalla, from Latin crystallus, crystallum; see crystal) + Nacht, night (from Middle High German naht, from Old High German; see nekw-t- in Indo-European roots); The Kristallnacht remains an infamous event in the German history.

14. Peripatetic: going from place to place; The peripatetic bards of yore propagated the words of the Holy Prophet.

15. Nascent: beginning to exist, not fully developed; In its initial stage, the nascent film industry faced harsh opposition from moral groups.

16. Desultory: going from one thing to another, without a definite plan or purpose; Garcia’s desultory conversation got everybody yawning.

17. Redoubtable: deserving to be feared and respected; Mike’s redoubtable instincts as a prize-fighter kept his opponents at arm’s distance.

18. Hubris: excessive pride; The Empire’s vanity and hubris in its exaggerated military were the reason for its downfall.

19. Mirabile Dictu: wonderful to relate; Randy’s winning putt remained mirabile dictu in the golf club gossip for many years.

20. Crèches: a place where babies are looked after while their parents work, shop, etc.; Go down the Green Avenue and you will find a string of crèches and day-care centres.

21. Apoplectic: sudden loss of the ability to feel or move; adj: suffering from apoplexy; easily made angry; His son’s antics on the playground left him apoplectic with rage.

22. Overhaul: to examine carefully and thoroughly and make any necessary changes or repairs; to come from behind and pass them; Michael’s faster car easily overhauled the leading drivers in the F1 championship.

23. Ersatz: used as a poor-quality substitute for something else, inferior to an original item; The DJ’s ersatz musical numbers were a poor rendition of Celina’s work.

24. Obstreperous: very noisy or difficult to control; Andy’s obstreperous behavior just after a few drinks generally caused his early exit from most parties.

25. Jejune: too simple, naïve; dull, lacking nourishment; Horrified by the senator’s jejune responses to their problems, the voters guild decided to withdraw their support to him in the forthcoming elections.

26. Omertà: rule or code that prohibits speaking or revealing information, generally relates to activities of organized crime; sub; the Mafia; Henry was vowed to the code of Omertà and sealed his lips during the police interrogation.

27. Putative: generally supposed to be the thing specified; Mr Brown is referred to as the putative father in the document.

28. Manichean: A believer in Manichaeism – an ancient Iranian Gnostic religion; Roberta’s Manichean beliefs found little approval in the stoic theology group discussion.

29. Canard: a false report or rumour, aerofoil designs on certain airplanes; The disturbing canard about my company’s finances left me in despair.

30. Ubiquitous: seeming to be everywhere or in several places at the same time; The ubiquitous internet is both a blessing, as well as, a curse.

31. Atavistic: relating to the behavior of one’s ancestors in the distant past; The chieftain urged his tribe to curb their atavistic urges and refrain from unnecessary violence.

32. Renminbi: another name for the Chinese Yuan, official currency of People’s Republic of China; Chinese renmin people + bi currency; Around 1950, the Chinese government officially released the Renminbi notes for circulation.

33. Sanguine: hopeful, optimistic; She remained sanguine about our chances of success in the raffle draw.

34. Antediluvian: very old-fashioned; His antediluvian ideas are preposterous!

35. Cynosure: object or someone who serves as a focal point of attention and admiration, something that serves to guide; His wife, Catherine, remained the cynosure of all eyes throughout the evening gala.

36. Alacrity: eagerness or enthusiasm; Richard accepted her offer of marriage with alacrity.

37. Epistemic: cognitive, relating to learning, or involving knowledge; The monk’s epistemic dissertation was an engaging study of New Testament beliefs.

38. Egregious: exceptional, outstanding; The NBA referee’s decision was the most egregious error of judgment.

39. Incendiary: designed to set something on fire, tending to create public disturbances or violence; Amanda’s incendiary remarks alienated her from the whole campus.

40. Chimera: an imaginary creäture composed of the parts of several different animals, wild or impossible idea; Harry gazed awestruck at the monstrous chimera, a gigantic beast with the head of a lion and the body of a winged horse.

41. Laconic: using few words; Jerry’s laconic sense of humor endeared him to the crowd.

42. Polemicist: person skilled in art of writing or speech, arguing cases forcefully; Mr. Trimble stands little chance in the public debate against the Republican polemicist candidate, Mr. Burns.

43. Comity: mutual civility; amity, an atmosphere of social harmony, the policy whereby one religious sect refrains from proselytizing the members of another sect; The Shias and Sunnis lived in perfect comity in their remote mountain hamlet.

44. Provenance: the place that something originally came from; He deals in antique furniture of doubtful provenance.

45. Sclerotic: condition in which soft tissue in the body becomes abnormally hard; Doctors were at a loss in explaining the child’s unusual sclerotic condition.

46. Prescient: knowing or appearing to know about things before they happen; His prescient instincts saved him a small fortune when he sold his shares before the stock market crash.

47. Hegemony: control and leadership, by one country over others; The United States’ military hegemony in the region was a source of great distress to Iqbal.

48. Verisimilitude: the appearance of being true or real; To add verisimilitude to the play, the stage is covered with snow for the winter scene.

49. Feckless: not able to manage things properly or look after oneself, not responsible enough; The McCarthy’s are feckless parents with more children than they could support.

50. Demarche: step or manoeuvre in political or diplomatic affairs; Thierry’s political demarche with the liberals saved the government a great deal of face in the senate hearings.

Unexpected Startup Lesson #3: Why You Can’t Read a VC

This post is the third of a series on “unexpected lessons” learned through my experience as co-founder and CEO of Snapvine, a venture-backed mobile social networking service founded in 2005 and acquired by WhitePages in June of 2008.

Creative Commons License photo credit: muztiko

When I set out raising our first round of financing, I was excited to have the opportunity to meet and directly interact with many super experienced angel and VC investors, many of whom had substantial industry experience and had been along for the ride on any number of high profile startup successes right from the beginning. This, I figured, would be an incredible chance to get feedback and input on our ideas and direction. I imagined it would be like a business school case discussion, only better, with just 3 or 4 participants — all protagonists.

I was wrong. That’s not how it works at all. Instead what I found was, by and large, every coffee, meeting and partner meeting was a series of largely one-way dialogues covering the basic elements of the pitch (team, market, demo, etc) and some fairly basic questions.

For the most part, the valuable parts were missing: body language, direct feedback, creative suggestions and challenging pointed questions — things that could let me know how the other side thought of the opportunity and things that could help me improve the pitch.

You can’t read a VC.

I’ve done deals (sales and business development) and I think of most things, from hiring to people management as being essentially “sales” where reading and responding (on the fly) to the other side’s concerns, needs, interests and ultimately reading what they think is paramount. In the case of pitching VCs, I came to realize that these cues were going to be absent.

In fact, when I thought I had a clean read on things, most of the time it was ass backwards. Here is one true story, paraphrased and names withheld:

Scene: at final full partner meeting
9:00am – start of my presentation
9:00am – 9:45am – peppered with continuous stream of semi-relevant interruptive questions
9:45am – blackberry beeps and one partner leaves abruptly
9:46am – second partner seemingly hitches on that opportunity to leave
10:00am – meeting ends. everyone leaves (I’m on slide 8 of 13)
10:15am – (email to team)
“Well, that totally bombed. We won’t be hearing back from them. I guarantee it.”
11:00am – (partner phone call to me)
“Thanks for coming in. Everyone enjoyed the meeting and we are excited to work with you. We would like to put a term sheet in tonight!”

Through two rounds of fundraising and negotiating several term sheets, it didn’t get much better.

Here’s the thing — it’s not that I’m bad at reading people, my theory is that since VCs are getting pitched all day long by so many people, that have grown numb to the usual 2-way feedback process. Also, they have zero incentive to give feedback in the first place. Direct, critical feedback might offend the entrepreneur and cut off an opportunity to invest. And overwhelmingly positive feedback might reduce their negotiating leverage. VCs don’t say “no” they just say “we would like to hear more, later”…it is their way of preserving option value.

Of course not all VCs are like this, which is how, in part, we chose the investors we went with.

Anyway, I’m curious to hear from others who have been through the fundraising process. Did you feel you got solid feedback from investors during the process?

Unexpected Startup Lesson #2: Channel your Inner VC to Understand Startup Valuations

This post is the second of a series on “unexpected lessons” learned through my experience as co-founder and CEO of Snapvine, a venture-backed mobile social networking service founded in 2005 and acquired by WhitePages in June of 2008.

Snapvine was my first experience being in the driver’s seat of the fund-raising process, and in the 3 years prior to our acquisition we raised over $10mm in venture capital.

Valuation is an important aspect of VC deal terms, and a major determinant of your ultimate outcome.  Or is it?  I unexpectedly found that it was more helpful to think about the company valuation as an output variable in the fund-raising equation.  It hardly deserves any attention at all in the early stages.  I know this sounds crazy, but it’s not.

The typical thought process for a first funding in an early stage startup goes something like this:

  • “Okay, given our forecast revenue and costs, plus a little buffer, we need to raise about $1 million to get through our first 3 milestones…”
  • “And given our team, progress to date, IP/Patents, benchmarking against our buddy’s recent VC terms and that other startup that is similar and just sold to AOL last week….I guess we’re worth about $5mm today….”
  • “Therefore, to raise that $1 million we need, we should sell a slice worth about 20% of the company”

Although this is logical, it’s not how things actually work.  Once the VCs have decided that the company can be big (based on its team, product, market, etc), they are mostly focused on their future return, and think about their investment like this:

  • “I want to own between 30% and 50% when the deal is done, so even if there are future rounds, I’ll still have a decent chunk of ownership”
  • “The more money I put in, the longer the runway they’ll have, and the greater the chance of success, thus helping me to maintain my ownership and maximize my return”

Ultimately, VCs think about the future value of the company, not the valuation at the time of the financing.   That’s a nice way of putting it.  You can read more about this on Josh Kopelman’s post.  Be sure to check out the links to Fred Wilson’s related post.

Instead of “We are worth about $5m because we have done XYZ and we need to raise $1m, so let’s sell 20%” it’s better to think about valuation as an output variable, like “Let’s raise $2mm and sell 33%, our (pre-money) valuation is therefore $4mm.”

I have to admit, the light bulb didn’t go off for me until I was negotiating term sheets.  In one particular negotiation, we went from one valuation to a much higher valuation (like double) in the course of a single day and two phone calls, simply by discussing the “what if” scenario about increasing the total amount raised.  The net effect was more money raised, higher valuation and the same percentage of equity sold.  It was baffling at first until I realized that valuation is an output and that the focus is on future value.  (To protect the innocent:  we ended up going with a different investor)

I’m not going to explain the venture math (pre-money, post-money, etc) but it is something you need to know inside and out, because term sheets often have 24-hour expirations and you’ll need to be able to negotiate them quickly.  Read more about deal math on Brad Feld’s blog.

For some closing thoughts, I’ll just add that:

  • Valuation tends to be too much of a focus for most early stage companies.  Other factors such as your team, the market you are in, your ability to execute, and in fact other terms in your term sheet are much, much more important to your outcome and financial outcome than is the valuation of your company at the time of financing.
  • Deals come in all shapes and sizes, and seed stage funds like First Round Capital and programs like TechStars provide flexibility
  • Explosive growth companies and multi-time successful founders get atypical deals
  • The other terms (besides valuation) matter too!  For example, liquidation prefs.  Read Terms that Hurt (Venture Hacks).
  • Read up on the “unwritten terms” in term sheets having to do with exit multiples here
  • For bootstrappers, the math is even easier:  100% of the upside goes to you and your awesome team.

Unexpected Startup Lesson #1: Quitting the day job

This post is the first of a series on  “unexpected lessons” learned through my experience as co-founder and CEO of Snapvine, a venture-backed mobile social networking service founded in 2005 and acquired by WhitePages in June of 2008.

In the years just prior to starting Snapvine, I racked up 2 years of debt attending the MIT Sloan School of Management.  School was great, but the costs were hefty:  tuition, travel, the expense of selling a house and moving, the opportunity cost of going without salary for 2 years, the high cost of living in Boston and stress associated with my wife changing jobs twice to follow along.

Thus, 6 months after graduation when I was contemplating leaving my job, the risks felt enormous.  My inner voice was asking:

  • What if we go 12 months without pay only to fail to prove out the concept?
  • What if we DO prove out the concept but fail to raise money?
  • What if we DO raise money, but fail to deliver on the vision?
  • What if we DO raise money AND deliver on the vision, but the business model doesn’t pan out?*
  • What if we fail and my wife doesn’t let me do startups anymore?**
  • What if my MBA classmates get 3 years into a great career while I spend 3 years for ZERO and then I have to crawl back to the corporate world begging for a job, while they are laughing at me?***

Chewing on these types of questions was totally unproductive and made me feel shitty.   I’ve come to realize that doing startups is mostly an irrational choice. Just effing do it.

After I quit my job, incredible people jumped into my world to help.  Before the company even had a name, people like Hadi Partovi, Thomas Reardon, Kirsten Morbeck, Rob Williams, Rich Miner, Jeremiah Robison, Curtis Vredenburg and many others helped shape the product roadmap, recruit early employees, craft a pitch deck and introduce key investors.

The unexpected lesson:  about 4 to 5 months after quitting my job I was already ROI positive in terms of networking, learning and satisfaction.

In just a few months I felt completely confident that if the startup went splat on someone’s windshield, I’d be able to find a more interesting and higher paying job that I had before.  Also, compared to an MBA, doing a startup felt like an amazing deal:  On one hand, an MBA (tuition alone) might run about $85,000 whereas the startup has cost me only $5,000.  The salary was the same ($0) but the learning and networking with the startup was much, much greater than with the MBA.

In retrospect, jumping into the startup led to some immediate and unexpected benefits that, at least for me, far outweighed the forgone salary of my previous job and positioned me better for my future.  Quitting turned out to be a zero risk move.

* Interestingly, this is probably the closest to what actually happened, and things turned out fine
** Even though we’d already had the discussion “if I do 55 startups in a row and they all fail, is that okay?”  Answer: “yes”
*** I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t laugh at me if I ever failed, but I’m hopeful they’d hire me

Adding a Facebook like button to your WordPress blog

Facebook launched their new Social plugins including the new “like” button, and in case you’re wondering how to add them to your WordPress blog, I found a great post by @ruhanirabin.  Here’s what I did to get it working on my blog.

First, I’m using the Evidens Theme theme, so these instructions might not work if you’re using other themes. Also, if your blog is hosted on, this won’t work because they don’t let you hack your themes.  I recommend installing WordPress on Dreamhost or another hosting provider.

single.php – this page renders individual blog post pages. Facebook offers some customization and I decided to add the compact version of the button on the top right next to my existing TweetMeme button, and the larger inline version that shows photos at the bottom of each post.

For the small button, I added this code just after the <div class="p-con"> line:
<!--Start Facebook-->
<div style="float: right; margin-left: 10px;">
<iframe width="85" height="61" src="<?php echo urlencode(get_permalink($post->ID)); ?>&amp;layout=button_count&amp;show_faces=false&amp;width=65&amp;action=like&amp;colorscheme=light" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:65px; height:61px"></iframe>
<!--End Facebook-->

This wraps the Facebook button in a div with float set to right so it renders next to the TweetMeme button and doesn’t get in the way of the post’s text. The param show_faces is set to false and layout is set to button_count.

For the large inline button at the bottom, I added the following code as the last thing inside the same p-con div:
<!--Start Facebook-->
<iframe width="465" height="61" src="<?php echo urlencode(get_permalink($post->ID)); ?>&amp;layout=standard&amp;show_faces=true&amp;width=65&amp;action=like&amp;colorscheme=light" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:465px; height:61px"></iframe>
<!--End Facebook-->

This is pretty much the vanilla Facebook Like button with show_faces set to true and layout set to standard.

index.php – this page controls the front page of your blog. I wanted the small like button on the top of each post, so I added the following code after the <div class="p-con"> line:
<!--Start Facebook-->
<div style="float: right; margin-left: 10px;">
<iframe width="85" height="61" src="<?php echo urlencode(get_permalink($post->ID)); ?>&amp;layout=button_count&amp;show_faces=false&amp;width=65&amp;action=like&amp;colorscheme=light" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:65px; height:61px"></iframe>
<!--End Facebook-->

Again we have the div with float right and the param settings on the Facebook button.

If you want to ship, cut, cut, cut!

I’m helping a startup founder who is outsourcing the development of a project. Tensions are running high on both sides as the project slips. The CEO is getting about two updates a week, mostly just “it’s ready to test now, the bugs are 80% fixed” and there’s no regular meeting. During the course of the project, “we’ve changed some features along the way.” They continue, “we are 50% done with bugs, putting us at about a month late. I feel like I should, as the CEO, do something about it to ensure it’s not a month late, what should I do.”

Here is my reply:

I would ask for better updates, like if you have a list of work items, get a list of which were done. Are they using lighthouse or similar ticketing system to track work items on their side? Do you have access? The work item list is a key tool you need to track progress and make decisions from.

First, from the tone, i’d get on the phone and clear the air. Don’t let emotions get the best of either of you. If he reaches the point of “fuck it” then you are the one that is fucked. The best thing is to be reasonable, professional and do the best you can given where you are today.

Keep in mind, most software projects are late or go unexpected places during their schedule…especially when feature requests change along the way, which is the case here.

One important thing you can do now is to eliminate features. I’m sure all the features seem important, but they are not. Trust me, most of your features can wait. Cut them out. Ask the developer which ones, if cut, would most get the schedule back on track, then you be the one to pick a subset of those — eliminate anything that isn’t absolutely critical. You are going for minimally viable release, and that means a skinny, starving puppy, not Lassie.

Bugs too. Decide which need to be fixed and which don’t.

Also, don’t sweat the look and feel. User friendly means “is useful” not “is usable”. If something is possible to get the job done, but just hard to use, consider leaving it as is for now and shipping. You can fix later.

Cut. Cut. Cut. You can fix later.

3 Things I’ve Learned To Recruit Great Hackers

1) “try before you buy” –> enlist contractors that aren’t tied to agencies so you can retain the option to hire full time.

2) “lots of coffees” –> do the leg work of meeting interesting people even if they aren’t looking. Nothing beats getting the word out and generating excitement. Great people know each other, and they talk.

3) “hyper focus on one school” –> don’t just show up at the annual career fair at 5 schools. Go DEEP on one. Give informal presentations and brown bags, show up to the affiliate dinners, drop in to student open houses. Hold “meet ups” after recruiting fairs and invite the best students. It’s better to make a name for your company at one school than to be passively involved at 5 schools.

I apologize for the quick post…was testing out WordPress on my iPad and didn’t expect this to get so much uptake via Hacker News.   For a longer post related to hiring, see Hire the Do-It-All Office Admin.