Archive for the ‘ Fundamentals ’ Category

Bruce Firestone Interview’s Openera CEO Peter Lalonde

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LOL! Openera @Startupfest in Montreal

Yes we are!

“Hey, do you want to go to Montreal for a couple of days and hang with a bunch of start-ups?”

That was my intro to the idea of the first International Startup Festival in Montreal. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but it definitely seemed like an event a bootstrapping startup should be at, if for no other reason than to connect with other startups and share ideas, pains, and opportunities.

Great Event.

Wow. What a fantastic event! StartupFest certainly didn’t disappoint.

Openera at Startup FestWe had the opportunity to hear from serial entrepreneurs who put us at ease that we’re not alone in this, and yes, startups are hard, but that doesn’t mean we should give up (even if it did seem like they were encouraging us to run away as fast as we can!) We gained incredible insight into the The Lean Startup Model, validating that we’re on the right path, and approaching things the right way. We had the fortuity of learning what VC’s and angels are looking for, and what to do, or not do, when seeking funding.

Here are some highlights of Startup Fest.

Here are our highlights from Startup Fest!

Adam Daw is a Hack! Officially.

Adam Daw - Hacker. Winner.

Openera kicked off our activities at StartupFest with our hacker-in-residence, Adam Daw (@adamdaw), competing at Context.io‘s hackathon at Notman House, and wouldn’t you know you know it – he took first place!

Adam Daw, you are a Hacker! What better way to kick things off for us – congratulations Adam! (enjoy the iPad!)

We knew right away…

…this conference was F*@%!ng Different!

There was certainly no shortage of amazing presentation from some incredible speakers. While Dave McClure ( http://500startups.com) (King of the F-bombs!) may have had entrepreneurs and founders curled up in the fetal position crying for mommy with his in-your-face keynote “Why *NOT* do a Startup” (I especially love the term “Wantrepreneur”), thankfully it wasn’t enough to make us run away screaming. Here are just a handful of presentations we attended that had a huge impact on us, as well as links to the decks on SlideShare where available:

“Startups are hard, but don’t give up”

Sarah Prevette‘s awesome napkin slide presentation “Your first Startup” and Tara Hunt‘s “Lies, Damned Lies, and Startups” (The cake is a lie!) – were sharp, witty, and authentic… Definitely the stuff a bootstrapping startup needed to hear to stay motivated.

“Lean, Mean, Startup Machines”

Ash Maurya‘s “10 Steps to Product/Market Fit“, Dan Martell‘s “Understanding the lean model“, and Ed Roman‘s “Lean Startup Cases” provided invaluable insight into the Lean Startup Model, and helped validate for us that we’re on the right track, and are doing the right things.

“To fund or Not to Fund” and “Exit → This Way”

Jeff Clavier‘s “Startup by numbers“, Stephan Ouaknine‘s “It’s all about shareholder value” gave us a lot to think about with respect to funding, VC’s, and Angels. Anand Agarawala took us along BumpTop’s journey from startup to being acquired by Google last year and gave some great advice in “The Art of the Hustle“, and Jeremy Edberg walked us through “A brief history of Reddit, the first YCombinator success“. Both were inspiring and insightful.

Art of the Elevator pitch

Openera at Schwartz's

StartupFest did a terrific job providing entrepreneurs with various opportunities to pitch their ideas to VC’s, Angels, and potential partners and/or customers. This included, pitching to Grandmothers (your pitch/product should be so easy to understand, even your Grandma “gets it”.), delivering your elevator pitch … in an elevator (literally), and, for a handful of startups, the opportunity to pitch on stage to a full audience.

We couldn’t resist: Openera Pitches SmartCloud in an elevator.

We weren’t planning on pitching at this stage in our development, but who could resist doing an elevator pitch, in an elevator, to a couple of VC’s sitting on couches? It was awesome! The feedback was exactly what we needed to hear. Hearing a VC say:

“You’ve got a great idea, you’re going to make money, but you’re not thinking BIG enough!”

Well, that was pretty inspiring. Message received. Thinking bigger!

Startup Fest was about a lot more than just presentations.

Bowling with Hippos

Bowling with Hippos

Way more than just presentations. People. Smart people. Entrepreneurs willing to build something, take chances and help each other. There was a LOT of fun to be had as well. Besides the Montreal nightlife, cuisine and electric atmosphere on the Main…there was bowling with hippos! Feel free to ask Scott Annan from Network Hippo to clarify!

Huge thanks to Phil Telio and his team for spear-heading this fantastic event. We hope to see this event back in Montreal next year!

What did you learn from StartupFest? Do you think this will become an annual event?

Stop. Watch this video if you run a start-up.

Donna Novitzky, CEO of Big Tent

This is a quick video that sums up the basics of marketing a start-up. The key points:

  1. Don’t hire sales people if you can’t sell your own product or service.
  2. Understand your marketing strategy before blasting marketing messages.
  3. Get your first lead customer references
  4. Partner for mutual benefit

Design Matters. Seriously.

Design matters. You may have the best product, technology or service but if the packaging sucks, it’s a reflection on the product, technology or service. and you. By packaging I don’t mean the physical packaging, although if you sell a product that is going to be on a shelf or shipped, consider the packaging very carefully.
twlevesouth packaging

Twelve South Bass Jump Packaging

Packaging is not just an expense line item that can be marginalized and reduced to the lowest cost alternative…like plastic clamshell packages* – if you ship a product in plastic clamshell packaging, you are evil. Maybe you aren’t evil, but you are causing endless frustration to your customers at a time when they should be excited to have your product in hand and relish the “un-boxing”**

When you are selling something to someone, the design matters. Regardless of who you are selling to.
“….uh, Pete, you must be mad! Engineers and accountants don’t care about design of the packaging or pretty logos.”
You might be right person reading this blog, but ask a CTO if they care about the design of your architecture, ask a CFO if well designed revenue models are important. The importance of design is not limited to the marketing department and must be considered throughout your organization. That is true of services business as well. If you run a consulting firm, methodology is designed. It’s even branded (six sigma). Certifications are a part of the design of your business as well.
How well is your funnel designed?

Have your designed your sales funnel? or has it defined the way you do business?

This brings me to designing for revenue. Everything from your brand, messaging, sales team, methodologies and everything else related to how customers become customers, needs to be designed. As in a good architecture, design starts with purpose. What is the purpose of what you are trying to design? In the case of a revenue model or sales and marketing machine, that purpose better be revenue, customers or market share. Before you venture and migrate current processes to the cloud…consider the opportunity presented for a re-design.

Just as good graphic designers know how to mix various design elements to be effective, you should consider how you design your revenue model and sales engine. Some things just don’t make for good design. Investing heavily in search engine optimization before your website is effective. Hiring sales reps before you know your go-to-market strategy and can provide valid leads. Training reps before you know your sales cycle, process or methodology. Hopefully you won’t make these surprisingly common mistakes. It’s a mark of bad design.
I’m always interested in talking to people about how they view the importance of design in their business. More often than not all the pieces of the sales, marketing and business development plans don’t come together under a well executed design. -Peter
Larry David - Curb your Enthusiasm

Larry attempts to open a vacuum sealed 'clamshell' package.

* evil, lazy and environmentally irresponsible packaging that 90% of the time frustrates the customer and in some cases harms them. I have literally cut myself opening a plastic clamshell package. Larry David had a whole bit dedicated to plastic clamshell packaging on Curb Your Enthusiasm

**very strange social phenomenon that says a lot about our society. thousands of people actually post videos of themselves ‘un-boxing’ recent purchases as if it is a religious experience. I haven’t figured out why, to be honest, I haven’t tried. If you are sell a product that is heavily featured in ‘unboxing’ videos, then congratulations. You have created a product that people feel passionately about. Here’s an Apple iPad unboxing video if you have no idea what I am talking about.

Content Management & The Cloud – A Personal History

Content Management & The Cloud. A Personal History.

Interleaf

I have a personal perspective on cloud content management that may be a little different than most. This brief, personal story illustrates why I think the business model of cloud is as important as the architecture. In the 90’s I worked for a company called Interleaf out of Boston. (Now Broadvision.) I held many positions with the company. I started as a trainer and technical consultant before jumping over to the dark side. I ran national marketing for Canada, then moved to Boston to run North American advertising.

This is where I learned one of the fundamentals of business. Not from what we did right, but from what we did wrong. I was hired right at the tail end of development of the campaign so I missed out on the fun part. When I looked at the plan from my inexperienced perspective, it was nuts. This was a multi-million dollar campaign and before it even launched, I was convinced it was going to fail. Unfortunately, the ball was rolling and gaining momentum and had sign-off from the CEO. No going back now.
The problem I saw, and didn’t fight hard enough to solve, was that the campaign was one dimensional. This campaign was a 3 month print ad campaign. It was a 2 page print ad to be placed across dozens of very expensive magazines. That’s it. Fortune, Forbes, Business Week…etc. and because we were spread so thin across a lot of expensive properties the ad only appeared once in each magazine and at most three times in a few of them. This was the “be-everywhere” model that got us nowhere. The bigger problem was that we didn’t have the fundamentals covered. We didn’t know who our customer was or where they hung out, but we went right to their bosses with an ad. We missed the mark and forgot the fundamentals.
After that experience I left the marketing department and headed over to the other, darker dark side. Sales. I felt like I was working for a completely separate company. The sales team was even in a different building from marketing. The sales team didn’t speak the same language and definitely didn’t echo the marketing messages. The campaigns that were running didn’t produce leads that the sales people could take action on. (again, the fundamentals were missing.) Few of the people in marketing knew the sales people and vice-versa, except by reputation. The marketing department missed the mark and forgot that the fundamental nature of marketing was to sell solutions to our customers problems.
I led the North American inside sales team before running the US Central & Canadian territory. Over the next couple of years, I earned several sales awards including the coveted ‘gold leaf’ presidents club award. (For a hungry guy trying to prove himself, this was a big deal.) How did I do it? Fundamentals. I knew the strategic direction the company wanted to take from my time in Marketing and had first hand experience with the customers pain from training them and onsite consulting. I was my own cross functional solution team. I saw first hand how important the solution was to their business and what happened if things failed. I figured a way to hack together my message with the corporate message and convey it to customers in their language. Not ours. The leads didn’t come in from marketing, so I had to hunt for them myself. Our customer base was the richest source of opportunities, however, what put me over the top was the new business I brought in. I followed a pretty straight forward, common sense approach to sales, cut and paste from the plethora of sales training programs I was subjected to. Here’s my sales methodology*;
  1. know who will and can buy and why (follow the pain)
  2. who needs to be involved in making the decision (follow the money)
  3. know what the criteria for them to make a decision
  4. know how to find them
  5. be a real person, reach out and talk to them (help them buy)
  6. know when you can win, walk away if you can’t
In other words, know your market and the pain that drives people to spend money for a solution. I also learned to lose fast.
The Birth of Document Management | Interleaf was known for their technical publishing software (Interleaf 5 and 6 at the time) that ran on Unix and later PC. Because the documents our clients were creating were quite complex, we needed to provide them with ways to manage the documents and the Document Management industry was born. (It was a relational document management system sitting on an Oracle database, they called it RDM…very creative!) This was a fundamental that Interleaf got right. They listened to their customers and filled a need they were willing to pay for.
There was a real excitement over the future of document management and one of the most exciting times came when a developer web enabled RDM and our viewer technology called WorldView. (Way better than Adobe Acrobat at the time but Adobe decided to give away their viewer for free… well played Adobe. Well played.) This was in the heyday of Netscape and we called this web enabled viewer of business documents “Business Web”.
We went after our base and began selling. It was early, bleeding edge, but still garnered purchase orders. I began packaging services with the license and branded it the Business Web Starter Kit to get early adopters. It worked and at $50K a deal, we started doing quite well. Not mainstream success, but validated a need. I got more creative because I had to hit my quota. Working with GE Capital, I started offering customers a way to lease the licenses and roll in the services over 3 years. This approach brought PO’s from a few key accounts that had stalled. Then as objections arose around implementation, we began hosting business webs for clients who paid an annual license fee plus ‘maintenance’. We were able to secure a few clients before the wheels began to fall off at Interleaf and RDM was re-branded Quicksilver and the company sold to Broadvision.
Looking back on that time in the late nineties, I realize that it we had created a business model that made sense, but the technology was too bleeding edge at the time, and not mature enough to succeed. Most companies in the document/content management space eventually went to a hosted or ASP model by the mid 2000’s and Salesforce.com and Amazon matured the business model while addressing the security, performance and support aspects that made software-as-a-service (SaaS) mainstream and branded as “the cloud.” The technology was great, but it was the business model that made the biggest difference. We focused on the fundamentals and listened to our clients. They wanted to try bleeding edge technology to prove concepts and move the business further faster (one of our tag lines) but had limited capital budgets. By changing the business model, we tapped into operating expense budgets and reduced the friction of the sale.
So, now Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy, iDrive, SkyDrive and the thousands of other cloud content management solutions should take a moment and tip their hats to Interleaf, the grand daddy of cloud content management.

5 ways the cloud can be better for SMB companies

Gartner, Forrester and just about every other reputable analyst, technologist or CIO tend to agree. The Cloud is good for SMB companies.

The openera philosophy is simple. Believe in the open exchange of ideas and work with good people who are willing to work hard. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses with good partners. Succeed together.

Here are 5 ways The Cloud can help SMB Companies immediately:

  1. Manage Content (Documents, records, forms, media…)
  2. customer, partners contact management (CRM)
  3. Office essentials (Email, Calendar, Tasks…)
  4. Project Management (development, marketing, human resources…)
  5. Communication (VoiP, web presentations, im, chat & social.) 

We run our company on a combination of Google Apps (email, calendar, tasks & collaborative documents) Salesforce.com (CRM & Marketing Automation) Dropbox & Box.net for content management & back-up and Skype + DimDim for VoiP, Screen Sharing, and web presentations. For a few thousand dollars a year, we can run our entire organization better than well funded multi-national companies could 10 years ago. As a small business owner, that makes me smile.

How is cloud content management different?

Differentiation is a pretty important topic. I spend a lot of time talking to people who never tell me why they are different from the rest of the world.
“What is the one thing you want prospects or investors to remember about your business?”
Try to remember that specs are not a replacement for differentiation. Good differentiation is active, intentional and well debated. Boil it down. Discover your unique value proposition. In other words, what exactly makes you so different that I will spend my hard-earned cash on you.
Oh, and make sure what makes you different is a good thing. Being the only garage that doesn’t insist their mechanics are certified is not a good differentiator.