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Archive for San Diego

5 Ways to be a Better Mentor

5 Ways to be a Better Mentor

Mentoring is also a more significant part of the economy today than since, perhaps, apprentorship in the craftsman age. Why? The rise of entrepreneurship and the freelance economy is similar to the craftsman age since as the very structure of the economy undergoes massive transformation, workers are increasingly required to find their own means of making a living.

During the Industrial age, most labor was focused on optimizing repeatable tasks. Repeatable tasks are taught. Mentoring was more focused on developing leadership qualities, responsible for corporate management. See Blank’s Sloan vs Durant. Today’s mentoring must teach leadership, too, but additionally, the nature of entrepreneurship.

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Success and Failure — San Diego Startup Community

Success and Failure — San Diego Startup Community

With Brad Feld coming to town this week, I think it’s a good time to evaluate the state of San Diego’s Startup Community. If you don’t know Brad, you should take a few minutes to learn more about him. He is an entrepreneur turned investor, a co-founder of the TechStars accelerator program, a prolific author and a community builder. Last year he published Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, which explores the ingredients necessary to have a thriving startup scene. The challenges Brad discusses are spot on and I highly recommend the book.

I first met Brad in the Fall of 2010, when he and TechStars co-founder David Cohen came to San Diego as part of their Do More Faster book tour. San Diego didn’t represent; it was a pitiful showing. Brad told the audience San Diego was 10 years away from having a solid startup ecosystem and he challenged, “who in the audience is committed to leading the effort for 10 years?” A few hands raised up, some by those merely seeking affirmation and the chance to pitch Brad on their failing startup. (When Andrew Beinbrink and I pressed those after the meeting to join us in building San Diego Tech Founders, they evaporated faster than dollars in a freemium business model.)

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There’s No Bubble in San Diego

Whether there’s a tech bubble or not is an interesting discussion going on in the blogosphere. (Reading guide is below.)

I fall into the “boom before bubble” pack. Having lived through the 90s’ bubble, there’s no way we’re there yet. That doesn’t mean there won’t be one, but my feeling is we’re skating a razor’s edge off one side of which looms another wave of housing foreclosures and a doom & gloom Sequoia presentation. Investors herding like sheep around darling Silicon Valley startup memes is not in itself bubblicious, it’s SOP. Sheep investing affects supply and demand conditions that result in higher valuations. Good or bad, that doesn’t in itself represent a bubble.

The Internet bubble was about more that overvalued startups. Horowitz and Graham argue other dynamics way better than I can (see links below), but I think it’s important to point out that bubbles dramatically affect the entire economic climate. The bubble was “our” version of 70s inflation. The bubble caused a huge migration of people to the SF Bay Area. Salaries went through the roof (not just for engineering talent.) So did cost of living. In the 90s, the housing bubble was inseparable from the Internet bubble. The buying of lots of different goods became irrational.

Steve Blank at San Diego Tech Founders

At long last, here's the video from Steve Blank's presentation last month.

Steve Blank speaks to San Diego Tech Founders from Brant Cooper on Vimeo.

Contents:
00:00 My Intro
03:17 Why Accountants Don't Run Startups
- Old constraints on startups
- Entrepreneurial explosion
- Startups vs Small Businesses vs Large Businesses
- IBM example of big company disruptive innovation
- What did my income statement say in month 1?
- "You've just washed ashore on an a deserted island with a knife in your mouth and a loincloth."
- Searching for a business model, not a business plan
- Customer Development
58:26 Atoms or Bits (New Material)
- Physical vs Online products
- History of Lean
1:03:26 Sloan vs Durant
1:08:41 Q&A
1:29:50 My Conclusion

Be sure to come check out entrepreneur turned investor Mark Suster talk to San Diego Tech Founders March 31.

=> Startups RSVP here.

=> Investors, Service Providers, Professionals RSVP here.

Customer Development Presentation

Unlike my classmates who headed to Silicon Valley from UC Davis upon graduation, I moved to Washington DC to work for a defense consulting firm. After a couple of years, "I dropped out" to write a novel, which I subsequently finished, explored the country for 3 months, finally landing in San Francisco and beginning my career in technology.

My book was (is) trite and sophomoric. After all, what insights do most 20-somethings have worth sharing? A lack of experience -- a lack of failure -- makes pontification shallow. One of my younger brothers, who was trying to make a living as a painter at the time, had a great comment. He said that he felt my book, like his art, was merely trying to say too much. That it wasn't that we didn't have good things to say, but that there was lack of discipline in focusing and examining in greater depth a few ideas, rather than "letting it all hang out."

I think young entrepreneurs suffer from a similar malady. Continue reading “Customer Development Presentation” »

Marketing for Technologists

As I mentioned before, non-marketing people tend to view marketing as this expensive, monolithic necessary evil, dominated by wasteful "Madison Ave" style marketing, i.e., advertisements, logos and slogans.

In a nutshell, Marketing=PR=Ads=Marcom=Branding.

This is far from the truth.  Understanding the basics of marketing and whom to hire for marketing help, is critical for CEOs and technologists to understand.

The key thing to understand is that the type of marketing is highly dependent on Who you are, Who your customers are, and What stage your business is in.  Here's a quick and dirty primer:
Continue reading “Marketing for Technologists” »

The San Diego Marketing Scene

Since moving (returning) to San Diego from the San Francisco Bay Area in June of 2007, my running joke has been:

In the Bay Area I was a small fish in a large pond.  In San Diego, at least I'm a small fish in a small pond.

bah-dump, bump.

The San Diego market for marketing professionals certainly is different and has, not surprisingly, both its ups and downs.  Clearly, fewer opportunities exist for software and Internet high-tech marketers.  There are just not as many companies as in the SF Bay Area, including Silicon Valley.  San Diego has a strong bio tech industry, but the cross-over is not simple (or at least that's the perception).  Wireless technology is big here, led by, of course, Qualcomm which has resulted in a number of wireless/telecom start-ups.    There certainly is some crossover into this market.  It's my view, however, that a mini-bubble exists in that there are serious business model issues with some wireless start-ups, and I'm guessing the current economic downturn will expose these.  (I talk more about this in a separate post.)

Generally, I'm not feeling a lot of marketing love in San Diego.  Perhaps it is simply the natural evolution of a technology ecosystem.   First a region must build a strong technology base and then a demand for marketing expertise will emerge.  Despite the fact that San Diego-based WebSideStory was instrumental in leading the marketing ROI trend through its web analytics products, and the fact that there are several marketing related start-ups here, e.g., JuiceMetriQs, Island Data (now Overtone, I see), and Certona, generally, the idea that Marketing doesn't mean Madison Ave, appears to me to be poorly understood.

(BTW, I don't know the motivation, but Overtone moved its marketing organization to the Bay Area.  Aside from founders, until recently the entire Ortiva Wireless management team was from outside San Diego.   The same goes for Paraccel. Trend or merely emblematic of the state of San Diego resources?)

There is upside:
Continue reading “The San Diego Marketing Scene” »

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