One small step for man. One Giant leap for mankind.

21 07 2014

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45 years ago last night my career as a technologist was born. To see the fulfillment of John Kennedy’s driving dream (we will land a man on the moon no matter the cost and return him safely to earth within the decade).

A grainy black and white picture and audio that took 30 seconds to make its round trip to the moon and back. Two men in a lunar lander (The eagle has landed) preparing to change the course of human events forever.

My dad sitting beside me in the basement of our house in Bloomington Indiana glued to the television. NASA in one long brush stroke changed the course of the world.

Cellular phones, video processing chips, laptops and smartphones/tablets all burst from the concepts NASA built for the Lunar Lander. The LEM touching down on Tranquility nestling into the surface of the moon. Leaving footprints that no wind or rain would ever wash away Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong changed forever the course of mankind.

Apollo 11. The first to complete Kennedy’s mission and the first members of Starfleet. To fulfill Gene Roddenberry’s great mandate “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Certainly looking back with the lens of political correctness it should be person not man. The 1960’s were turbulent times filled with great change but the ERA was yet to be.

The small charge of thought that burst in me that night grew. Each year a tiny bit more energy as it buzzed around into my brain. With each passing anniversary the moment further sealed the desire to be part of technology.

So much has changed in the ensuing 45 years. The world is now flat. You can fly anywhere easily in a matter of hours. You can talk to someone via a network that connects most of the world. You can talk to someone on the international space station or sitting frozen in a hut in Antarctica.

But you can never be one of the first two men to step on the moon. That’s been done.

One small step for man. One Giant leap for mankind.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow!





A couple of extremely interesting Indiegogo projects…

20 07 2014

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There are a couple of extremely interesting Indiegogo projects that are already nearly 100% funded in a very short time (well JIBO exploded over 100% Padbot is nearly there). Both of them offer a portal into the possible of tomorrow.

The first one is a solution called JIBO. Its billed as the world’s first family robot. From entertaining (reading stories, etc) to interacting with people the campaign has really built a huge following. It also talks to the world of digital assistants of tomorrow. What may yet become…

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/jibo-the-world-s-first-family-robot/x/3230074

Another campaign the caught my eye is the PADBOT, a telepresence device that uses an iPad as its brains. These units cost as much as 2000 dollars or more which makes Padbot an incredible deal. The uses are well far to numerous for me to list here. Suffice it to say this is another game changer. In particular for sick children who still wish to attend school or for people who want to experience something but cannot physically get there. Connecting Padbot to a tracking device for items that you need is a cool idea. You can quickly figure out if you brought your briefcase or not. Roll Padbot over to the living room and see if it is still there.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/padbot-a-telepresence-robot-cool-fun-affordable-buddy-for-ipad-android-pad/x/3230074

I have a few Kickstarter projects I like but I have already mentioned them so I won’t bore you with additional postings.

The capabilities that you can have at home are expanding. From devices that connect to your HDMI and allow you to stream from your computer to the big screen, to devices that measure the world around us the revolution is only just beginning.

Oh to live in interesting times…

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow





Crowd Funding Vs. Venture Capital Funding…

19 07 2014

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Now that is an interesting question. First off it is a question that begs a broader answer than simply a matrix for choosing which way to go. Although at the end we will talk about what a matrix might look like in considering your options (VS or CF).

It actually calls to mind an interesting reality.

  1. The mindset of the innovator
  2. The mindset of the investor

The innovator sees as we’ve talked about for a while now a problem and they have a solution to the problem. They work diligently to solve the problem by creating and building the innovation.

The investor puts money into innovation and waits. The reality of the modern funded market is that new people are funding the innovation. I am not knocking anyone who funds a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project. I am simply pointing out that they have a different profile than investors of the past. The investors of the past were investing growing money not spending money.

Growing money is money you have in the bank. It is growing at a fixed rate. You take it out of the bank and put it into an innovation in the hopes that it returns three or four fold. The crowd funding money however is spending money that could have gone to pay down your visa card etc. The problem is that money wasn’t growing it was just earned and spent. It’s a different mentality than the VC of the past (VC = venture capitalist).

Of course VC’s have much more stringent business case and Total Addressable Marketing materials (TAM) than a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign does.

Venture Capitalist

Crowd Funding

Formal business plan is required

No business plan is required but as these are everyday people a communications plan is critical

 

TAM expected may be large (millions of customers) for the VC to even be interested.

If you have a great idea you can get it funded.

VC takes a percentage of the company

Crowd funding you keep your company and only see your initial product run

VC’s fund at a high level 5 million or more to start series b can be more than 30 million

There have been a very small number crowd funded campaigns that have exceeded 4 million dollars. A couple of those were companies first, that crowd funded an idea.

From here you can consider the options. If your idea is fresh and exciting one option is crowd fund the first run (Occulus Rift is a great example) and then use VC or other corporate money later on. The thing that gets most first time or multiple crowd funding groups is communication.

The reality of innovation is it frankly doesn’t come on a schedule. You don’t have a great idea light bulb pop over your head with an exact schedule. You are trying to do something that hasn’t happened before or expanding something that has happened in new and existing ways. Delays are expected.

Why do people complain then? Well as we talked about there is a difference in using growing money vs. spending money. I suspect there is really a time expectation. Buying something that doesn’t exist has some risk to it. Based on that risk it’s important that you allow your funders maximum access. The only way to do this is to communicate.

The Crowd Funding Rules:

1. Start your campaign with an honest statement. We expect and are publishing the following timeline. At this point this timeline is an estimate. We used the following assumptions to develop this timeline. IF any of these assumptions are incorrect this will cause delays in the project.

2. We will communicate every X period. (Critical point here – DON’T MISS THAT PERIOD EVER). Even if you publish a note that says hey – checking in nothing new – publish the note.

3. Don’t list pathetic risks on your campaign page. As a backer I want to know you have spent the time in a risk assessment and that your risks are real. I’ve backed projects that I knew had suspect risks. Frankly those are the projects that are frequently most delayed.

Venture Capital Rules:

1. Are you wiling to give up some control?

2. Communication here is mandated. The VC will set a review schedule that you have to meet.

3. Series A funding leads to Series B. But Series B is not guaranteed. Make sure you can solve the problem with your original funding.

Make sure your agenda and the VC’s agenda are close. If they aren’t you end up with a VC that sells their stake to a company that kills your innovation (because it competes with something they are building).

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow





To those no longer, an offer of help!

18 07 2014

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To my friends at Microsoft whose job’s disappeared yesterday my heart felt offer of support and help. Ping me off-line if there is anything I can do to help you.

A layoff isn’t always a measure of your value to a company. It is a measure of the situation the company is in. Its hard not to take it personally (I know I did). Its hard not to feel like you aren’t wanted (I know I did) but in the end both of those statements are wrong. You are valued, you have something to give and now you have a chance to do it!

A good friend of mine E-mailed/Imed yesterday talking about his concern with the phrase “Its just business.” He and I went back and forth for a bit about the what and why of that phrase.

In the end we both agreed it isn’t just business. It is management and the overall direction management chooses to go in. Business in and of itself is built by the people you are laying off. So in the end it isn’t “just business” its “just management.”

I’ve talked before about the difference between good managers and poor managers. I won’t bore you with a repeat of that particular discussion.

Instead let’s talk for moment about direction. When in the end a company has to make hard decisions to move in a new direction there are many things that have to happen. Layoffs sadly are one of them as they retool their work force to be a more effective tool in the new direction. I think the most important thing out of that is to take a hard look at the people you are laying off. Sometimes you throw out the babies with the bath water.

Potential is a funny HR word. Companies set new directions and then determine the skills they require going forward. But you have to be careful. I’ve been talking a lot lately about the concepts of innovation. Building to my law of innovation but also what innovation means overall for companies and people.

Layoffs are one way to restructure and rebuild a company. You just have to be careful who you move out in a layoff. Moving the wrong people in the end will impact the company far longer than the initial cost of the layoff.

My grandfather always told me look before you leap. The other side of that is don’t assume you know what is at the bottom of the puddle you are about to step in.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow





Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not funded by Venture Capitalists…

17 07 2014

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Is there a season for innovation? It’s a question that I have asked myself the past three months. That marketing, concept and problem being solved are certainly important but the timing is everything.

In the end I came to realize that the innovation market has been shaped into seasons over the past couple of decades. The timing of new product announcements drives the innovation streams that burst forth from it. Timing can be everything.

Normally beginning in the summer we start to hear (since 2007) what the next iPhone will be like. The Buzz starting in June/July in earnest but existing almost the day the new iPhones are released. Once the 4s hit the market the 5 was rumored and talked about.

Apple has created a season of innovation. I wonder by the way if Steve Jobs intentionally picked the fall for the picking of new Apple Technologies? Since Apple shares its name with a fruit that is also harvested in the fall. I am just wondering if that was more than a twist of fate.

Late fall is a great time for products in hand. The reason of course being the great US holiday season that follows the late fall. There are any number of world wide holidays in that November, December, January period so it’s the perfect time (US Fall) to launch products.

There is a risk/downside to launching in a season of innovation like the fall. First off if your launch is anything other than a soft/hard launch (you start a funding campaign in the fall) you run the risk of not being relevant. In the season people want the innovation in their hands. Waiting for it at that point presents a risk. The wave of mass market sweeps your product to the side or off the shelves onto the floor and your launch goes awry.

The other risk is not having a physical product during a mass-market rush. You see it on Kickstarter and Indiegogo and even in the media presentations of the crowd funding projects all the time. A recent news article talked about the mythical projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Innovation takes time. Certainly the capabilities of the world around us have increased. But there is still the concept of time required to innovate.

It actually calls to mind an interesting reality.

  1. The mindset of the innovator
  2. The mindset of the investor

The innovator sees as we’ve talked about for awhile now a problem and they have a solution to the problem. They work diligently to solve the problem by creating and building the innovation.

The investor puts money into innovation and waits. The reality of the modern funded market is that new people are funding the innovation. I am not knocking anyone who funds a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project. I am simply pointing out that they have a different profile that investors of the past. The investors of the past were investing growing money not spending money.

Growing money is money you have in the bank. It is growing at a fixed rate. You take it out of the bank and put it into an innovation in the hopes that it returns three or four fold. The crowd funding money however is spending money that could have gone to pay down your visa card etc. The problem is that money wasn’t growing it was just earned and spent. It’s a different mentality than the VC of the past (VC = venture capitalist).

more to come…

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow

 





Asked and answered…

16 07 2014

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Great question I was asked the other day. How do you train people to listen? It’s a great question. I don’t have a great answer. But I love the question.

When I was teaching the universe in 15 minute gulps I kept my classroom moving at a rapid clip. In that manner I could keep the kids occupied and focused. It took them a month or so to adjust to the new pace but then we were off to the races. Children who were struggling could then get one on one time with me to help them and I didn’t have to worry about the classroom exploding around me.

That doesn’t work as well with adults as it did with children. Listening is an interesting problem. You see what people mean by listening can have a number of different aspects.

  • Listen to what I am telling you and do exactly what I am saying
  • Listen to what I am telling you and provided measured feedback about what I am saying
  • Listen to what I am saying as a baseline and then build on it
  • Listen to what I am saying and let’s figure out what is next

I won’t create the endless list of listening but you get the idea. Instead I would like to propose that listening can be represented in two distinct camps. At least in terms of what software architects are considering to be listening. Lawyers would add listening for errors to the list as would many other professions.

  1. Listen for content
  2. Listen for advice

There are many more types of listening but these two represent the two camps that architects need to consider. When you listen for content as the listener your job is to ask redirection questions and clarifying questions. When you listen for advice you need to confirm the advice is received – if you act on the advice it behooves you to speak to the person afterward and thank them for helping.

You can also listen for errors, but the different there is in the cupping of the ear. You cup your ear for errors, you start building arguments in your head against the information presented. Listening for content is an open ear focused on hearing. You ask questions that show intent but also that you have heard what was said.

Now the responsibility for listening is interesting problem. You see the thing that causes listening to fail has two parts. These two parts of communication are critical.

  1. I solicited the advice
  2. I asked for the information

In annuals of communication it seems stupid to have to put those two rules out. But they are the one’s that cause communication to fail more than anything else. If I don’t ask you for advice, don’t expect me to listen. I may listen out of respect for the person speaking but also can choose not to. Unsolicited information will end up in the circular file. Most of us get enough solicited information in a day that we can’t handle – the extra is often lost.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow?





Baseball has lost me…

15 07 2014

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I listened to the end of the MLB Home Run Derby last night as I was driving home. Washington Traffic in the late evening is so much better even if it rains than it is during the day. Anyway I was thinking about the Derby as I was falling asleep. I used to watch baseball games all the time. I love the Cubs. But I don’t have the time to spare anymore to watch baseball.

There was a time when I set out to watch games. To go to the ball park and enjoy the pageantry of baseball. The poetry of a game based on lines and numbers. Baseball is the ultimate game of statistics. Where a small town boy can become an overnight sensation. Where 27 batters not reaching base is a perfect game although the 27 outs on the losing side would probably argue that it was the perfect game. Has anyone ever had a 2 or 3 hit perfect game? Where they only faced 27 batters due to double plays and triple plays or force outs at 2nd? if 27 batters come up and 27 batters sit down even with 2 getting on base isn’t that still perfect? Baseball that once ruled my summers has lost me.

Is that a trend or is it just me?

I enjoy watching a football game on either Saturday or Sunday. I love watching college teams play. I love watching the surgical precision of Tom Brady and Payton Manning on Sunday’s. I love watching soccer (a habit I picked up in Europe). I love watching college basketball and NBA games (although I haven’t watched a full NBA game in 10 years, I usually catch 1-2 quarters of a game).

It isn’t that I have matured but baseball just doesn’t do anything for me anymore.

In the end I suspect Baseball loses. I just don’t enjoy watching the game as much as I used to. Years ago a friend and I in Bloomington Indiana would sit in his living room, watch the cubs and eat popcorn and drink beer. Those are the baseball games I remember. Over my time in Bloomington I used to win a lot of things on the radio. During the summer they would give away 4 or more tickets to see the Indianapolis Indians play (triple A club for the Reds, then for Montreal Expos). I loved going to that old fashioned ball park and watching a game.

Perhaps I am an outlier which is entirely possible. A fumbled exchange between a short stop and a second baseman allowing a run to score and failing to achieve the double play. I still check to see how far my Cubs have to go to get somewhere but in the end I don’t watch the games anymore.

I can’t say in the end that I miss watching baseball although I do miss my friend from all those years ago. We had a good time then.

.doc

Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow








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