SxSW Interactive Wrap-Up and Why Most Startups are DOA
Mar 18 2012

My 2012 SXSW Interactive experience this past week was very low key.  No badge.  A few days.  A few parties.  All productive.  Great networking for my consulting business where I’m focusing on operations and partner/client management projects.  I was home by a reasonable hour every evening.

I’ve had dozens of meetings scheduled since then, met people I haven’t seen in a while, and I’m helping organize a reunion for the B2C (business-to-consumer) and Web CEO groups I was a part of when I was working on Babble Soft.  Many of us are in transition times like I am, which is par for the proverbial entrepreneurial course.  I really enjoy networking and connecting people to each other.  I even made some almost random connections for the very cool 1 Semester Startup team I’m mentoring called beDJ.  If only I could charge big bucks to do that. :-)

I have seen so many start up companies with big dreams of launching at SXSW interactive.  Most of them make a big splash and then you don’t hear from them again.  I thought this post on TechCrunch the other day was very well timed: Why Entrepreneurs Fail And Most Startups Are DOA.  Entrepreneurship (especially in technology) is not for the feint of heart.  It’s mostly for the insane, stupid, independently wealthy, ones with extremely supportive spouses/pets/friends, ones who are calculated risk takers who can rebound quickly from mistakes and failure.

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Bazaarvoice Goes IPO
Feb 25 2012

Congratulations to the Bazaarvoice team!  They are the latest Austin technology company to go public.  It happened yesterday.  I have friends who work there and I’m very happy for them.  It takes a lot to go from zero to public and for Austin’s sake, I hope they continue their growth trend and create value.  As I commented on the Austin Startup post on the topic, Bazaarvoice’s going public creates value not only for those who work there but also value in terms of dollars invested in future start-ups and experienced people to advise/mentor them.

The founding team also emphasized building a positive culture and showed that policies like having no set vacation days can work when you trust your people.  It will be nice to have people in the community who have experienced that kind of culture go seed other companies.

Their success is Austin’s success!

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Leadership, Management and Unicorns
Jan 20 2012

The older I get more experience I gain working for different organizations, the more I realize that good leadership is rare and good management is even rarer.  I think we all see this played out on TV with the incompetence demonstrated by our business and political leaders.  I don’t really know why this happens and it’s sometimes a miracle that companies get built and keep going.  It’s somewhat of an enigma to me….might be a bunch of great workers covering up for the incompetence of their leaders & managers.

The reason I think good management is rarer than good leadership is that one can be a good leader by finding and getting out of the way of great talent.  They can also be a visionary leader with admittedly no management skills, but they are smart enough to find the good managers, support them, and let them do what they do best.  Great managers listen and then react to input in order to make the jobs/lives of their team easier, more interesting, and fun without being overbearing/micro managing.  To manage people on a daily basis and make things happen with so many personalities around the table is one of the most challenging things to do well while earning the respect & admiration of your team.

When you happen upon a great leader who is also a great manager, grab on to them…you’ve found a unicorn.

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Motherhood Is The Necessity of Re-Invention
Jan 15 2012

Other ways to say this that might make more sense to a brain that doesn’t have little kids around the house:

  • Necessity is the Mothership of Re-invention
  • Necessity is the mother of invention – most popular
  • Motherhood/Parenthood/Fatherhood necessitates constant reinvention
  • Working Motherhood/Parenthood/Fatherhood requires you to try touching your elbow to your ear (yes, I tried it to make sure it was near impossible to do so) on more occasions than you’d like to admit

I hope in all this living around parents with an accidental (prone to earthquakes) entrepreneurial foundation, my kids are learning that they have to whine a little, adapt a lot, smile, try a bunch of different things, have faith that things will turn out as they should as long as they work hard and are kind to others…including animals and a select few insects like butterflies.

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One Person’s Common Sense Is Another’s Quantum Physics
Dec 27 2011

Bullet Train - China

How many times have you wondered why someone does not see what you see or get what you get?  How many times have people questioned you when you didn’t do something the way they might do it?  Just as you’ve wondered why certain people are clueless, people have probably wondered the same about you.

I’ve had the opportunity recently to take some career assessment tests.  They are like those tests you took in high school with a career counselor that told you that you should become a nurse, a teacher or you had no worthwhile skills at all.  Well fortunately or unfortunately, I happen to have some skills/talents but some of them seem to be opposing.  In other words, I have an unusual mix of abilities that can cause internal angst (surprise!).  Most of them label me as someone who can do multiple things (Jill-Of-All-Trades) or in other words…shudder…an entrepreneur.  This means I can be a geneticist, a trial lawyer, a pharmaceutical sales rep, a recruiter, a coach/counselor, sports writer (I have no clue about professional sports) or even a barista at Starbuck’s as long as they let me rearrange the entire operations at the coffee shop.

I did the Kolbe Career Index A with business coach & friend Michelle Ewalt.  She gave me things to think about and questions to ask about potential career opportunities.  I did the Affini-T assessment with a new Austin company called Affintus, and that one tested my math problem solving skills that I’d half forgotten since taking Algebra many moons ago!  Earlier this year, I did the Strength’s Finder assessment.  All presented similar results but presented them in very different, unique ways.

I think the most important takeaway for me was that we are all so very different in how we view and approach the world, our responsibilities, and careers.  I have more understanding of someone when they don’t “get” how the things they do or say (or don’t do or say) can profoundly affect others, they don’t speak their mind, they can’t connect with people to form networks, or they get stuck and stay stuck instead of looking for alternative paths (common sense to me).  I hope to develop more patience with myself & others when I or they aren’t able to research something completely, execute to completion, or build a magnetic based bullet train (quantum physics to me – ouch that hurts my brain).  If we as parents and managers appreciated the differences and strength’s in people and let them do what they do best, we would create and build better, more sustainable businesses.

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Playing The Letters You Are Dealt
Dec 18 2011

You’ve probably heard life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.  It’s true from my perspective.  People react to proverbial bad news in different ways.  I’ve been given bad news that in hindsight (or even on the spot) was actually great news!  It usually doesn’t feel that way to most of us at the time it’s delivered though.  I don’t know why some of us dust ourselves off, get back up, and re-invent ourselves while others sink deeper into the sofa.  Believe me there have been many times that I’ve wanted to sink deep into the sofa and eat tons of chocolate, but something inside me (oh, and those two kids of mine who need to eat and go to school) makes sure I get up, eat just a wee bit of chocolate, and keep going.  Fighting the demons inside your head can be the hardest thing to do, especially when your life has turned out differently than you envisioned or others envisioned for you.

A good friend of mine introduced me to Words With Friends (pretty much like Scrabble) and I’m hooked.  My kids are hooked.  I’m playing several games with several friends right now.  Each game is different.  I’ve lost most of them so far because it’s been so long since I’ve played Scrabble and the words that are OK in Scrabble/WWF are not always used in the real world.  Plus, my kids (i.e., cute and cuddly meddlers) will all of a sudden play small words that don’t have a lot of points.  Each part of your life is different.  The basic rules, from my perspective, are the same but everyone is dealt a different hand, cards, letters and playing them the best we can is what counts.  Also, I’ve found that shuffling the letters (i.e., your perspective) lets you see things you might not otherwise see.

So play the letters you are dealt.  Sometimes you’ll make tons of points and sometimes you’ll make a few.  Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose, but there’s always another game to be played.  I’m curious as to how often people use the word “Qi” in their daily conversations? :-D

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Knowing What You Want
Dec 11 2011

Grand Canal - China

Knowing what you want is a blessing and a curse.  If you know what you want, then you know the usual paths of achieving it.  You can improvise along the way, but if you know you want to be a singer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, pro football player, screen writer, monk/nun, landscaper, etc. you follow a prescribed path for the most part.  It’s a curse because a) someone can decide you aren’t good enough, b) you actually aren’t good enough, c) you weren’t born into knowing the right people, or d) you always seem to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Most people do not become world famous singers, athletes, novelists, or movie directors.

Not knowing what you want is also a curse and a blessing because you can drift aimlessly wondering where you belong and in what you might be phenomenal.  You can be strong at many things but unless you know that you want to be an entrepreneur, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Martha Stewart, Dilbert, a world class surgeon, a lawyer, etc., what you end up doing probably won’t feel like a custom made glove.  The blessing part of not knowing what you want to be when you grow up is that you never had a burning desire to be  Lady Ga Ga, so you aren’t as disappointed when you roll out of bed and you aren’t her.  The blessing is also that you can decide to like what you are doing and find ways to make a difference and change the world in your own little non Lady Ga Ga like fashion and still have people think you are pretty cool.

My son says he wants to be a soccer player and my daughter says (only recently) that she wants to be a singer.  I’ll see if I can steer them towards being a soccer playing physicist and a singing doctor.  I wonder how that will work.  Despite our best voluntary & involuntary attempts at showing them the life of an entrepreneur is not laced with candy, they might be crazy like us and commit entrepreneur-icide.

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Opportunity Knocks…
Oct 23 2011

Elephants at a Buddhist Temple in China

When opportunity knocks where will you be?  I imagine I’ll be at my son’s soccer game, making sure my kid’s take baths, cooking, or I’ll be doing their laundry.  How do we recognize when opportunity knocks?  Entrepreneurs are supposed to create opportunities, right?  But really, I think we see an opportunity and we try to take advantage of it.  Ideas are a dime a dozen.  People who can validate the idea are rare but those who can execute against those ideas to profitability are even rarer.  It’s not easy to execute against most ideas or take advantage of most opportunities.

One day I want to write a novel.  I want to write a fiction novel and I’d like to write a novel about business.  But right now I’m working full time, making sure my kids take their baths, watching their soccer games, going to swim classes, making sure they do their homework, doing dishes, and folding laundry.  It’s certainly all great material for that novel I’m going to write one day which may or may not ever see the light of day.  I recall my grandfather wanted to write a book.  I think he started writing something, but he was too busy doing great entrepreneurial things, helping kids, hanging out with grand kids, dealing with a sick wife (my grandmother), and helping other people so he never finished putting down in words the wisdom that was in his head.  He died of leukemia at the age of 82.  I bet if he could have blogged, he would have tried it out.  He was a brilliant, yet flawed man like most of us humans are.

Opportunity knocked and I went to China.  Opportunity knocked and I found a guy who I used to work with, Brian Hurdle, to redesign my blog who just redesigned my twitter page.  While flying to China, I read Little Bee: A Novel (about a refugee girl who escaped from Nigeria to England) and The Secret Life of Bees (about a White girl who runs away from her abusive father to live with a bunch of Negro women in the southern US in the 1960s).  The first was written by a man, the latter by a woman.  The overarching theme of both books from my perspective was “men suck!”  Interestingly, little boys did not suck and they too needed protection from men, who ironically were at one point in their lives little boys themselves.  What happens between cute, sweet little boyhood and manhood?  I don’t know, but I hope my boy stays sweet, thoughtful, and caring.  Of course both fiction novels were written for the female audience, which is kind of distressing.  But as I was reading them, I thought these are well written novels.  Not as superbly written as others I’ve read but well written overall.  So after doing some calculations, I figured I need to be a millionaire by the age of 45 to even think of having the time, resources, and health insurance to write such a novel.  I’m not too far away from 45….

Any benefactors out there?

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, parenting, travel, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

When In China…
Oct 15 2011

Great Wall of China - October 2011

I recently got back from a fabulous trip to China.  I signed up for a 9 day tour coordinated by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.  We had an aggressive itinerary and hit most of the major highlights in Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.  While I was there Steve Jobs passed away and pretty much everyone in China was talking about it too.  I’m not sure why I was a little surprised, but there were iPhones and iPads in China despite access to Google and facebook not being allowed.  What a profound affect Mr. Jobs had on the entire world, but in the end we still cannot avoid death.  In his life, he accomplished more and touched more lives than probably any before him.

His death with the background of ancient China was sort of appropriate in some ways.  The people who built The Great Wall, one of the 7 man made wonders of the world and visible from the moon, are not remembered but the Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who directed it’s construction is remembered.  Although 99.99% of us won’t be remembered much past our life times, hopefully we will have a positive impact on those around us so they continue to spread our wisdom to future generations.

Today I ordered an iPhone 4S at a nearby AT&T store. Rest in peace Steve and may your entrepreneurial stardust land on a few of us left here on earth.

I am going to try to find time over the next few weeks to blog about my trip  and include some photos.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, steve jobs, success, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Anger And Fear
Sep 25 2011

I’ve written a lot about love, laughter, and heartache on my blog, but not much about anger or fear.  Those are hard emotions to write about.  Most of us were taught not to let our anger show and that we should control it.  But we’ve seen a few people in our life and on TV lose their cool.  We’re told there’s no reason to be afraid.  There’s no such thing as ghosts.  There’s nothing under your bed.  It seems to me that those two feelings/emotions have big hairy monsters in our minds associated with them.  They can sometimes be more irrational than real because most of us are not being chased by sharks or big hungry bears, but when we feel these emotions, they feel so real!  They can paralyze us.  They cause stress.  They cause health problems.  They can make us think we are not good enough or not worthy of love and happiness.

Entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone who has a job and/or is a full time parent face these demons every day.  It’s how we deal with it and how we treat others that counts.  Compassion can alleviate fears.  Empathy and encouragement can help people achieve things they never thought they could.  Fear and Anger can make people get things done (e.g., dark ages, torture, and slaves who built the Egyptian pyramids) but it can make them sick and unhappy at the same time.  It can cause a ripple effect on society, on their spouse, or their kids.  If people are unhappy at work, it has been shown they are more abusive at home and don’t treat their co-workers well.  I believe encouraging, loving environments create exponentially better outcomes.  Is it because I’m a woman?  I don’t think so.  I think Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, many great business leaders, and Gandhi felt the same way.  Maybe they don’t get as much media attention but go find the places in your city that are consistently voted the best places to work and you’ll see successful businesses with great leaders who care, trust, and believe in their employees.

We are all flawed humans, but the thing that keeps us connected is empathy and love.  Without that connection and belief in each other, we might as well be on an island alone or dead.  We can start businesses and scare people to do what we think they should, but the best will leave because in the modern world they have other choices than to be beaten & downtrodden and to lay bricks while being whipped.  You’ll end up with “yes men/women” who are too afraid to tell you what’s really going on because they are scared for their livelihoods.  But you’ll be surprised at the psychology of some of us humans because a lot of us don’t realize our genius.  I’ll leave you with a quote from Jeffry Fry’s daily email he sent out July 16, 2011 that’s still in my inbox and printed & pasted to the pillar near my cube at work:

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.”    –Albert Einstein

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Time Keeps On Slipping…
Jul 26 2011

Where does it go? Time Keeps On Slipping Into the Future… (you tube).  So much going on but so little time to write about it.  My daughter lost her first tooth when she was almost a year older than when my son lost his and the tooth fairy came to visit.  I know this because I did a blog post about it and if I hadn’t, I’m not sure I would have remembered when he lost it.  Thank goodness for blogging!  She was in Mexico when it happened visiting her cousins and apparently instead of a tooth fairy, the tooth mouse visits and she got pesos instead.

Check out Beat the Heat Happy Hour – July 20 and Sales & Business Development Lunch & Learn – July 13, 2011 for posts written by the Austin Technology Incubator marketing intern, Kirsten Frazee, on two recent events I coordinated for our member companies.

Check out our highly non-publicized facebook page called Metaphor Mania for info on our songwriting endeavors that are moving at the snail like pace of the silvery, slimy trail in between our busy lives.

The kids are in summer camp with varying degrees of happiness depending on the day and if there is a cool field trip involved.  They are learning social survival skills, and I’m learning skills on how not to worry when I leave my daughter in a room full of unknown kids with teenage camp counselors.

Hopefully in the next few weeks, I can blog about another shift in my life…a very good one

Until then, I’ll be breathing deeply and trying not to drink too much red wine.

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Re-Elect Randi Shade For Austin City Council
Jun 6 2011

It’s been three years since I posted about my friend Randi Shade running for city council.  She ran back in 2008 and she’s running for re-election.  After the first round of votes, she is in a run-off.  I’ve known Randi for a long time.  She’s not afraid to speak her mind, admit her mistakes, take calculated risks, represent her constituents best interests, and follow her dreams.  She’s also a mom with two kids.

Randi Shade is the only person on the Austin City Council who is an entrepreneur. She launched a venture-backed Internet start-up in 1999 about the same time I launched my first company.  Then when the bubble burst she bootstrapped the company until she was able to sell it to a publicly traded company in 2005.  The company was also awarded a patent for its unique method for generating new money for charity.  Randi has been an ardent supporter of growing Austin’s tech sector, and she also served as the Executive Director and as a Board Member of the Austin Entrepreneurs Foundation.

She helped launch the Pecan Street Project to help Austin become a leader in smart grid technology and renewable energy.  She brings an important voice of reason and balance to the Austin City Council and that impacts us, too.  For example, Randi has a track record for opposing red tape that negatively impacts property and business owners. She has a track record for supporting new jobs especially in high tech, and recognizing that Austin is growing, she has always been willing to support development that makes sense.  While at the same time making sure that Austin has the infrastructure in place to support its growing needs.  This run-off election is a critical election.  Your vote matters. This is our Austin and we control its destiny by voting for the people who shape its future. We cannot afford to sit this election out. Early voting starts on Monday, June 6.  Here is where you can vote:  http://randishade.com/212/vote.htm

I believe that because of her and others support of the technology and entrepreneurial communities, Austin is one of the top cities in job growth in the country.  Austin has also been named one of the top most innovative cities in the country.

So if you live in Austin, please get out and vote!

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Man Without A Mission
Jun 4 2011

What is a man or woman without a mission?  Bored? Annoyed? Anxious? Lazy? Happy? Sad? Relieved?  Ecstatic? Depressed?  It probably depends on the person.  I think most of us…especially the entrepreneurial types…need/want a mission and something to believe in.  We want a calling of sorts whether it be parenthood, religion, work, volunteering, etc.  We want to make a difference.  We want something new to fix or figure out.  What happens when for some time nothing inspires you and you wander aimlessly in search of something and/or someone to believe in?  Someone to believe in you? It’s exhausting.

Some people just give up the search and settle for the mundane or just decide they are comfortable where they are and say to themselves ‘what more could I ask for?’  I sometimes envy those people because life might be easier.  But then again it is probably harder in many ways to pretend and be someone you are not.

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The End Of The World
May 22 2011

All of my friends and family (as far as I know) survived the Apocalypse that was supposed to happen yesterday.  I don’t recall how many times the End of Days has been predicted but I do recall that the Christian Bible says that no one can predict the rapture so those who made signs and said it would happen yesterday seemed not to give credence  to God’s statements  about the whole situation.

I was with a friend of mine here in Austin last night when the end of the world was supposed to happen.  She and I went to eat at a restaurant in the Austin Arboretum area and then we saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  It was a good movie but seemed to me to have less special effects than the previous movies and those movies are a lot about the mythical being special effects.  The mermaid scene was pretty neat.  The waitress informed us when 6:00 pm had passed so we could toast surviving another day.  My friend told me that some enterprising entrepreneurs created a service for atheists to watch the dogs of the people who were going to be taken in the rapture and over 100 people signed up for the service!

Seth Godin wrote a post about the marketing lessons from the apocalypse and how they were able to get so many people to notice their message.  People want to believe.  I suppose if you find a subset of people who really want to believe in something and they do, they spread the word better than people who are mildly in your product or service.  But no matter how much you want to believe in something, it certainly won’t come true unless you take action and spread your message.

I believe and want to believe in so many things and I know some will come true and some will never come true in this lifetime.  I’m hoping the fact I can still believe in some things even if they seem impossible, will help me and/or my kids change the world for the better some day.  The older I get, the more I believe that All You Need Is Love (the Beatles).  Love of an idea, a person, a concept, a philosophy and someone/some people to love you as close to unconditionally as us mere humans can.

If the world does end tomorrow: PS. I Love You – a link to one of many gapinvoid cube grenades on the topic of LOVE that I’ve always found especially poignant.

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Strengths Finder 2.0
Mar 27 2011

I recently completed the test in Strengths Finder 2.0 which can be bought on Amazon for around $12 (StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Link to Amazon).  It was recommended to me by a long time friend who works at Texas Instruments.  His team took the test at his work so I bought it for our Operations/Admin team at my work since I thought it would be a fun way for us to understand each others strengths.  I really enjoyed reading the assessment it gave of me and my co-workers.

Following are my Top 5 strengths and brief description of each.  I wonder if these are typical of entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, technology entrepreneurs, or other professions.  I know that I enjoy having roles that are not fully defined and where I can try new things.  I thought these described me fairly well and it was nice to have a way to put in words some of my strengths.  It was eye-opening for me as I didn’t fully realize there were others who thought like me or articulated themselves like me, but when I read some of the quotes from people who had the same Top 5 strengths, I recognized myself in some of the things they said.

Strategic

People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.  “Chances are good that you periodically identify problems others fail to notice.  You might create solutions and find the right answers.  Perhaps you yearn to improve certain things about yourself, other people, or situations.”

Connectedness

People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason. “Driven by your talents, you occasionally sense you are part of something bigger or more important than yourself.  Maybe this conviction influences choices you make in life.  By nature, you may be guided by the notion that no one can live life without some help from others.”

Woo

People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person. “By nature, you may share a lot of information about yourself with certain people.  You might make individuals comfortable enough to candidly talk about themselves.”

Communication

People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters. “Instinctively, you occasionally feel comfortable telling certain individuals stories about your personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background.  Your forthcoming nature might enable some people to share their thoughts and feelings with you.  Chances are good that you may help others understand you as a person.”

Developer

People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements. “Instinctively, you repeatedly go out of your way to support, inspire, motivate, or embolden various individuals.  You likely regard this task as worthy of your effort and time.  Driven by your talents, you inspire your teammates with words that bolster their confidence.  You repeatedly remind them they have the abilities needed to attain their goals.”

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