Do You Care?
Sep 7 2014

bowl of flowersDo you care? It seems like a simple question, and the answer obviously differs based on what you are talking about.  For instance, do you care about your customers? Do you care about your kids? Do you care about the random person walking down the street? Do you care about lizards?

There are many case studies of companies who have done well because they truly care about their customers and their employees.  There are writers that write about the critical importance of caring about customers and their readers.  They go so far as to say they “love” their customers.

So why is it that so many companies don’t understand how important  love, care, & empathy are to the creation of meaningful success and often goes hand in hand with financial success? Maybe caring is hard to scale?  Apple cares in one way.  Does Microsoft care in another?

The photo in this blog post is from our recent trip to Sri Lanka.  It is picture of flowers floating in a bowl of water in the area outside of a jewelry store we visited.  Many hotels and other places had similar bowls with flowers in them in the entrance area.  One hotel where we stayed had each arriving guest place a flower in the bowl to show how many people had checked in that day.  It seemed a simple gesture to demonstrate that the people in that hotel cared about each of us (unique, beautiful flowers) and wanted our experience to be the best it could be, and it was!

Author: | Filed under: client services, entrepreneurship, travel | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

How do You do Your Homework?!
Aug 20 2014

The cutting edge education technology company (Querium), where I run client services and operations, has submitted a a Future 15 session idea for our CEO, Kent Fuka.  Here’s an overview:

Ask any math instructor and they’ll tell you that while it’s nice to see a student’s answers to homework and test questions, what they really want to see is how the student got that answer. In this session we will demonstrate expert system technology that provides step-by-step tutoring assistance in a virtual, one-to-one experience. The system has students “show their work” by supporting handwritten work on tablets and reports on that work to instructors to provide insight into student thinking.

For a summary video of this the concept behind the session, check this out: http://vimeo.com/99060342

To VOTE, go here: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/38969 (Thank you!!)

You will learn about:

  • The future of online math problem solving to help you, your kids, your students, and/or your teachers increase success in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects!  Will multiple choice questions in math related topics be a thing of the past?!
  • Cutting edge, A.I.-based software that evaluates student problem solving step by step.
  • Translation of student problem-solving data into actionable insight for instructors.

Thanks in advance for your vote and for sharing the link.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Here’s an overview of Querium:

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, FYI | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Songs In The Wild
Jun 3 2014

Save Me From MyselfI finally faced a big fear of putting my “art” out there for the world to judge, hate, like, love, or be indifferent about.  It’s been a multi-year endeavor, and I published them online via DistroKid back in March 2014.  Getting them on the sites below was the easiest part of this whole endeavor and apparently I’ve made $10.50 on them in March and April!  There’s a two month lag in reporting sales via DistroKid.  I wasn’t sure I’d even get $5, so I’m excited about the extra $5.50 that I can use to buy lottery tickets!

I didn’t create the songs for money.  I created them to stay partially sane during a very strange and eye opening period in my life, and I wanted to see if I could actually go from nothing to something consumable (darn entrepreneurial genes) in the world of music.  From what I hear in the music business, if I recoup my investment in a decade, I’ll be lucky.  To me the pay back is my kids humming my songs as well as some of their classmates telling me they downloaded them because they liked them…priceless!

Here’s the sparse facebook page for what I call this haphazard musical endeavor: Metaphor Mania. You can find the songs here:

iTunes:
Save Me From Myself
Soul Escape

Amazon:
Save Me From Myself
Soul Escape

Spotify:
Soul Escape
Save Me From Myself

SoulEscapeCo-written by Aruni S. Gunasegaram (lyrics & singing) and Brett Jason Wintermeyer (musical arrangement). Produced, arranged, & recorded by Ron Wikso. Chris Tondre (Guitars and Bass), Derek Morris (Keyboards), Chad and Natasha Hudson (Background Vocals), Ron Wikso (Drums).  Album cover designs by Marla Shane .

I posted the song links on facebook a couple of months ago and received some encouraging feedback.  Just like I like, love, hate, and don’t care for some songs, I suspect others will feel the same about these, but I finally did it!  And, as they say, “beauty is in the eye (ear) of the beholder!”

My kids are helping me create YouTube videos for the songs since they know how to use iMovie and I have no clue how to make a video.  We are still searching for additional appropriate random photos so it’s likely the videos won’t be ready until after summer’s over and we return from some photo worthy summer trips.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to them and share them if you like them.  As always, I appreciate all of you readers and friends who have stuck around for so many years through my entrepreneurial, parental, and musical endeavors…

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, FYI, Just For Fun, parenting, singing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Thinking about Thinking
May 31 2014

Thankfully, my life has been very busy with many good and sometimes challenging opportunities.  It’s kind of like waking up with a new puzzle at your feet almost every morning and thinking to yourself that someone must have decided that you love solving puzzles but they forgot to clue you in that you like them.   By the end of the day, you realize you do in fact like solving puzzles and you feel like you’ve accomplished something by solving part of the puzzle put at your feet that morning, but then the next morning it’s a whole new puzzle!  I think someone has done a movie about this concept?

I get lots of great ideas of things to write about during the day, but I am not usually at my home computer when those ideas pop in my head. I’m typically in the middle of doing some work or kid related thing. When I finally sit in front of my personal computer at the end of the day, I have usually run out of steam or what some people refer to as the writing flow.  As in most things in life, writing seems to happen best when you are in a zone.  Things like playing sports, creating spreadsheets, creating software code, music, connecting with people, as well as writing seem easier when you are in a zone.  When someone is in a zone, it looks effortless to those on the outside.  I’ve seen my son and some of his teammates play soccer in the zone and it’s magical.

It makes me wonder why most of us don’t operate in our zones?  Is it because we think too much or is it, according to the article Laughter, the best meditative medicine in the LA Times, because we don’t laugh enough?  Or is it because we don’t take on enough risk: How To Hack Into Your Flow State And Quintuple Your Productivity (Fast Company).

Kids laugh more than adults.  Adults are forced to think more than kids.  If you want a good laugh watch baby laughing (YouTube almost 22 million views) and Baby Laughing Hysterically at Ripping Paper (Original) (YouTube almost 69 million view).  So funny, it makes your eyes water!

If this post comes through without the issues I’ve had in the past on my blog, my next post will include the links to my a) recently published, b) many years in the making, and c) Wow, I finally did it, songs.

Author: | Filed under: blogging, entrepreneurship, singing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Lemonade Day Stand – 2014
May 7 2014

lemonade-day-2014We participated in Lemonade Day again this year on May 4, 2014 (May the 4th be with you).  It was so much fun and a great entrepreneurial lesson for the kids last year (see Lemonade Day Austin – May 5, 2013 – Entrepreneurial Kids), that we did it again at the same location.  The three girls made over $165 in profits this year compared to $91 last year.  We changed our product mix and provided coffee, muffins, and lemonade versus lemonade, sport bars, and muffins last year.  Since we were at the Rookie Triathlon, there were already sponsors that were providing free Power Bars!

My son did it again with two of his friends at the same location they did last year.  I haven’t heard the results yet, but they think they made a good profit as well.

The only downside of doing the stand at a triathlon is having to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to be there by 5:30 a.m. (hence a photo of the stand in the dark) to get set up before the race started!  A true entrepreneurial experience: odd hours, lots of work, and you have to wait until the end of the day to see if you actually made any money. I’m guessing more money is made in some simple lemonade stands than in many businesses who attempt to get up and make lemonade every day…even when there is a shortage of lemons, or currently limes (The lime panic of 2014).  See also The Lime Shortage: Still Messing With Your Margarita.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, FYI, Just For Fun, random stuff | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

This is a Test with Images
Apr 27 2014

I think I might have finally found the code culprit (with lots of help from friends and one who also happens to be a co-worker plus talented developer) that was causing the spam issue with my blog.

Cosmos_spacetime_odyssey_titlecardThis is a final test to see if it still works if I insert an image.  Since the kids and I have really been enjoying watching COSMOS every week, here’s an image for that show with a link back to wikipedia.

Hopefully, I will check my email in the morning and see another spam free post!  Although it’s taken a long time for the right person to help figure out the issue (crossing fingers), it least it hasn’t been billions and billions of years. :-) Good night.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

This is Another Test
Apr 25 2014

I think we are coming closer to figuring out the spam issue in my blog.

I’m crossing fingers this post comes through without any weirdness, other than normal blog posting weirdness. :-)

Author: | Filed under: angels, entrepreneurship | Comments Off

Six Personalities You Need For Your Startup
Apr 20 2014

The following is a guest post from Bernd Schoner. Schoner was the founder of ThingMagic, LLC, a garage-grown RFID technology company led by a small group of MIT Media Lab graduates. Young and fresh-face, Schoner guided his company through the ups and downs of a start up that ultimately sold to Trimble Navigation, a multi-billion dollar, multinational tech company, where he currently works as the VP of Business Development.

According to Bernd Schoner, author of The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide: How to Bootstrap Your Startup, Lead Through Tough Times, and Cash In for Success
The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide (Amazon affiliate link) (McGraw-Hill, May 2014), assembling your founding team is a make-or-break move that every business faces. In fact, he says that it “determines the path and outcome of a new venture more than any decision in the life cycle of a company.” In his new book, Schoner sheds light on the six core roles needed for a new tech start up.

  1. The Primadonna Genius: Not surprising, technical expertise is the one skill a high-tech founding team can’t do without. You need to have a genius or two to get your team off the ground. The genius’ competency can be highly specific. Let’s face it– your genius is your diva. They will ask for things you’re not sure how you’re going to get done. They will potentially ask you to take a chance on them and look you down with that passion in their eye that compels you to say “yes.” If you’re lucky, your genius will not only bring technical expertise to the table, but also a set of commercial contacts too– an entourage of sorts.
  2. The Leader: Running a new company in a consensus-driven democratic process has its limits, especially when hard decisions need to be made that affect everybody’s lives. Consensus usually requires compromise, which is not necessarily in the best interest of a new tech venture. A founder group with a clear leader in its midst has it easier. Being the leader doesn’t mean more stock or equity, nor does it mean the leader will necessarily be CEO. It just means that the co-founders trust one of their own and are willing to follow, if indeed there is conflict and controversial decisions need to be made.
  3. The Industry Veteran: Any competent marketer can study an industry, get quick insights into how it works, understand who the key players are, and identify products that may prove lucrative for a small venture. However, it takes a long immersion in the marketplace to call yourself an insider, to understand the subtleties of the competitive landscape, to recognize people as true assets (oftentimes despite their titles), and to look through the propaganda of technical collateral and PR campaigns. That’s why the industry veteran is helpful.
  4. Sales Animal: Young high-tech companies are at constant risk of forgetting that they actually need to sell the wonderful technology they invented. A Sales Animal on the founder team helps to contain that risk. The combination of technical insight, founder authority, and sales experience is a hard-to-beat advantage in the competitive marketplace.
  5. The Financial Suit: Professional controllers and CROs are readily available for hire to fill the financial gaps on your team. Remember, though, that financial talent often has its own agenda. Understandably, they are trying to build a career, or make money quickly, or own as much stock as possible by the time your venture is readying itself for an exit. If you can put a skilled co-founder in charge of overseeing the finance function, you may enjoy a little bit of extra peace of mind.
  6. The Superstar: In the midst of silly little problems like ordering office supplies and keeping the office network running, it is easily forgotten how glamorous the role of high-tech entrepreneur can be. The world wants to think of tech founders as superstars, who are doing what the average man or woman cannot. Groom the superstar on your team and you can use her as the backbone of your marketing, recruiting, and PR strategy. Fortunately, almost any combination of eccentricity, nerdiness, and charisma qualifies a co-founder to become a star.

Every start up is different, but the roles he mentions make sense to me.  I think one of the most important roles that some companies overlook is the role of client services.  After your Sales Animal has closed a sale, it’s critical to keep customers happy and feeling cared about.  Turnover in customer’s is hard on any business, but even harder in a start up where resources are scarce and energy to find new customers is limited.  Customers in a technology start-up may be called to serve as references for other potential customers or investors, so in my opinion they should always feel like you are doing your best to do the right thing by them.

What do you think?

Author: | Filed under: book review, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, guest post, technology | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

SXSW 2014: Edu, Music, and Pi Day
Mar 17 2014

Pi-In-SkyThis is the first time in several years that I did not attend any SXSW interactive events…not a single one.  I don’t feel that I missed out on anything other than not seeing some folks in person who I usually “see” online.  Instead I attended SXSWedu and finagled a wristband for SXSW music, and I had a great time.

I was at SXSWedu for my company and it felt to me like the early days of SXSW interactive.  There is so much going on in the world of ed tech.  I learned a lot and we all met some great potential partners.  A friend invited me to go with her to SXSW music, and I heard some really great bands including Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, Suzanne Vega, David & Olivia, Boy & Bear, and I even got to Pi-Day-Interviewwatch a hip hop contest. I saw a few performances by amateurs who made me feel better about my two songs that I’m about to release via DistroKid (after I get an album cover created & designed).  I will do a blog post soon linking to the places where you can find my songs.

My kids are helping me create a YouTube video of images.  We are going to draft up a contract so they get some experience with a business negotiations (i.e., mom decides what they get paid), they get experience creating something and putting it on YouTube, and I get a good deal a beautiful video created by my kids.

Well, I don’t have anything else I want to write, so I’m leaving you with some photos and images of Pi Day that happened on 3/14/14.  One is a photo in downtown Austin at SXSW where planes where creating Pi in the Sky and the other was an image that showed up somewhere in one of my email accounts.

 

 

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Happy Super Bowl Sunday & Groundhog Day!
Feb 2 2014

I’m not a big football or groundhog watcher, but this year the days have collided.  I don’t plan to watch any groundhogs, but I do plan to see part of the Super Bowl.  Because my son loves sports, we will be going to a friend’s place to the watch the game so he can be with others who like to watch football.   Ah, the things us mothers do for our kids that we don’t have the patience to do for other sports fanatics in our lives. :-)

owl-seth-godinI’m hoping with the recent WordPress update, there won’t be spam links in my email feed, but it’s a crap shoot.  I haven’t been able to figure out the reason after asking several people and doing some research.  I think it’s beyond my technical expertise to figure out a fix in the near term.  I’ve managed to post about once per month mostly because I haven’t permanently fixed the spam issue and secondly because I’m still working on interesting topics to post about.  Here are some good reads:

Groundhog day and the Super Bowl – Seth Godin

The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways. – Katie Malinski

How to draw an owl – Seth Godin

The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People – AlterNet.org

The Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral Will Amaze, and Maybe Infuriate, You – NewYorker.com

 Overcome the Eight Barriers to Confidence – HBR.org

…different people differently – Seth Godin

Life is not an adventure until it starts scaring you shitless. – Gapingvoid

 

Author: | Filed under: diversity, entrepreneurship, Just For Fun, parenting, wordpress | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Go With The Flow – Happy New Year 2014
Jan 1 2014

¡Feliz Año Nuevo 2014! Another year has passed and boy/girl what an entrepreneurial year it has been!  I’ve been trying to figure out how to fix the spam (stupidity) hack that someone has done to my email feed, but after checking feedburner, feedblitz, WordPress, and staring into space, a solution/fix hasn’t surfaced.  Thank you to all of you who replied to my email feed noticing the insertion of random, annoying spam ads.  The emailed version of this post may have spam inserted, so please don’t click on the spam links…unless of course you are “looking for a good time via potency drugs.”  Fortunately, the post itself as it shows up on my blog and the RSS feed do not have spam links, just the email feed and I have no idea why!

While I am writing this post, I’m listening to final mixes of two of my songs: Save Me From Myself and Soul Escape.  Pretty soon you can sing them in your shower without worries of copyright violations!  :-)  It’s been close to a 3 year process to get to this point, but I can check “having a professional song produced” off my list soon…

Just like Fred Wilson, I am Unresolved this year, and I couldn’t feel happier about it.  When you think about it, it’s almost kind of stupid to make resolutions when so much of life is out of your freaking control.  Sure, I can eat better, exercise, laugh more, cry more, make sure I have the best career ever, piss off more people, etc. but it seems to me it’s best to just “Go With The Flow,” be as honest as you can be, and “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”  Why humans don’t get this simplicity (see Scott Adams’ article below) after thousands of years is perplexing.  We must be a slow species that likes to complicate things.

But in other good reads:

The Non-Movie Version of Entrepreneurship – Francine Hardaway

How to Burst the “Filter Bubble” that Protects Us from Opposing Views – MIT Technology Review

Changing What You Do Versus Changing How You Think – IttyBiz

Simplifiers and Optimizers – BoingBoing by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Rethinking the Job Search – Scott Uhrig of White Rock Partners (also relevant to Sales and Fundraising)

I Don’t Need To Search Anymore – gaping void

The care and feeding (and shunning) of vampires – Seth Godin

To copy what I posted on facebook: “Happy New Year! May 2014 be full of love, laughter, joy, and mind blowing (lovely) adventures with good health and peace mixed in for good luck!

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, holiday, Just For Fun, music | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thanksgivukkah and Black Friday
Dec 1 2013

This year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided.  In the US, apparently the retailers decided to start the crazy sales activity just that much earlier and open up Thanksgiving eve.  I guess the news folks will tell us if it was worth it.  I didn’t venture out or even online to purchase anything on “Black Friday,” Thursday, or whatever.  I know people who did.  I did venture out today (Sunday) to Target to return some things and get some basics, but there was only the normal crowd there.

At any rate, I’m thankful that I can choose to shop or not shop.  I’m thankful for many, many things…mostly that I’m here right now in this intersection of space & time with many wonderful people around me.  Plus, I’m easily able to type this post and share these articles with you:

Our Self-Inflicted Complexity – Harvard Business Review

The Fall Of The Alphas – A VC, Fred Wilson (I just now bought the Kindle version of the book)

10 Life Lessons You Should Unlearn – Huffington Post (“Problems are bad. It’s important to stay happy. I’m irreparably damaged by my past. Working hard leads to success. Success is the opposite of failure.  It matters what people think of me.  We should think rationally about our decisions. The pretty girls get all the good stuff.  If all my wishes came true right now, life would be perfect.  Loss is terrible.”)

The first lie… – Seth Godin

What “no” means – Seth Godin

Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime – Scientific American

The Paradoxical Traits of Resilient People - Fast Company

And of course a song and music video: Let Her Go by Passenger

Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Staring at the ceiling in the dark
Same old empty feeling in your heart
‘Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast

 

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Oh, Yes. It’s Been A While….
Oct 20 2013

It’s been a while for many things in my life but as it relates to this blog, it’s been a an extra long while since I’ve posted. Many good and time consuming things have happened (and keep happening) that have kept me slightly preoccupied.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading some really good stuff (mostly short articles):

It’s True: You Talk Too Much – How to achieve the optimal 50-50 conversation flow - A Wall Street Journal article written by the writer of The Simpson’s.  It’s a very true and funny read!

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box (Amazon link) – A co-worker recommended this fiction book.  It’s written in a story-like fashion and is very applicable to creating a positive work and home environment.

Why Are Hundreds of Harvard Students Studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy? – The Atlantic

IBM Watson fires its own cancer-fighting ‘moonshot’ – Venturebeat.  Extra interesting to me since I know the guy leading the Watson project for IBM.

Below is an image about self service customer support tools created by Salesforce.  I am wondering about beginning to write more formally about best practices in client services in a start-up, technology environment on my blog.  It’s what I do for a living.  I generally run client services and operations from beginning to end. I have managed all kinds of internal and external customers. I’ve been told (who knows if it’s actually true) that I’m a strong business networker with a credible reputation.  Two of my Strength’s Finder strengths are “Woo” and “Communication” so it might be a good idea for me to start sharing some of my ideas on customer service. I will continue pondering…

Click to Enlarge Image

Self-Service Portal: The Essential for Fast-Growing Companies — Brought To You By Desk.com
Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, fundraising, networking | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Who Has Your Back? In Life and Business…
Sep 8 2013

best-thing-worst-of-life I saw this image on facebook a couple of weeks ago and thought how appropriate the quote was for life and business.  “The best thing about the worst part of your life is that you get to see the true colours of everyone.”

When things get really tough in life, you see who is really there for you and others.  Whether they understand why you are going through what you are going through or why you are saying/doing what you are saying, they do their best to help you out or at least not get in your way or judge you.  If they don’t care and are more interested in the trajectory of their lives, they might abandon you or look the other way.  They are likely more worried about how they look or feel or just don’t want to exert the effort it takes to care and help you through a tough spot.

I’m grateful for the gem-like people who surfaced during the hardest times of my professional and personal lives.  I know I will do the best I can to have their back, should the need arise.  What goes around comes around as they say…

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, random stuff | Comments Off

The Entrepreneurial Life
Aug 11 2013

musical_note_4188It’s been a busy summer and an extremely busy year.  Since late last year, we sold our old house, leased back/lived in a remodel that wasn’t ours, lived in a hotel for 3 weeks, I started a new job (yes another start up!), bought a new house that has required a lot of patience to get the builder (oh, I so want to link to the builder!) to do what was promised, worked on my songs, attended indoor soccer games, hung out with friends, managed not to take a real vacation, juggled multiple summer camps, and dealt with some heavy kid-related personal transition stuff.  Just par for course in my life apparently.  If I had not been exposed to the vagaries of the entrepreneurial life, I’m not sure I would have emerged in the functioning state that I have.

I like things to be somewhat loosely organized and have some sort of structure/plan, but it seems like life and other people don’t really care so they pile things on based on their life and not mine with no regard to whether the kids or I can handle it or not.  I remember someone once told me that people dump on people because they know they can handle it because they have survived bad treatment before.   So, if I (or others) became a puddle on the floor (as my realtor once told me I had every right to do) when really hard stuff happens, they would treat me with more consideration?  That is weird logic if you ask me!

My kids have seen me act mostly with grace and on a few occasions express some natural human frustration, but overall I hope I’m modeling pick-yourself-up-and-move-on habits for them.  Life isn’t fair.  It’s not easy.  Business isn’t easy. People completely abandon you.  You lose your job.  Teammates leave.  The market changes. BUT, really great people show up to support you if you are genuine, try hard, and you smile in the face of adversity. I am lucky beyond belief in that area as big-hearted people have shown up for me constantly & consistently.  Ironically, the people who I thought would be there for me and/or the kids disappeared.

I’m excited to start blogging about the new start-up I joined and plan to do so in a few months after we get through a funding round.  It is a good job (link to post about what a good job is) with the potential of more than adequate comp should the risk we are taking pay off some day.  So far the team, the location, the idea, and the market are all amazing!  Time will tell.  And even though I like to have some organization in a world of chaos, I love going into work not knowing exactly what I’ll be doing that day.  I am 95% sure that having a job where I knew exactly what I was going to do the whole day would bore & irritate the heck out of me.  I guess you have to be careful about what you ask for (or are programmed for) and what you do when the universe decides to give you a complicated present!

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