Tuesday, April 24, 2007

when are market conditions ripe for entry?

This is a question that I am working through today as I look at a short-list of opportunities in front of me. I think the answer depends on the type of business you want to have as well as your ultimate long-term goals.

Here are just a few of the things that we are considering:

In General
a) Do you intend to be privately held or is their some larger plan?
b) Do you want a product or service-based business?
c) Will you self-fund or raise capital or both?
d) What is your exit plan, if you have one?

On the Market
a) Could you be a first mover?
b) If not a first mover, how many players are in the market today?
c) Is there a clear leader in the space?
d) Are those players meeting market need sufficiently? (untapped market potential)
e) Is the market big enough to sustain more than one successful company or is it winner takes all?
f) Is the market stale with lack of innovation? (Jobster saw that in recruiting)
g) Who are the buyers of your product/service - how do they buy? (sales cycle time, type of sales approach required, etc.)
h) Have you interviewed at least 10-15 potential customers in the market to understand their needs and their perspective? (if not, Do not pass go - go straight to jail - do not collect your $200)

There are more. Perhaps when I get further down the path I will publish the ideas that didn't "make the cut" and why.

Monday, April 23, 2007

she was right

Mind you, I am only a few weeks into my first consulting gig at a former employer of mine based in Redmond. Just as I was leaving Jobster, my wife made a comment regarding her lack of confidence that I could stay out of the start-up arena for very long.

Another friend, who traveled a similar road a few years back, warned me that consulting at a former employer had a massive chance of being instantly boring. I interpreted that as an opportunity to leave some brain power on the table for the "strategery" of developing ideas I had in the hopper.

So, here I am, 2 weeks into my project and my wife's lack of confidence is turning out to be spot on. The nice thing is that while I am adding a lot of value on this project, I have the horsepower after hours to keep developing my next thing.

Speaking of the "next thing" I am ramping up for an unveiling of it sometime in the month of April or May 2007 (if all goes well), so stay tuned. I can tell you a few things about it: it is a technology start-up, I am passionate about it, it is an underserved market with no leader, and it provides a very important service to keep people informed and safe. My v-team is still finalizing market, customer research, and competitive work before we take the next step.

I better shut up now, I might give it away!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech tragedy strikes a chord

Most people probably don't know that I was a campus safety supervisor and manager while going to Pacific Lutheran University in the 1990's. Having been in US Army Intelligence prior to college, it was a perfect fit for me while I earned my business degree.

It was also eye opening in terms of understanding the fragile nature of safety and security on a college campus. Students at PLU called it the "Lutedome," which was this invisible cloak of safety that we all felt when we were on campus. Certainly having up to 6 safety officers patrolling the campus perimeter and buildings helped to preserve that cloak.

Two years following my graduation from PLU, a person walked onto campus and shot a music professor inside the Lutedome, less than 100 feet from where I had lived my freshman year. It was particularly hard to take given that I knew the professor, safety officers, and students involved. It was even harder knowing that the cloak of safety had been shattered so violently for the students.

I wish the families of the victims, and the broader Virginia Tech family the best as they struggle through the coming months trying to come to grips with what has happened. It has definitely consumed my thoughts this entire week, as it has the PLU Community.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Skip to Part IV - Jobster in the rearview mirror

Building strong relationships is key.

I have had a multi-part blog entry going on for the past few weeks to complete some thoughts I recently shared to a group of Pacific Lutheran MBAs. At the time of the talk, I had not yet announced my decision to leave Jobster. As my final day at Jobster passed by, it worked out nicely that one of the most important entries yet to be written was about building relationships. I shared my final day with a few other long time colleagues, Jeff and Marty, who are also moving on to some very cool opportunities.

They held a going away party for us on a Thursday night at the J&M Cafe, across the street from our first offices in Pioneer Square, which seemed fitting. As people started flowing in and grabbing a drink, it hit me how great it was to see "Jobster Alumni" in addition to current Jobster employees. Interesting side note: the population of Jobster alumni is now surpassing existing employees.

So, the title of my original entry was, "Relationships above all else." What I was going to talk about was how I try to use this as a guide when navigating through any situation, professional or otherwise. As conflicts arise, which they always do, I tend to handle it best when I keep an eye to maintaining a good relationship with that person (or persons, group, organization, etc). Having worked in some pretty high stress environments over the years, including Army Intelligence, Microsoft, and a start-up, I have plenty of data points that support this belief.

What time has clearly shown me me is that ideas, businesses, organizations, teams, and projects come and go - but strong relationships last far beyond these things. We all have at some point worked with people that clearly do not have this is mind. They burn through co-workers and team members like a chainsaw, or throw them under the "political bus" whenever it suits their agenda. I really believe that this behavior will catch up with them in spades. It may serve them well in the short or even medium-term, but long-term they will find that they are shut out of opportunities.

When I decided to leave Microsoft in March of 2004, I had no idea how small and insular my professional network was at the time. While I knew hundreds of people, they were all at Microsoft, Expedia, or one of the Big 5 firms. Now that I have been at Jobster and bonded with some of the smartest & talented people in the industry, I have a healthy network that spans hundreds of companies, geographies, and industries. That is a nice thing to take with me.