Saturday, June 10, 2006

Efficiency, Innovation, or Relationship?

Efficiency, Innovation, or Relationship?
I ran across this great post on John Hagel. While you may remember John as the pied piper of infomediaries and communities back in the Web 1.0 days, he does have many sharp insights.

John believes that there are three things a company can do:

1) Infrastructure management (where you compete on efficiency and volume)

2) Product innovation

3) Customer relationships

Further, he believes that a company has to choose just one to focus on.

I think John is right, though I'd add a fourth category for completeness' sake, which is Obstacle Management, to cover companies who sell their ability to navigate arcane bureaucracies and rulebooks.

Personally, I think that Innovation and Relationships are a heck of a lot more fun than Efficiency!

Which do you prefer, and why?

My First Blogger Dinner

My First Blogger Dinner

After many previous attempts that failed at the last minute, I finally made it to a "blogger" dinner. I caught up with Hillary Johnson, Jackie Danicki, Adriana Lukas, and the Cerado gang (Chris Carfi, Leif Chastaine, and Mark Rasch [apologies in advance if I've misspelled your name, Mark, but I'll make it up to you by not mentioning the fetish video with lemons taped to asses. Whoops!]) at Ming's in Palo Alto.

A great time was had by all, even with the aforementioned discussion of fetish videos, though it took some getting used to beginning conversations with phrases like, "As you may recall from the comment I wrote on your post of the 19th...."

New things that I learned:
1) Even if you grew up in Ohio, living in the UK can cause you to develop a British accent.

2) Hearing someone say, "Oh, that's when you graduated from college? I don't think I'd started high school yet..." really makes you feel old.

2a) That being said, being old has its advantages, like being able to laugh about the days of 8" floppies.

3) Even when he isn't there, Ben Casnocha is good for a good 15 minutes of conversation.

4) You can make a decent living as a director of custom fetish videos involving crackers, sardines, raw eggs, and high heels...thank you, Craigslist!

5) 8% of the population of Central Asia is directly descended from Genghis Khan.

5a) In 1,000 years, 25% of the population of North America will be descended from Leif Chastaine.

All in all, an enjoyable and educational experience. We'll have to do it again!

Friday, June 09, 2006

An Internet History Lesson

An Internet History Lesson

In my "I Hate San Francisco" post, I ended by saying, "Flame away, SF residents!"

Apparently, someone thought this was homophobic.

Therefore, I felt that I had to provide this little history lesson on the word "flame." (Originally posted as a comment).




Once again, I reveal my age!

Back in the dark ages, shortly after we invented fire, but BG (before Google), there was something called "Usenet". On "Usenet," there were these things called "newsgroups" where primitive cave-dwellers could post messages to each other.

Many of these "newsgroups" came to be plagued by strident conflict, which the Australopithecines of the time termed "flamewars." To flame someone was to attack them personally, or worst of all, compare them to Hitler.

When I directed SF residents to "flame away," I was instructing them to "bring it on," though hopefully not in the same way that Iraqi insurgents have done so to George W. Bush.

Gay or straight, it's all the same to me, I'm still not going to visit that accursed city by the bay.

Google Spreadsheet: A Disruptive Part Of A Saturation Attack on Microsoft

Google Spreadsheet: A Disruptive Part Of A Saturation Attack on Microsoft
In all the Google Spreadsheet hype, two posts I read really summed up what I think is really going on.

Jennifer Rice of Mantra Brand Consulting points out that GS is a classic disruptive technology--a good enough product that doesn't appear to threaten the leader, but serves a particular market that the leader has chosen to ignore (in this case, the 99% of people who DON'T use all of Excel's functionality).

Meanwhile, Yaron Galai points out that Google's strategy with Microsoft has been to employ the saturation missile attack. Most companies can fend of attacks from a single direction, just as most ships can fend off a single missile. But when you overwhelm point defense systems with a flood of missiles, some are bound to get through. More to the point, while Microsoft is fending off Google's assaults on Office, it's distracted from attaching Google's franchise in advertising.

Google Spreadsheet: A Disruptive Part Of A Saturation Attack on Microsoft

Google Spreadsheet: A Disruptive Part Of A Saturation Attack on Microsoft
In all the Google Spreadsheet hype, two posts I read really summed up what I think is really going on.

Jennifer Rice of Mantra Brand Consulting points out that GS is a classic disruptive technology--a good enough product that doesn't appear to threaten the leader, but serves a particular market that the leader has chosen to ignore (in this case, the 99% of people who DON'T use all of Excel's functionality).

Meanwhile, Yaron Galai points out that Google's strategy with Microsoft has been to employ the saturation missile attack. Most companies can fend of attacks from a single direction, just as most ships can fend off a single missile. But when you overwhelm point defense systems with a flood of missiles, some are bound to get through. More to the point, while Microsoft is fending off Google's assaults on Office, it's distracted from attaching Google's franchise in advertising.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Why I Hate San Francisco

Why I Hate San Francisco

My friend and San Francisco resident Ben Casnocha has challenged me to explain why I hate San Francisco, which he terms one of the world's great cities.

Listen Ben, San Francisco is one of the world's great cities. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Many of the criticisms I will level against dear old SF apply to many other cities. Just because I hate San Francisco doesn't mean I can't equally hate New York, Beijing, Manila, and many other cities around the globe.

Hey, there's plenty of hate to go around.

Top Reasons Why I Hate San Francisco:

1. NO LEFT TURNS

2. The lack of parking

3. The plentiful supply of homeless people

4. Hills, hills, hills--good for views, bad for safety

5. Frequent events/protests/parades/festivals that snarl up traffic for no good reason whatsoever

6. The atrociously cold weather

7. The nutball politicians who run the joint

8. The crappy public transportation system, which only seems functional in comparison to the even worse nightmares in other cities. Being the smartest retard ain't something to be proud of.

9. Every miserable night on the town I've ever spent in SF, which seem to devolve into a Sisyphean quest to find "the" right bar or nightclub

10. The smug, self-satisfied attitude of residents who are convinced that they live the greatest city in the world. It's the people who claim to love the environment, then commute to jobs in San Jose that really burn me up.

Flame away, SF residents!

UPDATE:
I finally found someone who hates San Francisco more than I. The "Why San Francisco Really Is That Bad" manifesto outlines in great detail why San Francisco is a terrible place for single ladies.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Founders: Don't Underpay Yourself

Founders: Don't Underpay Yourself
I always advise company founders not to underpay themselves. Underpaying yourself isn't a noble sacrifice, it's a distortion. If your business can't turn a profit paying market salaries, maybe it's not such a good business.

Of course, it's hard to draw this line sometimes, especially when you're a first-time founder. When I started my first company in 1999, I am ashamed to admit that I paid myself a salary of $75,000. There was no good reason to. Heck, I paid the CEO I recruited to replace me $180,000.

I've talked with a number of friends, and all of them agree on this point. But now I even have an HBS study to back me up.

Noam Wasserman's team surveyed 1,200 executives at 500 high-tech startups, and found that on average, founders pay themselves $30,000 than their non-founder executives. Wasserman's theory is that rather than the standard agency cost problem that leads to excessive executive pay in established companies (i.e. that the agents (executives) make decisions with the owners' (shareholders) money), startup founders typically see themselves as stewards, who identify closely with the organization and put the organization's interests ahead of their own.

Now there are still some valid reasons to underpay yourself. It may be a short term way to keep the company afloat. It may also help you underpay your other executives by setting an example. But these reasons generally apply only to founders who are already wealthy (indeed, the founders of my company, who made hundreds of millions on their last venture, pay themselves the minimum amount allowed by law to still receive healthcare benefits).

If you are a first-time founder, for goodness' sake, pay yourself fairly. Because no one else will speak up for you.

Congratulations Ben!

Congratulations Ben!

Hearty congratulations to the redoubtable Ben Casnocha, who just graduated from University High School in San Francisco. It's ironic, given my recent post on Silicon Valley High, to discuss an actual high school graduation, but I feel very confident that Ben will never be one of jerks who bullies the frosh.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Silicon Valley High

Brad Feld wrote a quick post about a quote from one of his CEOs about Silicon Valley:
"I love coming out here. It’s like high school but with money instead of girls."

Alas, the Valley is far too much like high school, especially with the line that it draws between "the cool kids" and everyone else.

More than half the motivation behind some of the cliqueish behavior I see is a desire, conscious or unconscious, on the part of the guys who didn't get the girl in high school to be a cool big shot.

After all, no offense to Reid, who is a good guy, but I don't think that the Reid Hoffmans of the world were chick magnets back in the day.

What I find sad is how those who were once abused and ostracized are so quick to turn the tables and become "Mean Girls" themselves when given the chance.

As I'm fond of saying, no one stays on top forever (even for icons like Scott McNealy), and people will remember how you treated them back when you were riding high.

Be the cool kid who treated everyone with respect, not the jerkwad who terrorized the freshmen.

(Originally posted as a comment on Feld Thoughts. If you want to follow all of my comments, subscribe to this del.icio.us feed: http://del.icio.us/chrisyeh/yehcomment)