Saturday, April 30, 2011
I couldn’t breathe normally every time we were on the road in India. Back here, I curse a lot when I drive. In India, I was always at the backseat but I cursed even more. My Tita Mitchu kept reprimanding me for disturbing the driver, Tarachand. He has chocolate brown skin, stylish white hair, a pleasant smile and a smooth husky voice. He looked like a movie star. “It’s alright, Madame. Just please trust me. I’ve been driving all India for twenty years. You sleep, please sleep. I will wake you when already we are on mustard fields.”We were going out of Delhi and heading to Rajasthan, the biggest state in India. That was the second leg of our private tour of North India. We ought to be in Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital city, in five hours. It was 7 am when we left Delhi. Rush-hour had just begun.
A typical transport vehicle in India is the elephantEverything that can move was on the road. And I mean everything— trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, tuktuks, carts, rickshaw, tractors, cows, horses, elephants, monkeys, and peacocks! Almost all land motor vehicles in India have the same brand: Tata Motors. The owner, Tata Bata, is the wealthiest man in India. As I had expected, there were more motorcycles than cars. They appeared from everywhere. Most cars were small so they moved sleek and fast. To Indian drivers there is no such thing as too little space. Every gap on the road had to be filled.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Programmers are most effective when they avoid writing code. They may realize the problem they’re being asked to solve doesn’t need to be solved, that the client doesn’t actually want what they’re asking for. They may know where to find reusable or re-editable code that solves their problem. They may cheat. But just when they are being their most productive, nobody says “Wow! You were just 100x more productive than if you’d done this the hard way. You deserve a raise.” At best they say “Good idea!” and go on. It may take a while to realize that someone routinely comes up with such time-saving insights. Or to put it negatively, it may take a long time to realize that others are programming with sound and fury but producing nothing.
You’ve either started a company or you haven’t. ”Started” doesn’t mean joining as an early employee, or investing or advising or helping out. It means starting with no money, no help, no one who believes in you (except perhaps your closest friends and family), and building an organization from a borrowed cubicle with credit card debt and nowhere to sleep except the office. It almost invariably means being dismissed by arrogant investors who show up a half hour late, totally unprepared and then instead of saying “no” give you non-committal rejections like “we invest at later stage companies.” It means looking prospective employees in the eyes and convincing them to leave safe jobs, quit everything and throw their lot in with you. It means having pundits in the press and blogs who’ve never built anything criticize you and armchair quarterback your every mistake. It means lying awake at night worrying about running out of cash and having a constant knot in your stomach during the day fearing you’ll disappoint the few people who believed in you and validate your smug doubters.
I don’t care if you succeed or fail, if you are Bill Gates or an unknown entrepreneur who gave everything to make it work but didn’t manage to pull through. The important distinction is whether you risked everything, put your life on the line, made commitments to investors, employees, customers and friends, and tried – against all the forces in the world that try to keep new ideas down – to make something new.
Yet, like the famous ocean liner, Amazon's cloud crashed this week, taking with it Reddit, Quora, FourSquare, Hootsuite, parts of the New York Times, ProPublica and about 70 other sites. The massive outage raised questions about the reliability of AWS and the cloud itself.
It was supposed to work like this: Thousands of companies use AWS to run their websites through a service called Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. Rather than hosting their sites on their own servers, these customers turn to Amazon, which essentially rents out its unused -- and highly intricate -- server capacity.
EC2 is hosted in five regions across the globe: Northern Virginia, Northern California, Ireland, Tokyo and Singapore. Within each region are multiple "availability zones," and within each availability zone are multiple "locations" or data centers.
The Sagan Series is a project by Redditor rgower. I purchased these domains (TheSaganSeries.com and SaganSeries.com) on his behalf to prevent anyone squatting on them for money.
This site will serve as a home to these truly epic videos. A fuller-featured and more refined site will be coming soon.-->
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The fast-growing online shoe and apparel retailer Zappos.com is an exemplar of corporate citizenship among one’s own customers. In this university podcast, CEO Tony Hsieh discusses his unorthodox approach to building Zappos, widely praised in corporate circles as a playful, innovative company with a fiercely loyal customer base. He shares how the company hires and manages employees who are dedicated to maximizing the customer experience, and how it is teaching other businesses to do the same. His talk was part of a Stanford business school MBA elective course, Designing Happiness, taught by Stanford marketing professor Jennifer Aaker.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Extremely shy and afraid to say when he is done with a task. can be idle and helpless if you don't notice.
Most of these, we covered today on the 1st day of my Lead Better course that is taking place in Oslo, with live simulations. The purpose was to see how a team lead deals with these anti patterns when going through team chaos. How the team lead might act to these behaviors when the team is in learning mode, is very different than how I'd expect them to react when in chaos, as was simulated today.
Team Member Behavior Anti Patterns
- Extremely shy and afraid to say when he is done with a task. can be idle and helpless if you don't notice.
- Lead needs to give 'simple rules' to that member so they know exactly what to do in a situation when they are idle. for example "if you see that you're not doing anything, contact me immediately. We can't afford to have anyone not working right now"
- If it persists, the lead can also offer a more assertive statement such as "If you want to continue to be part of this team, you'll have to chip into the effort. I know this is hard for you, but I expect you to rise to the challenge and contact me if you don't have anything else to do"
- Lazy, who only does the simplest thing, so he can say he did what he was told
- Lead can be direct and demand more from that person, or alternatively remove them from the team until they can spend more time understanding why this is happening.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Generally, someone doesn’t become CEOs unless she has a high sense of purpose and cares deeply about the work she does. In addition, a CEO must be accomplished enough or smart enough that people will want to work for her. Nobody sets out to be a bad CEO, run a dysfunctional organization, or create a massive bureaucracy that grinds her company to a screeching halt. Yet no CEO ever has a smooth path to a great company. Along the way, many things go wrong and all of them could have and should have been avoided.
The first problem is that everybody learns to be a CEO by being a CEO. No training as a manager, general manager or any other job actually prepares you to run a company. The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company. This means that you will face a broad set of things that you don’t know how to do that require skills that you don’t have. Nevertheless, everybody will expect you to know how to do them, because, well, you are the CEO. I remember when I first became CEO, an investor asked me to send him the “cap table.” I had a vague idea of what he meant, but I didn’t actually know what the format was supposed to look like or what should be included or excluded. It was a silly little thing and I had much bigger things to worry about, but everything is hard when you don’t actually know what you are doing and I wasted quite a bit of time sweating over that stupid spreadsheet.
Even if you know what you are doing, things go wrong. Things go wrong, because building a multi-faceted human organization to compete and win in a dynamic, highly competitive market turns out to be really hard. If CEOs were graded on a curve, the mean on the test would be 22 out of a 100. This kind of mean can be psychologically challenging for a straight A student. It is particularly challenging, because nobody tells you that the mean is 22.
If you manage a team of 10 people, it’s quite possible to do so with very few mistakes or bad behaviors. If you manage an organization of 1,000 people it is quite impossible. At a certain size, your company will do things that are so bad that you never imagined that you’d be associated with that kind of incompetence. Seeing people fritter away money, waste each other’s time, and do sloppy work can make you feel bad. If you are the CEO, it may well make you sick.
And to rub salt into the wound and make matters worse, it’s your fault.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
If you run a young company, you know that every hire matters. So how do you choose the ideal person to work in this unique environment? While the requirements for specific positions vary, there are some overriding traits that define someone who will work well in a startup environment, including:
1. Relevant experience that cuts down on training time. Experience always matters. To a young company, it matters more. There is precious little, if any, time for training. You need someone who can hit the ground running.
2. Someone not afraid to take risks. Startups thrive on people who are willing to make tough decisions and try things that have never been tried before. Candidates who show willingness and ability to take on new challenges are good targets. They must also show the wisdom to know when not to take risks.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
When you're 22 and just out of school, there's only a limited scope of ideas that it's actually practical for you to execute on.
There's the romantic notion of two complete nobodies, coming up with the next great idea and forging off to change the world. While that does happen, I believe that it's not the optimal path towards controllable business success.
There's a ton of brilliant 22 year old kids these days all churning through the same bucket of rather trivial ideas for web startups. Games! Group Messaging! Coupons! The reason why is that when you're 22 and just out of school, there's only a limited scope of ideas that it's actually practical for you to execute on. What I've found though, is that the most exciting startup ideas are mostly not in this pool but are, instead, backed by a hidden asset.
When I talk about assets, cash is the least interesting of all of these. Instead, I'm talking about more intangible assets like skills, reputation, relationships, attention & fame. I'm of the strong opinion that the most reliable path towards startup success is to focus relentlessly on acquiring interesting assets and then execute on the startups that naturally fall out of them.