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Category Archives: leadership

Back To Work: About New Year’s Resolutions

nyeThe entire KidoZen team is back at work this week and I never seen this level of excitement. Obviously, we ended the year with a very good momentum and have super ambitious and really exciting plans for 2014. Like most people, I spent part of my holiday break reflecting about 2013 and setting the goals and plans for 2014.

During that time, I was super happy to discover that I hit over 85% of my 2013 goals, had some pleasant successes in areas I didn’t  plan for and I still manage to do a decent  job on the resolutions I didn’t accomplish. While 85% might not seem particularly impressive, my satisfaction comes from knowing that my 2013 goals were super ambitious. At the end, I believe that’s the only way to set goals.

From New Year resolutions to our monthly/weekly plans at KidoZen, I like to evaluate goals based on the following rule:

  • Accomplishing Over 90% of the Goals: Probably our goals are not ambitious enough
  • Accomplishing Between 75% to 90% of the Goals: We are doing well, let’s keep pushing to get close to 90%
  • Accomplishing Under 75% of the Goals: We are doing something wrong, time to reassess.

As always, the key to accomplish goals is to stay really focused, iterate and adapt.

In terms of my New Years Resolution, I have some super ambitious goals both personally, for my family and I can’t not even tell you about some of the crazy goals we are trying to accomplish with KidoZen. It should be fun ;)

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in entrepreneurship, leadership, startups

 

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Give Thanks to your Competitors: What I Learned from the Starbucks-Square Partnership

Yesterday, mobile payment processing startup Square dropped a bomb on its competitors by announcing a partnership with Starbucks  http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57488803-93/square-starbucks-aim-to-give-mobile-payments-a-jolt/. The initial phase of this partnership will enable Square to process credit and debit payments in 7000 Starbucks stores. Additionally Starbucks will be adding $25M to Square’s new monster funding round.

Pretty sweet deal for Square huh?

Well, while learning about the details of the partnership, I was surprised to learn that it was Starbucks who approached Square and not the other way around (http://pandodaily.com/2012/08/08/starbucks-approached-square-after-rejecting-every-other-mobile-payment-player/). Apparently, Starbucks had been approached by every other payment provider in the last few months and, not being completely satisfied with those technologies, they decided to evaluate Square which started the conversations towards the partnership.

For Square’s competitors, this has to feel like a punch in the stomach. Square literally benefitted from their efforts trying to land a strategic alliance with Starbucks. This is a classic example of how a failed attempt to establish a partnership can open the door to your competitors.

In the software world, establishing a successful partnership is always a combination of having a solid business model and a compelling technical solution that benefits both parties. Missing any of these two elements can have very different outcomes.

Approaching a potential partner with a great technology solution but a poor business model can completely shut the doors for all your competitors as your partner could assume that there are no viable business models in the space. However, if your partnership model is really compelling but the technology is not as good as your competitors the partnership attempt might backfire and create new opportunities for your competitors with a better technical value proposition.

As a startup CEO, when working on strategic alliances try to evaluate all possible outcomes of including the possibility that you might create new opportunities for your competitors. Similarly, stay aware of the partnerships and strategic alliances your competitors are trying to establish. Their failures could end up creating immediate opportunities for you.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in entrepreneurship, leadership, startups

 

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The Enterprise Minimum Viable Product: Focus on Viable Instead of Minimum

The minimum viable product (MVP) is one of the great concepts pioneered by the Lean Startup methodology. Conceptually, the MVP includes only the basic set of features that make a product production ready and nothing more. Obviously, the MVP concept has become one of the essential mechanisms to ship software efficiently and quickly incorporate feedback from real customers. However, while the MVP mechanism has proven to be an incredibly effective vehicle in the consumer market, there are some major challenges on develop solid MVPs in the enterprise world.

The whole MVP principle is based on shipping the essential feature set to make the product usable, get it in front of customer, study their behavior and incorporate their feedback into subsequent versions of the product. AS you might imagine, this process is not that simple in the enterprise software world in which the complexities of companies can complicate the dynamics between an enterprise software startup and its potential customers.

Having struggled with the characteristics of the right enterprise software MVPs for almost a couple of years now, I can point to a few challenges that most enterprise software startups will encountered when trying to get customers to adopt MVP-type products.

The User is Not the Buyer

One of the reasons that make the MVP concept works so well in the consumer market is because the user of the software is typically the ultimate buyer. Because of this reason, user feedback will directly make the MVP more appealing to potential buyers. This story is quite different in the enterprise world on which the people trying the MVP are rarely the ones making the ultimate purchase decision. In that sense, enterprise software startups need to be able to carefully evaluate the feedback received from an MVP, filtering the noise from the features that will make the product more relevant to potential customers.

Time Commitment

Getting enterprises to commit time and resources to evaluate an MVP-type product can be a really challenging endeavor. Differently from the consumer market, potential buyers in the enterprise are constantly bombarded with different assignments that will distract their attention from your valuable product.

Overfeature Culture

For decades, enterprise software has evolved in the middle of a culture that value the number of features over the simplicity and usefulness of a product. By presenting an MVP version of your product to enterprises, you might run onto a wall of prejudices that tend to associate the number of features in a product with its robustness and enterprise readiness.

Burning Bridges

Given the complexities of enterprise software sales cycles, startups need to be very careful when/how to position an MVP product to customers. If not explained correctly, the MVP might cause enterprise to be disappointed and not consider adopting your software just because they misjudged the purpose of the product at that stage.

In my opinion, there are some fundamental differences between the viability of the MVP approach in the enterprise and consumer markets. Despite the validity of the approach, I think enterprise MVPs can’t be too minimum and must be very viable ;)

 

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Enterprise Software Lessons: Avoid the Early Adopters Sirens Songs

In enterprise software, customer acquisition is the main factor that differentiates winners from losers. Understanding the process of winning customers, the required time, typical sales cycle, parties involved, etc are essential to successfully implement the correct growth strategies in an enterprise software startup. In the early days, enterprise software startups need to do everything at their disposal to win customers and increase adoption of their products.

While the first customers of any enterprise software startup are always the most exciting ones, their behavior can be really misguiding in terms of predicting long term customer acquisition strategies. I like to refer to this problem as the “early adopter’s siren songs”.

In Greek mythology, were dangerous and devious creatures, who lured nearby sailors using enchanting and irresistible songs that deviates them from their normal course. Using this analogy, in an enterprise software startup, you can think of early adopter customers as a bit of a siren song that can deviate the product from its normal trajectory.

Early customers are a great thing to have as an enterprise software startup. These companies are willing to take a chance on your new product and invest in your success. However, early adopters are not a direct representation of your target customer population and, consequently, of your ultimate business models. From a customer profile standpoint, early adopters tend to be more forward thinking, risk taking and innovation hunger than most companies. In that sense, your early adopter customers can send the wrong signals in terms of the customer acquisition models and metrics of your enterprise software product.

As an enterprise software startup CEO, you have to fight very hard to get early adopter customer but you have to drive even harder to get passed the early adoption technology inflection point. Until you get passed that “inflection point” you won’t be able to get a clear picture of the customer acquisition models that work for your enterprise software product. Early adopters are a great sign of the initial traction of a specific enterprise software product as well as the viability of a specific idea but can rarely be considered an indicator of long terms business and execution models. Establishing customer acquisition strategies and projection based on early adopter customer are not only unreal but highly misguided representation of the real adoption and long term business models in an enterprise software startup.

From an enterprise software startup perspective, the transition from early adopters to mainstream customers is one of the hardest thing to accomplish. However, until you get to that point, any metrics , long term projections or business models won’t be based on real facts but on dangerous songs of sirens.

 

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