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R.I.P Elizabeth Redding: Great Co-Founder, Business Partner and Friend

This is by far the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written.

Sunday night I received the tragic news that my good friend and longtime business partner Elizabeth Redding passed away victim of a very aggressive form of cancer. Elizabeth had been battling cancer for several months and her condition aggressively deteriorated over the last few weeks.

Elizabeth and I were introduced 4 years ago by our common friend and Tellago co-founder Joe Klug. Joe  insisted that Elizabeth would be a great fit for Tellago and planned a meeting while we both were in Seattle for a conference. To this day, I’ve wondered what in the world made Joe believe that we were going to connect.

  • I was in my late 20s, Elizabeth in her early 40s.
  • I was single (still am), never married (still haven’t) and didn’t have any kids (still don’t ). Elizabeth had a wonderful family including four incredible kids.
  • I wanted to build a company based on technical excellence and a hacker culture, Elizabeth was more interested on having the right team to deliver great solutions.
  • I was an immigrant with a really aggressive approach to business. Elizabeth embraced the kindness and patience typical of the Midwest.
  • I am a socially liberal, fiscally conservative person who tends to get frustrated to the ignorance of politicians of both parties. Elizabeth was as conservative as they come.

Somehow, despite our major differences, Elizabeth and I really connected. She helped to get Tellago off the ground and joined as our first president. For more than 3 years, we enjoyed and incredible ride. We managed to grow Tellago from nothing to an award winning elite services organization.

After things were rolling with Tellago, I approached Elizabeth with the crazy idea of starting a software company based on some ideas that I had been working on. I thought the idea was going to scare the heck out of her given that it required a significant investment on our side and it would likely distract my attention from Tellago. Knowing I was really passionate about it and had put a lot of hours working on the first prototypes, Elizabeth accepted without hesitation and that’s how Tellago Studios was born.

The rest is history, Elizabeth and I split our time between the two business with a firm believe that you can change enterprise IT via innovative software(Studios) and a creative service delivery model(Tellago). We went through the ups and down of any fast growing company; won a lot of projects/customers, lost some, managed to fight every week but always protected and cherished our friendship. It wasn’t uncommon for Elizabeth and I to end the week with a huge disagreement. However, she will still manage to call late Friday evening to see how I was doing after the craziness of the week.

When Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer she approached her condition with the same eternal optimism she lived life. When her condition worsened mid this year, Elizabeth never ceased to put everyone’s interests ahead of hers and kept pushing really hard to accomplish our goals in both companies. I visited Elizabeth a few days ago expecting to find her really exhausted and unable to talk from the effects of the cancer. However, that day, after an exhausting physical therapy session, she still found the strength to talk to me for over two hours, attentively listening to the launch plans of our new Studios product,  listing all the things that needed to be accomplished and giving me an occasional hard time about a few things. Knowing that I was having a really intense week full of meetings and trips, Elizabeth called me that Friday night and managed to make me laugh making jokes about her medical condition.

Elizabeth was a great friend, my biggest supporter, one of my biggest critics and the person that always pushed me the hardest. She was the most optimistic person I’ve ever met. Elizabeth believed that pursuing a dream was more important than achieving financial success. She valued perseverance over talent, resiliency over skills, passion over business strategies and more than anything she believe in doing the right thing.

Last night, I found the strength to read the dozens of support emails sent by our employees, customers and other members of the Tellago family after knowing the news about Elizabeth. In those emails, there was a consistent adjective used to describe my friend: Good.

Elizabeth was good and always looked for the good side in people. She was good in the most difficult circumstances and inspired other to do the same. She remained good in a highly competitive industry known by its aggressive business practices. She was a great example that you can be good, do good and still win.

We will remember Elizabeth like the good person she was. I know we are going to miss her in Tellago. I know I am going to miss my friend, her advice, energy and even our fights ;).

Rest in peace my friend.

A great memory from last year, here is Elizabeth accepting Tellago’s American Business Award as the best software services company in the United States with less than a hundred employees.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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How Transparent Should a Startup CEO be?

Transparency is one of the best qualities that startups can embed in their culture. I will go as far as saying that transparency is almost an exclusive privilege of small companies before attorneys, investors and the board becomes part of the everyday operations of an organization. When you are open and honest about all aspect of the company, employees love it and it improves the ability for everybody to contribute towards well known goals.

Every other entrepreneur I’ve met wants to establish an extremely open culture. However, there are only a handful who regularly exercise transparency as part of the day to day operations of their startup.

Why?

Very simple, being really transparent is REALLY HARD!

As human beings, we are genetically wired to feel more confident when we have the opportunity and access to the relevant information to make our own decisions. However, we are also genetically structured to feel fear and uncertainty when we need to exercise that control. As a result, you find that most people really strive really hard to have access to information and control over certain situation but only a small group of those people know how to exercise that control.

Hasn’t this happened to you before? The employee that wants to be promoted as manager, control a specific project, be the owners of specific strategic initiative but when you offer then full control over the situation he/she paralyzes and doesn’t know what to do. Something similar happens in terms of being completely transparent about all aspects of your startup. Only a small group of people have the ability to receive bad news and stay focused on the task at hand or the long term goals. As a CEO, being transparent entails sharing both good and bad news about the operations of your company. When bad news are disclosed, inevitably some people are going to panic, some others are going to be very judgmental and you are obviously going to feel really bad about the whole situation.

What to do then?

Nobody but you can honestly answer this. The answer to this question is really specific to the culture of each company. In my experience, being transparent and open about your startup is totally worth it regardless of the difficult times. Make no mistake; you are always going to face difficult times. At Tellago Studios and Tellago, we try to be open about the current state of our projects, customers, prospects, financials and all other relevant aspects of the company. In my opinion, openness and remaining loyal to your core values builds trust and trust is one of the biggest assets you can have when facing a storm. If you have done your homework, when difficult times arises, you will surprisingly find that the majority of the company will trust the management team to address the situation. Also, although unpleasant, a facing crisis from time to time is not necessarily a bad thing. It helps to test the foundations of the company, it quickly highlights the quality of the people in your organization and it helps you make necessary adjustments. More about that on a future post….

So….What do you think? How transparent should a startup CEO be?

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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CEO Lessons: No Task Is Beneath You

A few nights ago I received a call from an IT director at one of our Tellago customers (who happens to be a friend) asking for help to troubleshoot an issue in one of their mission critical systems. The failure itself was related to a Microsoft technology that I happen know really well. It was late at night; I was really tired and had a lot of work to do.

At that point, the option of passing the support incident onto any of my employees resulted really appealing. A few of them were even online working on their respective projects.

What did I do?

I took a few minutes to think about it and decided to jump on the phone with the customer’s IT staff. A few minutes into it, I realized that the problem didn’t have an easy fix and it was going to require to write a few scripts/programs to automate certain management tasks which was going to consume a couple of hours of my time. Again, I decided not to call anybody and wrote the programs myself. Thankfully, we were able to fix the problem in about 3 hours and I was able to go back to my scheduled tasks.

Why did I do that when I could have easily delegated that task onto any of Tellago’s engineers?

As a CEO of two very young companies, I believe in leading by example and not taking titles very seriously. I don’t let any of my colleagues refer to me as their boss and I try hard to just be another guy working for a great company.  I am far from considering myself a great CEO, on the contrary, I make mistakes every other week and I still have to learn a lot when comes to leading a successful organization. However, for the time being, there is a lesson I learned really well :)

“As a CEO, try to be a generalist, not a specialist and always remember that there are no tasks beneath you when comes to building a great company”.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Tellago and Tellago Studios 2011: Lessons, Changes and Crazy Ideas

Last week we hosted our annual company meeting for both Tellago and Tellago Studios. When preparing for the meeting, I have to admit we had a very difficult time reviewing everything we accomplished this year without getting a bit emotional. With 2012 around the corner, I figured I’d write a final blog post this year to share Tellago and Tellago Studios’ journey in 2011, the lessons we learned and our dreams for 2012. I know founders can talk forever about their companies so I will try to keep this post very concise and, hopefully, you will find it helpful.

The Biggest Lessons of the Year

2011 has been the most intense year of my professional career. With still a few days to go, I can’t think of any other time in my life in which I slept so little, stressed so much and had so much fun in terms of work. We started the year with very ambitious but yet incredibly pragmatic goals in terms of growing both companies, establishing a solid culture, doing right by our customers, and having a lot of fun. At some point early in the year (I could tell you the exact day) we started nurturing some crazy dreams about working in big problems that could, in some small sense, have a big impact on specific industries. Fortunately, we let those crazy dreams lead the path for Tellago Studios, and to some extent Tellago, for the rest of 2011. As a result, I think Tellago and Tellago Studios look very different today compared to a year ago and we couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishments or more excited about the future.

When reflecting about this year, I can probably summarize the lessons I learned in a simple thought: “Effort is a constant: Companies are too painful and difficult to build to build something that doesn’t matter”

The idea here is fundamentally simple. I firmly believe that the amount of effort it takes to build a small NGF (nobody gives a f….) business is the same that it takes to build a multi- hundred million dollar company. So if (BIG IF) you have the talent, you MUST focus your efforts on working on problems that can make a difference in this world because, at the end of the day, it is the same amount of effort you will put into working on NGF problems.

Our work on Moesion, represented the transition point between two different philosophies: From one that was focused on working on small software and make a profit to one whose goal is nothing but to disrupt the enterprise IT market (while still making a profit :)

Tellago and Tellago Studios 2011: What we did?

Grew Organically

During 2011 Tellago and Tellago Studios grew over 65% achieving revenue numbers that seemed pretty far away at the beginning of the year. More importantly, we put a lot of emphasis on keeping our growth strategy very organic and making sure we brought in the right talent that could help to make the companies better.

Stevie Awards

This June, Tellago was the recipient of the prestigious American Business Award as the best company under a 100 employees in the computer services industry. My business partner Elizabeth Redding, accepted the award in the name of the company at a ceremony hosted in the Marriott Marquis in Time Square, NYC.

Established a Unique Culture

I’ve always been of the opinion that a company culture is something that has to grow organically so that it truly represents the identity of an organization. Even though Tellago and Tellago Studios have grown under well-established principles, I wasn’t convinced we had yet established a culture as a company.

In 2011, for the first time, I witnessed how both companies nurture goals, processes and principles that naturally became the core DNA of both organizations and helped to establish a very unique culture. To cite an example, for 52 weeks this year, every Friday both companies got together during 1 hour, in something we called Technology Dojos, to discuss a specific technology topic that we considered important. During those meetings we were able to debate all sorts of technologies that are becoming important in today’s software industry. In addition to passionate debates, those meetings were the catalyst to some of the coolest open source projects we release during the year. We also used those meetings for the Tellago Studios teams to present prototypes of ideas for upcoming releases.

3 New MVPs

2011 brought 3 new MVPs to our family. Tellago’s veterans Dwight Goins and Gustavo Machado achieved their MVPs in BizTalk Server and Connected Systems respectively while we added software developer extraordinaire and C# MVP Jose Romaniello to the team at the beginning of the year.

Open Source Releases

During 2011 we continued our commitment to open source. Hermes and RESTBucks.NET are some of the most notable examples of our open source work this year.

Buenos Aires Office

Is it not a secret that Tellago Argentina has become a key element of Tellago’s identity? This year, thanks to the drive of Gustavo Machado, we opened our first office in Buenos Aires. I have to admit I was particularly cautious about the idea of establishing a physical office for the Tellago Argentina team. Sometimes, I see offices as an unnecessary element that rewards presence instead of productivity.  Well, my concerns were totally unfounded, I have been having a blast watching the team work together from the same location and I think the office that turned out to be particularly helpful for the Tellago Studios team as we were approaching the release of Moesion.

Conferences

During 2011, we presented sessions on a record number of conferences including Microsoft’s TechReady, Teched, SOA Symposium, MadExpo, VSLive,  etc. I believe our proudest moment in this aspect was when 11 Tellagans were selected as speakers for the Buenos Aires Code Camp which represents around 4 times more than any other company presenting at the event. The credit goes entirely to our super talented Tellago Argentina team.

Moesion

The release of Moesion this September can be considered the most important milestone of Tellago Studios as a company. Without getting into a commercial about the product, I can easily say that the implementation of Moesion has been the biggest engineering and product management challenge of my entire career and its release is one of the proudest moments of my life. However, that pride has little to do with me individually and a lot to do with the unparalleled amount of talent, passion and effort displayed by the Moesion  team every day during the six long months that took to bring Moesion to life.

The Moesion team is the best example I’ve witnessed of how talent, passion and team work can overcome any challenges in this world. Starting with the magnitude of the problem we were trying to solve, to the natural resource constraints of being a bootstrapped company, we knew the road to Moesion was going to be a painful one. In order to maximize our chance of succeeding we did the only thing we could control: assemble the best team we could possibly have. We brought together engineers from both Tellago and Tellago Studios that covered the areas of expertise we knew we need it but, more importantly, that we knew would make shipping Moesion their mission in life and would fight to make the product successful every step of the way.

After six months of working long nights, weekends and dealing with my time constraints from the responsibilities of running both companies, we unveiled Moesion to the world on September 19th. The reception by customers, the press, and the community has been nothing but remarkable. To this point, Moesion has been highlighted in publications around the globe including InformationWeek, Wall Street Journal, and CNBC. We have received a lot of positive feedback and words of encouragement from legends within the software industry and have signed a fairly large number of customers in only a few weeks.  More importantly, Moesion has proven to us and our customers that enterprise software can be fun, sexy and innovative again.

Tellago and Tellago Studios 2012: Where are we going ?

At this point, I can’t give a lot of details about our plans for 2012. I will write a more detailed post at the beginning of the year. I can tell you, however, that 2012 promises to be the most exciting year in the history of Tellago and Tellago Studios.

The experience of working on Moesion drastically changed our perspective about building a business. As I mentioned earlier in this post, companies are too challenging to build to focus on problems that don’t matter. While Tellago Studios has already found its identity with Moesion and products around the Moesion platform, it is time to shift Tellago’s course to focus on more important problems.

In that sense, during the last few months, we’ve re-structured Tellago to focus on 4 fundamental areas that we think are going to change the IT industry:

  • Enterprise Mobility
  • Cloud Computing
  • Modern Business Intelligence and Big Data
  • Enterprise Collaboration

In each one of those areas, our teams have been working on specific solutions to some of the most important challenges in that space. Hopefully, you will see more details about that work in the first few weeks of the year.

Tellago Studios is going to have an incredibly intense first quarter with the announcement of some really groundbreaking new features, exciting partnerships with top software companies, and the implementation of some new crazy capabilities that we have been researching on for a while.

More importantly, we are truly focused on enabling the necessary infrastructure so that both companies can continue growing through innovation, working on big problems and having a blast changing the enterprise software industry in some small way.

Even though I almost need medical attention these days to deal with my exhaustion, I couldn’t be happier with what 2011 brought for both Tellago and Tellago Studios. I feel truly honored to get to work every day with such an amazing team that truly refuses to settle for mediocrity, I feel honored to have their respect and loyalty.

At this point, I find myself obsessing about details for 2012. I couldn’t be more excited about the immediate future to the point I really need to force myself to take a couple of days off because I really want to keep working.

I hope to have the opportunity to share some more exciting news here in the first few weeks of 2012. In the meantime, I wish you a very Happy Holidays and a Blessed New Year.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Latest Speaking Engagements

I’ve been so busy lately with the activities around Moesion that I haven’t had time to blog about a couple of great conferences I had the opportunity to speak at in the last two months.

Software Architect Conference, UK (http://www.software-architect.co.uk/)

This conference is becoming one of my favorite events of the year. As always Nick Payne and his team did a remarkable job lining up an all-star group of speakers that covered some of the hottest topics in today’s software industry.

The first day of the conference I had the opportunity to speak about NOSQL databases from a .NET developer perspective to a very enthusiastic crowd that packed the room and bombarded me with tons of smart questions. You can find the slide deck below.

After that, I presented a session about WCF tips and tricks that covered a lot of the lessons we have learned when working on large SOA solutions with customers as well as during the development of SO-Aware.

Cloud Computing Expo, CA(http://cloudcomputingexpo.com)

The Cloud Computing Expo is slowly becoming the most important cloud computing conference of the year. This edition hosted speakers from the most important cloud computing vendors in the current market. I had the opportunity of presenting a session about one of my favorite topics these days: Enterprise Mobility. Without exaggerating, I can rate this session as one of my best experiences speaking at a conference.

The room was packed and people were literally standing during the entire hour. The audience was completely engaged on the topic and they literally stayed for another 45 mins after the session asking questions and participating in the discussions. I was extremely exhausted that evening after haven’t flown 6 hrs from Miami, presented a Moesion webinar ,  met partners,  customers, etc but the  audience made a complete difference in my experience. I would really like to thank to anybody who attended that session. Below you can find the slide deck of that presentation.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Enterprise Software Sucks but it Doesn’t Have To

Very frequently we hear IT professionals complain about the poor quality and experience of enterprise software packages when compared to the simplicity and always growing innovation of consumer software, and rightfully so!

Enterprise software is, for the most part, archaic, boring, expensive and rarely innovative. As a result, IT environments keep distancing themselves from modern social and consumer dynamics to a point that they almost seem like two different worlds.

Most people will blame the big enterprise software vendors for the lack of innovation in the space but I think the truth is slightly different. Having thought about this problem for a while and having even started two companies to try to address it, I firmly believe that enterprises are more responsible for the lack of innovation in enterprise software than enterprise software vendors.

Here are some of the aspects of IT initiatives that, in my opinion, have consistently  harm the evolution of enterprise software.

Relying on Big Budgets

For 20-30 years, IT has developed a big spending mindset. We’ve all witnessed ERP implementations or J2EE “modernization” efforts that range in the multi-hundred million dollar price mark. While it is great to see organizations spend big capital in their IT infrastructure, I firmly believe that those big-budget, multi-year IT efforts have caused more harm than benefit to IT organizations.

The argument here is pretty simple, most IT organizations rarely invest that big capital in their R&D efforts and, instead, spend to adopt the old and well-established enterprise technologies which, in turn, puts very little pressure on the enterprise vendors to innovate. Seriously, why would SAP, IBM or Oracle bother to innovate in their technologies while we keep paying hundreds of millions for the same painful technology packages they developed 10 years ago?

Business Focused Not User Focused

A good software technology makes good Xs, a game-changer software technology makes great users of X!

For years, organizations have adopted enterprise software solely focused on business centric functionalities and have paid little attention to the user experience of the technology itself. This seems almost ridiculous once we realize that users are the key element to bridge software technology and business processes. Making enterprise users more productive is very often the fastest path to make your business more productive.

The thing to realize here is that, regardless of what industry you are in, most business concepts like HR or Sales are boring in nature and very slow evolving compared to technology concepts. By always focusing on business and not users, we have created the perfect recipe for designing boring, archaic software.


Forty Years of Neglecting Open Source

What is the last disruptive enterprise software technology that you‘ve seen from Microsoft, Oracle, IBM or SAP? Nothing comes to mind? You might have to go back 11 years to the release of the Microsoft .NET Framework which, arguably, is not an enterprise technology. On the other hand, the open source world as seen a non-stop revolution of software technologies. Ruby on Rails, NoSQL databases, Node.js, Android, Hadoop are just some of recent open source technologies that have changed the way we build software applications in recent years.

For decades, lots of large enterprises have been fearful to adopt open source technologies and, instead, have focused on embracing commercial software from big enterprise vendors. Consequently, those organizations have missed the opportunity to embrace various waves of innovation in the open source world that would have helped enable new types of business agility.

By neglecting open source, enterprises has closed the doors to a lot of fresh, new and innovative enterprise software solutions that could have drastically improved their organizations.

Risk Averse Mindsets

Let’s face it, most IT organizations are really afraid of change. Haven’t you heard that “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”? Well, maybe people should get fired from “buying IBM” from time to time. By only adopting IBM, Oracle, SAP we are fomenting a culture of safety, a culture of fear of risk, a culture afraid of change and innovation. Innovation doesn’t happen without taking risks and without a few failures.

By always “buying from IBM” we are giving the IBMs of the world the perfect excuse to keep building crappy software.

Always Cutting Costs

Investment in IT is, very often, not very high in the priorities of organizations. Very often, IT initiatives are subjected to drastic cost cuts due in order to prioritize other business initiatives. Budgetary constraints tend to more routinely affect areas like infrastructure systems which don’t directly deliver business value but they are instrumental in order to enable business applications. This type of mindset has caused IT organizations to rarely focus on innovation and, instead, prioritize other business focused initiatives. As a result, those IT organizations keep constantly falling behind the times in the technology cycles and losing the passion for building great applications.

It is important to realize that innovation requires systematic investment and is not something that you solve by exclusively throwing money at it. Innovation requires more than financial resources. It requires talent, passion, knowledge and having a solid infrastructure to build upon.

Long, Big Technology Adoption Cycles

Most IT organizations still have the same long technology adoption cycle of the 1980 -1990s when enterprise software was almost seen as a luxury. Given the fast pace of technology, these long cycles have caused organizations stay behind the technology curve. Additionally, taking long periods of time to adopt enterprise software technologies significantly affects the capability or organizations to innovate and to stay youthful.

Things are Changing

Despite all of this, it is important to mention that I don’t consider enterprise software a lost cause. On the contrary, I see enterprise software as one of the biggest opportunities to drive change to the business world. If you think about it, companies invest 2 trillion dollars every year in enterprise software. The US Federal Government alone spends around 80 billion dollars in IT. That’s significantly more that most consumer markets.

Every day companies like Atlassian, Thoughtworks Studios, Box, Yammer, Jive, Tellago Studios and dozens of others go to work trying to bring innovation to the enterprise space. Although we have to battle a lot of the circumstances examined in the previous sections, there are a few elements that are bringing a new wave of change to enterprise software.

Generational Changes

As new generations come into the workforce, companies will be forced to embrace new communication, social and learning patterns that are more tailored to newer generations. Hopefully, those generational changes will start driving more simplicity and better usability to enterprise software packages and to businesses itself.

Cloud Platforms

The emergence of cloud computing platforms has opened the door for massive waves of innovation in enterprise software.   Whether we are talking about platform, infrastructure or software as a service, we have to realize that these platforms are playing a key role in democratizing technology and infrastructure. Nowadays, startups have the same technology at their disposal than the big enterprise vendors.

Social Computing

Social networks are part of our everyday life and it’s just a matter of time before they become mainstream in the enterprise. Companies like Yammer and Jive are leading a movement that will, inevitably, end up making social computing a key component of any enterprise software package. By introducing social computing aspects in enterprise applications we will implicitly start changing those software packages to be simpler and better suited for collaboration.

Mobile

I will argue that most enterprise applications in the upcoming year should have a mobile component. Mobile interfaces will inevitably drive simplicity to enterprise software packages. Fortunately, as powerful as some of the big enterprise vendors are, they can’t change the size of the screen or the touch interface of an IPhone. In that sense, enterprise software technology will be forced to adapt to the new world in which mobility is an essential component of how we conduct business.

What do you think?

Does enterprise software sucks?

 Can we change it?

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in entrepreneurship, startups

 

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Selecting the right idea

If you are any good in your space, whether you are a programmer, artist or any other profession, you are going to have a lot of ideas about how to improve that space. As an entrepreneur, you need to discriminate the ideas that are worth pursuing from the ones that might not be so good. The answer sometimes is far from as trivial as it seems.

Doubt Yourself

Most of the time, people will tell you to trust yourself and your ideas. I am advocating the opposite; doubt and question your ideas every step of the way. Doubting and questioning the viability of a specific idea is not only the responsible thing to do in terms of the people that depend on you but it will keep you incredibly sharp and innovating. The trick is to NEVER LET THE DOUBTS PARALIZE YOU but, instead, use them as a way to refine and improve your ideas.

Believe in your Idea

Always try to pick an idea that you believe in. Sometimes being passionate about an idea is more important in the long run than the idea itself.  Building disruptive companies is a painful journey. You are going to face a lot of skepticism, criticism, and disappointments. The he worst part is that those challenges will extend to your loved ones as well. At any point, your passion and belief in your ideas will keep you going.

Walt Disney would occasionally present some unbelievable, extensive dream he was entertaining. Almost without exception, the members of his board would gulp, blink, and stare back at him in disbelief, resisting even the thought of such a thing. But unless every member resisted the idea, Disney usually didn’t pursue it. The challenge wasn’t big enough to merit his time and creative energy unless they were unanimously in disagreement!

Take Criticisms

I am very blunt about this one, PEOPLE WHO CAN’T TAKE CRITICISMS OR ARE VERY SLOW ASSIMILATING THEM WILL NEVER MAKE GOOD ENTREPENEURS. If you are over sensitive about criticisms you won’t be able to improve and you will let emotions get in the way of your company’s success. My advice here is to trust the intention of the people criticizing your idea, filter the smart criticisms from the stupid ones and MOVE ON.

When Michelangelo was finishing The David, along came Piero Soderini, the town mayor or boss, to have a look. Michelangelo had put a canvas around the scaffolding so no one could watch him work. Piero Soderini put on the show of the art connoisseur, walking around under the huge figure. “It’s coming along wonderfully,” said Piero Soderini. “But do you know what? The nose is too thick.”

He knew that from where Soderini was standing it was impossible to judge whether the nose or anything else was right. “Well, we’ll fix that right now,” he said; and quickly grabbing a hammer and chisel, climbed up the scaffold like a monkey. Clink, clink—Soderini heard the hammer against the chisel and saw marble dust fall. Clink some more. “How’s that?” Michelangelo called down from the scaffold. Of course he hadn’t touched the figure at all but only pretended to be altering the nose.
“Oh, that’s much better!” exclaimed the mayor. “Now you’ve really put life into it.”

Be Knowledgeable

I cannot stress this enough, having deep knowledge about the industry you are playing in, the history of companies in the space, and the market in general, will be key to making the right strategic decisions about your product. I will go a bit further to say that your knowledge of history, science, philosophy, art, or social dynamics will also shape the way your company evolves. In my experience, exceptional entrepreneurs are very often knowledgeable in a lot of these subjects and are able to incorporate ideas and drive inspiration from those subjects into their products.

Larry Ellison is a great admirer and a deep connoisseur of Japanese history and culture. That passion has influenced a lot of aspects of Oracle like aggressive sales and acquisition tactics and the permanent goal of achieving 100% market domination.

If You Like Your Idea, Try To Break It

If you think you have a great idea then try to break it. Spend time and energy exploring every possible reason that could make your product fail and set the passions aside. My business partner spends long hours firing everything at some of our products and, most of the time; we find something that makes us refine our strategies around them.

Evaluate the Risk

Ultimately, you need to evaluate the risk of failing to come up with some strategies to recover from failure if it happens. There are some ideas that are worth trying simply because there are minimum risks in case of a failure.

When the podcasting company Odeo realized that they had little chance against ITunes, Jack Dorsey presented an idea to the team that could help reinvent the company. The idea didn’t have the best reception but, realizing that they had little to lose; Evan Williams gave Jack and Biz Stone two weeks to work on it. Have you heard about Twitter…..? J

Make Others Believe

The degree to which your core team believes in your vision, dreams and capability will directly impact the type of company you are building. Software startups can’t be seen as a factory anymore in which the bosses dictate and the developers follow well defined recipes. Disruptive products need vision, passion, team-collaboration and are typically painfully hard to build. If you are able to inspire your team to share your dreams and passion, they will make your company, product and team better every day.

Can You Execute?

Your capacity to execute is as important as the quality of the idea. As an entrepreneur you should obsess about the execution of your team, you need to spend less time doing the fun stuff and more taking on the painful things and making others execute better.

The French invasion of Russia in 1812 was considered a great idea from any military standpoint but Napoleon totally underestimated their capability to survive the crude Russian winter. If the Russian campaign turned out to be successful, it would have been the end of years of European wars and would have granted France one of the biggest empires in human history. Instead, the failure of the execution forced the French troops to retire from Russia in December 1812 marking the beginning of the decline of the Napoleonic empire.

Stop Sketching and Start Executing

Execution is the best way to validate and improve your ideas. Don’t try to answer every question before you start executing. Most likely, you won’t be able to. Without executing on an idea you are unlikely to find out its true potential. Remember that failure is rarely the worse outcome, mediocrity is.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in entrepreneurship, startups

 

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