Yet Another (ex-)VC Blog

Cloud computing, startups, and venture capital

Archive for March 2009

Get on the horn (using the phone for market research)

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Google, Inc.
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Doing market research is a common task for both VCs and entrepreneurs, and often it’s fairly challenging.  There are dribs and drabs of data available via Google, Twitter, analyst firm press releases, government data, and the list goes on…

One can certainly go online and search Twitter or Google for market research statistics, but sometimes your best bet may be to go the Luddite route and just pick up the phone!

For example, trade associations are usually very keen to share membership data, and often will have an idea of the size of their market.  Don’t be afraid to give them a call, almost always the person on the other end of the line will be willing to help you.

You’ll probably save some time (and potentially a few dollars) in the process.

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Written by John Gannon

March 30, 2009 at 8:42 pm

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Advertising that grabs you…

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Saw this flyer while walking the dog yesterday.  I’m not condoning violence but I have to admit that this grabbed my attention (although thankfully not by the throat…)

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Written by John Gannon

March 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm

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Any interest in an eBook on “How to get a job in venture capital” ?

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I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a short (< 50 page) e-Book about how to get a job in venture capital.  All proceeds from the eBook would go to charity.  To gauge interest, I’ve created a couple of polls.  I would appreciate your input if you’re someone who has interest in venture capital careers.  I’ll share the results in a couple of weeks once there are a good number of responses.

Thanks for your help!

Written by John Gannon

March 25, 2009 at 10:00 pm

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Three tips for building successful channel programs

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Venture-backed companies often leverage distribution and VAR channels to ensure that their product is available to a wide variety of potential customers.  Companies with a well-functioning channel program can increase revenues without a proportional increase in costs.  Investors like to see this kind of scalability develop in companies they’ve backed, or believe that this scalability can be achieved at some point in the future.

If you are thinking about taking your product or service to market through the channel, here are some things to consider:

If you can’t sell the product, the channel won’t be able to sell it, either.

Just as you probably shouldn’t hire any sales and marketing employees until you have come up with a product that you (the founding team) can successfully sell, trying to establish a channel before you have developed some market traction on your own is a moot point.  After all, why would a potential partner want to spend time and effort on pushing a product that no one has shown interest in purchasing?

Potential partners are going to want to see market interest in your products (as evidenced by sales or PR) before signing up to work with you.

Enable and support your channels.

A sure path to failure for any moderately complex technology product is to sign up channel partners to resell and/or support the product without educating them on the sales and support of the product!

It seems obvious when you see it in print, but in my experience this is one of the big ‘gotcha’ areas when developing and supporting channel programs.

Lack of education will result in unhappy customers and often a perception that your product is flawed in some way (even though it might not be).   Take the time to educate the channel and you’ll see much better results.

Avoid channel conflict.

Companies who have a direct sales force as well as a channel program need to be careful not to alienate channel partners by competing for the same customers.  Make sure your salespeople are incentivized not to compete with your channel partners.  Again, this probably sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how often it happens.

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Written by John Gannon

March 24, 2009 at 5:39 pm

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Robin Harris of StorageMojo his the nail on the head re: Cisco

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Cisco Systems, Inc.
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If IBM, HP and Sun aren’t meeting today to plot a radical, Cisco margin destroying open-source router & low-cost switch counterattack – like Seagate, HP and IBM performed on Quantum’s DLT – they’re idiots.

– via Cisco’s unified computing system (StorageMojo.com)

As I said in a previous post, I think Cisco’s recent moves are going to be great for guys like XORP and Vyatta.

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Written by John Gannon

March 20, 2009 at 2:46 pm

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Feld Thoughts spurring my thoughts on cloud computing

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feld-sense
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Brad Feld made a couple of great posts over the last week talking about some of the challenges with cloud computing around the coordination of infrastructure level services in complex cloud environments.  Namely, that most cloud computing (hosting) providers have APIs for primitive functions like creating and starting/stopping instances, but lack coordination or error handling functionality at a granular (operating system) level.

These posts struck a chord with me thinking back to my days as a UNIX systems administrator working for a F100 financial services company.  We ran a three-tier architecture with a large number of web servers, application servers, and a pair of beefy database boxes at the bottom of the stack.  Whenever we needed to reset the environment, we had to go through a very specific process to get things online again.

Here’s what a reset looked like:

  • Restart database servers, make sure they were working
  • Restart application servers, make sure they are talking to the database
  • Restart webservers, make sure plugins are talking to the app servers
  • Flush load balancers and firewalls

This whole process would take about 15 minutes, very manual, and thus was quite error prone.   For example, if you started the app servers before the database servers – oops, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Although that example was from a traditional hosting environment in 2000, I imagine there will be similar problems for medium/high complexity cloud hosted applications.

Vendors like VMware have tried to address this kind of issue by providing a workflow engine that can be used to automate sophisticated processes within the infrastructure, and I know RightScale has the RightScripts framework as well, but there is still a major gap.

These systems presuppose that a developer is going to know and care that there are lower level dependencies beyond the APIs with which they interact with the cloud environment.

The beauty of the cloud is that the developers shouldn’t need to know or care about which server starts before which other server, or that sshd needs to start on box A before box B can run a batch job.

But as Brad implies in his post, I think we’ve got a long way to go…

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Written by John Gannon

March 18, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Are Cloud Based Memory Architectures the Next Big Thing? | High Scalability

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DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) VAX ECC me...
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I’ve probably said this before, but the cloud is a new computing platform that some have learned to exploit, others are scrambling to master, but most people will see as nothing but a minor variation on what they’re already doing. This is not new. When time sharing as invented, the batch guys considered it as remote job entry, just a variation on batch. When departmental computing came along (VAXes, et al), the timesharing guys considered it nothing but timesharing on a smaller scale. When PCs and client/server computing came along, the departmental computing guys (i.e. DEC), considered PCs to be a special case of smart terminals. And when the Internet blew into town, the client server guys considered it as nothing more than a global scale LAN. So the batchguys are dead, the timesharing guys are dead, the departmental computing guys are dead, and the client server guys are dead. Notice a pattern?

via Are Cloud Based Memory Architectures the Next Big Thing? | High Scalability.

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Written by John Gannon

March 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm

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