Advertisements

Yet Another (ex-)VC Blog

Venture Capital Jobs

Archive for May 2009

Say goodbye to bad UI (thanks to the cloud)

leave a comment »

A typical modal dialog box with prominent &quo...
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t think anyone will argue with me that the typical IT management tool user interface (UI) is just plain awful.  There are several reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that an enterprise software product is loaded with hundreds of features, functions, and configurations, all of which need to be accessible to an end user.

As cloud computing aggregates formerly disparate functions and resources into logical groups, it stands to reason that  user interfaces will not need as much complexity as is required today, simply because there is more abstraction of the resources that make up the application (code, servers, network, database, etc).  If there are less things that are user configurable in a software package, you can simply eliminate numerous menu items, configuration toggles, buttons, etc.

It will be hard for the incumbents to change their UI to fit this new model.  Customers who are used to a certain UI from a vendor or product are going to want it to stay the same (or close to the same) since they’re used to how it looks – even if it looks horrible :)

New entrants, however, have a great opportunity to leverage UI and user experience to make their management apps more sticky and to appeal to a broader market.  For example, the Bluebear guys have built a snazzy, intuitive multi-hypervisor virtualization management tool written in Adobe AIR.  If I’m an SMB who is dipping my toe into the waters of virtualization, maybe a tool like this makes it easier for me to get started.   Or take a company like Cloudkick, that is looking to “make the cloud easier to use an accessible to everyone.” That’s a great misson statement, and one that’s certainly achievable given the software development technologies available today.

Maybe (hopefully?) we end up in a world where the idea of sending one’s IT staff to “training” class for several thousand dollars a pop will be a thing of the past.  The IT guys will just be able to sit down and drive whatever software you put in front of them.

The UI will be that good…

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Advertisements

Written by John Gannon

May 29, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Planning for unplanned downtime

leave a comment »

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Via D7: The Twitter guys speak | Beyond Binary – CNET News:

7:37 p.m. PT: They open it up for questions. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee offers a couple of comments. “Don’t ever do another planned maintenance in the middle of the day on a week day.”

I remember the day Roger McNamee is talking about, when Twitter posted on the homepage that there would be some ‘planned downtime’ in the middle of the day.

In datacenter operations language, ‘Planned downtime’ in the middle of the day is really  unplanned downtime.

I’m not privy to what went on that day at Twitter, but my guess as an ex-datacenter guy is that there was some production issue affecting some number of users which a) would have got worse over time or b) was not yet an issue, but would have become an issue had they not taken down the site at that time.

From a PR perspective and from a tech perspective (assuming my assumption from the previous paragraph was correct), Twitter did the right thing.  I can certainly appreciate a high growth site like Twitter having some growing pains (having been through that myself at multiple high traffic internet properties) and this was probably the best way to handle it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 27, 2009 at 10:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Don’t pitch the product

leave a comment »

Johan Santana on May 17, 2008
Image via Wikipedia

Having seen this come up a couple of times over the last couple of weeks, I felt it was worth blogging it.

Don’t give the product sales pitch when you’re pitching an early stage investor.

An investor presentation, although technically a sales presentation (you want the investor to buy equity in your company), should not be a product sales presentation.

Yes, we want to understand the product you have built or are building, but if it’s 100% about the product (or even 70% about the product), it’s hard to tell the story that will convince the VC that this is an exciting team and market opportunity, with the right product at the right time.  Getting bogged down in features and functions is going to take the investor’s eye off the vision and into the weeds.

There’s plenty of time to get into the weeds once you have the investor’s interest, but not in a first meeting.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm

A Yorkshire Man sounds off on virtualization

leave a comment »

The British Flag
Image by Chris Breeze via Flickr

My buddy Steve Chambers has started blogging at View Yonder.  Steve’s an awesome guy who I got to know pretty well while working with him at VMwareI think you’ll enjoy his take on virtualization, VMware, and fine beers :)  His most recent post debates the notion that VMware products are too “expensive“.

This is a refrain I heard frequently during my time at the company – it’s good to see not much has changed since I left!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 22, 2009 at 10:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Cloud app store hype

with 7 comments

iPod 5th Generation white.
Image via Wikipedia

With the rise of virtual appliances as a software delivery and deployment model, people are beginning to talk about the idea of cloud computing app stores (a la iTunes) where admins can find virtual appliances and then easily deploy them onto a cloud or a server in their data center.

Although this idea sounds cool (“Hey, I can search for apps like I’d search for songs on iTunes and then deploy them almost instantly!”), I’m not convinced it is something that is going to create a dramatic market shift within the enterprise.

Why not?

First let’s think about why customers would be inclined to use a virtual appliance or app store:

  • Easily demo software on their own environment or in the cloud:  The virtual appliance model is clearly a great way for an IT guy or developer to test new apps.  You can try before you buy, and you don’t need to requisition any hardware to test.
  • Pay-per-appliance instead of pay-per-physical server: A pay-per-appliance model makes more sense in the virtual world than does the old licensing model of per-CPU or per-server.
  • Choice: App stores are a place where the big vendors’ marketing muscle won’t matter as much.  Customers will be exposed to new vendors and solutions.

And some reasons why customers wouldn’t want to use virtual appliances or app stores:

  • Lack of Control: Larger companies will have strict standards on what kind of applications and OS’s go into their environment.  Typically, they are going to want control of the hardware, the application, and everything in between.  Using a virtual appliance means giving up much of the control enterprise IT is used to having on the entire stack.
  • Good config management and deployment tools beat virtual appliances any day of the week:  The virtual appliance value proposition is eliminated if you’ve got robust config and deployment systems (think Opsware, Puppet, etc) that let you deploy fully customized app stacks (w/custom OS) in minutes.  Why sacrifice the ability to customize when you don’t have to?

Why are the appliances and app stores good for vendors?

  • Lead gen: Download of virtual appliance = sales lead for appliance vendor
  • Makes software pre-sales process easier: Instead of putting a sales engineer onsite for a couple days to help setup a customer demo, give the customer a virtual appliance that they can get up and running in an hour or less.
  • Best practices:  The vendor can ensure the configuration of the appliance conforms with best practices.  This will prevent some folks from shooting themselves in the foot by not selecting manufacturer suggested default settings. (Although certainly the ‘suggested’ settings are a really bad idea for certain use cases – a longer story which I won’t dig into here)
  • Makes cloud more useful:  Helps cloud customers deploy apps faster.
  • Long tail:  Exposes lesser known or upcoming vendors to IT buyers.

Seems to me like virtual appliances are a great sales/marketing tool for vendors large and small, but not something that will fundamentally change how enterprise IT is delivered.  SMBs on the other hand…maybe there is a play there.

Thoughts?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 21, 2009 at 11:08 am

Why Do SaaS Companies Lose Money Hand Over Fist?

leave a comment »

It seems pretty clear these (Salesforce.com, SuccessFactors) SaaS companies could be just as profitable as SAP if they were prepared to dial back significantly on their growth. SaaS companies spend money hand over fist because they’re engaged in a land grab. The big players like SAP are extremely slow getting to SaaS for various reasons. As long as these companies can grow like this, they should keep investing heavily in it. The likelihood an on-prem vendor will dig these customers back out again seems very low. Customers being taken this way are probably lost for good to the SAP’s of the world.

(excerpted from Smoothspan blog post)

Written by John Gannon

May 19, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Backup your data passively, or don’t backup at all

with one comment

A standard RJ45 Ethernet connector.
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve finally come to realization that the idea of an end home/SoHO/SMB user being actively involved in backup of their data is a losing proposition.

Foundry Group just funded Cloud Engines, a company that makes a product (Pogoplug) which allows you to passively share data from your hard drive and make it available as a cloud-like service.  Certainly automated backups would be a logical next step.

There are also some other guys out there (whose names are escaping me – and by all means please add them to the comments) who take a similar approach of placing a device in the network path to perform backups with bare minimum user configuration or intervention.

If the backup service/software has to prompt a user for files and directories to be backed up, it has already failed.  The user will underutilize it, or won’t use it at all (sadly I’m in the latter bucket).

A device inline on the network will miss some stuff, but it’s certainly better than nothing (which is what you get with backup software which sits uninstalled/unconfigured).

I wonder if the network card makers could create a backup offload engine (BOE?) chip that would grab file related network I/O’s and replicate them into the cloud.  We have TCP offload engines (TOE), and iSCSI offload chips, so why not BOE?

Related articles by Zemanta

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 13, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Maximizing rewards

with 2 comments

Arson Reward
Image by extremeezine via Flickr

Last night I spent a couple of hours going over our personal finances which included me spending some time on the American Express customer portal.  Amex does a good job of letting you on their portal where you could be buying to maximize your membership rewards points.  They will often tell you things like “Buy at FTD.com and earn double points” (I don’t know if FTD.com is actually a partner, I’m just using this as an example).  The airlines do this as well, letting you earn points if you purchase online from certain vendors.

I think its great that Amex, the airlines, and whomever else,  is giving me the chance to earn additional rewards points, but when I am going to purchase something online, I never check americanexpress.com and AA.com before buying whatever it is I am planning on buying.  So I have no idea where I should be buying to get these extra points.  My guess is that most other people don’t check for these promotions, either.

It would be great if somehow my purchase intent or purchase history could be used to identify opportunities to generate rewards points for these purchases.   I’d happily give my purchase history to someone who could identify my regular purchasing patterns and tell me where I should be buying in order to maximize my points and minimize my cost.  I don’t think it would be that hard to watch the major airlines and card companies and maintain a database of the latest offers, and let me know about the most relevant mileage earning opportunities.This was something I had hoped Mint would do for me, given  that it has a slew of purchase data, although as of yet it hasn’t helped in that department (BTW, someone tell me if Mint actually does this and I’m just not using it the right way!)  Incidentally, it looked like one of my credit card portals was doing some recommendations based on my purchase history, but it appeared to be a strict if/then proposition (e.g. If John bought a book on Amazon, then we’ll recommend he try Borders next time and we’ll give him a discount as incentive).

Purchase intent is a different story and probably a tougher nut to crack.  Perhaps you could have a shopping search engine where users would input their relevant hotel, frequent flier, and credit card rewards programs, allowing the search engine to look for items where you’d get bonus points for purchasing.  When they searched for an item, the search engine could consider price but also potential rewards points as a way to prioritize and categorize results.

Of course, that supposes that someone will want to use a specific portal to do their initial searches.  I’m not sure that’s a reasonable assumption.  Maybe there is a plugin approach that semantically analyzes the page on which you’re shopping (e.g. amazon.com, buy.com, etc) and visually flag items that will be bonused on purchase.  For example, let’s say American Airlines has a promotion running where you’ll receive bonus miles for staying in a specific hotel, if you are on aa.com, Orbitz, Kayak, etc, the plugin could alert you of this when booking a hotel.   Or, if you are on Amazon.com and you’re clearly looking to buy a toaster, the plugin could let you know that Amex will give you 2x rewards points if you buy at crateandbarrel.com, who also carries the toaster.  The plugin might even do a price comparison for you so you can see if there is a price differential which might make the earning of rewards less appealing.

I think a plugin would be pretty slick, but the challenge there is to get people to actually install it in their browser.  Most users don’t knowingly use plugins, so you’d need to overcome that hurdle in order to get serious adoption of the service.  I don’t know – maybe you start with an asynchronous model (i.e. upload your credit card bill, and we’ll tell you where to buy next time) and use it to generate leads for the plugin.

So what’s the business model?  I imagine the card companies, airlines, etc would like to make more people aware of the promotions they’re running (advertising), and the vendors would like to sell product to those same customers (lead generation).

I haven’t run the numbers to see if this could be a big business, but I know it’s something I would definitely use.  Bits and pieces of this solution are out there (think Mint and Billshrink on the bill analysis side and maybe Mashlogic or AdaptiveBlue on the plugin side) but as far as I know there is nothing that connects the dots.

I’d love to hear what kinds of services or sites you use to maximize your earning of rewards points, as well as your thoughts on this business idea.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm

What the cloud is all about

leave a comment »

IBM
Image via Wikipedia

IBM is fixing the one thing it really needed to get its head around to do well in the cloud- simple pricing models, without needing to call a third party expert to unravel them. Forget technology – the cloud is about simple pricing and billing.

via James Governor’s Monkchips » IBM in the Amazon Cloud: on pricing and billing innovation.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Finally getting started on the VC Careers eBook

with one comment

Desert Island Collection - Top 24 - Books
Image by Feuillu via Flickr

Here’s the first stab at the forward for the VC careers eBook. I’m going to build the content around this, so please let me know if there are topics that you think I missed or that you want to make sure are included in the chapters I’ve outlined here. Comments are very welcomed and appreciated.

Forward

It’s no surprise that it’s not easy to get a venture capital job when you consider some of the factors at play:

  • There are very few VC jobs to begin with
  • People tend to stay in a VC job for a long time
  • Venture capital is not a growth industry; The number of people employed in the field does not typically increase annually (in fact, it may start decreasing going forward)
  • VCs only hire through trusted referrals
  • VCs are generally well compensated
  • VCs work with entrepreneurs who are trying to change the world, or at least the industries in which they operate (which is no small feat, either!)
  • Bottom line: VC is a great industry and the jobs are great, too


The combination of scarcity and quality of the jobs makes for a big labor supply/demand imbalance that works mightily against the venture capital job seeker.

The goal of this eBook is to share what I learned during my venture capital job search process with the hopes that you can leverage some of the strategies and tactics that worked for me during your job search process.

Chapters and topics include:

  • Acknowledgements and thank you’s (A shoutout to everyone that I can remember who helped me or met with me during my search)
  • What’s the job of a junior VC? (A discussion of the day-to-day work of an analyst or associate)
  • Onramps to venture capital (Discussion of the feeder jobs and industries to the venture capital industry)
  • Do you need an MBA?
  • What makes a good VC? (Discussion of skils that can help you be successful in this industry)
  • Where are the jobs? (Finding/creating venture capital job opportunities)
  • Where are the internships? (Finding/creating internship opportunities as an undergrad or grad student)
  • Introductions and followups (The lifeblood of a VC job hunt)
  • The Informational Interview (Once you get it, how to get the most out of it)
  • Offer negotiations (If you’re fortunate enough to have offers to join multiple firms)
  • Exit options (If you’re not a VC lifer, some thoughts on careers that might make sense post-VC)
  • Final advice
  • Online information sources (Sites and blogs that I found useful during my job hunt)

If you are interested in careers in venture capital, think about subscribing to my mailing list. I promise not to spam you and will only send information related to venture capital jobs and careers. Please input your email address in the field (and click ‘Submit’) below if you would like to subscribe.

Related articles by Zemanta

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Written by John Gannon

May 10, 2009 at 9:33 am

%d bloggers like this: