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Archive for December 2009

Top 5 johngannonblog.com pages / posts from 2009

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New Year Eve London 2008  (Fireworks)
Image by T@H!R – طاھر via Flickr

Here’s a list of the most popular content from my blog in 2009.

  1. Venture Capital Career Resources
  2. Why cloud-based load testing is a killer app (thanks Hacker News!)
  3. About me
  4. Online Backup is the Trojan Horse of the Cloud
  5. Systems management or cloud management?

Thanks for reading, commenting, and taking an interest in me and my blog.

Happy New Year, stay safe, and I’ll see you all next year!

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Written by John Gannon

December 31, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Answer people’s email … immediately

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My core belief on beta software is that if somebody takes the time to download it, try it, and then give you feedback of any kind, respond to them with a personal note as soon as you can. Within 3 minutes (I clocked it) of Kevin’s post, we had 100 downloads. Within 5 minutes of that (8 minutes total), the first feedback came in and I answered it, 300 emails later into the night, I was still pounding on the keyboard. Then we have twitter stuff, then Crackberry started forum comments, as well as comments on the blog post itself. My happiest emails, for the last 20+ years, have always been those magic words: Thanks for your prompt reply. We will, of course, put in an auto-responder to ensure people know we got the note. We now have two extra people tracking and logging the bugs, etc. The core of any good company is how you treat your customers and what they say about you. You can get “product wasn’t for me but, wow, great people” and that’s win for many reasons. Raising capital? Trust me, investors simply Google/Twitter/Search for this stuff to get sense of your culture. I know, I did it for eight years.

via Inside the Crackberry Nation – The Post Money Value.

Written by John Gannon

December 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Making system administration social

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

How can we make system administration more social (in the social networking sense)? And, more importantly, does anyone want to make it more social?

I’ve been thinking about this recently because I’m using Twitter and participating in the community of VMware and cloud enthusiasts who are gathered there. There are loads of technical tips and tricks being shared on a daily basis and members of the community are supporting other members who have specific technical challenges. It is quite clearly valuable in building community among VMware users, the company and its users, as well as a practical way to get tips, tricks, and solutions to problems very quickly and in a ‘crowdsourced’ manner.

One way to make system administration more social would be to bake social networking features into the system administrators toolkit. Some examples of ‘social’ system administration products:

Web browser plugin: Similar to what Zemanta does to recognize that you’re working on a blog post, one could build a plugin that sees you’re logging into the web interface of a management application (e.g. Rightscale) and create an overlay that provides relevant Twitter content and interaction capabilities.

Plugins to extensible management systems: For example, VMware’s VCenter allows for 3rd party plugins. As far as I know, there is no technical reason why a plugin couldn’t be written to ntegrate with the Twitter API and/or specific RSS feeds.

Open source monitoring with social extensions: Use an open source monitoring platform as a base, but make it highly social via a set of extensions, with hooks to Twitter, recommended blogs, etc.

Similar to a product like StockTwits, I’d imagine you’d also want to feed this highly curated, specific Twitter stream to a destination site which could hopefully drive additional user acquisition through SEO.

If you’re an IT manager or a system administrator, do you want your toolkit to be more social? Is anyone doing something like this today? Do sysadmins even want this, or are they content with a social networking experience that is disconnected from their day-to-day toolkit. Very curious to hear your thoughts.

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Written by John Gannon

December 29, 2009 at 8:23 pm

A Cloud Computing Wish List for 2010 « John Savageau’s Technology Innovation Topics

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Content delivery networks/CDNs want to provide end users the best possible performance and quality – often delivering high volume video or data files. Traditionally CDNs build large storage arrays and processing systems within data centers, preferably adjacent to either a carrier hotel meet-me-room or Internet Exchange Point/IXP.Sometimes supported by bundles of 10Gigabit ports connecting their storage to networks and the IXP.Lots of recent discussion on topics such as Fiber Channel over Ethernet/FCoE and Fiber Channel over IP/FCoIP. Not good enough. I want the SSD manufacturers and the switch manufacturers to produce an SSD card with a form factor that fits into a slot on existing Layer 2 switches. I want a Petabyte of storage directly connected to the switch backplane allowing unlimited data transfer rates from the storage card to network ports.Now a cloud storage provider does not have to buy 50 cabinets packed with SAN/NAS systems in the public data center, only slots in the switch.

via A Cloud Computing Wish List for 2010 « John Savageau’s Technology Innovation Topics.

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Written by John Gannon

December 17, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Building a Company with Customer Data – Why Metrics Are Not Enough « Steve Blank

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Yesterday I got an email from an ex-student lamenting that only 2% of their selected early testers responded to their on-line survey. The survey said in part:

The survey has 57 questions, the last three of which are open ended, and should take about 20 minutes to complete. Please note that you must complete the entire survey once you begin. You cannot stop along the way and have your responses to that point saved.

If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. I called the founder and noted that there are SAT tests that are shorter than the survey. When I asked him if he actually had personally left the building and talked to these potential customers, or even had gotten them on the phone, he sounded confused. “We’re a web startup, all our customers are on the web. Why can’t I just get them to give me the answers I need this way?”

via Building a Company with Customer Data – Why Metrics Are Not Enough « Steve Blank.

Written by John Gannon

December 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm

How to find EarlyVangelists in your Customer Development Process

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I recently replied to an email (excerpted below) from the lean startup googlegroup where someone was looking for tips on how to find people to give him feedback on his product. I have quoted a part of his email as well as my response to his quoted questions. I spend a huge amount of time on Customer Development and outreach at VMTurbo, so this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

If you have any best practices on getting feedback on your startup product, please let me know in the comments.

START OF EMAIL EXCERPT —-

>
> So I’m at the point that I’d love to bounce ideas off of people who’ve
> been down this road before;
>
> – I’ve been doing just cold emails & calls to higher-profile
> developers asking for them to betatest, and it’s not going all that
> great – is there a better way to gather the attention of some early
> adopters?

Try to get a warm intro through a mutual friend or acquaintance to
these folks. People are much more inclined to engage if you come
through a trusted source. LinkedIn is a great way to identify these
mutual connections. Other things you could try:

– Trade show and conference speakers & panelists: I recently ran an
outreach campaign to get feedback on our product from speakers at a
recent industry conference and got a very high hit rate (~10%+ replies
to a cold email, with many of them following up to have initial
discussions with us). I think this channel is effective because these
are folks who a) are deemed to have expertise in a specific area b)
like to talk about the technology in question and c) like to keep up
with industry trends and new companies. If you structure your
approach in a personal way, I think this could work well for you.

– Press releases: Watch your industry and competitors for press
releases. Usually a customer is quoted in competitor press releases,
and generally via LinkedIn or Google you can figure out how to reach
them. Again, one could argue that these people might be in bed with
one of your potential competitors, but at this stage of the game, I’d
say that the feedback you will get will far outweigh the risk of your
idea or ‘secret sauce’ being exposed.

> This wasn’t in the original email, but it goes without saying that customers of complementary technologies and products are also quoted in press releases :)

– LinkedIn: People self-identify on LinkedIn via joining specific
interest groups or by indicating in their profiles that they are a
member of various user groups. Why not approach these folks in a
personal way (doing some homework on their background, reading their
blog, etc) and see if they’d be willing to chat to provide feedback?
Also, user group leaders are always interested in bringing in new
vendors to demo products at meetings, so they are generally receptive
to speaking to startups and providing feedback.

I’d avoid cold calls where possible. Your market (Rails developers, I
guess?) is large enough where you should be able to find some
potential customers who could provide feedback.

I’d also add that you should be polite and persistent in your
outreach. If you make a cold call or email and it is not returned, I
see no harm in sending a polite, gentle reminder a week later. Same
if you’re introduced through a mutual acquaintance.

—- END OF EMAIL EXCERPT —-

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Written by John Gannon

December 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

Posted in nextNY

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How to bring a product to market

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I ask everybody what they use the product for, and I’m trying to see, really, who has the most passion around the product. And usually it breaks down by use cases, sometimes by user types. It’s really just looking through the initial data to really understand who really needs this product, and it can be on demographics, it can be on use cases, it can be on a lot of different things. But once you really understand a group that really needs the product, then you start to have that true North for the business — the part that you can actually start to build a business that will grow and thrive around if they represent a big enough market.

via How to bring a product to market / A very rare interview with Sean Ellis – Venture Hacks.

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Written by John Gannon

December 15, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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If you fold at the first un-returned email what hope do you have as an entrepreneur? (via @msuster)

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If you fold at the first un-returned email what hope do you have as an entrepreneur? As an entrepreneur, people aren’t going to respond to you and it’s your responsibility to politely and assertively stay on people’s radar screen. You no longer work for Google, Oracle, Salesforce.com or McKinsey where everybody calls you back. You had no idea how important that brand name was until you left it behind. Your customers don’t care that you went to Standford, Harvard or MIT. It’s just you now. And frankly if you went to a state college in Florida you’re at no disadvantage in the tenacity column. Persistence will pay off.

via 10 skills I look for before writing a check – Venture Hacks.

Written by John Gannon

December 7, 2009 at 5:58 pm

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Shrink Before You Grow and Sales 2.0

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This past Thursday I left the friendly confines of VMTurbo HQ and attended Highland Capital Partners‘ “Sales 2.0” conference in Cambridge, MA.    The conference was dedicated to sharing knowledge about the “low touch” sales model –  a sales model that does not depend on an army of direct sales representatives knocking on customer doors and doing face-to-face meetings.   Unlike the traditional sales model, the “low touch” model relies heavily on taking leads from the web and moving them through a drip marketing funnel, using inside sales teams to close business when the customer is ready to buy.  This model is gaining quite a bit of attention due to the success of companies like Solarwinds and LogMeIn, both of whom have had recent IPOs.

Every presentation and panel at the conference was great, although the most engaging one was from Joe Liemandt, the CEO and founder of Trilogy.  I remembered Trilogy from the late 90’s, when they were running splashy recruiting events at my alma mater.  Over time they have morphed into a holding company that buys struggling software companies for pennies on the dollar, restructures them, and then turns them profitable.  In his talk “Shrink Before You Grow,” Joe made many great observations and suggestions which came from his experience purchasing and restructuring these companies – and advice which I think is also applicable to software startups.

Here are a couple I thought were particularly interesting…

Field direct sales forces selling $100k-ish deals is a money losing proposition: The dirty little secret of enterprise software is that companies who sell with a field salesforce are typically losing money on each deal.  So, when Joe buys a company, he typically fires the entire field salesforce and moves to a low-touch model (inside sales).  He did say that they will retain one field sales team to chase big ($5MM+) deals, since those are deals that can be done profitably via a direct sales force (and would also be impossible to sell without sending someone onsite to meet senior management).

(My takeaway: use senior management as a direct sales team in the event the customer requires high touch in the sales process AND the deal is big enough to warrant that high touch)

Focus on attach rate and install base, not price: When Joe buys a struggling company, he looks at its product line and figures out which products are not seeing good attach rates with the installed base.  Then, he works hard (by listening to the base and by cutting prices) to get that attach rate up.  They also spend a good deal of resources on support, and do some unconventional but very customer friendly things.  For example, one of the companies they purchased was an accounting software company, and as part of the restructuring they hired CPAs for the support group.  When a user called support, they would not only be able to get software help, but could also get accounting help from a CPA!  Talk about a great way to cultivate a strong install base.

(My takeaway: In a low touch model, there is certainly an element of a volume game, where you are trying to fill your funnel with as many leads as possible, qualify them, and then move them through the funnel until they are ready to buy.  However, your existing base is going to be the best place to look for additional revenue opportunities, so make sure you’re not focusing only on building a massive leads database just for the sake of doing so.)

I’m spending alot of time these days analyzing and learning about the low touch sales 2.0 model, so if you have any good pointers or resources, please add them in the comments!

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Written by John Gannon

December 6, 2009 at 2:29 pm

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