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Partner Program for Tech Startups and not only

25 Jan

The vast majority of the world’s most successful Tech companies have a thriving ecosystem of partners, ranging from systems integrators, consultancies, independent software vendors, developer communities to value added resellers and distributors.

“Partner Program Template” helps you prepare a compelling partnership pitch:

  • Demonstrate understanding of your partner business and position your company as a valuable asset
  • Scope out collaboration areas with concrete milestones
  • Define success metrics and strategies to achieve them

What it Takes to Run a Tech Startup – Insights from Ben Horowitz

9 Dec

Dreaming of founding and running your own Tech company but unsure what it takes? Considering joining a hot startup and wondering if it will still be around in a year? You should read “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz.

I assembled a list of Ben’s insights on how to build a successful business. Some may be eye-opening, some may be just reinforcing what you already know. Nevertheless it’s a very useful checklist to reflect upon weekly if not daily.

On the role of the CEO:

  • I describe the CEO job as knowing what to do (“One” – strategic thinking) and getting the company to do what you want (“Two” – operational processes). While being a great CEO requires both skills, most CEOs tend to be more comfortable with one or the other. ”Ones” end up in chaos and “Twos” fail to pivot when necessary. If a CEO ignores the dimension of management she doesn’t like, she generally fails.
  • The only thing that prepares you for running a company is running a company. This means you will face a broad set of things that you don’t know how to do that require skills that you don’t have.
  • The enemy of competence is sometimes confidence. A CEO should never be so confident that she stops improving her skills.
  • The peacetime CEO does not resemble the wartime CEO. Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win.
  • To be a good CEO, in order to be liked in the long run, you must do many things that will upset people in the short run. Evaluating people’s performance and constantly giving feedback is precisely what a CEO must do.
  • A company without story is usually a company without strategy. The CEO ensures that the company story is clear and compelling.
  • A CEO can most accurately be measured by the speed and quality of the decisions he makes. Great decisions come from CEOs who display an elite mix of intelligence, logic and courage. (Courage because every decision that a CEO makes is based on incomplete information. Knowing this, you must continuously and systematically gather knowledge in the company’s day-to-day activities so that you will have as much information as possible when the decision point arrives.)
  • Great CEOs constantly assess whether they are building the best team. Your engineers, marketing, HR, sales people deserve a world-class management team. That’s the priority.

On the need for domain expertise and hands-on contributions:

  • Content-free executives have no value in startups. Every executive must understand the product, the technology, the customers, and the market.

On the importance of communication:

  • Sometimes an organization doesn’t need a solution; it just needs clarity.
  • As a company grows, it’s biggest challenge always becomes communication.
  • Perhaps the CEO’s most important operational responsibility is designing and implementing the communications architecture for his company. The architecture might include organizational design, meetings, processes, email, Yammer, Slack, and even one-on-one meetings with managers and employees. Absent a well-designed communication architecture, information and ideas will stagnate and your company will degenerate into a bad place to work.

On corporate culture:

  • Sometimes the right policy is the one the CEO can follow.
  • Political behavior almost always starts with the CEO.
  • Dogs at work and yoga aren’t culture.

On leadership:

  • Nothing motivates a great employee more than a mission that’s so important that it supersedes everyone’s personal ambitions.
  • Hiring senior people into a startup is kind of like an athlete taking performance drugs. If all goes well, you will achieve incredible new heights. If all goes wrong, you will start degenerating from the inside out.
  • There is no such thing as a great executive. There is only a great executive for a given company at a specific point in time.

On organizational structure:

  • The primary purpose of the organizational hierarchy in a company is decision-making efficiency

On selling the company:

  • You need to answer two questions:
    • 1) is the market much bigger than exploited to date?
    • 2) are we going to be number one?
  • If the answer to either 1) or 2) is “no”, you should consider selling

Are Software Developers from Mars and Tech Marketers from Venus?

24 May

Marketing to developers is almost an oxymoron. In a typical corporate setting those two departments either sit on the opposite sites of the office space or in separate buildings, depending on the size of the company. Similarly, engineers at your customer’s company hardly ever reach for marketing collateral when evaluating your product.

Engineering driven companies appreciate their developers. Steve Ballmer even dedicated them his unforgettable stage show “Developers, developers, developers”. I haven’t seen a CEO of a tech company pay such tribute to the marketing team.

Without great developers there would no product. But without great marketers the product wouldn’t sell itself.

A lot of tech marketers make the mistake of oversimplifying the value proposition of their product. Every tech innovation these days is “agile, flexible, reduces costs and increases productivity”.  As I explain in my Marketing Plan for Tech Startups (and not only), in today’s crowded marketplace you need to constantly re-win your customer business by delivering real value. A marketer’s job is therefore to position the product in the customer’s mind as an indispensable part of their professional or personal life. Calling a product “cutting edge, best of breed or visionary” without saying what it actually does and explaining the implementation philosophy behind it is not going to work.

If you’re in Tech and haven’t heard about Docker, you’ve been living under a rock. The ultimate Silicon Valley darling went from a two-person startup into becoming the de facto standard of modern application design virtually overnight. Two years ago very few people knew about Docker. Today, if your software is not supporting Docker, you’re not part of the cool kids club. In my opinion Docker is a marketing driven company because early on it understood the needs of their customers, i.e. the developers, and created three fantastic value propositions. First, Docker solved an important problem for developers: it overcame the limitations of the existing Linux container technologies and made the promise “build an app once, run it anywhere” possible. Second, Docker adopted “give before you take” attitude, open-sourced their code and contributed to the DevOps community early on. Lastly, Docker focused on making the developer’s life as easy as possible by building a bunch of tools to automate mundane tasks.

Another brilliant example of a company that removed common roadblocks preventing a developer from trying a new tech product is Twilio. A quick-start tutorial paired with code samples and detailed API specs allows a developer to build the first app in a matter of minutes. That’s real value.

Every company in the Valley prides itself on solving the vendor lock-in problem but the reality is it takes time for even the brightest human being to master the new and abandon the old. A marketing driven company knows how to add value to their customers’ lives and a great tech marketer will invest the time and budget into an ecosystem of documentation, support and community that will differentiate the output of the engineering team’s work and create a product that sells itself.

Marketing Plan Template for Tech Startups

9 Mar

Early stage tech startups are primarily driven by engineers who believe in one or several of the following statements:

  • We are making the world a better place
  • We are disrupting a stagnant industry
  • We have a solution to a prevalent problem

When you are deep in the weeds of developing a new tech product it may be hard to objectively evaluate the chances of your innovation to succeed in the marketplace. I’ve spent the past four years soaking up the San Francisco startup culture. Several of my friends, classmates from Stanford GSB and former colleagues have joined or funded startups. The million dollar question: “What’s the next hot tech company?” comes up at virtually every happy hour and every dinner. Being a geek at heart and marketer by passion, I’m spending my time at the intersection of technology and business thinking about how to turn an innovative product into commercial success story. Although a universal formula for creating the next game changing company like Uber, Dropbox or Netflix does not exist, the most successful tech companies have one thing in common. They are investing as strongly in product marketing as they are in the product development.

Innovation cannot happen in the vacuum, especially not in the highly competitive markets of today. The key to surviving and thriving as a tech leader is to constantly re-win your customers’ business by delivering real value. And how do you know that your product is set up for success in the marketplace? In order to answer this question I’ve looked at a number of hottest tech startups as well as well established companies to distill the critical elements of their marketing strategies. I synthesized the results of my analysis into a sixteen steps’ marketing plan checklist. Each step is explained threefold:

  • Definition of the business term that is the theme of the discussed step
  • Example of how a successful company implemented the step
  • Insights from my work as business consultant and product marketer


Buy Now Button

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“Marketing Plan Template for Tech Companies” is a framework for you to:

  • Get to know your customers and your competitors
  • Learn how to quantify your product’s value and how to communicate it
  • Define realistic business objectives and strategies to achieve them

My marketing plan template features lessons learned from  some of today’s hottest Silicon Valley companies. Let these great brands inspire your own success: Tesla, Netflix, Dropbox, Google, Trunk Club, Theranos, DocuSign, Marketo, Breather, Suse, Walgreens, Lyft, Riverbed, Nokia, Uber, Cisco and Salesforce.

I hope you’ll find my marketing plan useful. I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

Super Mobility Week: Telco + Silicon Valley = Best Friends

15 Sep

I wouldn’t say that Super Mobility Week hosted in Las Vegas last week stole the thunder from Mobile World Congress but I applaud the consolidation of 4G World and CTIA Wireless events in one venue.

ctia

There was a lot of talk about connected car, connected home and monetization of mobile video but what stroke me the most at the event this year was the broader trend of Telco getting at least some of the agility that the IT world takes for granted. I’m talking here about trends such as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) in pursuit of efficiency and scalability as well as convergence of IT and Telco APIs to build more sophisticated end-user applications.

Telco goes software

Telcos are software developers at heart but until recently Telco software (SW) has been tightly bundled with underlying hardware (HW). Even if Nokia decoupled HW and SW in 2009 with the introduction of the commercial off-the-shelf ATCA platform, mobile network operators still preferred to buy the whole SW/HW package from a single vendor. The main benefit of the coupled SW/HW approach was usually realized during troubleshooting situations. If the infrastructure was not working as expected, it was relatively easy to identify the vendor of the network element at fault.

As demands on the mobile network capacity keep growing, Telcos pursue new ways of architecting their networks not only for more capacity but also better scalability and efficiency. Bandwidth consumption is insatiable: for example, mobile video traffic will increase 14-fold between 2013 and 2018. By virtualizing network functions, Telcos can e.g. dynamically allocate more capacity to their content distribution networks just before Netflix issues the next release of utterly popular House of Cards. By proactively preparing the network for a brief but severe traffic spike, Telcos can greatly improve user experience and protect their infrastructure from saturation.

The maturing cloud computing market is pushing Telcos to virtualize too. As enterprise customers have adopted cloud they expect the same level of agility form their carriers. If you’d like to review the key concepts of NFV, check out my recent post SDN & NFV: Friends or Enemies?

Never get another set-top-box

Separating SW from HW improves efficiency and lowers cost of operating mobile networks but it has an even more important impact in the consumer and enterprise customer domain. Today consumers receive a set-to-box from their service provider that translates TV signals into content displayed on the television screen. Similarly, enterprise customers rely on hardware appliances to connect their branch offices to corporate networks and provide functions like firewall or WAN acceleration. When a consumer wants to start watching HD movies and TV, he needs to get a new set top box. When an enterprise wants to upgrade data speeds at remote offices from 10mbps to 100mbps, its service provider has to dispatch a technician to the site to install and a new router and configure value added services.

What if the complexity of a set top box and CPE router could be moved to the Telco cloud, while the devices themselves could be replaced with very simple hardware that requires close to zero maintenance?

mini

The shift from complex hardware to the mix of extremely simplified hardware powered by complex software has already taken places in several consumer products. As Jeff Lawson pointed out in his keynote, In the past if you wanted to have maps integrated in your car dashboard, you needed to buy a new car.

teslaToday, if you own a Tesla, the classic dashboard with cabin controls, navigation and communication is replaced by 17’’ touchscreen that gets automatically updated over the air with no need to stop by a dealership!

As nice and retro as a Mini Cooper dashboard looks compared to the sleek Tesla LCD, it starts to feel like a good old 50+ button remote control compared to Apple TV remote.

remoteapple

According to speakers from ALU, Ericsson and Nokia during the panel sessions I attended, all of Tier 1 service providers are currently exploring NFV and a few expect first commercial deployment by end of the year.

IT embraces Telco

The worlds of traditional Telco and agile IT are meeting half way to build a foundation for context based apps that make users more productive. A great example of such a Telco/IT mash-up app is Uber. First, it determines user location by GPS and automatically updates a map of available cabs that roam nearby. Once the user decides to order a ride, the app notifies the drivers. The location and phone number of the driver who accepts the ride are then delivered to the passenger via text message. Both the driver and the passenger are kept updated in real time via SMS, should either of them change their mind and cancel the trip. They can also call or text each other to agree on the exact pick up location.

The Uber app is powered by Twilio platform who has signed agreements with carriers in different countries to expose their SMS capabilities in the API. One could argue that push notifications available in the iOS and Android SDK could be used instead of SMS but the good old SMS will reach recipient’s phone even if the network coverage is poor. Uber is a great example of how combing the best of IT and Telco worlds results in fantastic user experience.

SDN & NFV: Friends or Enemies?

26 Aug

If you recently visited NetworkWorld or FierceWireless, chances are you came across acronym-rich articles attempting at explaining the most popular buzzwords of the moment: #SDN and #NFV. There is no doubt both technology concepts are gaining a lot of traction. “Introduction to NSX” session at this year’s #VMworld 2014 attracted hundreds of SDN knowledge hungry people. “NFV for Telco Infrastructure” was also very well attended given that it competed with several Happy Hour events (it was scheduled at 5:30pm).

SDN NFV

If you don’t really have the time to read hundreds of articles and you’d like to quickly understand the key concepts and relationship between SDN and NFV, I have good news for you. I already did the heavy lifting and synthesized several sources of SDN and NFV wisdom into a single deck. Check out my “SDN and NFV: Friends or Enemies” presentation. It contains a lot of pictures, diagrams and other visuals to help you intake the new information as painlessly as possible. Enjoy and let me know how I can further improve it!

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What happened in Vegas at CTIA 2013 will not stay in Vegas

24 May

CTIA_Logo_610x407

jenI just came home from Vegas and can’t wait to share my observations from CTIA Wireless. This show is the largest event in the USA dedicated to mobile communications and in the past used to be a huge expo area where phone manufacturers (Nokia, Samsung) and network vendors (Cisco, NSN, Ericsson) used to demo their gear and latest handsets. That was back in 2010 where the whole mobile ecosystem was operator centric and very closed. With the arrival of app stores, social networks, tablets and more reliable network connections the landscape and focus of the show has evolved to include user experience personalization, analytics, mobility for retail as well as marketing strategies for hyper connected world.

Three key takeaways from CTIA 2013:

1. Users are spoiled, they demand more and will not settle for less.

keynote– The modern consumer expects personalized shopping experiences and rewards companies who can deliver them: customers using Walmart shopping app make up to 2 more trips a month to stores and spend up to 40% more a month. (Walmart keynote)

– Users are impatient, love multitasking and want to share new insights immediately with their networks; even at a great keynote that was followed by a long Q&A session, show attendees could not help themselves but play with their devices (check the picture above!!)

– “Mobile tech is the new cool” – even among celebrities – Jennifer Lopez just launched her Viva Movil mobile brand targeting users who want to purchase devices from her Facebook fan page or from a branded retail store. (CTIA keynote)

2. Apps are getting more complex.

casino– Retailers are adjusting apps based on user context. I almost want to start shopping at Walmart since I learned how smart their mobile app is: when you’re away from their store their mobile app allows you to order groceries  from home and get them ready for pickup on top of usual product browsing. The moment you enter the store, new functions pop up in the app interface like ability to scan barcodes of your shopping cart and self-check-out as well as get the navigation to the product you want in the gigantic labyrinth of Walmart aisles. (Walmart keynote)to deliver advanced user experiences

– Productivity apps are going strong – number 3 on the list of top paid apps after games and social networking. (AppAnnie stats)

– Analytics is an integral part of mobile apps. All for great user experience including context adaptation. (Forrester keynote)

3. Marketing best practices from the show:

rovio– The best way to build your product’s brand is through journalists because… Journalists are just after rock stars in terms of followers on social media channels. So: think like  a journalist, build relationships with journalists. (iPhone life magazine)

– Let the case studies / customer stories speak for effectiveness of your solution/product. During a Forrester when the speaker introduced their mobile marketing framework people were playing with their devices but the moment she switched to examples of how Chevy and Mint dentistry successfully applied the framework to drive customer loyalty and delight, all the audience eyes were on her.

– Deliver on your promise when presenting; as Angry Birds’ godfather, Harri Koponen stated on stage: “In Finland we start a presentation on time and we finish on time. Otherwise people get bored”. And how do you achieve that? Preparation and practice, as: “An outstanding 1h presentation can take up to 30h prep time”.