ProjectX and some of the other residents put it on. This was a great example of how industry helps themselves. We’re critically short of development resources so as a way to get people into the industry the young companies are creating introductory training courses.
I’m excited by Rails and doing a couple of Rails based startups. Still using .Net as well on some projects. Our .Net code is taking advantage of some of the Rails techniques. Its been fun watching a few hard core .Net developers test the waters and make the switch.
There is a heap of new Rails opportunities going on in Wellington so hope it encourages a few people to get out of their comfort zones and into the racy world on Web 2.0 startups.
One of the very cool things about the Wellington 2.0 initiatives is that the companies are actively looking for opportunities to work together. There is a real network effect going on.
The lack of dev resources is really slowing us down. Get Railed!Dunedin Wednesday?
Heading to Otago Wednesday for a session with an MBA class in the middle of the day. I’ve got a few spare hours to kill. Any tech business people down there that want to catch up for coffee?Riding the new dotcom wave
Article in the Dominion today: Riding the new dotcom waveFalling at the first hurdle
I shouldn’t have to write this but I’ve had so many approaches in the last few months and many simply fall at the first hurdle.
What you present should be attractive. Stunning. Gorgeous. You get no extra points for it. It is the baseline. If it is less than stunning you’re in the negatives.
This is 101 stuff but the quality of much of the introductory material I see is just awful. It signals a number of things including that you have not yet worked out how ‘out of proportion’ important presentation is. Therefore you are inexperienced.
In contrast, when you see something that is really slick you immediately …
- are drawn to it
- are starting to build confidence in the team presenting it
- assume that everything else they do is slick
- believe they understand customer relationships, etc, etc
Making your material attractive, clear and on message is something that can be done relatively inexpensively - often by friends and family. If you have to pay then it is money well spent. Before you do a transaction you want to build in as much value as possible. A slick presentation is huge bang for your buck. Its like baking before an open home.
Therefore if you haven’t done it you are at a significant disadvantage.
Here are a few (very basic) tips.
- Never (ever, ever, ever) send a Word document. Always convert to a PDF. PDF is so much more professional. (also make sure you always check there is nothing in Track Changes or Document Properties).
- Never (well almost never) send a PowerPoint file. Always convert to a PDF.
- If you are sending sophisticated files (like an avi) make sure there is no special codecs required. You only get one shot.
- Keep files as small as possible. Nothing worse than files not going through a firewall, forcing a big GPRS bill or blowing mail quota. Keep attachments preferably under a MB (and put the size in the subject line). If more than a few MB then send a link they can download from. (Showing that you are thinking about the user is a great subconcious message to send).
- Check (and recheck) spelling. (I’ve sent some shockers using GMail recently).
- Every communication opportunity is an opportunity to reinforce your brand - either positively or negatively.
- People don’t read the entire message or document. Get your key messages in early.
- If calling someone, ask - are you free to speak.
- If you are doing diagrams, make sure they are a consistent style. A mish mash of artwork just looks cheap.
- Always think about the other person you’re communicating with. What do they want? How do you make their day better?
Simple, simple stuff but you just gotta do it.Entrepreneur Maturity Model
I’m doing a number of Level 3 ventures right now. Letting some great people loose and see where it goes. It is fun.Design, Fund, Build
I’ve had a number of dicussions this week on how we should try to fund businesses earlier. I argued earlier that we should be moving closer to Design, Fund, Build.
I missed out a step in the normal NZ model where to get funding start ups have to Design, Build, have reference Customers (therefore revenue) all before getting funding.
This is a pointer to the immaturity of our investment market.
In fact many NZ companies have this model …
…. where they are actually selling the product before it is properly developed or even designed. This ‘running to catch up’ model is very common and gives software a bad name. A vicious circle.
I have heard the comment many times this week that the Due Diligence required for Angel Investors takes almost all risk out of the investment. It is a bar that is too high for many of our young companies and is stifling innovation.
To my mind Angel funding is risky. Angel funding occurs early in the process where you are betting on talent and providing the resources for the young company to build their prototypes, dress themselves up, and get ready for the funding required for real commercialisation.
As an industry we need to do more to demonstrate we are lower risk and can provide exceptional returns, but the ‘Angels’ also need to understand where they contribute to the process. To accelerate our industry, we need to leverage design and planning so that entrepreneurs and early stage investors can meet and that our young businesses have the early resources to do it right.Anza
As I mentioned before I think NZTE is doing a great job where they are facilitating networks. Right now the Beachheads program is the premier program, its getting a lot of support and I’d suggest any NZ company that is operating globally to take advantage of it.
As Andy says, companies need to also step up and help themselves. I think the desire is lifting and I’m immensely grateful that people like Andy provide so much time, advice and facilitate links between NZ and our markets.Unlimited Potential Workshop (14 November)
I’ve been doing a lot of conference speaking recently. The VC Bootcamp yesterday was very useful to many companies and a great networking opportunity. John put on a great show and thanks to the Wireless Data Forum for making it happen.
Its difficult to go deep in an hour so I’ve teamed up with the Unlimited Potential group to do a workshop event where we can take several hours to dive into some of the issues around stepping up and going global.
Unlimited Potential: Workshop with Rod Drury and Hamish Edwards
I’m really looking forward to this. Places are limited and by application so that we can add the most value to companies just about to accelerate.Mac to Blackberry
The Bounty has been claimed for the project to allow a Mac to connect over Bluetooth to the Blackberry 8700 series.
Lots of ‘broken things‘.Scrybe
Delighted to learn today that I’m a finalist in the 2006 PwC NZ Hi-Tech Awards - Deal of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year categories.
The event is on November 4 at Sky City in Auckland.To VC or not VC
In a New Zealand context should you take money from a VC or not VC?
A significant portion of the the NZ tech industry is anti-VC as a source of funding. Not sure where this comes from but I think that NZ VC’s are in a tough spot.
The stars will probably want to (and are able to) skip them and use their networks to attract a US VC firm. So (as a huge generalization) that removes the cream and the companies that are fundable more than likely need a bit of tough love to dress themselves for commercialisation and have a lower probability of a favourable exit.
The second dichotomy is that early stage companies are less likely to get funded and the ones that do crash through to reasonable revenue probably don’t want to take it from a local VC. You will have also picked up from previous posts that I’m now pro-investment as early as possible. You need to build your team with people doing their roles as early as you can. Splitting roles is a classic underfunding problem.
A third dichotomy is that it is difficult to get funding when you are unknown. Once you have had success you may not need the funding.
The NZ VC’s also have to compete with Government Grants and Angels (which work here because of our tight networks).
So I believe it is tough for NZ VC’s. But we need to support them. Two things need to meet.
VC’s need to do earlier stage deals in New Zealand. That means that we as Entrepreneurs need to spend more time on design and planning before we build. Spend you own money at the beginning making the investment a no brainer. Also get great people on your team or as advisors so that you are fundable. I.e. we need to make it easier for VC’s to do early stage deals with us.
The ideal model is Design, Fund, Build.
VC deals are normally set up so that they control subsequent rounds of funding. I think for early stage deals they should come in as common shareholders. This avoids the founders being, in effect, completely sold on round one.
We also need to understand that you may not make all your money on your first deal. Don’t worry about giving up a slice of equity to get into the game. Once you’re proven it will be much easier to get subsequent deals funded. We’re here for a while so you need to build relationships over your long career.
I’m looking at a doing an early stage VC deal now for one of the projects I’m working on. Don’t need to but I think I should do. I’ll let you know how it goes.Would a YouTube ever come out of NZ?
I’ve had quite a few media calls on the Google/YouTube deal over the past week.
The media, understandably, mainly sees the consumer deals. So that naturally wonder, why can’t we do one of those out of New Zealand.
Perhaps we might. I think its unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely. However the question is wrong. I think it is more where are big NZ deals likely to come from.
In these deals there are often very smart people, and money attached to them. The YouTube founders have grown up in Paypal. In the Silicon valley environment there is a culture that supports these deals. There is market mass, bandwidth, and the marketing balls to go after these big consumer plays.
Because of our lack of Broadband we are unlikely to see the innovation that comes when you are used to having big pipes. More likely from NZ in the consumer space we’ll see innovation around trickling and caching video content because our puny Bandwidth encourages being clever over small pipes.
An exception to this is Christchurch company Eurekster, who are playing in the very big world of Vertical Search. (Eurekster is hosted overseas. Only software updates need to be pushed through to the server farms.) They could be a YouTube out of NZ because they are address a huge market and providing a technology that is inevitable. Search has to go Vertical to be more useful. They are a NZ company to watch.
What is getting me excited though is applying Web 2.0 thinking to Enterprise applications. This really suits us in NZ for a number of reasons.
- Relatively low capital requirement
- Relatively inexpensive to market
- Allows the potential of the network effect
- Our services heritage allows us to identify lots of opportunities
- Our small networks allows us to quickly pull teams together to exploit the opportunity
- Departments can shortcut central IT for solutions that are billed as OPEX. We are department sized.
This is turning into my 2.0 post. But Enterprise 2.0 has some interesting dynamics.
- A big part of Enterprise 2.0 may actually be Software as a Service (SaaS) which finally looks to be ready for primetime.
- The big SaaS vendors like SalesForce.com are starting to look bloated. Everything needs to be redeveloped to be lightweight and AJAX’d.
- As noted above, Departments can bypass IT to get SaaS offerings.
In Enterprise 2.0 there is also a new category of applications that take consumer technologies and put them inside the firewall. Australian Atlassian is doing Enterprise Wiki’s (Enterprise Wiki = Wiki + Active Directory) with their Confluence Product. There are number of new Enterprise Blogging platforms.
In 2006, a lot of the barriers to doing a significant global company from NZ are reduced. It’s opportunity time.
The technologies of this wave is Interaction Design and increasingly Ruby on Rails (if the data can be partitioned horizontally). I’m doing a mix of .Net and Ruby projects.
You may have noticed I’m looking hard for staff. I’m betting in these areas. I’m going to focus on one particular product but I’m also actively investing in tech start ups to build up a number of small teams to see where they go. Hopefully this will give the next generation of Entrepreneurs a jump start. You’ll see these surface over the next few months.
Much, much more to come, but there has never been a more exciting time to be in software.OSX Dev Skills
Do we have any Apple OSX Development people in New Zealand? Have a product idea I want to bounce off someone.A day in Christchurch
Had a fantastic day in Christchurch today.
After spending a lot of my business travel in Europe and the US for the past few years it was great to do business in country.
Kicked off with the NZTE Breakfast session. Michael blogged it live, which was mildly disturbing ,but he has the good taste to take a few edges off. The Christchurch tech scene is exciting. A lot of electronics and hardware and some serious innovation. They are very networked. A large percentage of the people were exporters and business owners. Great to see.
- It is very cool that they are pushing 3D digital story telling to school kids. When they are 20 they’ll have 10 years experience with augmented reality. What a resource.
- The AccessGrid and 3D conferencing stuff they are doing is a fantastic, horizontal technology. We need to build more nodes (thoughts on that developing).
- They are right at the pointy end of Augmented Reality research. Some awesome stuff with great commercial potential.
CDC seem to have really pulled off Public and Private sector partnerships. I couldn’t get my head around all that was going on but it was sure motivating and shaped a few more thoughts around what we can do for Wellington 2.0 and then connect to the regions.
Larry noted that there is not the Presentation and Publications specialists (like Shift) that we’re used to seeing in Wellington. Good opportunity there for one of those companies to do a South Island branch I’d suggest.
I caught up with the Eurekster guys. Vertical Search. Watch that space. They are rocking.
The highlight of the day was sitting next to Mark Solomon, the Chairman of Ngai Tahu on the plane. He is a cool guy and one of those business leaders you instantly respect. I’m probably the palest Ngai Tahu descendent in the country but it was great to spend a relaxed flying hour hearing what he was doing and picking up some great common sense advice from what he was saying. [I'm kicking myself for not listening more to my dad who is right into this stuff so I could of had something more interesting to say.]
As a country we’re proud of our heritage. I hope I’ve convinced him to start a blog and feel if I need to leverage my tribal connnections for some investment money I have my in. Seriously though it was a buzz to talk to someone who blends business and Maori culture and I could see many aspects of what he was saying in my own approach. Maybe it’s just common sense.
So I found today was really stimulating. Spending time with new people really got the creative juices flowing. Lots to do.Product Manager wanted
This is a cool role, that seldom comes up in New Zealand.
We want a Product Manager for our ‘mission critical small to medium business application using Web 2.0 technology’.
Ken Norton does a good summary of How to hire a product manager that covers off some of our criteria.
Key responsibilities of Product Management are:
- Owning the feature set of the product
- Channelling customer requirements into a release schedule
- Maintaining competitive analysis
- Bringing products to launch (Real Artists Ship)
We suspect that there are few people in NZ that actually have Product Management experience so you might come from a Business Analysis background. We’re happy to develop someone into this exciting and key role.VC Bootcamp next week
The VC Bootcamp next week is shaping up to be a great networking event for the NZ Hi-Tech Industry.
It’s inexpensive and has some great speakers. I recommend anyone in a technology company looking at moving to the next level comes along.
I’m in Christchurch tomorrow morning for an NZTE breakfast session. Hope to see you there.Origami PC
I had my first play with an Origami (ultra mobile PC) device today.
I was quite impressed especially with the handwriting recognition. Couldn’t fault that. The device was running Vista, which was probably too heavy for a mobile device. It took a while to get going.
The devices themselves are too thick and too heavy, but you can see the technology is getting there. One with a keypad on the back like this key board game controller would be cool. I worked quite well as presentation device but I couldn’t think of a scenario in which I would use it.
I think one of two things have to happen.
1. Its connected to a mothership so that you can work on your normal machine but can just grab and go this device if you need it. Great for meetings and flying. The software is not yet there for that scenario.
2. That it becomes powerful enough to be your primary machine and you plug it into a screen and keyboard at your desk. This is probably more likely.
A very mobile device for the masses doesn’t need the heavy Vista OS. It really needs an instant on, RAM based model, like CE. Perhaps the answer to some of Microsoft’s current issues is to gas up Windows Mobile to be rich enough for the very mobile Web/Email/Word/Excel/PowerPoint scenario.
So cool to look at, nice step on the way to nirvana, but I’ll be surprised if they sell even one.Inside the beltway
I had a 90 minute one on one today with a Member of Parliament to talk through issues around developing our software industry. I really appreciated the opportunity and wanted to make sure I had some clear messages to convey.
It blows me away that in our country we can actually get close to our representatives.
In summary these are the messages I focussed on:
- How this is an exciting time for ICT and that are natural barriers to trade don’t apply to us. At the grass roots level there are people delivering on our vision for a knowledge economy.
- Procurement policy is the number one thing where Government can help to improve to foster the development of new companies. This is so important we need a Procurement Ombudsman (article coming out in next months ‘The Channel’ magazine on that).
- Our Exporters are hero’s and we need to raise aspirations. This includes the desire to receive investment.
- With no capital gains tax (and suggestion of one being political suicide) we need to have policies that encourage investment in business. This might include R&D incentives, Export incentives and perhaps depreciation relief on plant and equipment.
- I got my Global Market Maturity Model in. To be Global we need to be connected (Broadband). See post from Juha.
I’m impressed with many in the new Blue Team. There have some great people with real business experience. They know we need to grow the pie. It’s tough, but I believe they have to roll Don to give John Keys time to build his brand and style for the next election.Career Opportunities
I’m always keen to meet new people that love technology so please make contact. (Sometimes I’m a bit flat out so can’t respond as quick as I’d like.)
If you want to build a relationship, comment on my blog. Flick me a link to yours, or show me something cool you’re doing.
I believe that people are an investment so will always try to find a way to work with smart passionate people or get them into the network someway. I’m especially proud of the many staff we’ve had through the team over the past 15 or so years. Please don’t hesitate to make contact again.
I’m working on a number of new startup ventures and looking to signficantly build up our teams. We expect to hire 20-30 people over the next few months. Right now I’m specifically trying to fill the following roles:
- User Documentation Specialist. This will be a great role for someone passionate about clear messaging and making things clear.
- Ruby on Rails. I have a number of Ruby developments underway. Working with of the top Ruby Resources we need a few people. Exceptional learning opportunity and some fun products to build. We will look at excpetional people wanting to move into RoR.
- .Net Developers. Always hiring. We have an awesome team that is building world class products.
Here are some upcoming roles. Please make contact if you’re interested:
- Back end .Net Developers. ORM, TSQL, XML
- SQL Server DBA/Developer
- Web design/Graphic design
- Customer support
- Quality Assurance
- Operations Management
- In house commercial lawyer
Check this page often, I’ll try to keep it up to date.