What Have You Lerned, lately?

  • “I don’t want to learn anything new, I just want to get through the next couple years and then retire” – actual quote from a CIO at a London conference I hosted.
  • “I know COBOL, I just want to work on those projects” – actual quote from a Professional Services employee at a large technology company.
  • “I went to school, I’m done learning new things” – A recruit during an interview
    “I am so SMRT” – Homer Simpson

I’ve done many, many discussions and interviews with technical people over the years and it never ceases to amaze me when I find someone who refuses to keep up to date on the latest technologies.  To me it’s part of the job-description – stay on top of the latest technology, trends, processes and anything that helps to be a better technologist.

Continuous learning may be mandatory for any technical person, but also business people better serve their companies and careers when they look to technology to be more valuable to their employer.   A finance person who educates themselves on analytics tools such as ‘R’, Tableau or even MapReduce can provide tremendous value, and knowing these technologies will help their career advancement.  It’s everyone’s job to be technically literate and to contribute.

The best thing about staying technically relevant is that it’s very low cost or free!  Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others provide free online tutorials and even cloud resources to learn valuable skills on their platforms.  Open Source software is free and there are communities who ‘meet up’ to discuss best practices.  And, as always, you can reach out to many, many people willing online to give you advice and help.

I’m talking to students this evening at Oakland University and my message to them is:


Stanley Thomas Czarnik – 1922-2015

“I used to be ‘six foot’.  Now I’m 6″10.  That’s one of the many jokes I heard my dad tell to a nursing assistant.

The greatest person I have ever known has passed.  It’s been a year-and-a-half since he lost the love of his life and now they are together again.  I guess it’s not so sad, after all. Rest in peace, daddy.


Dad’s Autobiography click below


Growing up with Pa & Uncle Sam

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Detroit Startup Weekend Success!

I spent last weekend with my new bestest friends, the people who StartupWeekendDet_Horizorganized and participated in Detroit Startup Weekend #SWDetroit.   Twelve teams of very smart, dedicated entrepreneurs stuck out the fifty-four hours to pitch their ideas and companies to the judges, of which I was one.

The twelve teams were: WeCollab, Gathrd, NFC Interactive, GameGeek, DineRoll, Pop-Up, Nfluents, RFP-House, Menti, Mundo, Trelay and MySwimPal.

The judging criteria was quite specific.  We evaluated teams on their Value Proposition, Uniqueness of their idea, Rollout/Growth Strategy, Revenue Model, Research, Customer Validation, Target Market, MVP/Prototype, Functional Technical Demo and User Experience/Design.

I also coached the teams and told them that I was interested in their financial model, but, most importantly, that their idea has ‘obvious value’, best answered a problem statement and captured my imagination.

Many teams focused on “what” they were building but neglected “who” they were building for and “WHY” they were in existence.   My advice for future startup-ees is to focus on the judging criteria because it’s very important to understand what we are looking for.  The teams that did the best were balanced in all areas.  Most teams fell into the middle-of-the-pack because they neglected their MVP/Prototype or business model.

Well, the top three teams were Gathrd, Pop-up and MySwimPal.  Number #3, MySwimPal, had an authentic idea and presentation and did very well in the Q&A.  Number #2, Gathrd, really rocked out their MVP and understood their place in the market.  Number #1, Pop-Up, which pivoted to name which escapes me now, did very well with their Technical MVP and focus.

As for me, I had a lot of fun, meeting new friends and inspiration from all the energy in the room!  So, congratulations to all and thanks for letting me participate!  I look forward to future events!




Detroit Startup Weekend – November 14-16





It’s that time of year again.  Time to get the startup juices flowing and participate in Startup Weekend Detroit!   This is my fourth time attending, once as a participant, once as a mentor, and now my second time as a judge.   Judging at this event is an honor and I always spend as much of the three day event observing and helping any way I can.   The actual judging timeframe is pretty quick.  Team pitches are short: 5 minutes for the pitch/demo and 5 minutes for Q&A.   After all pitches are complete, the judges deliberate and select the top 3 teams from the weekend.

Some of the ‘official’ judging criteria are:

  • Validation – Did the team get out and talk to customers? Are they actually solving a problem? Have they identified a specific target market?
  • Product Execution & Design – Does the team have an minimum viable product or prototype? How functional is the technical demo? How easy to use is their product (design matters)?
  • Business Model – What is their value proposition and how does it impact the problem they’re trying to solve? Is the idea unique? What is their revenue model and how do they plan on making the business successful?

In addition, some of my  ‘unofficial’ judging criteria is based on the team and the individuals who make up the team:

  •   Is each individual “genuine”?
  • Are they ‘authentic’ with their pitch?
  • Are they in sync with each other?
  • Do they like each other?

I am currently reading the excellent book  ‘The Innovators: How a21856367-2
Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution’ by Walter Isaacson.  One thing that struck me was that the concept of the Silicon Valley startup happened in the 1950’s by a gentleman named Arthur Rock, who took the east-coast venture model (first named “adventure capital”) and funded a group of entrepreneurial engineers at Fairfield Camera.

As Walter Isaacson writes: “He had a background in business research, a love of technology, an intuitive feel for business leadership, and a lot of East Coast investors he had made happy. “The money was on the East Coast but the exciting companies were in California, so I decided to move west knowing that I could connect the two,” he said.

But Arthur’s true brilliance was in his evaluation (judging) of startup ventures.

Isaacson continues: “One of his key investment maxims was to bet primarily on the people rather than the idea. In addition to going over business plans, he conducted incisive personal interviews with those who sought funding. “I believe so strongly in people that I think talking to the individual is much more important than finding out too much about what they want to do,” he explained.”

I agree with this so very much.  I have evaluated hundreds of companies and I sat through their pitches, the overwhelming criteria for considering an investment was the people involved.  Ideas are wonderful but if they are not backed by people who are passionate and committed, the probability of success is extremely low.

So, to my friends participating in the fun, consider my perspective as you work with your colleagues this weekend.  I’ll be watching, and judging (and helping).

PCzStartup Weekend Detroit in Detroit Michigan on November 15-17th 2013

Head in the Clouds? It’s a Good Place to be!

ClouDogBack in January I wrote about my passion and desire to work on cloud projects.  http://http://paulczarnik.com/wordpress/2014/01/25/enter-stage-right/

Since them I found some folks I’ve known a long time who also saw the opportunity to work on something completely different; cloud applications.  We all decided to ‘team-up’ and work together.

MadDogLogoWelcome to MadDog, a new  company with years of experience but a startup attitude that  exists to help enterprise companies exploit their own process and data IP with cloud technologies.  We already have consulting gigs to help a large companies replace their on-premise, custom systems with cloud-based solutions.  The opportunities are enormous and we are selective about who we work with.

Enough said, we will have additional public information in the days to come.  Visit our website and social-media sites for more information.   If you want more information on the technologies that I’m focusing on, visit AWS (Amazon Web Services).

If you’re ready for your own cloud initiative, contact me!


MoMu – Sprint #2 – What

Sprint #1 was about researching technologies and themes, and getting content.

MotownMuseumHomePageReplicating the first website was easy enough.  I still don’t have the administrative password I’ve been waiting for, but that doesn’t stop me from pulling content and building a test site.   When I get the administrative rights, I’ll go ahead and try the export/import widgets, but experience has told me that the value of these are limited.  The theme I picked for my research easily rebuilt the current site, although I want to build my own theme.  This is a little more work.

The key to building a website on AWS is to combine the economy of open-source, the ease-of-use of WordPress and the power of API programming to build a website that is easy to update, yet open enough to code anything I want.   I believe I have that with the current implementation, although I think that I want full control of the Theme.  Not sure.  More research to do before I dive into my own theme.

I considered implementing the multi-site version of WordPress, but came to the conclusion that I like the single-instance and the power it gave me.  Sure, I have to update software individually, but that’s so EASY!  No more multi-tenant for me, SORRY!  I think multi-site is overrated, especially when implemented on AWS.

I struggled with the functionality to make the domain go directly to home-page because the bitnami documentation for that issue is dated and the tools they give don’t always work.  I solved that on my web-page with a simple re-direct, which is a hack, but I don’t care, it worked and it doesn’t mess with the config files.  I worry that the next update would wipe it out.

MotownIsHOTSo why bother with WordPress at all?  Because it’s easy and I want to spend my time coding cool stuff, not a boring website.  Besides, websites are so passé‎ , anyways.  The key is using it serendipitously with your other social-media outlets.

So, back to design and starting with something that looks completely different than what we currently have.

One thing I forgot – the music.  I need to remind myself to always play Motown music while I’m working.  It inspires me and reminds me what the focus of the site should be.What's Going On

Cheers, P-Cz

MoMu – Sprint #1 – WHY.

OK, I have my new webserver staged in AWS. 

Motown Nice, little microserver in my private cloud, only I can get to it.  As soon as I get credentials, I’ll export/import the old site.   This will be a temporary situation.

The site is a Bitnami WordPress installation on EC2 in AWS.  I have root access and have already cleaned up a bit of the basic installation messiness and secured the server access.

Requirements?  Yes, you’re right.  I haven’t sat down with the creative marketing and curator staff yet but even before that I need to “Start SimonSinekwith WHY”.  This approach is based from the book by Simon Sinek who is really worth reading or at least viewing his TED talks on YouTube.   His talks are inspiring and help me focus on what’s, er, WHY’s important and how to express that.

Being on the Motown Museum’s Board of Trustees for three years and being a life-long Motown music fan, I pretty much know the “WHY”, so I can formulate the new approach and build a theme for the first page that visitors will see on the site.

This is my goal for this sprint and I won’t get too far ahead of myself.  The point is that I have a technical perspective, which will be the framework I will operate in to set the strategy of the site.  I don’t want to give away too much of the cool things that I’ll build right now, but I can say that it has to be MUCH different than the way things are being done today, so most of the rest of my SPRINT #1 will be spent in research mode.

Look at any website for a company.  Do they express the “WHY” that they are in business or do they merely tell you WHAT they do and perhaps HOW they do it.  Check out Simon and you’ll understand why “WHY” is the most important thing to consider.

Cheers! P-CZ




The Most Famous Lean Startup – EVER!

This was one of my favoritest blogs, reposting!

8497601Detroit; We got our Ford, Dodge, Durant and Chrysler.  We got our Strohs, Illitch, Karmanos & Gilbert.  We got a whole slew of up-and-comers, most all had modest upbringing and rose to success through vision, risk, and hard work.  True entrepreneurs.
However, my favorite Detroiter-turned-entrepreneur of all time is the one-and-only Berry Gordy.I am fortunate to have grown up in Detroit listening to Motown music.  I am even more fortunate to sit on the Board of Trustees for the Motown Museum and experience first-hand the history of this American icon.    I am most fortunate to experience in person the culmination of a fifty-year mutual-respect relationship between Motown and The Beatles.  I am also blessed to be able to play these great songs myself for my personal enjoyment and fun.There are many books and articles written about Berry Gordy and Motown which you yourself can read, so let me get to my point.

Berry Gordy was an entrepreneur extraordinaire who knew the rules of the game before they were even written:

  • He understood his target audience – Everyone.  That was risky, especially when the market was becoming fragmented.
  • He mastered the compelling reason to buy, which was songs with a first-person perspective.
  • He completely understood whole product – songwriters, the ‘sound’, quality-control, talent, the ‘look’, etc…
  • He negotiated like crazy with his partners and allies, including Brian Epstein, who negotiated great royalties for the Beatles but in the end was a winning collaboration for Motown.
  • His distribution model was expansive, he knew how to make hits and get vinyl to the masses.
  • Competition?  If he couldn’t beat them, he hired them!
  • He knew that his talent had to be positioned to present themselves in a classy, professional manner.
  • He priced his product to sell and was an extremely shrewd salesman.
  • Next Target?  Do you know how many labels he started so that he could have multiples of hit records?  Check it out!

He was also a genius at running a “Lean Startup“.

  • He ran iterative sprints for the development of his agile product.
  • He constantly built MVP‘s to preview songs under production.
  • He hosted, literally, demo days which presented product to his staff for review.
  • He ran customer validation processes with his target audiences.  He gave customers what they wanted.
  • He begged to get funding and made sure that his investors, which also happened to be his family, governed their investment and got the proper return.
  • He surrounded himself not only with music talent, but also business talent, no matter what color or gender.
  • He hit the road to sell, sell, sell!
  • He pivoted.  This is where I don’t always agree with his vision.  By leaving Detroit for California, he may have enabled new relationships and opportunities, but he left ‘the sound’ behind, and it never was the same again.  Financially it may have made sense, but a lot of people, me included, were disappointed.

Studio-AWant to know more?  Come visit the Motown Museum and discover for yourself!

The Cloud is Dead, Long Live the Cloud!

Talking about “The Cloud” is boring.  That’s because the term has been hijacked by ‘has-beens’ and used to death.


BUT – the technology itself is compelling and the offerings from   providers get better every day.  The challenge that I have using AWS (Amazon Web Services) is that the latest releases surpass the documentation, so it can be a burden to find the latest information that maps to the product.  It’s even more difficult to search for a problem-resolution because many of the answers and work-arounds are based on older releases.

All that being said, however, I really like the cadence and pace of evolution that cloud providers are well, providing.  The ability to stand up applications platforms is amazing.  I can terminate and create a new WordPress Server and content in minutes, not hours.  I can add Widgets and Plugins as I like and will continuously improve as I see fit.  But the best part of controlling my own site is that I can run it very inexpensively, track costs and performance, and adjust extremely quickly as the breadth and depth of usage increases.

I’m going to be writing about my journey with improving the MotownHitsvilleUSA Museum digital presence, starting February 1st.  It’s a labor of love that will take their website into digital curation and be a global illustration of what a “King of Apps” can be!