Enter, Stage Right

It’s been too long.  You may have heard.  I’m gone, I’ve retired.

StageRight

When I left Compuware I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do.  I am a big fan of Amazon Web Services and, as a programmer, know the power that one person could have armed with cloud architecture and programming skill.

I spent my first month setting up my office and cloud environment, then catching up on programming languages that were new to me.

HINT: coding is coding, it’s all ones and zeros to me.

Cloud stack built, coding set, now the hard part – finding all the API’s I need and getting all the moving parts to work properly.

Now, finding the projects.  First ones are easy – move my web-site to AWS and finally dig in to projects I want to work on, like creating a Curator Management System for Motown Museum.  That’s gonna take some time.

In the meantime I’ve also found a lot of people as passionate about building cloud apps as I am and finding customers willing to partner up on projects.

Let the fun begin!

P-Cz

Exit, Stage Left

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  • One of the things I always ask startup ventures is “What is your exit strategy”.  Many entrepreneurs have no idea what their exit would look like, many say the obvious “sell to Google, Facebook or any other company with deep pockets”.That’s not what I’m looking for.When I talk to folks about their exit strategy, I’m looking to see if they have guiding principles that will get them there safely.  A company that is not ‘clean’ will not exit cleanly.  There’s too much to hide.  No matter how you ‘muddy the waters’, new investor will find out.


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    “Pay Your Taxes, Sleep Well”This was the best advice I got from a tax-consultant, years ago. He was doing the taxes for my company and we discussed different ways to reduce tax burden.  He said that he knew people who ‘cheat the system’ and then spend an enormous amount of time covering their tracks or looking over their shoulders instead of growing their business fairly.Think about it.  If you want to sell your company, IPO, merge, whatever the exit, you better have clean books and a clean conscience.  If you’re not paying taxes, or manufacturing sales, or cooking the books to make them look better, you’re in trouble and will be in a situation where you just cannot exit.


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    Years ago I talked to a CFO friend and asked him how much pressure there was to do things that weren’t financially ethical.  He told me that the stress was there but anytime he was asked to do something he thought was wrong, he imagined himself doing the ‘perp walk’.  “Orange just isn’t my color” was one way he explained it.Do not be tempted.  You can’t hide lies.  People will know, whistle-blowers will whistle, employees will talk, the IRS and the FBI know how to get to the truth, and investors will find out.

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    So, as you start your business, any business, keep the exit in mind as a goal and a guiding principle to maintaining you ethics and morals.  However you exit, you’ll enjoy the journey with a good night’s sleep.P-Cz

Note to Self – Be Careful When Doing Interviews

I don’t mind giving interviews.  But it can be rather surprising when an interview turns into the written word, especially when English isn’t the primary language.  No complaints, the journalist was pleasant, but the writing makes it seem that English isn’t my primary OR secondary language.Read for yourself!

Incorporate the FUD principle to succeed in IT- Focus, Urgency and Discipline
By Paul Czarnik  CTO-Compuware
Sunday, June 2, 2013

Detroit based Compuware(NASDAQ: CPWR), is a provider of integrated solutions for enterprise IT including IT portfolio management, application development, quality assurance and IT service management. Founded in 1973, the company holds a market cap of $2.41 billion.

Technology drives the pace of transformation for the world today. However, technology has far outpaced the ability for most companies to exploit it and has created massive opportunities for organizations that understand its functioning. The companies that are willing to take risks and invest for the future are going to turn out to be the successors.
Looking at technology from a programmers view, it is important to wear the “programmer hat” at all times, even if sometimes the technological approach conflicts with the business interests of the partner. Deciphering a company’s technical assets gives more insight into the corporation rather by reading through a balance sheet or marketing material. A positive mentality can consistently contribute to positive outcomes that the entire organization can rally behind.

Big Data will Transform Businesses

Although the widely talked about technological term has been co-opted in different contexts by different individuals, the single biggest foreseeable trend in technology is “Big Data”. In the true sense of real time analytics, Big Data is calculated from the abundant data sources that companies and third parties have amassed. The potential of this technology to transform business operations, sales and customer support is such that it is anticipated to prove devastating to those organizations that ignore this phenomenon.

For instance, how Big Data can help a healthcare company. Let’s imagine a situation of an epidemiologist, who is responsible for identifying flare-ups of infectious diseases as early as possible in an attempt to avert an epidemic or in a worst case scenario, a pandemic. In previous years, combating this problem used to involve relying on infectious disease specialists at the point of care reporting to national governing bodies that in turn contribute to a global database that would require queries to identify new outbreaks. Big data will sound the death knell to this cumbersome process. Big Data can permit a form of collective intelligence wherein all of the information, from the point of care and the labs and pharmacies, is fed in real time with standing queries and visualization tools to flag incidents as they occur in real time. With enough data from one model to the other, it is possible for the epidemiologist to move past identifying the trend in progress and skip right to predicting where the next outbreak is likely to emerge. This insight enables critical resources and caregivers to convene on the scene and perhaps inoculate the populace before they come in contact with the vector.

Entrepreneurs will “leapfrog” Current Business Models

Leveraging Big Data is one of the methods by which healthcare will benefit greatly from technology in the coming years; the current healthcare model will change drastically as entrepreneurs will “leapfrog” current business models and government regulations and take solutions directly to patients. The healthcare industry is antiquated and outdated and it will take a new generation of caregiver entrepreneurs to disrupt the current systems. 35 years ago, work on a universal medical-record format was abandoned after discovering that doctors and hospitals considered medical records their intellectual property. This is one scenario that is quickly changing.
With regards to the initiatives to keep the team technologically abreast of the competitors, it is important for a leader to be enthusiastic so as to wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and read, research and most importantly program. The only way to stay abreast of emerging technology and the competition is to stay involved in the technology. This includes running personalized products in the company’s internal production environment and to give the value that is promised to customers.
Technology has far outpaced the ability for most companies to exploit it, and that has created massive opportunity for the companies that “get it” and are willing to take the risks and invest for the future.

Effort and Initiative matter more than an Educational Qualification

The biggest pain point seen at Compuware and specifically across the industry and around the world is in a deficiency of a skilled workforce development. To combat the same, young individuals have to be trained to take on the technology jobs that are currently unfilled. However, one major drawback is that students are not very well informed about the growing market opportunities. This information gap will lead to many students not finding their true job where they will excel. In the current decade, effort and initiative matter a lot more than just a plain degree. The best way to overcome the shortfall is to begin teaching students coding techniques at a young age. It is the current generation’s responsibility to plant the seeds of pragmatism in the tender minds.

Hence what a company can do to succeed in its endeavor is to replace the traditional acronym of FUD-Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt prevalent in certain areas of industrial lingo, with that of Focus, Urgency and Discipline. These are the principles that have guided my principles, my team and Compuware as a whole. (As told to Vignesh.A)

Venturing Alone

 

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What’s it like to start a business on your own?  I mean just you, no one else.  Is it possible?  When I started my company in 1985, I had a partner but I was the first to jump off the cliff into the venture.  It was scary and I was very busy.  My partner joined after a couple months, which made things easier.But, what if you’re doing it TOTALLY on your own, and although consulting gigs are still putting food on the table, I’d like to focus on software product startups.

I think that it’s fair to compare software startups similarly to writing a book, or creating a piece of art that you sell.  A lot of work being done by yourself that requires discipline, creativity, and alone-time to create a product that you are going to sell, support and market.


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The nine-point checklist I’ve written about in the past also applies to one-person enterprises.  The good news is that you will own the checklist with no misunderstanding.  Also, you will have no one else to blame.  You own the business strategy and execution.

  • Target Customer – Remember, that this is ONLY you, so you need to be precise in who you’re selling to.
  • Compelling reason to buy – This also needs to be extremely clear and goes hand-in-hand with your target.
  • Whole product – This requires a LOT of work on your side, also a lot of diverse skills, which means you need to depend on…
  • Partners & Allies – You better find people, especially other entrepreneurs, that you can depend.
  • Distribution model – It better be SaaS or download.
  • Competition  – This is one area where you don’t want to worry too much.  Run fast and out-sell them all!
  • Positioning – Again, an area to be precise and focused.
  • Pricing – If you’re going it alone you should be able to have a decnt cost/value ratio, but don’t undersell yourself   I’ve seen this happen too many times and you end up working WAY TOO HARD.
  • Next Target – I wouldn’t worry about this right now.  Focus on succeeding with your current customer base.  Build loyalty and they’ll help you find your adjacency.

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I have met a lot of folks who ‘go it alone’.  They all are wonderful, inspired people.  I don’t want to name names here because some folks don’t want the world to know that their app depends on them alone.I think one of the biggest challenges that lone-startups have is, basically, loneliness.  It’s tough when you’re not feeling well, or are a little down, or just want to have someone to share your daily successes and challenges.  My advice there is to network as much as possible with many people, even if it just means meeting for lunch or coffee.  Blog, post, stay on top of social-media, because relationships are still the most important component of any business and it is even more valuable when you’re building a business on your own.

So, go it alone?  Sure, just go with your eyes open.  Everything is on you so pick the right startup, work hard and have fun!

P-Cz

 

Investing in Technology Companies

 

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I seem to be a magnet lately for investment advisers.  They keep sending me their latest ‘product’, which is generally a package of investments that supposedly will interest me.  These portfolios are really slick, with charts and graphs that are supposed to entice me to buy.

Too bad that they don’t understand me, their target customer.

I invest in three things: Music, Chocolate and Technology.  Of course music and chocolate are the best investments in the world, it’s almost impossible to measure their value.


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Just look at my concert-grand piano.  It just sits there.  The Steinway salesman told me that it will appreciate in value (yeah, right), but I don’t care.  Just looking at it gives me joy and when I sit down and play… And chocolate? Well, enough said.

OK, let’s talk tech companies.  How should you invest?

Should you go blue-chip, high-growth, startup, IPO, or what?  What financial numbers do you crunch, what thought-leaders (ugh) do you listen to?  I think of tech-investors like I do gamblers.  Everyone thinks they’re good at it and everyone’s a winner.  Until you get them to talk.

So what’s my secret?   No secret.

DISCLAIMER:  I don’t pretend to have any more insight than anybody else trying to make a buck, but here’s how I go about evaluating a technology company.  It has NOTHING to do with numbers or company strategy.  It has to do with technology people.


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Call them a ‘dork of developers’, a ‘subnet of geeks’, a ‘needy of nerds’, or a ‘party of programmers’, I look for groups of technical people to really discover the invest-able value of a company.  And it’s easy.  Go to the hangouts, the meet-ups, the coffee-shops, the bars where technical people gather and TALK TO THEM.  Finding out what type of technologies they’re working on is useful but, even more important, find out if they LOVE their work and AGREE on their company’s direction.  A passionate programmer is a productive programmer!

PROGRAMMERS DON’T LIE!!!
They will tell you the truth, many times a little more bluntly than you’d like, but you will find out what’s really going on inside their company.  Are they aligned with the strategic goals and leadership.  Do the Technologists influence major decisions?  Do they agree with the marketing message.  Do they like their sales-people?  And… are they engaged with their customers?  If not, watch out.

With startup investments and M&A work, I insist on talking to the CTO and/or development staff.  I have passed on more than a couple simply because I discovered that the technical staff was unhappy or uninformed on what was happy at the C-level.  I also know of some companies where it’s obvious that technology skills are considered commodity, expendable and replaceable.  These companies are doomed.  Technology folks have great influence on success, revenues and valuation of a company, especially in the long run.  Get to know them and you’ll know whether or not to invest.

IMHO, if you have engaged, empowered, proficient, prolific programmers, you have a powerful company worth my  investment dollar.  And this strategy scales from start-up company to mega-corporation.

Happy investing!  Take it from a programmer who NEVER lies!
P-Cz

Grammys, Webbys, Hackathons, etc….

 

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I’ve ALWAYS hated music competitions.

Battle of the Bands, Van Cliburn Piano Competition, American Idol, The Voice, the list goes on-and-on.

So yes, I will not be watching the Grammy Awards next Sunday.  I believe that music should be celebrated and everyone that participates, from Adele to your niece in kindergarten, should be considered winners.   Now, I do not mind when award shows celebrate success in the marketplace, based on true ratings or the numbers of viewers and listeners.  This is fair and the marketplace is truly the place that should be considered in career success.  It’s just all this subjective nonsense based on judges who make the competition all about themselves.


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I am currently reading the book ‘Romance on Three Legs’, a book about Glenn Gould and his pursuit of the perfect piano.  What really draws me to Gould is his passion, his eccentricities and the fact that he was a pretty decent guy.  He also detested music competitions, even though he pretty much had to participate.  He also won his fair share, not surprisingly  since he may be the worlds best piano player to live.

Glenn Gould was a perfectionist who let his talent and his craft speak for himself, and he was rewarded with market success and the ability to pursue his talent even deeper.  He didn’t need a blog and he didn’t need to worry about his “brand”.  He just played.


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Since I equate music and programming equally, I’m equally annoyed when I see programmer competitions, hack-a-thons, and start-up pitches that are little more than a beauty contest.  I have to admit that I participate in these, but mostly as a mentor, where my job is to encourage and inspire.   Again, the true place for competition is in the marketplace or, when you’re pitching an idea, to run through a rigorous process, well understood, that can evaluate the business opportunity.  It’s not that I hate the idea of people getting together to collaborate on ideas and technology, or even to evaluate the outcome.  I just hate the perception that occurs on selecting winners and losers.  It’s Monday, I’m cranky.

Leave that to customers to decide.
P-Cz

The New Phonebook’s Here! The New Phonebook’s Here!

 

 

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“Things are going to start happening to me NOW!”Oh, how I love titles!  The one I really yearn for is the one that Paul McCartney, Elton John and some other no-names have achieved.  “Sir Paul”.  Of course I’m not British and I really haven’t achieved such greatness, but one can dream.

A couple weeks ago, I helped host ‘Xconomy Detroit’ in the Compuware Building with two-hundred of my new closest friends.  The title of the event was “Mobile Madness in the Motor City” and we celebrated, collaborated d commented on the state of mobile innovation.  Mostly, it was a fun event to meet new people who are as passionate about technology as I am.


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As a special treat, they invited me to be an “Xconomist“.  Now, I don’t know what the responsibilities of an ‘Xconomist’ are but I hope there’s a hat or a uniform involved.  I am expected to write some articles on the ‘xconomy’ and I think my first duty will be to design the uniform that I believe Xconomists should wear.|—————— prototype —————————->


Seriously, what I like about Xconomy is that they are a group of people who understand the power of meeting face-to-face and having relevant discussions about topics.  We had a great group of folks in Detroit with my favorite topic being battery technologies.  So please check out Xconomy while I ponder (seriously) what it means to be an Xconomist and how we can host more cool, valuable events.P-Cz

What does ‘Horseless” and “Wireless” Have in Common?

 

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I, like many Detroiters, will make my way sometime this week to the North American Auto Show.  It’s a fun event and, although I’m a ‘truck guy’, I’ll enjoy checking out the latest offerings that I can’t afford.

Last week, Compuware hosted “Mobile Madness in the Motor City”, an event from Xconomy, which featured entrepreneurs, marketers and developers to celebrate innovation in mobile development and applications.

It occurred to me, as I opened the event, that if we were having this gathering one-hundred years ago, we would have called it “Horseless Carriage Madness”, which today seems absurd.

If you look at the history of the auto-industry, you’ll see that it was about one-hundred years ago when we STOPPED using the term ‘horseless carriage’, because it was obvious that automobiles were the future and we needed to leave the old terms behind.  We went from selling disruptive-innovation(horseless), to technology(horsepower) to design(horsefeathers).  Even today marketing messages change as design and technology advance.  Somehow I’m beyond demographic relevance, so these messages have no effect on me.  To me a vehicle is a functional device that gets me from point-A to point-B.


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So, let’s talk about ‘mobile madness’;  why are we still saying things like ‘wireless’ and ‘mobile’?  OF COURSE it’s wireless and EVERYTHING is going mobile.  And DON’T talk about performance in technical terms, that’s just silly.  The smart marketers are already talking about the value that these technologies have on your life and lifestyle.

My annoyance with this is that until we break the semantic gymnastics, we’ll be stuck in innovation stagnation.  Stop using terms that have a limited relevance lifespan and either invent something new or take it to its lowest denominator.  And don’t get me started on “CLOUD”!

That’s all for a Monday where I should be on holiday instead of in the office working on NodeXL.
P-Cz