“I believe in Programmers and Salesfolks”.
This started for me back in 1981, when I began working as a consultant for 3PM, a SaaS technology company near Detroit. 3PM became known for their hosted pharmacy solutions and I was part of a team that broadened their portfolio to build a stand-alone Pharmacy system (back then everyone wanted to get away from SaaS!), Medical Billing System, Laboratory Management System and Durable Medical Management System. When 3PM was acquired by McKesson in 1983, I acquired these three properties and started SoftCare, Inc.
So much for history, but it was during these early days of the products that I established strong relationships with the Sales Team who went out selling our products and services. It was a time before Agile development and Lean Startup processes, but this is how we operated. Every day, the lead SalesRep, Ted, would come in and tell me about his challenges in closing deals, especially “if we only had this feature”, or “we’ll close the deal if we make a technical commitment”. At the time, it was very frustrating because to make changes to the software took a lot of work, coding, testing and deploying. But we were trying to ‘cross the chasm’ and we had to make a lot of concessions to make customers happy. So, we were very hard and established extreme discipline to our development methods to be as nimble as possible while maintaining quality.
It worked. These products were innovative, solved problems and had value for our customers. I won’t go into the whole story here, but the best lesson I learned is that good salesreps, who listen to their prospects and customers, provide a wealth of information. And by GOOD, I mean salesreps who actually close deals. They were the ones I listened to, and to this day, I’m most happy when joined at the hip with a great salesperson.
Lesson to startups? First, Hire the best salespeople you can find and establish relationships with people who know how to sell. It’s the difference between having a great product and an innovative product. Innovation is market-driven from customer feedback. And your salesfolks are the front-line individuals hearing from your customers. Second, look at your competition. So many companies have bloated themselves with staff who have nothing to do with product development or sales. It’s these old business-models that you can kill. Stay lean, mean and connected! Third, remember your Lean-Startup disciplines – always be ready to pivot!
Great programmers + great salespeople = success.
OK, it’s not a pipeline, it’s a funnel. I don’t know where we get these silly metaphors anyway; they fulfill a mental visual, but never tell the whole story.
It’s now a new year and time for me to look for new investment opportunities. But first, I need to finalize my model, to save time and increase my probabilities for success.
Last year, I proved that investments with a technology focus are much more predictable than current investment models, but I need to formalize the process, mostly to save time and wasted energy.
Back to the pipeline. It’s not where I want it to be; I need a strong backlog of prospects with great ideas, motivation and technology. Last year was a good year with a lot of interest, but not enough backing technologies and internal talent is scarce, and booked. So, my first priority on my backlog is NOT great ideas, but great talent and technology!
If you want my attention, pitch yourself first and the problem you’re solving second. I am VERY interested in ANALYTICS, so if your solving a difficult problem that utilize a lot of data, I’m interested. Contact me at Compuware Ventures.
Let’s get 2013 rolling!
What does the new year mean to you?
I usually never make resolutions, but last year I made a commitment to improve my health through nutrition and fitness and, I’m happy to say, I met that goal. I vastly improved my health, reduced my waistline by 9-inches and lost >30lbs, all without dieting or spending any money (except for the new clothes that I needed).
My Top 10 goals for this year
Did I miss anything? Oh yes, HAVE FUN! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Detroit; 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 was also a genius at running a “Lean Startup“.
Want to know more? Come visit the Motown Museum and discover for yourself!
Other Motown Resources:
Hopefully, I can tell more of the story someday at Detroit’s Lean Startup Circle! http://www.meetup.com/Detroit-Lean-Startup-Circle/
And for some real fun, check out this Twitter-Map!! : http://www.mibazaar.com/motown.html
It’s Thanksgiving time in the United States and, while reflecting on what I should be thankful for, it occurred to me that a corporation is much like a family. It’s very obvious in the picture who the chairman is, the CEO is obviously to his right. If you look closely you can also spot the CFO, COO, Chief Counsel, Chief Administrative Officer, CTO, VPs of Product Development & Strategy…. but where’s the CIO???? Shouldn’t the CIO have a seat at the ‘big corporate table’?
Sitting at the ‘kids table’, with the VP of Marketing who obvious blames YOU for her problems (they’re always very angry) and the VP of HR, who just wants everyone to get along.
So, I guess I’m supposed to write something pithy and thought-provoking but, all I can say is, if you’re not at the big-table either you’re not providing value or you’re not being recognized for the value you provide.
OK, pass the pumpkin pie!
During my ‘missing years’ I played in a lot of rock-bands. We all talked about what life would be like when we ‘made it’, meaning signing a BIG record contract. If you measure success by how many friends I had, I did pretty good. If you measure success by how much money I made, well…
Pretty much the same goes today for technical start-ups, minus the fame. A lot of people LOVE to be in a start-up, and many even think that getting VC-money means that they ‘made it’. Well, the roles may have changed, but it’s the same-old, same-old. Let me try to explain:
- The Lead Guitarist – Self-trained and plays by ear. This is your designer, the person who thinks they’re the rock-star and doesn’t need anyone else. Are they in for a surprise!
- The Drummer – This is your cloud architect. Brilliant technologist, plays all the riffs but can’t keep a steady beat! More interested in practicing his thirteen-minute drum solo. Drum solo? This isn’t 1972, dude!
- The Rhythm Guitarist – Trained by listening to Allman Brothers. Great backend systems programmer who knows how to create a fast-performing server/database implementation. Solid, but not very creative.
- The Keyboardist – ‘Classically-trained’, solid performing programmer who tries to hold everything together. Gets distracted easily but can be counted on to deliver.
- The Lead Singer – He/She is your marketing person. Overly optimistic with a big ego, but is willing to push everyone else to success. Or else!
- The Brass Section – No one knows what they do or how they do it, but they’re fun to have around and they’re awesome at delivering key integration services.
- The Bass-Player – How do you get a bass-player off your porch? Pay him for the pizza! ’nuff said. Every start-up has a bass-player!
- The Manager – This is your angel-investor person who tells you that you’re going to be rich, you just need to work harder. If that’s the case, why is he driving the BMW and you the VW?
- The Recording Technician – QA and Operations. They hate you! But they’re necessary to make sure that your performance is superb.
- The Songs – ahhh, finally, these are the Apps! They are the inspiration, the result of every muse you have ever mused. No matter how many people, no matter how much the stress, the apps are what you strive for. These creations will make you happy, no matter how much off the top the app-stores take from you. Because whether you’re writing songs or apps, the app-stores always takes their share. Sigh.
Enough silliness. Whether you’re in a rock-band or a technology start-up, it all comes down to RELATIONSHIPS. You better understand how it is to lead a team of developers or musicians, because they’re all really the same.
When we at C-PoWeR evaluate start-up companies, those relationships are at the top of our priority list to evaluate. Because there are very few solo-singer-songwriters out there. And if there are, they don’t need VC help.
… and my joke about bass-players? Here’s one more:
A rock-band is playing a concert. As they’re playing the lead singer is thinking “Wow, I’m a rock-star, all the girls out there want to be with me, I’m going to meet a beautiful girl and get married”. The lead-guitarist is thinking “This is the greatest thing in the world! I’m going to buy my parents a big house to thank them for their support”. The drummer is thinking “Fantastic, I’m going to use my fame to promote peace around the world”. The keyboard-player is thinking “I can’t wait to use my celebrity to write my own musical that everyone will sing for years to come”. The bass-playing is thinking “one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four”…
Paul the former CTO of Compuware, a venture-technologist and programmer. His hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.
Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.