Financial Fitness for Entrepreneurs

Fred Wilson points to Brad Feld who writes about “some fundamental financial tenets that all early-stage entrepreneurs should be aware of, understand, and heed”:

1. Cash is king
2. Put in real financial systems from day one
3. Measure everything
4. Build an annual operating plan
5. Use your vendors to fund your business
6. Use your customers to fund your business
7. Be careful of personal guarantees
8. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
9. Finance your business appropriately for what you are trying to create
10. Choose professionals carefully
11. Dont take anything for granted
12. Pay your taxes on time

7 Things RSS Is Good For

JD Lasica enumerates:

1. Saving time
2. Convenience
3. Access to a richer pool of material
4. Zero in on the info you want
5. RSS can serve as an alert service
6. RSS levels the playing field
7. RSS drives conversation

JD adds:

Why is RSS useful to publishers and corporations? Here are …

5 Reasons Why Companies Should Publish an RSS feed:

1. Multiple gateways. It’s another doorway or distribution channel for getting your content in front of readers.

2. Self-syndication. It allows publishers to syndicate content without the involvement of third parties.

3. The predictability principle. By far the most important reason is this: Just as with newspaper subscriptions, RSS subscriptions mean your content is guaranteed to be seen on a regular basis rather than via sporadic pull behavior. On a typical news site, a reader stops by an average of three times per month.

4. Loyalty. RSS can forge a closer relationship with readers if done in conjunction with a weblog or community feedback tools.

5. Future revenue streams. RSS could be a great way of distributing classified advertising and other targeted marketing opportunities as long as the user requests it and finds it useful.

Meta-Mail Need

John Reynolds gives an example of why Meta-Mail is needed:

A real example from my exciting life:

* One of our consultants (Srikanth) discovers that he cannot file a support incident with a vendor. Our service contract has lapsed, and he is stuck.
* Srikanth sends me (John) email, asking me to get the service contract renewed. He is stuck, so he marks the email as “urgent”.
* My inbox is relatively empty, so I actually read the email (within an hour or so).
* I reply to Srikanth, and forward the email to my boss (Sam).
* Sam replies to me, and directs a request to the head of the group that “owns” our contract with the vendor (Amy).
* Amy sends email to the team member who works regularly with the vendor (Mary).
* Mary sends email to the vendor.
* The vendor replies to Mary with terms for renewal.
* Mary forwards the terms to Amy for purchase approval.
* Amy approves the purchase, and emails our purchasing department (to issue a purchase order).
* Our purchasing department issues the PO to the vendor.
* The vendor emails Mary the new support keys.
* Mary emails Amy, Sam, John, and Srikanth the new support keys.
* Srikanth uses the keys to file the support incident.

I’ve actually left out a few steps here, and I’ve fudged the outcome. We’re still waiting for terms on renewing the support contract (it’s been a couple of weeks so far).

The point of this example is that a business process is being conducted via email. Each message is a step within our ad-hoc “renew a support contract” process. I am certainly not bragging about the details of our process, but it should seem pretty familiar (and pretty scary). Each email is distinct and unrelated to the others except for the likely inclusion of the email thread within the body of the message. There is no easy way to track the progress of the process (except to send follow-up emails), and it doesn’t take much for the process to stall.

John also points to Roundup, an Open-Source tool that incorporates some of the concepts of meta-mail.

Motorola’s WiFi+GSM Cellphone

WSJ writes about the CN620:

The device could be the first mobile phone that combines wide-area GSM cellular technology with shorter-range technology known as Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, could open the floodgates for users to steal away significant minutes from cellular networks and place free calls over the Internet.

Motorola says its new device will still work after leaving the Wi-Fi “hot spot,” because the call will simply hand over to the regular cellular network, using the wireless technology called GSM. That means that a user — instead of having a cellular number and a work number, for instance — can have just one. Though the phone will be initially aimed at business users, Motorola envisions the technology working in consumers’ homes as well, allowing people to take a single phone number with them wherever they go.

The new device is the latest example of a sea change in the telecommunications industry: a shift of power away from telephone companies that run networks to equipment providers such as Motorola and Cisco that are rapidly designing new products that can allow consumers to tap the Internet.

Microsoft and Linux

Business Week suggests that Microsoft should embrace Linux and recommends an MS-Office port to Linux. “Building an Office for Linux might actually enhance Microsoft’s hold on the productivity-software market over the long term. In fast-growing emerging markets, such as China and India, piracy of Microsoft products is so rampant that legitimate copies are the exception rather than the norm. And those markets have proven resistant to Microsoft’s pricing strategies.”

TECH TALK: Tech Trends: The Future of Services

Business Week writes that services is moving beyond outsourcing:

While doing a lot of work in low-wage countries is a necessity for most tech-services outfits, it’s not the only way to trim labor costs. Smart companies are coming up with creative ways of automating their operations, reusing valuable technology, and streamlining business processes. In this most labor-intensive part of the tech industry, they’re reducing the number of bodies they need for everything they do — whether it’s operating data centers, consulting, writing software, or running their clients’ customer-service and accounting operations. The changes not only make them more efficient, they result in more effective services.

Writing software traditionally has been a productivity sinkhole for services outfits. Now, rather than starting from scratch with each new project, companies are using Web technologies to package complex pieces of software into reusable components — like so many Lego pieces. Project leaders can pull the pieces they need from online libraries, mix and match to produce a desired set of functions, and get their work done with much less effort.

Even business processes themselves can be packaged and used over and over again. This is crucial in the fast-growing corner of the services world called business-process outsourcing. When companies take over human resources, customer service, and accounting for their clients, they routinely promise that they can do the same work for 25% to 40% less money.

The trick for services outfits is to automate their operations without alienating their customers.

IBMs David McQueeney talks to Business Week of the new science of services:

A new science is being invented, which is an outgrowth of computer science but also an outgrowth of research and project management and a bunch of other things. In a few years we’ll look back and say this was the beginning of the scientific and technical base underneath services.

Clients always want the maximum value from their investment in information technology with the minimum need to be IT experts. It used to be they had to have huge inside IT staffs. They had to know every detail of all the plumbing. But over time as we as an industry get better and move up the stack of technology abstractions, we can give them the power to change their business and require them to be less and less the experts — and focus their energy on the things that are higher in the food chain.

This is a big step in making all the things we offer to our customers more coherent, more clear in terms of its value, and its impact on the business. Our customers are telling us to solve more of the details, and to do it for them in a way that creates the end result without them having a lot of expertise.

The goal is not to replace people. The people are where the creativity comes from. But you take the repeatable, standardizeable pieces and put them in software that we deliver either as products or as specialized services. The humans can apply more of their creativity to the piece that only humans can do.

The emergence of Web services is the technological base and the lingua franca that makes the idea of a services stack possible. You have to somehow bridge the world of software to the world of business processes.

Tomorrow: India Action: Build Infrastructure to Support BPO

Continue reading TECH TALK: Tech Trends: The Future of Services