Category Archives: Mountain biking

What is the best project management software for a startup

Somehow I got roped into a thread on Quora and noticed this item http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-online-project-management-software-for-a-startup

Lots of people shilling their Web 2.0 SaaS services for project management but at the end of the day, you have to ask why a startup even needs project management software.

I’ve been thru a few startups either as founder or CTO and I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the easiest and cheapest project management system of all:

A pencil and paper.
The average startup in the software space is 3-5 people. Right? 3-5 people is a small army when it comes to developing software and who is going to be coding if they are busy using same fancy Web 2.0 app like Clarizen to manage Gantt charts and integrate with SF.com

Your first order of business is to iterate quickly and get real people using the product.

Hold on a minute – what about the design?

Yes, Roberta, there is no design.

If there is no design, then there is no Gantt and no 200 page SRDs, PRMs, SES, SRS, SIS, SDA and all the other vintage SDM-70 TLAs

Instead – you have an idea. A few smart people. A software architecture and set of programming standards that you can write down in less than 20 pages.

So – you have a startup.

You can spend the time coding and selling or you can spend the time planning, updating your Gantt charts and having ops reviews.

As a programmer colleague once said: “Code overrides all memos”

 

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Home alone, at work: 6 tips for independent consultants

A good friend of mine, who was a senior manager at IBM, is now working as a freelance consultant – as he put it: I’m discovering the good (and the bad) of “freelance life” – plenty of free time – but not always when (or where) I want it

One of my in-laws has a rare-book binding business – he is ruthless about his time and extremely well-organized – he’s been trying to get me to co-author a book with him that would help guide people who are self-employed and working out of a home office. There are tons of books on this topic but they all seem to focus on the more technical aspects of getting insurance, IT, networking etc.

We haven’t started writing the book yet… but in the meantime here are 6 solid tips if you are an independent consultant:

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Professional skill sets

We spent the past week in Tzfat  (Safed) – situated in the northern part of Israel and with a 900meter elevation, the weather is cool and dry and a welcome relief from the humidity and heat of Tel Aviv.

We met a couple at dinner one evening – the husband is a retired aerospace software engineer that had done cutting edge work in his career, including the embedded software for one of the first unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).  He took early retirement 15 years ago and today is hustling real estate and odd jobs.   At age 62, he’s overweight, after a triple bypass, technology-obsolete and convinced he will never get back into the tech game.

For sure – this recession is helping us understand the importance of family and friends and the difference between needing something (really) and wanting something.  This is a natural inward-looking reaction. However, in order to really take something of value out of the recession you need to look outward and challenge a lot of your base assumptions – it doesn’t really matter if you are (or soon will be) a self-employed consultant or a salaried (or soon to be ) sales professional. I submit that there are several important takeways that most people miss:

1) Invest in knowledge – spend 1 hour a day in constant learning, if you’re a tech person then work on keeping your edge and learning some new tools and technologies. If you are a sales professional – remember that sales skills are like basketball – practice your shooting 1 hour/day and your stats will go up.

2) Remember that what counts in your business is free cash flow – adding value and having some cash left at the end of the transaction. It’s not definitely not about  leveraging credit cards, mortgages and derivatives.

3) Invest in your health – spend 4-5 hours a week in physical activity. There is no point reaching 60 with a heart condition and proficiency in a programming language that was obsolete in the 70s.

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Great achievements involve great risk

Is it possible to have good kharma in information security – when you’re trying to keep the bad guys off your network (firewall, IPS) and keep the good suff inside (data loss prevention) and maintain good internal security (network surveillance)?

I got a Powerpoint slide show in the email this morning from my friend Jeff Green, who plays baritone sax, and sits next to me in the JP Big Band. It’s one of those chain letters that suggest that if you forward it to 15 people or more,  your life will improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of will begin to take shape. OK – I am against chain letters in principle in the Internet since it is a form of spam but  I am not opposed to words of wisdom from the Dalai Lama – especially if it applies to the kind of work I do – customer data security:

  • Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly. ( This is relevant for protecting digital assets – a client of mine once told me that he doesn’t mind if they steal his business plans, since he’s already 2 years ahead of the competition in a blue ocean of his own)
  • When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. (Good idea for an network security manager – if you find a bug in the firewall, or a user sending the entire employee contact list to a private gmail account – best to take immediate corrective action)
  • Spend some time alone every day. (My solution is getting on my bike and riding – I wish I could do it every day…)

If you still want the Powerpoint slide show – you can download it here: Good Kharma

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Man – is it hot today!

This Sunday I have an early morning meeting and I won’t be able to do my planned 5 hour ride. Shucks.  So, I left this morning at 6:00 and climbed the hill thru Mevo Horon to the beginning of the big climb to Neve Ilan, down to Shaar Hagai and thru Derech Nof Dromit thru Park Canada to Latrun – took about 2 1/2 hours. The sunrise is at 5:20 and it was stunning riding thru the fields of Mevo Horon and seeing flocks of birds just take off as soon as I rode by. Almost got stopped by a cow going up the hill. At 8:30, I stopped for a coffee break at the Latrun gas station by the Armored Corps Memorial.

I was drinking my coffee, eating raisins, walnuts and generally minding my own business when a guy in a riding shirt and shorts asks if he can sit down, looking at my bike (a Scott Racing Elite) and commenting that “he never did get into that”. I asked what was “that” and he said mountain biking.
Well, did we have a lot to talk about, road and mountain biking, hiking the Israel Trail and how Israelis need to be a lot more modest. Hmm – that’s a thought isn’t it!

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Things they don’t tell programmers

Today is a rest day from bike riding. I have on my todo list a bunch of F&A items – like expense reports and cleaning out my inbox from old scraps of paper.

I found one of those scraps with notes on writing a business plan. Waiting for a flight back to Israel from EWR end of June, I was hanging out in a bookstore and saw a shelf of Harvard Business Review books; jeez these books are worse than the dummies series from McGraw Hill – I read the book on Entrepeneurship in about 15′ taking notes on a piece of paper I glommed from the guy at the cash register. No wonder my son Yuval, who is doing an MBA at Ben Gurion says that HBS stands for “Half Bull Shit”.

So, I reckon this posting is worth about $15.95 for the book and 15′ of your time or maybe 45′ (if you move your lips).

The 15 minute Business Plan

Identify
1. Value
2. Profit, risk/return
3. Good fit to the founders capabilities
4. Durable, is there a large enough window of opportunity to build and grow a business
5. Amenable to financing, will external capital assist the business development ( I actually liked this one a lot, because practically no business plans I’ve ever seen really analyze how well the proposed venture is amenable to financing. It’s more
like we’re top notch entrepreneurs and I need 3M in seed, but not more because we don’t want to get diluted…)

Evaluate
1. Market (Analysis of growth, size, TAM)
2. Competition, assess, find an edge
3. Economics of the opportunity
4. Resources required

Market
1. Benefit
2. Size
3. Dynamics
4. TAM
5. Competitors
6. Awareness or latency of demand
7. Name potential cases/clients
8. Access
9. Utility relative to substitute products/services

Economics
1. Price constraints
2. Supply and demand for product/service
3. Elasticity of demand
4. Substitutes
5. Fixed and/or variable costs of operation
6. Cost increases

Business model
1. Revenue sources
2. Cost drivers
3. Investment size
4. Critical success factors


Business plan

1. Executive summary, 1 page
2. Opportunity
3. Company
4. Team
5. Management
6. Operations
7. Finances

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From Modiin to Neve Ilan on a mountain bike

Two weeks ago, my friend Bob called me up and invited me to a night ride from Park Canada (aka Park Ayalon) to Neve Ilan – I pleaded busy with other things (like preparing the Torah reading for Shabat) but I was actually unsure I could hack it at night.

But – just to prove what I jock, I really am – I decided to do it solo during the day

This Sunday (Aug 20, 2006) I rode from Modiin to Neve Ilan – left at 5:00AM towards Moshav Mevo Horon, by 5:20 I was climbing up a slightly rocky but not difficult incline, labelled “black trail” and before 6:00 I was climbing towards Neve Ilan – 5.5km, and a grade of 5-8%.  Well – let’s just say that less than half-way up, I started running out of gas and walked a couple of the tougher stretches.

Just before Neve Ilan, I got a flat tire, my spare had a hole and the original had a broken nipple.  Took a plastic bag and wrapped it around the tire, between the plastic bag and the goo, and frequent stops to pump in air – I made to Neve Ilan by 8:00. Tried riding back down the first big hill and the tire was obviously in no shape to take me home – well maybe to the Neve Ilan gas station – about 3 km in the other direction.

No point tempting fate… fast forward to the end – I called up my son Shlomi, got him out of bed and ordered a pickup at the Neve Ilan gas station.  It’s great having drivers on tap like that…

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