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Good article on 11 Startup Skills You Won’t Learn in School

Article in Inc. by Young Entrepreneur Council  @YEC



More Visas for Technology Skills?

Should we increase H-1B visas by 20,000?  Charge more per visa to fund U.S. STEM education?  Reallocate 20,000 unused green cards to tech workers?

Where do you stand on these visa issues?  And on technology education, encouragement, and training in the U.S.?

“Brad Smith, Microsoft’s executive vice president and general counsel, said the U.S. education products only half of the graduates needed to fill the estimated 120,000 computer-related jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree that will be created in each of the next 10 years. “It’s a problem that’s approaching dimensions of a genuine crisis,” he argued, adding that his company has 6,000 unfilled positions, including 3,400 openings for researchers, developers and engineers.”

See Susan Hall’s full article:



Recent James Gosling Talk – comments and video link

I had the pleasure of hearing James Gosling, “Father of Java”, talk recently at the Mountain View Googleplex for the SV Web JUG and SV JavaFX UG groups.  He simply opened up with Q&A, and the questions poured until he cut them off.

It’s refreshing to hear someone with deep expertise talk easily, candidly, and with humour.  Gosling said he was “shocked as hell” by the recent IBM and Apple truce, and thinks Oracle really didn’t know what they had bought when they got hold of Sun/Java.  A big question mark hovers over real-time embedded as they don’t yet understand it.  Still, Gosling is optimistic about Java under the Oracle umbrella.
What to do with Java as we move toward multi-core  computers is a fascinating issue for him – what happens when core count becomes exponential?

Gosling is frustrated by all the attention web engineering gets when he claims it is only about 10% of the computing landscape.  Biology; modern medical research, such as protein folding; computer simulation in modern materials; and “neolithic” car systems replacement are examples of a few other areas dependent on computing.  Most scientists write code!

He points out that it is challenging to get kids excited about computing and tech jobs:  Enrollment in tech related majors has declined since the dot com bust due, in part, to a false sense that all the tech jobs are overseas when the truth is there are LOTS of tech jobs EVERYWHERE.  He pointed out the efforts of the Alice project at Carnegie-Mellon to engage youth in tech.

What is Gosling up to now?  Working with VW and the Stanford Lab Vehicle Group on the math behind skidding.  Watch how their vehicle does on a gravel climb at the Pikes Peak Rally in 2011!

Fun facts:
·         Second favorite language is Scala.
·         He’s hooked by the “lame but damn compelling” game of Fruit Ninja.
·         He crawled the tunnels of CERN before they turned it on.
·         He attended the Washington DC Rally to Restore Sanity.

You won’t find Gosling on social media anytime soon – he’s simply not interested – but I recommend you catch his next talk and watch the  video from November 17th, 2010 on Markana. Hear his commentary about the forking of Java due to Apache quitting the JSP;  the Java mobile world becoming fractured;  Steve Jobs deprecating Java for the Macs;  Java ME’s incredible popularity outside of North America;  the philosophical difference between Oracle Open World and JavaWorld; and why he developed Java.

Props to:  Van/Kevin (from SV Web JUG), Stephen/Keith (from SV JavaFX UG), Max Walker, and Aleksandar (Saša) Gargenta

Consumer Internet is Hot

Consumer internet is where the big acquisitions and exits are happening, according to an SDForum VC panel I heard recently.  And Q2 2010 is up significantly from Q1. (See the data detail on the PriceWaterhouseCoopers site.)

 Angels stepped in  to help new startups in the last few years, but the VC’s are starting to come back around.  There is more interest in the B2C than the B2B space right now.

Group buying, which was tried but died about 10 years ago, is now poised for a comeback.  The communications infrastructure, mobile access, and social networking is in place to make it truly successful.

The word of caution, however, is that we are likely to see some hyper-growth in the next year as investors grasp for consumer internet assets to put in their portfolios on the heels of Facebook’s recent successes, but we will likely see some valuation rebalancing for hot consumer internet assets in about 18 months.

Startup Health Litmus Test Questions for the Recruiter

I enjoy working with early-stage startups.  Some recruiters think I am crazy – the monetary compensation is not usually as high as corporate, I will often work deferred and on contingency, and the risk is great.  The searches are harder because you are looking for extreme talented people who are willing to step away from a lucrative job, bet on their ability to deliver, and work for a deferred or low initial cash compensation.  So why do I do it?  It’s FUN!  The right startup team will be comprised of very interesting, highly intelligent entrepreneurs and I love to see how they put the next best thing together.  And to build the initial team that may one day turn into the next big brand – priceless (almost!).

I have paid a heavy price from some of my earliest involvements with startups,  including extended placed contractor payroll dollars.  Also priceless – lost meals with family, missed child performances, missed paying business deals, stress, etc.  Startups are to a large extent art, and so is the decision to work with one.  I have started a list of considerations I run through now when approached by a startup to recruit.  I will share it here, and please – if you have some items or advice to add, let me know!

  • Company Viability Background
  • Value Statement – simple, clear?
  • When/Why Founded
  • Founders’ Background
    • Starts
    • Funding Connections and Experience
    • Successful exits
    • Expertise in current core industry/sector
    • Are Founders “in” 100%?  How long can they last?
  • Core Team in place?
  • Board Members
  • Competition Research
  • Current Funding Status
  • Possible exits – have they planned?
  • Early Adopters, Clients, Partners on board?
  • Software Build Framework:  Fast Engineering Iterations  (Agile)
  • User Testing – Perspective/Plan
  • Marketing Approach and Expertise
  • Experience Evaluation with other Recruiters
  • Corporate Structure?  Credit Ratings; Personal Guarantee of Financial Commitments
  • How consistent and transparent is their communication with ME?
    • Readily available by email, IM, and/or phone
    • Able to put agreements in writing and sign
    • Review and respond to candidate submissions in a timely manner
    • Give me multiple contacts, including CFO or other key finance person
    • Keep me updated on their funding progress and team changes
  • Is some payment in equity available?

Talent Makes the Company

Talent is a critical component of any business in any economy.  Is your company working hard to attract and keep the best talent?  Your company’s HR leader needs to be focused on this because it’s PEOPLE that make the difference.

If your company has turnover, WHERE is it (which teams, which managers) and WHERE do they go?  To your direct competitor(s)?  Somewhere else?

Companies that cut costs in a recession, rather than “heads”, fare better in the long run.  This is not a knee-jerk reaction:  It is a less tactical and more strategic approach.  Cutting people breaks trust with all employees, while keeping employees through the tough times fosters loyalty.

When you are considering a new company to work with, look past the base salary and also consider what kind of culture, career growth opportunities, and creative benefits they provide.  Some HR departments allow spouses to call in to handle benefits management.  Some companies have mentoring and leadership training programs, and encourage changing teams, changing offices, and promoting internally to stay challenged in your career. Career path planning and employee retention programs can tell you a great deal about how invested the company is in its employees’ job satisfaction, and its valuation of the people who make the company successful.

PHP vs. Ruby

Below is a great answer to my PHP vs. Ruby question from Geo.  Just had to share!

I asked:

Are PHP and Ruby developers ever the same animal?
Most of my clients are developing massive scale eCommerce or communication networks and only want PHP.
Where does Ruby come in – for lighter weight, rapid web development?
Does a PHP developer have deeper – or just different – coding ability?

Geo answered:


There are actually 3 points here.

  • Ruby
  • Rails
  • PHP

The issue that happens with rails is that most people introduced to Ruby have been introduced via Rails.
Rails is a framework that utilizes Ruby as language of implementation.

Now Ruby vs PHP. Not that one is better than the other, but PHP has a much more extensive library of extensions and modules, and it’s object oriented model has been implemented over time. Ruby on the other hand has been designed from the ground up as an object oriented language, and definitely has a very modern well thought out syntax. Ruby’s community and as well as libraries are growing, but it is no where near the number of PHP’s. As a language Ruby is slower than PHP, but this is a bottleneck that can be worked around. The real issue is with Rails and its tightly coupled architecture.

Rails, like I said is a framework – a contract on how an applications architecture’s base will be implemented. 9 times out of 10 Rubiest think framework first ( Rails ) vs Language first; THEY WERE INTRODUCED TO RUBY VIA RAILS. 9.9 times out of 10 perl,php, and python people think language first. The success of Rails has brought about an implementation of it MVC structure to perl, php, and python which has enabled perl,php, and python use to ADOPT BEST PRACTICES via Frameworks like symfony,zend,cakephp, django, joomla framework ( not the cms ). Now because Rails is such a “turn keyish” type of framework, issues start to occur when sites start to grow, and what happens is that because so much was done for you at the framework level, meaning “Oh, look in Rails you don’t have to worry about X, it is handled automatically”, that when issues start to occur you are not familiar thoroughly with the architecture ( internals of RAILS) that is becomes extra work to handle high loads. Some, bottle necks in Rails are, ( RAILS FANBOYS, notice how I said SOME):

  • Application startup and bootstrapping
  • Active record and database implementation layer
  • Caching without having the application bootstrap

These issues are also in CakePHP which is the closest implementation of Rails in PHP, they even copied the mistakes! Symfony, Zend, and Joomla Framework are much more loosely coupled, with Zend coming out as the loosest. To deal with very high traffic, TWITTER had to start scrapping away RAILS in certain parts and start developing with scala and even c++. Many Rails fanboys started crying when this happened.

In all, there are very competent Ruby programmers out there that aren’t tied to Rails, but nowhere near the amount of PHP.