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

Article in Inc. by Young Entrepreneur Council  @YEC



Well Employed, But…..HAPPY?

You are a great engineer / developer / lead / manager and are well-employed in this economic downturn. But are you HAPPILY employed? If you are a good to gifted developer, don’t settle for “employed” – people with big things to build are looking for you!!!

  • Are you underpaid?  If so, but you like your environment, team, and challenge, go ask for a raise!
  • Do you want, and are you on, a promotion track?  Is your company growing enough to provide that rapidly?
  • Are you sufficiently challenged?  Are you innovating with the most cutting-edge tools and technologies?
  • Are you constantly learning new skills?  If you are not, your market value is shrinking as time passes.
  • Are you loyal?  Ensure your company is loyal to you as well, and keeping your best interests in mind as well as theirs.
  • Do you have significant equity?  If you do not, perhaps a startup – early, mid or mature stage – or a small or mid-sized company is a good move for you now.  If your expertise is building the company, you should have a piece of the investment.
  • Are you aware of your options “out there”?

Assess your current situation, improve what you can on your current job, and talk to a recruiter like me to keep tabs on other opportunities, which skills are in the highest demand, what the market is paying, and which opportunities come with pay, benefits, AND equity.    Recruiters – or Head Hunters as the good ones LIKE to be called – have access to jobs and companies that you may never otherwise find.  There is no obligation to simply check in with us once in a while.  🙂

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?

Startup Mentality

I am most intrigued by working with startups, where passion, talent, and creativity reign.  Risk pressure is always present, however.  I know why I jump in as a recruiter, even though finding people who are often required to work for equity and deferred cash makes my job much more challenging:  It’s exciting to meet developers, executives, and others who are ready to take the startup plunge for the first time, and great to know a network of folks who become addicted to repeating the cycle. This is the world of game-changers.   If you are teetering on the edge of catching the startup bug, here are a few good links I found to nudge you a little closer:

Top 10 Reasons to Join a Startup:  http://www.instigatorblog.com/top-10-reasons-to-join-a-startup/2007/05/23/

How to evaluate a startup:  http://blogs.bnet.com/intercom/?p=709

How to start a startup:  http://sonyjoy.com/15-mantras-for-every-startup-that-aims-to-make-it-big/

I currently have some startup opportunities in Palo Alto, CA, for server-side and UI developers, LAMP environment, eComm and social media sectors.  Contact me at val at nerdsearch . net.

Valerie Fahs-Thatcher

VCs’ View of Software Development Today

Some notes from a great SDForum event this week with Valley VC’s.  Thanks to the panelists from Norwest Venture Partners, Altos Ventures, Hummer Winblad, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Granite Ventures, and Pillsbury Winthrop.

Venture Community investments snapshot Q3 2009:

Biotech                                 18.82%
Industrial/Energy                    17.97%
Software                              12.94%
Medical Devices                    12.80%
Media/Entertainment                9.28%

Q3 2009 had the lowest VC investment in software since 1996 (though 2007 saw software investment peaks).  VC’s think this is just a natural investment correction phase.  They already see the economy slowing turning around.

Trends and tips and hazards:

  • A revolutionary shift is underway where routers, data centers, and servers are invisible and developers can roll out of bed and create or upgrade their software!
  • We will see more pay-as-you-play; elasticity leading to scalability; infrastructure-as-a-service; platform-as-a-service.
  • Amazing analytics refinements will be made possible by cloud computing which can pre-compute undiscovered correlations for business focus now that a huge set of servers is temporarily available to spin up for the exhaustive data mining task.
  • Small companies are the innovators and should still “ride the wave” regardless of the economy.
  • The negative economic impact is on later stage businesses right now:  Exits are depressed as there is a growing consolidation of industries, fewer companies left to make acquisitions, and capital markets are down.  Your exit may take longer and hence be diluted.
  • Most revenue from enterprise software comes from maintenance contracts.  Make sure you are creating software and not “shelf-ware”!
  • Is your revenue model predictable?  (ex:  term licenses)
  • Today, software entrepreneurs should focus on solving cost-avoidance pain points with long-term solutions.
  • Make your product “sticky” to eliminate churn, and create on-demand features to increase revenue options.
  • Avoid making a presentation to a VC using the term “cloud”!!!  Emphasize the value proposition (reduction of cost of development, deployment, etc.), and the customer pain point being addressed.
  • The role of IT is changing from managing hardware to managing services.  Your in-house IT team will more frequently write code to customize desired services to the company’s environment.
  • On green software:  the opportunities (ex:  tracking carbon in/outputs) depends heavily on taxation and regulation.

Are you disruptive?  😉  Altos Ventures seeks out disruptive companies.  If your company is defining a new category of service, defines a new business model, and does not fit in the conventional ecosystem, the big companies may not know what to do with you, but Altos is interested!

-Valerie Fahs-Thatcher

Using Social Media to Raise Your Status in the Workplace

The most revered people you work with are the Engineer who has five patents under his belt, the PR executive who raised her last two consumer companies into the most talked about brands in their space, or the Executive who successfully managed his last start-up to acquisition by a multi-billion dollar Internet company.  You respect and admire them because you know that their accomplishments are great.

So why are you so shy about sharing your past achievements?  Your influence factor at work is a combination of your ties to competent, successful, dyanamic individuals and your own perceived accomplishments and talent by people around you.  Your colleagues should know about why you are good at what you do.  What is the best way to let them know you are a badass without seeming like an arrogant prig?  It’s all in your Social Profile.

There are so many different social networking sites out there but many are not especially relevant or appropriate for developing your career network.  Linked In is by far the best in the space as far as professional social networks go.  Go ahead and post your (free) profile on Linked In and just include the details that make you look good.  This is not a resume, it’s the profile of your experience and accomplishments that you want to reflect to your colleagues.  Include accollades, awards, degrees and professional organizations as well as side projects that show your entrepreneurial or creative side.

Once you have a profile completed ask a couple of people to review it and give their feedback.  Is it too wordy?  Too sparse?  Make sure it is professional but does not come across self-absorbed.  Then connect with colleagues who you respect.   Post recommendations to others’ profiles who deserve your praise and you will get some back in return.

What will the hour or two investment on developing your Linked In profile and recommendations return to you?  Your colleagues will now know how talented you are (they suspected before but now they have more information to back it up) and they will also be impressed when they see the recommendations from other people they know and respect on your profile.  You’ve suddenly been raised from “good guy” status to “badass”.

~ Tiffany Felicienne