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Ben Horowitz on Product CEO Paradox

August 10th, 2013 admin No comments

From “Why Founders Fail: Th eProduct CEO Paradox

“The Product CEO Paradox

A friend of mine led his company from nothing to over $1 billion in revenue in record time by relentlessly pursuing his product vision. He did so by intimately involving himself in the intricate details of his company’s product planning and execution. This worked brilliantly up to about 500 employees. Then, as the company continued to scale, things started to degenerate. He went from being the visionary product founder who kept cohesion and context across the increasingly complex product line to the seemingly arbitrary decision maker and product bottleneck. This frustrated employees and slowed development. In reaction to that problem and to help the company scale, he backed off and started delegating all the major product decisions and direction to the team. And then he ran smack into the Product CEO Paradox: The only thing that will wreck a company faster than the product CEO being highly engaged in the product is the product CEO disengaging from the product.

This happens all the time. A founder develops a breakthrough idea and starts a company to build it. As originator of the idea, she works tirelessly to bring it to life by involving herself in every detail of the product to ensure that the execution meets the vision. The product succeeds and the company grows. Then somewhere along the line, employees start complaining that the CEO is paying too much attention to what the employees can do better without her and not enough attention to the rest of the company. The board or CEO Coach then advises the founder to “trust her people and delegate.” And then the product loses focus and starts to look like a camel (a horse built by committee). In the meanwhile, it turns out that the CEO was only world-class at the product, so she effectively transformed herself from an excellent, product-oriented CEO into a crappy, general-purpose CEO. Looks like we need a new CEO.

How can we prevent that? It turns out that almost all the great product-oriented founder/CEOs stay involved in the product throughout their careers. Bill Gates sat in every product review at Microsoft until he retired. Larry Ellison still runs the product strategy at Oracle. Steve Jobs famously weighed in on every important product direction at Apple. Mark Zuckerberg drives the product direction at Facebook. How do they do it without blowing their companies to bits?

Over the years, each one of them reduced their level of involvement in any individual set of product decisions, but maintained their essential involvement. The product-oriented CEO’s essential involvement consists of at least the following activities:

Keep and drive the product vision. The CEO does not have to create the entire product vision, but the product-oriented CEO must drive the vision that she chooses. She is the one person who is both in position to see what must be done and to resource it correctly.

Maintain the quality standard. How good must a product be to be good enough? This is an incredibly tough question to answer and it must be consistent and part of the culture. It was easy to see the power of doing this right when Steve Jobs ran Apple, as he drove a standard that created incredible customer loyalty.

Be the integrator. When Larry Page took over as CEO of Google, he spent a huge amount of his time forcing every product group to get to a common user profile and sharing paradigm. Why? Because he had to. It would never have happened without the CEO making it happen. It was nobody else’s top priority.

Make people consider the data they don’t have. In today’s world, product teams have access to an unprecedented set of data on the products that they’ve built. Left to themselves, they will optimize the product around the data they have. But what of the data they don’t have? What about the products and features that need to be built that the customers can’t imagine? Who will make that a priority? The CEO.

But how do you do that and only that if you have been involved in the product at a much deeper level the whole way? How do you back off gracefully in general without backing off at all in some areas? At some point, you must formally structure your product involvement. You must transition from your intimately involved motion to a process that enables you to make your contribution without disempowering your team or driving them bananas. The exact process depends on you, your strengths, your work style and your personality, but will usually benefit from these elements:

Write it; don’t say it. If there is something that you want in the products, then write it out completely. Not as a quick email, but as a formal document. This will maximize clarity while serving to limit your involvement to those things that you have thought all the way through.

Formalize and attend product reviews. If teams know that they should expect a regular review where you will check the consistency with the vision, the quality of the design, the progress against their integration goals, etc., it will feel much less disempowering than if you change their direction in the hallway.

Don’t communicate direction outside of your formal mechanisms. It’s fine and necessary to continue to talk to individual engineers and product managers in an ad hoc fashion, because you need to continually update your understanding of what’s going on. But resist the attempt to jump in and give direction in these scenarios. Only give direction via a formal communication channel like the ones described above.

Note that it is really difficult to back off of any non-essential involvement yet remain engaged where you are needed. This is where most people blow themselves up: either by not letting go or by letting go. If you find yourself where my friend found himself — you cannot let go a little without letting go entirely — then you probably should consider a CEO change. But don’t do that. Learn how to do this.”

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Enterprise Social Marketing Platforms

August 1st, 2013 qingfeng No comments

As companies chase social media eye balls and also need to gather feedbacks from users, enterprise social marketing platforms are rising to feed to need and gaining traction. 

Oracle bought Virtrue for $300Million

Saleforce bought BuddyMedia for $689million

Now HootSuite is being valued at $500million [1]

How much will Buffer be evaluated at?

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SmartWatch Watch

August 1st, 2013 admin No comments

While there are Apple, MSFT, Samsung smart watch rumors flying around, there are a few companies already revealing there work in progress.  The following is a list of companies/products worth watching:

Pebble

Basis

Metawatch

HOT Watch

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Very Interesting Post on Apple App Store Strategies

May 14th, 2010 qingfeng No comments

Spreadsong

Apple’s Amazon

There aren’t two App Stores, differentiated by how price conscious users are- there’s three! Overall Top 100, Category Top 25, and The Great Unwashed. Since no one wants to be in The Great Unwashed, and most of us don’t have the cash to get into the Top 100, lets talk about how to get into your category’s Top 25.

The most important thing for an iPhone app is to be in the Top 25 of a category or sub-category- it doesn’t matter what that category is! As long as you are in the Top 25 of one, you’ll have a steady base of traffic.

The App Store is an Amazon River of money- pageviews, dollars, and clicks flow through in unimaginable volume. The New page at the front of the App Store gets the full torrent of that traffic- it doesn’t matter how terrible your app performs, if you are featured, you’ll get huge sales by volume alone.

We see this time and time again in the Books category- you’ll have a third tier app that’s been stuck around 50th place for months, Apple features them, and, poof! They’ll be #1 in Books and in the Overall Top 100 for about three days. After those three days they’ll slide off the Featured list and lose momentum quickly. Within another day or so they’ll be out of the Overall Top 100, and, within a week of being originally featured, begin their inexorable slide back down to the pits of the Books category.
Categories

Outside of hitting the jackpot and being featured, the best way to make money on the App Store is to focus on a category and get to the Top 25 of it. It’s almost impossible to stay in the Overall Top 100 for a sustained amount of time, without a sustained amount of advertising money. But, when it comes to individual categories and sub-categories, you can maintain a high position for quite a long time. We’ve been in the Top Ten of books for about six months straight at this point.

Categories make up the river delta of the App Store’s Amazon. From the flow of the Featured tab the traffic spreads into a dozen directions, and, from there, subdivides further in the case of Games. For Books, being in the Top 10 means $300 a day. For other categories you’ll be looking at anywhere from $50 to $500. Here’s the key, though- as long as you maintain rank, that’s money in the bank. It’s steady. It’s dependable. As long as you maintain your rank.

Even when talking about high quality, higher priced apps like Things, they still usually can be found in the Top 25 of their given category. After the Top 25 volume dissipates so quickly you might as well not exist.
Rank

Rank is everything.

The iPhone’s screen can only see four apps when pulling up a category. The fifth has only half visible. Below the Top Five, you have to swipe to reveal each additional app. After App #25 you have to reveal the next ‘page’ of 25 apps, destroying the quantity of eyeballs seeing your app’s listing.

When launching your app, your target should be to be in the Top Four- that’s where the money is, because people don’t have to swipe below the fold to see you. The #1 position in a category is obviously awesome on its own- we’re enjoying the fruits of it right now. We usually do $300-$400/day in 4th-6th place. Since going #1 we’ve been doing $700-$900/day, net. Not too shabby.
Rank to Rank

Ok, so category rank is important, and no one without TapTapTap’s advertising budget should focus in on the Top 100 right off the bat. But, given a focus on ranking in a category, how exactly do you do that?

Getting into the Top 100 of a category is the first step- if you don’t exist after the Top 25 of a category, you REALLY don’t exist after the Top 100. Fortunately, though, it doesn’t take a lot of sales to get into the Top 100 of most categories. 25/day should suffice for sneaking into 98th place or so.

It’s getting from 98th to 4th that’s the trick :)

Here’s the key- at no point are you competing with the 4th place app, until you are within a screen of them. If you’re within 2-3 ranks of them, you’re fighting for conversions. When you’re 60 spots away, it doesn’t matter. At every stage you simply have to out-convert the app in front of you.
The Three Factors

Here’s the second key- you only have control over three factors in this phase of the battle. Title, icon, and price. Based on those three factors people will decided whether to tap on your app or the app next to yours.

Seems obvious, but looking around at most titles, it seems like most folks don’t focus on this.

If you’re doing your own outside marketing, have a ball! Go with whatever you want. But, if you want to take advantage of organic App Store traffic, you’ll need to optimize the hell out of those three factors. If your title doesn’t describe your app effectively and interestingly, you won’t have a prayer of a chance of out-converting the next guy.

Further, your title is just as important in App Store search marketing as Google search marketing- the words you choose will help determine which App Store searches you show in. If you make up a word, people won’t be searching for you unless you do your own marketing.

It’s about brand versus product- if you’re a startup building a brand, you’ll want that brand front and center. If you’re releasing a product, you want to make money every month, and might not care about brand as much as conversion rate.

A great example is DailyBurn- their primary app is called – you guessed it! – DailyBurn. However, their side-product is called ‘FoodScanner’. Self-descriptive enough, it helps you keep track of what you eat. Simple, to the point, stands out in a list. People who know about DailyBurn can get DailyBurn straightaway.

People who have never heard of DailyBurn will notice FoodScanner, pay money, and get upsold from the product to the brand.

As for icon- does it describe your app? It’s one of the three things in your power at launch. Will someone have a good idea of what your app is about? Will it stand out in a list of other apps? Will it draw peoples’ eye when they just scrolled through eighty other apps? Stand out!

As for price- if you want a better shot at the Top 100, good money seems to be on 99 cents. But, again, are you really shooting for the Top 100? Are you going to be able to buy enough volume – at least 1000 sales a day – through advertising? Or, alternatively, do you already have a built-in audience waiting for your app? If not, price higher.

Being at $1.99, in our experience probably won’t hurt your sales much. And, almost assuredly, you won’t generate enough extra volume at 99 cents to justify the hit to revenue. At the very least, launch at $1.99 and see how things go. If you get into the Top 25 of your category, you’ll have significantly more revenue than an equivalent application in your slot. It seems from our testing that $2.99 can significantly hurt sales, but being 99 cents never increases volume enough to justify not being $1.99.
But… but… those are all low prices!

The App Store is about high volume, low cost distribution with a lot of software sales overhead removed. Take it or leave it.
Search

Three factors here- title, company name, and keywords. If you’re targeting something specific and have it in both your title and a bunch of your keywords, that will help you rank for the search term. If you have it in your title, keywords, AND company name, so much the better. It seems that search results are slightly weighted towards paid applications, with overall rank mixing with title/keywords/company name to determine your placement. Pick a good title, think through your keywords, rank high- search will then take care of itself.
Tools of the Trade
Appviz

The best sales tool around. Fetches your sales info from iTunes Connect, makes it look great, creates shiny grafts, and even provides a list of your app’s reviews.
Applyzer

The best rank tool around. For just a couple bucks an app it gives you access to your current rank in every market, shows you graphs of your rank over the past 30 days, and generally helps you keep tabs on what’s going on around the world. To make it even better, track your category competition as well :)
Appsto.re

You’d almost think companies like having ‘app’ in their name, or something. A free service that spits out a purchase link for your app and tells you how many of those clicks actually convert into purchases. You can do this on your own through LinkExchange and earn a 5% commission from Apple on your own app, but they make it so wicked easy I don’t bother.
Appirator

Install this in your app, immediately! It’s directly responsible for helping increase our rating rate among our most hardcore users, giving us the boost we needed to get to #1 in Books. And, yeah, it does look like App Pirator. Their name sucks, but install it anyways!
Tender

Not specifically related to the iPhone, but it’s phenomenal for support. Allows you to conduct your customer service entirely through email, but also provides a great web interface for checking your response time, checking in on outstanding issues, seeing who’s left in your support queue, and generally just making sure you don’t accidentally have an email fall through the cracks.
Heroku

We use them for our servers, so we don’t have to worry about our servers.
New Relic

Server monitoring that’s better than anything you’ll come up with for server monitoring. Pay up!
That’s it!

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Interesting Examples of Game Mechanics

April 29th, 2010 qingfeng No comments

Game Mechanics – the new black – Jon Carder

Below are the four elements that Groupon, foursquare, frequent flyer programs and just about any other successful game all have in common. In addition I’ve included three nice-to-haves.

Must-haves:

1. Action
2. Goal
3. Scoreboard/Feedback
4. Reward

Nice-to-haves

1. Competition
2. Countdown Timer
3. Social

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Startup’s top priority: Product Discovery

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

Nice one from Paul of Dropbox
lolstartups, Product Discovery not Software Development

If you’re building a new product, your biggest risk isn’t that you won’t be able to reach a mainstream audience, but that you’ll fail to attract even 50 users that love your product.

When embarking on a new venture, your goal isn’t to implement any specific idea in the best way possible, but to iterate as fast as you can, till someone is passionate about whatever product you’ll eventually converge on. Don’t worry about being scalable or cross-platform. So what if IE6 users can’t use your app – you’ve yet to find anyone that wants to use your useless app anyway. Anything that reduces your speed of iteration is poison to your startup at this point.

Yes, we ridicule companies that fail to scale when they start becoming successful, but keep in mind – they’ve become successful and that makes them extraordinary in so many ways. Maybe they didn’t become successful despite being scrappy, but because they were scrappy. Seriously, once you have users that want to use your product but can’t because your tech sucks, you’ve basically won. After all, what you’ve been doing is product discovery, not software development. The tech really is the easy part, since it only becomes important once you have something that people actually want to use.

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Four intesting startup advice

November 24th, 2009 qingfeng No comments

Hacker News | Tell HN: Four (hopefully) unique and useful start-up tips

== 1. Learn to say “no” gracefully == A lot of tips stress the importance of saying “no”, turning down projects that you can’t do, and focusing on your core competencies. This is all great advice. However, in my experience, saying no is not always an easy task. Often times, you’ll be saying “no” to an existing partner, or someone with whom you might want to develop a business relationship in the future. It’s important to learn how to say “no” gracefully, burning no bridges in the process. By all means, be clear in your response, but don’t be a jerk about it, and leave the option open for future discussion at a time of your choosing.

Most online industries have relatively small social circles, and it’s important to be respectful, even if you can’t possibly understand why you might want something that another person is offering. Situations and circumstances change; you might need those connections in the future.

== 2. Negotiate everything == Get in the habit of negotiating everything. “You don’t ask, you don’t get”. Remember that phrase and repeat it to yourself. Revenue shares, commissions, server costs, bandwidth costs, CDN costs, software costs, marketing costs, conference ticket prices and contracts are all negotiable. At first you might feel weird asking for a discount, but pretty soon you get used to it, and it will become natural. Contrary to what you might assume, most people won’t find your request offensive, and you wont sound like a jerk. You don’t ask, you don’t get.

You’ll find it changes your life, not just your business. I negotiate everything now, and it’s probably saved me thousands of dollars this year alone, all for a few minutes of work. Car repairs, hotel prices, restaurant reservation times, and most recently an engagement ring from a high end jeweler that supposedly “didn’t negotiate” ;) Remember: you don’t ask, you don’t get.

== 3. Don’t obsess over stats == If you run an online business, it is easy to get caught up in the habit of checking your stats repeatedly throughout the day. Maybe you check your revenue reports every hour. You know how it’s “supposed” to look at 11AM on a Friday, and if it isn’t hitting your past targets you get discouraged and distracted, searching for a reason. Maybe your traffic is slightly down from what it was a week ago.

The problem with this is three-fold. First, it’s a huge distraction. It takes your attention away from other tasks you could be doing. It distracts your focus from long term, strategic thinking. Second, day to day (or even hour to hour) data is unreliable and unpredictable. There are seasonal trends. There are 500 other factors outside your control. Third, it accomplishes nothing. Checking your stats isn’t going to change them.

Start checking your stats only once a day, at most. That way, you’ll be alerted to any potentially significant changes (i.e. your ecommerce engine is down), but still be able to keep focused on your daily tasks and the big picture, which is going to make more of a difference in the long run.

== 4. Make money == Ok, so this one is pretty obvious. But it’s shocking how often it is ignored. There are plenty of reasons to justify starting a business. Maybe you want to work for yourself, maybe you like the challenge, or maybe you really want to change the world. But it won’t matter if you aren’t making any money. Trust me.

A lot of times you will be faced with hard choices. Should I put this ad up here? Will this feature make my app/site look too commercial? Should I charge? If you don’t have a proven business model, you need to make figuring it out your NUMBER ONE priority.

If you’re only getting 1,000 visitors a day, it might seem hard to justify putting up an ad to get what might seem like chump change. But, by doing so, you’ll understand where your money is coming from, and what kind of traffic levels it will take to get you to where you really want to go. Most importantly, you might find that your business model doesn’t really scale, and it will force you to think of a new one. Better now than later. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise, or you’ll just be delaying the inevitable.

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Product development and innovation

November 10th, 2009 qingfeng No comments

Why Apple doesn’t do “Concept Products” « counternotions

In my opinion, product development is about building knowledge – about a lot of things: technology, end-users, behaviour, processes, infrastructure, interoperability… Good companies, like Apple, has the ability to build this knowledge into their products. They also organise themselves to facilitate this kind of learning.

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Bryan Dyson’s Speech Regarding Life Work Balance

September 15th, 2009 qingfeng No comments

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit…and you are keeping all of them in the air.

You will soon understand that work is like a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

How?

Don’t undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Don’t set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

Don’t take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as they would your life, for without them, life is meaningless.

Don’t let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live ALL the days of your life.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us together.

Don’t shut love out of your life by saying it’s impossible to find time. The quickest way to receive love is to give, the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly, and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

Don’t run through life so fast that you forget not only where you’ve been, but also where you are going.

Don’t forget a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

Don’t be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.

Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step and each day along the way.

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Installing Ubuntu 8.04 in Virtual PC

September 10th, 2009 qingfeng No comments

In my case it needs the following to pass a “unrecoverable error”:

F4 – Safe Graphics Mode
F6 – add “vga=791 noreplace-paravirt”

It work quite some time to find the working solution,  might as well share it here.

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