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The next chapter…

Nolan slideThe kids and I were at the park this morning (about 80 degrees at 9:30) and while they were enjoying the slides and swings, I was pondering the next chapter. After several years in consulting, I’m joining the API Company. Apigee, based in the bay, makes tools to build and empower API’s.

The thought of the speed of life at Apigee could be a bit scary, but its not at all. Instead, I can’t wait to get into the race! Starting, growing, running and ultimately, selling WaveQ wasn’t an easy job by any stretch of the imagination. There were long hours, longer weeks and months that didn’t end. However, it never felt as exciting as this weekend, between the last chapter and on the edge of the next…

So here I am at the precipice of another chapter of life as I join a company that is growing FAST, firing on all cylinders and hitting home runs. This is the A team for sure, and I can’t wait. A group of dedicated, excited brilliant individuals, pulling together to change the way companies operate. Without exception, everyone I talked to when considering this move was excited to be at Apigee. Everyone.

So I’m ready to bring back the passion and engage it at Apigee. I’ve discovered over the years that everyone, without exception, has passion for something. Some people bring passion to EVERYTHING that they do (I’ve been accused of this). But in most companies, a small minority of the team is bringing their passion to the office every day. Well, at Apigee, it seems that everyone is bringing their passion, and that’s exciting!

Posted in Business, Passion.

When fixing systems, look at the big picture too…

2012-10-06 17.07.30Mark Cuban has a piece out about the patent system. To be clear, the patent system is not designed to make rich people. Per Wikipedia and the US Constitution. Patents are designed to “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. My paraphrase?  Patents are designed to drive growth and research by making investments in research and production safe. Many people, including Mark Cuban and me, believe that patents are a bit in left field right now.

This piece is by Mark Cuban, so it doesn’t pull many punches, gets right to the point and may go just a smidgen to far. To paraphrase, stupid patents are hurting us, not helping us and there are simple ways to fix the system. He may be right. I agree with him, but as we should all know, I’m not always right. Mark’s rules are simple, and time-boxed. They lean towards the use of patents, vs the storage of patents. In his world, patents are, and should be, a defensive weapon, not a hidden offense, so his solution begins by looking at the overall goal more than the current problem.

Mark has some interesting ideas about the stock market too. I like his ideas there. He has similar ideas. He believes that the stock market needs to be pushed back to creating capital for business. A few straightforward rules designed to make the stock market an investment arena and not a poker game. Basically, he wants stocks to be held for long periods of time, so trades on a stick that has been held for less than five years get taxed at personal income rates vs no taxes on long term investment. In addition, he would outlaw leverage. He has more detail in his blog post. Seriously. Read his stuff. Always off the cuff, but pretty well thought out.

I haven’t heard what he thinks about testing in schools, but I’d guess it’s fairly sane and to the point. That is because Mark does two things very well. To be clear, I’ve never met him, nor worked with him, but from a distance, this is what I see. First, he listens well and studies the existing systems, rules and processes in depth. Second, once he has an understanding, he doesn’t start by building on the top of the house of cards. He figures out what the key learnings should be from the existing house of cards, and then incorporates those learnings into his new thoughts, which he begins at ground level. This is about identifying the goals first, strategy second and finally implementing solid tactics.

As a society, we have a tendency to add rules and regulations on top of existing ones. An example is a check box on the 1040 asking us if our investment losses are related to the oil and gas industry. Use that box much? Over time, this builds a system that can be very complex and cumbersome. In my business career, I’ve seen this a lot. I can’t count the times that I’ve been in a meeting and the discussion is revolving around adding to a process. Often, what we’ve learned can take a 14 step process and add two branches to make it a 32 step process.  OR.  We can build a 6 step process that brings the same result.

Seriously. I run in to this ALL THE TIME! Not just in business either. A friend was taking a medication. Side effect brought on another. New side effect brought another. Finally, it got to the point that I had to take them to an appointment for discussion of a new side effect. Now I was the outsider. BUT. I did speak up when a new drug was being added to the mix. I asked a simple question. Since the original condition was temporary, and cured, couldn’t we consider an end to ALL of the medication. Long silence. Upshot. No prescription. NONE! And I’m not a doctor, but I look at systems and strategies for a living. No one was thinking about the underlying goals or strategy, ALL THOUGHT was on tactics.

As a society, we need to have a system that has a method of identifying goals, deciding on strategy, then implementing tactics. When goals change, we shouldn’t be looking at new tactics. We should review the strategy, then look at tactics.

Posted in Business.

Apple should free the web services, reap the benefits!

Apple needs to figure out the Web Services game, ASAP! Forbes has an interesting article on the topic, which includes quite a lot of commentary on a tumblr post from Patrick Gibson. Apple does a great job of focus and simplicity on hardware, and even on desktop/ios software. Arguably, no one does a better job on on focus and simplicity than Apple and the iPhone. They are so good at it that the excellence has become a bit boring. Go to the local ATT store and watch. People spend hours looking at, testing and commenting on the Windows and Android phones, then spend 30 seconds buying the Apple one.

However, many of the things that are strengths in a minimalist hardware design and the application stack, are the exact opposite in a web service. Instead of me telling you, let’s take a few examples. In my opinion, what has made Twitter so central to so many people’s lives is not the website, but the simplicity and openness. What they operate is a HUGE repository of 140 character or less messages, associated user accounts, a growing index and most importantly, an slick API. While they have experimented with locking people into their own clients, it is partially the openness of the API that has allowed the Arab Spring to happen.

Another example is Last.FM. This is the music service that Apple dreams Ping could have become. Imagine if Ping had been open? Or imagine Apple buying Last.FM and keeping it open. Instead, you basically were forced to move out of Last.FM to move to Ping. Not going to happen!

iMessages and Facetime is another example. By not allowing outside OS’s into the game, they have left the door open to Skype, Facebook and Google. Let me just say this. If Facetime was open and I could use Adium/Gaim/GTalk/Etc to interconnect for both voice and video calls, I would venture to guess that Skype would be dying. Think of the timing of the Microsoft purchase of Skype. Talk about taking the wind out of the sales. How about Siri. We already know that Siri is almost 100% processed in the cloud. They could be taking the fight to Google. Instead, Google Now is leaping ahead.

Apple views web services as a way to lock people in to their hardware. And it works a bit for that. However, in my opinion, the hardware is so good, there is no need for the lock-in. Instead, open the doors. Maybe monetize them over time, but open the door.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Apple hater, I carry both an iPhone and a MacBook, however, it isn’t an iPhone 5 (4s), nor the latest MacBook (late 2011).

Please Apple. Listen to the crowds on this. Free the services, reap the benefits!

Posted in Business, Geek.

Example. Empowerment. Opportunity.

With an 8 year old, a 2 year old and an  almost born, I’ve been thinking about education. More specifically, as we try to contain, if not handle, the tntrums of the two year old, desperation makes me think. So what do I think? Is it desperation? OK, not really, but still, there is nothing like a two year old’s tantrum to make you ponder the futility of your own influence.

So what should I be passing on to my children? What kind of school should I be readying them for? Cousins attend private schools with price tags that make Harvard seem cheap. Other cousins are home schooled. I’m a product of my parents more than the schools I attended. If I’m honest, those schools weren’t very effective at dealing with me. No more effective than I was at dealing with them, although they may have been a bit more prepared for me than I was for them.

If you look at my scholastic record though, you wouldn’t guess that I would found companies, employ friends and solve complex business problems for a living today. So what is it that I learned? Where did that come from? Was it innate? is it just our job to enable? Or should we be teaching?

So I’ve landed on a few core things: Curiosity, grit and bit of humility! That’s it. The rest is up to them. Sounds so easy. But it isn’t!

How does one “teach” curiosity or grit? This isn’t an easy road, for us or them.

Example. Empowerment. Opportunity.

That’s what I’ve decided.


Posted in Contemplative, Family.

10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employees |

Thanks to @kentlewis for pointing this article out on The list is essentially about wanting to empathize with and being on the same level as your employees.

My experience is that this is a list of items that younger, more “Gen-Y”, managers feel very comfortable sharing. This can make more “traditional” (code for older??) employees uncomfortable. That’s OK though! discomfort bring growth!

10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employees |

Posted in Business.

Thoughts, two weeks into three in India…

A bit more than two weeks into this, my second India visit, I think I’m ready to proselytize a bit, maybe even pontificate!  I’m not ready to explain the world, and I’m probably not really doing anything but rehashing the thoughts and comments of 30 or 40 people I’m talked to over the last few weeks. But I think I have a few thoughts on India and I’m ready to talk… (And we all know I like to talk)

There aren’t just millions of people here, or even hundreds of millions. There are nearly 1.2 billion in fact. And people in India are NOT timid. The push, shout, protest and generally exercise their democratic rights full tilt. Labor is available, land is expensive, but here. The educated mix with the indigent, the hard workers with the lazy. This is truly a place for everyone.

During my stay, the headlines have been rife with talk of censorship of Rushdie, the Supreme Court striking down the current cell phone (2G) licenses and the Australians playing the Indians a few times at Cricket. Passion is rampant! A striking worker was killed by the police, and the workers revolted and killed a factory manager in response. 20 minutes on the roads and you see it. Despite the heat and humidity, the people are driven.

Traffic here is an elaborate dance, a contact sport you might say. It has a fluidity. A friend described it like walking on a busy square, but that’s not quite right. To me it’s like walking in a crowd, each to his own beat and path, combined with surfing. You duck under the big waves, crossing the first lane, finally reaching the middle, then you catch the wave as and surf home, as you enter your lane. People yell, blow their horns, bump and jostle, but in the end, there is restraint in the midst of the chaos.

I’ve been reading the US news at the same time. Watching Romney and Gingrich go at it. A win for Romney, then a surprise for Gingrich, two more for Romney. Through it all, realizing that there is only one America. A bit to the right for the Republicans, a bit to the left for the Democrats. The rest of us realizing how closely aligned the two voices. We all seem to be pulling in the same direction, we just can’t agree which that is or should be. That’s not India. India has may thoughts, directions, factions, groups. When put to the test they are all for India. But they quickly, and cheerfully show their colors and tell their stories.

I’ve been talking politics and business with many people here; business associates, friends and acquaintances alike. China comes up a lot. There seems to be a worry that China is the future and that India has missed the boat. I have a few thoughts on that. Let’s take India first.

It can be incredibly hard to get things done in India. Like swimming upstream in thick batter. But a billion people have spent the last 40 years doing just that. So they are good at it. They quietly wait. Working diligently. And the get things done! There is huge strength in a quiet anarchy. India itself is beloved. But the true strength is the combination of that love for India merged with the underlying factions and disorganization. You might say that one is the cool that combines heat to build, form and temper steel.

Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Christian, Jain, Muslim (even me??). It is this mixture and co-existence that is the strength. The classes may fight and complain. The state of AP may want to split. The teaming tides bring strength.

So where does that leave China (or even the United States)?

China (to my more limited knowledge, ergo the pontification) has striven to build ONE CHINA. Any voices that are raised (or even whispered) in opposition are struck down, hidden and feared. I wish for the sake of the ruling class in China that I felt this fear was miss-founded. However, I agree with them. They should fear. Not us, but their own masses. For someday, with success will come freedom of speech. And with freedom of speech, will come angry chaos. Or at least those who have ready their history (any history, of any peoples) can see.

Finally, don’t count the Americans out. Remember, we have plenty of the best and the brightest from India AND China. Not to mention, Germany, France, England, Russia, Ukraine, etc. And even our homegrown corn-fed hordes count a bit, tongue in cheek, so to speak. Somewhere there is rumor that Americans don’t work hard. That we are lazy. To my way of thinking this is a rumor that is based on anti-union fear mongering. Somewhere, the world picked it up and believes it. But it isn’t so. My experience is that Americans are great problem solvers and our strength is in our ability to be, at the same time, hardworking, lazy, diligent, hard-headed, clever and fearless. We aren’t afraid of much, except ourselves.

Just a few thoughts…

Posted in Business, Contemplative, India, Passion, Personal, Photos, Politics.

Simplicity that leads to success…

A few months ago I was chatting with a very successful friend and I asked her about her strategy for success. She only took a few seconds to answer. When she takes over a new group she figures out the one or two things that they can maximize that will drive success. Just two things that they can do well. Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM’s CEO, is retiring and as he tells the NY Times, he developed four questions to ask his senior managers to drive them:

  1. “Why would someone spend their money with you — so what is unique about you?”
  2. “Why would somebody work for you?”
  3. “Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?”
  4. “And why would somebody invest their money with you?”

So what are your questions? What are the one or two things that you can always do to a perfection? I like Sam’s questions from IBM. I’m not certain that number 3 applies to the vast majority of small to mid-sized companies. However, they aren’t the questions that I’m going with for myself…

I’m going with:

  1. What is the problem that you solve? What is your single differentiator?
  2. What is the thing one thing you do better than anyone else?
  3. How do you make a profit and how does your profit relate to your customer’s ROI?
My goal with these questions is increase the chances of success in profit, hiring, marketing, sales and customer retention. I think that if you answer these questions with confidence, then you are on the right path.

Posted in Business.

Hindsight? Meet 2012!

We started WaveQ two years ago, and it has been a wild ride. So it has been almost two years without a post. Hanging on for dear life at times, pushing hard the whole time. Christmas is a great time to reflect though. A time to look back, a time to peer into the future. As we look forward into 2012, what is on the horizon? Or more importantly, what can we do to have an effect on what is on the horizon? It is hard enough to look back and figure out how you got to where you are, much less look forward and figure out where you are heading.

So often people say pat little things like, hindsight is 20-20. Really? My experience is that hindsight is filled with the same pitfalls that accompany foresight. The farther away from RIGHT NOW that we get, the foggier our vision, in either direction. What would you have done differently? Can you project where it would have lead you with any more accuracy than your predictions on the path that you took?

Big choices are still big. So what is it that I’m trying to say? I’m saying that wherever you are, there you are. That’s the beauty of the human condition. We have spent the last two years growing a business in the most difficult of times. But it sure didn’t feel that way. Rent prices and office availability were amazing. Competition was down, if not out. Cash flow finance was difficult, for us and for our customers, but attitude allowed that to become our advantage.

Looking back, is there a 20-20 view? What is your prediction for 2012? Mine includes lots of hard work. Fun, but still hard work. I can predict with 100% certainty that I will get up early, put in fulfilling, long days, and come home to help out with family, food and friends.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays,

Posted in Business.

Brands and customer loyalty…

Just what is a brand? How does it relate to customer loyalty? Can you control a brand? Can you build customer loyalty? Does it matter?

I argue that brand is what happens when your customers become loyal. A brand is the name that encapsulates customer loyalty. Amazon didn’t have a brand until they had customers who were loyal. That’s the moment when they became Amazon, and were no longer just a cheap bookseller. That brand allowed them to buy into the world of publishing AND while the customer loyalty allowed them to begin selling cleaning supplies.

A brand is like a savings account that pays interest. You make deposits by delivering on your promises. Just like a savings account though, you can draw the funds down. Apple did this in the 90’s by breaking promises. By the time Jobs walked in to rescue the day, Apple’s brand balance was negative. In fact, he used his own “Steve Jobs” brand to loan a bit to Apple.

He was able to take that tiny balance and by sheer force of will, energize the whole company. As a group, they then focused on a single thing. Quality of experience. That is the Apple promise, and that is what they deliver.

Amazon promised a great book buying experience and that’s what they deliver. To this day, buying a book on Amazon is fun. It is painless. So is buying a new home theater. That is their promise and they deliver.

Dell’s promise is very different. Dell promises to be the best deal. They promise to never be a waste of money. They aren’t the quickest. They won’t even guarantee a delivery date, but you always know it’s a good deal. They are the Honda of the PC world. It may not be the flashiest, but damn if it doesn’t start every time!

My experience is that when you tell people what they want to hear, it never works out. Brand is what happens when you tell people what you believe and then you deliver it. Not everyone will want to hear it, but those who do will buy and they will love you.

Two cents worth…

Posted in Business.

The “art” of work…

I’m going to start with a quote from the NY Times…

There probably aren’t many jobs that can be reduced to rule-following and still be done well. But in many jobs there is an attempt to do just this, and the perversity of it may go unnoticed by those who design the work process. Mechanics face something like this problem in the factory service manuals that we use.These manuals tell you to be systematic in eliminating variables, presenting an idealized image of diagnostic work. But they never take into account the risks of working on old machines. So you put the manual away and consider the facts before you. You do this because ultimately you are responsible to the motorcycle and its owner, not to some procedure. — Matthew B. Crawford (

While I don’t fix motorcycles for a living, I did take shop class in high school, and I have “upgraded” the intake manifold and carb in a 56 Chevy Pickup.  More importantly though, I spend a lot of time working in software development.  I also hear regularly that I’m one of those “technical” types, as opposed to a “creative” type.

Where am I going with this?  Well, all industries seem to like the idea of a manual or a process that can be easily followed.  But as with motorcycle repair, it isn’t that simple.  In fact, nothing is that simple.  Our society is chaffing at it’s manuals, and it is the people who aren’t living in a manual that seem to be happiest.  Luckily, I write interesting software and don’t live in a manual.  Don’t let that make you think I don’t hanker for the wrench and some grease though!


Posted in Business, Contemplative.