Blitzscaling 15: Diane Greene of VMware on Scaling Product & Culture

This is my 12th  blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling. Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

The previous blog related to Blitzscaling is here.

Diane Greene was a founder and the CEO of VMware from 1998 until 2008. Currently is senior vice president for Google’s cloud businesses. VMWare was the pioneer and the first successful company to provide software that can enhance the utilization of computer resources, called Virtualization.

  1. Organization culture is important when you scale your organization. And people whom you hire should be aligned with the organization culture.
  2. Help your people to leave if they are not culturally fit for your company. One way to check that is giving them the opportunity to be part of critical conversations early on and see if they are able to match with energies of people
  3. Hire ex-military people if you like them, as they are far more disciplined in their approach towards work
  4. How to bring discipline and reduce chaos in teams: Ask each team members of yours to share what’s going on in their teams by Sunday night. And as a manager, highlight what is important, collate all the notes and share it with everyone in the team.
  5. You can share the same notes with new hires so that they come to know what kind of things are going on in the team.
  6.  It is founder and leadership responsibility to put up a plan on how the team and individuals in the company should communicate with each other.
  7. When establishing your partner network, the strategy is NOT to give special preference to any one of them.
  8. If your salespeople are not giving results, its either you have a bad product market fit or your salespeople are NOT able to perform or messaging is NOT right.
  9. If you have a complex technical product to sell, put a team of 3 people in sales chasing same numbers. These 3 guys will be:
    1.  A guy, who is trying to sell product on phone
    2. A guy who is going & meeting clients and explaining things to customers from technical perspective(also called as solution’s guy)
    3.  And the third guy, who will be closing the deal. All these 3 guys should be chasing the same numbers.
  10. Establishing a partner network will act as your another direct sales channel, but make sure you have a win-win model with them. At VMWare, channel sales partners which are hardware vendors like HP & Bell, every VMware solution they sold, it leads to more hardware sales for extra storage and extra servers.
  11. To create a high-performance culture, hire people who are self-driven at all the levels in all the roles. Self-driven people who set high-expectations from themselves have high expectations from their team too.
  12. Appreciate the behaviors showcased by employees which as a founder you want them to display
  13. An advantage of under promise and overdeliver is not just it gives customers WOW, but also you decide your own pace.
  14. Best advice: “As CEO’s you never overcommunicate”

Blitzscaling 10: Selina Tobaccowala on Building a Global Business at SurveyMonkey

This is my eighth blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here.

Selina Tobaccowala was President and chief technology officer at SurveyMonkey. She has contributed alot in taking Survey Monkey global. In session 10, she shared the insights on how she managed the technology and tech people @ SurveyMonkey.Here are the session notes and my interpretations on the insights shared.

  1. When you architect your software application, not only it should scale on handling traffic, but it should also be able to handle more developers working on it. This basically means that if tomorrow you have to add more technology people in the team, they should be able to work on your code.
  2. Even if you have ended up with software code base which is monolithic( All software layers are mixed), rather than re-creating the system in new technology, pick up the part of the system which is most difficult and try to rearrange and refactor those blocks in existing architecture.
  3. When you have to take your SaaS platform globally
    1. Localisation- which means displaying data and numbers in local language, number system, and currency
    2. Integrating different payment gateways
    3. Your messaging
    4. More technology and customer support people
  4. A/B testing is important part to validate & improve the user experience of your web and mobile app
  5.  For subscription-based businesses like SurveyMonkey, important metrics to measure is (a) Number of free subscribers (b) Number of subscribers converting from free to paid
  6. While hiring, focus on behavioural interviewing to reduce bias in selecting candidates. The question in behavioural interviewing aims at learning about your past behaviours in specific work situations. In a traditional interview, you ask general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” In behavioural interviewing, questions will be like “How would you handle XYZ situation?” Try this in your next interview. At qilo, we have adopted this and it has helped me pick up really good team members.
  7. Finding up people who can help you scale up the things is damn hard. Pick up people who have both start-up and big company experience.As your company grows, keep people motivated, focused on their role/job & engaging them for the next level of the journey is a challenge.
  8. To reduce the churn rate, look at the insights from the data produced by your customer. And present that on the continues basis to right stakeholders in your company.
  9. A tech engineer looks for following qualities before joining a technology lead company:
    1. The product(s) should excite them as they will be spending many years in building and maintaining it.
    2. They will be getting the right mentor or people there to work with.
    3. Other that engineering, what other things they will learn their.
  10. Anything that is critical to run your business should be in-house. If its outsourced, bring it in-house as soon as possible
  11. Once you have money, hire a BI analyst who looks at the data and tells you: “what you have built”, “how well it was doing” and “how well its is doing”
  12. Service oriented architecture helps you to scale the software system. And as well as helps you to strcture your backend and frontend engineering teams in the proper way.
  13. People management is not for everyone. Put only those people to managerial positions who can serve their teams by acting as servants. For people who want to remain technical, define a roadmap so that they can see how they will grow in your company.
  14. Successful manager’s get satisfaction by influencing people. Technology people get satisfaction by deliverng the product.
  15. Plan every quarter what you want to achieve. And track the progress on that every week.If you don’t do it when you are small, adopting that when you will scale will be much more difficult. On tool to implement this is OKR.
  16. Reduce the time it takes to take your code from keyboard to production. To achieve this automate the deployment process.

Blitzscaling 02: Session Notes[What Makes The Best Founders By Sam Altman]

You need lots of mentoring and guidance when you are start(ing)-up or taking your start-up to next level of growth. And the best way to learn and get mentored is to read lots of books or listen to someone who has already done that. Recently I came across an awesome content on how to take your start-up from 0 to 1 to n.

In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University along with John Lilly (a partner at Greylock and formerly the CEO of Mozilla), Allen Blue (cofounder of LinkedIn), and Chris Yeh (cofounder of Allied Talent).Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale.

And I got more excited as entire session is also about why organization culture is important for blitzscaling. Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 1 is about Introduction to class. And Session 2 was with Sam Altman about “What Makes The Best Founders”.

Session 2 notes are extended with my inputs for better understanding. All these are common advice which most of us have heard again and again but often ignore.

  1. Getting things done quickly is one trait differs successful founders from those who have gone back to do job.
  2. YC prefer startup’s with 2 or more founders
  3. Issue with solofounders :- There are too many things to do at fast pace that doing it alone is tough . Second reason is start-up journey is too tough to travel alone
  4. Founding teams break-up if they don’t have an agreement on what kind of company they want to build
  5. Best start-up hire least
  6. Next successful start-up companies will never be building next Uber, Facebook, Linkedin, AirBnB(Ya I know Peter Theil also said this originally)
  7. Launch quickly and focus that users get addict to your product
  8. Whatever you are building, get 10% better every week
  9. If your users are telling you that your product sucks and new users are NOT coming, it’s time your startup is entering into the dead zone
  10.  Pivoting is not about bragging how many times you went wrong. Failure should not shake you up , but at the end failure is a failure.
  11. Pivotes work when
    1. When you leave existing thing and build something you are passionate about
    2. When you are building something which is not working & got insights which doing this that people might need.Slack started as Gaming company pivoted to a messaging company
  12.  Want to learn how start-up works, get a job in start-up that’s about to grow
  13. From product perspective, focus on LOVE not LIKE
  14. Founders’ should spend 10% to 20% of their time in solving organizational and technical debt problems. Manjor focus will always be on sales and growth.
  15. Many start-up focus on everything like getting the best logo, website, Lawyer, VC but fail to build a product which users love and get hooked to.
  16. Distractors while growing/doing start-up
    1. Focus on getting PR to show you are super hero
    2. Going to networking events
    3. Focusing on raising money than building product which actually solves a problem
  17. One mistake which every successful founder does is “Waiting too long to fire poor performers”
  18. Future belong to start-ups solving clean energy and affordable health
  19. Physical and Mental intensity required to work on start-up is HUGE, thus starting early to do start-up makes more sense.
  20. How to fire your friend from your start-up:- Remain human, treat them with respect, help them find a job

Session 1:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RrVmv5WwA

Session 2:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxKXJWf-WMg

In the subsequent weeks, I will be sharing notes for all the session. So keep watching this blog for more…………

Life cycle of fledgling ideator

I was trying to figure out what causes failure to start-up? What are the various stages a founder goes through? Or what are the various stages through which can ideator goes through when thinking about starting up. And I end up drawing following flowchart/Infographic. Give it a thought, share it and/or provide corrections. If you are not able to view the below image, then please click here

Do you need tech co-founder

Finding a technical co-founder is always a challenge for non-tech founders. That’s the reason there are specific platform’s that helps you in finding out technical cofounder. Being a technology guy, I regularly come across many non-tech co-founders who want tech guy in creating their technology platform. Certainly there is a supply demand gap for technology guys with entrepreneurial zest. Many tech guys who have that zest are running their own show (like me) and others are enjoying their safe jobs which is paying them good money. Many idea’s die or fail to get launched because non-tech founder is not able launch MVP. But have you ever given a thought that “Do you really need a tech co-founder?” Or “What are the options you have to launch MVP without tech co-founder”?

As a non-tech founder you have two different options to launch MVP without an in-house technology guy:-

1)      Learn programming: – Believe me, it’s not difficult. And once you start learning it, you will enjoy it. It gives instance results unlike sales and marketing where you have to wait endlessly to get results. And that result is mostly failure, few time success and more times no response. In programming you get results within minutes, or hours or worst case within a day. And mostly the result is a success(once you get a bit of expertise). To develop an MVP, you don’t need to be a rock-star programmer (you can always hire them later once you have raised capital). You need not to be a computer science graduate to be a programmer. In fact there are many successful software products created by people who are not from computer science background. Further after learning a bit of coding, you will be able to communicate in much better way with technical team/co-founder down the line.  And you will be able to hire a junior freelancer or college student(s) and work along with him to launch your MVP.  It will help you in marketing and sales of your product. At the end of article, have given list of platforms where you can learn programming. Now which programming languages, you should learn as beginner? I have parked this question for next post.

2)      Hire digital agency:- Now this option works well when you have money to spend upfront. There are many digital agencies out there that do awesome work at very reasonable cost. Especially in the part of world from where I am writing this blog, we have too many of them. But the art here is to find one having required technical expertise who can get work done within your budget. Again, if you have learned a bit of programming and technology jargon, you will be able to judge agency capabilities in more efficient way and will be able to negotiate well or price. But remember, if you give peanuts you will get monkeys. Better option is to give agencies money + a very small portion of equity (5% to 10%). Reason of giving equity is, it will give them sense of ownership. Don’t worry that why you should be giving them equity as it’s you who have taken all risk of leaving a job and starting up. Right now :-

Your MVP is not out in market
You don’t know whether market is there or not for your product.
You don’t have customers who are paying for your product.

So you are sitting at probably 100% equity with valuation of equity equal to ZERO. And everything divided by zero is :-(I know you are good at maths)

 

 Here a list of platforms to help you learn programming

And if you still want to find a tech co-founder, here a list of platforms to find technology co-founders.

http://builditwith.me ,   http://cofoundernetwork.com,     http://cofounderslab.com,    http://cofoundr.com, http://doerhub.com,      http://findmycofounder.com,    http://founder2be.com,     http://founderdating.com, http://foundersfarm.com,    http://foundersync.com,     http://foundrs.com,     http://startupweekend.org
http://techcofounder.com

 

PS: My mission of writing this blog is to help every non-tech co-founder launch their MVP. You can drop a mail at kohli[dot]Vikram1982[at]gmail.com if you would like to discuss about your idea and how to launch your MVP.

How to start your MVP – Part 2

In my last post, I have highlighted questions that you should be answering when you are starting your MVP. In this post, I will try to answer those questions for you.

Let’s look at the answers to these questions:-

1) Should I find technology –cofounder or hire freelancers/agency to work on MVP?

If you are not a technology guy, it’s always good to find a experienced technology co-founder who can help you with MVP and can take care if every aspect of technology once your start-up grows. But finding a good technical co-founder is very difficult. Those who have required skill to do start-up are already doing their own, or they are enjoying good salaries in software companies. If you are not able to find any passionate geek in your network, it’s better to hire freelancer or agency (small software company). But this option makes sense only if you have up-front money to invest in building your MVP.

2) Should I start learn coding/designing on my own?

Learning new things is always fun. And believe me if you are a non-techie guy then it’s fun to learn designing and programming. But trade-off will be that you will not able to launch your MVP quickly(which is far more important than spending time in learning programming). Further even creating MVP needs you to write good amount of code. Coding comes through practice(hell lot of it). But it’s better to learning programming not because you should code yourself, but because it will either help you out in choosing your technical co-founder or help you in hiring freelancers or shortlisting digital agencies for your MVP.

3) Which technology stack should I pick up?

If you understand technology then its fine to choose one. If you are not, then don’t try to choose it based on what your IT cousin told you. You will either end up selecting something which doesn’t suites your product or can create hell lot of mess for your product down the line.

4) How I should start defining the flow of my application and wireframes?

There are many tools out there that can help you out. Here is a link that can help you.
http://www.webgranth.com/10-superb-wireframe-and-mockup-tools-for-free
http://www.creativebloq.com/wireframes/top-wireframing-tools-11121302

If you are not familiar with any of the tools or you are sketchpen guy, then go ahead and use chart papers/napkins/whiteboards.

5) How much it will cost me if I outsource MVP to a digital agency?

That depends on the requirement and MVP work that needs to be achieved. Thus minimize the scope of your MVP by putting only those feature you assume your customer need. This will cost you less.DO NOT try to create full product up-front. You don’t even know whether your customer need all those feature or not. So create something minimalistic and launch it.

6) Should I create web application or mobile application or both?

Again it depends on the kind of product you are developing. Looking at the current technology eco-system, mobile provides ease of access to user. They need not to turn their on their laptop, open web browser and access your web application. With mobile customers are always connected to internet. But at a same time not all applications can be created for mobile. Further developing mobile applications are still expensive and difficult as compare to websites. To create native mobile application (native means which are installed in your mobile) are developed using different programming languages (Java/Android SDk for Android and objective-c for iPhone).Strategy should be to choose mobile (probably launch only on one platform – Android or iPhone) if you can afford and able to find someone who can develop that for you.

7) How much time it will take to develop MVP?

That’s the question ideator’s ask me pretty often. And my usual reply is what you want to get developed? And what’s the scope. That’s why it’s very important to minimize the scope/feature set of your product. It will not only cost you less money/time, but will also help you to achieve time to market very quickly. Ideally, your MVP should not take more than 1 to 3 months if executed properly.

How to start your MVP – Part 1

As an ideator you always struggle how to build your MVP quickly and cheaply. Especially if you are not from technology background, then struggle increases a bit. Execution is the key and if you dont take decision quickly, you loss that fire with which you started. In this post, I will list down all the question that you need to answer for starting with your MVP. In next post I will try to answer these questions so that it can help you in better decision making.

1) Should I find technology –cofounder or hire freelancers/agency to work on MVP?

2) Should I start learn coding/designing on my own?

3) Which technology stack should I pick up?

4) How I should start by defining the flow of the application and wireframes?

5) How much it will cost me if I outsource MVP to a digital agency?

6) Should I create web application or mobile application or both?

7) How much time it will take to develop MVP?