Thursday, February 14, 2008

Inspiration from a Legend - A Chat with Gideon Gartner

Professor Ed Roberts arranged an especially inspiring talk on Tuesday with Gideon Gartner, the technology research legend. As those of you who have sat next to me know, I never take notes, but Gartner inspired me to write down a few.

Some highlights are below, besides old rival Howard Anderson (former CEO of Yankee Group) showing up and Gideon talking a little bit of friendly smack to him. Too bad George Colony from Forrester (who seems like a gunner from the one time I played low-stakes poker with him) wasn't there to throw fuel on the fire.

Gideon recommended Ronald Cohen's The Second Bounce of the Ball, which I intend to pickup first chance I get.

Here are Gideon Gartner's 8 pieces of advice for an entrepreneur:

1) Overcome obstacles (there will be plenty)
2) Question the status quo
3) Be opportunistic
4) Be a resilient risk taker
5) Be a change agent
6) Be different
7) Be creative
8) Networking is really important

Gartner's research process:

1) Scan the large universe of what data is out there.
2) Look for patterns.
3) Create research and present it the group (something he called a stalking horse) using a pictorial representation (hence the genesis of much of Gartner's great research visualization).

He clearly thought that the brouhaha over magic quadrants is a little over the top. To close, Gideon said about the squawking and tech CEOs in their boardrooms talking about inching up on the Magic Quadrant. "The marketplace out there is really not that bright."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Five Interesting Takeaways from MIT Workshop on High Tech Startups

This post, adapted from a small paper from the class highlights five key takeaways from the fantastic MIT IAP 15.976 workshop on High Tech startups taught by Virtual Iron's Mike Grandinetti. I tried to pick five more subtle points to write about that were particularly unique versus the backdrop of the E&I program, and all the lectures and speakers I have seen this semester on the topic of entrepreneurship. Overall, the week was full of fantastic advice from seasoned, successful entrepreneurs. This doesn't exactly fit with what I usually write about in the blog, but perhaps some will stumble upon this and find these useful.

Intellectual property: Expensive, Complicated and Very, Very Important

Overall, I thought that the session on intellectual property was an excellent primer that provided a good overview of what someone starting a new enterprise needs to know. From the talk, I gather that IP lawyers don’t just exist to glance over things, but it is an area where a whole strategy needs to be outlined and executed on, and competitive advantage can be created if this is done properly. I thought that this section dovetailed nicely with Joe Hadzima’s talk and Yonald Cherry’s specific case in the Nuts & Bolts of Business plans IAP class.

An Oft-Overlooked Consideration for Emerging Technologies: Policy Environment

With emerging technology, being in the right place with the right product at the right time is huge. One subtle point that I thought was very important in General Catalyst partner Hemant Taneja’s talk was the importance of public policy on certain technologies, especially emerging spaces like CleanTech. Maybe it isn’t one of Porter’s Five Forces, but this seems to be an important consideration in entering any new market, especially if you are part of a new market. Or I suppose legislation can create completely new markets on its own (e.g. Sarbanes-Oxley compliance). In any case, yet another good reason to read The Economist.

You Exist When Gartner Says So: Covering Industry Analysts for Your New Enterprise

In Mike Grandinetti’s talk about enabling your new firm’s sales force, he gave a great tip about how important it is to ensure that key industry analysts are properly informed about your product. Coming from the other side where I was consultant advising CIO types, I can see the truth of his wisdom here. If it wasn’t on a Gartner Magic Quadrant, it was awfully hard to get it in the consideration set. I think this piece of advice ties in well with something Diane Greene said during the Silicon Valley E&I trek, which was to make sure to cover key bloggers in your business as well, some of whom have become de facto IDCs.

Find Your Buyer and Then His or Her Price

Ken Morse had an excellent tip about identifying the person in the organization who can write the check, and the pricing it at a point where they can write a check without needing 18 approvals that will take 50 years. Another great reminder was to take a percentage of savings. That’s how my previous boss, a MIT Sloan alum, made his millions. I wonder if he got the idea to start pricing that way from Ken!

The Importance of the Implicit Threat of Future Reference Checks

From the very useful talk Laura Barker Morse and Craig Driscoll gave on human resources, one key point was that just the implied threat of a thorough reference/prior employer check early in the interview will keep the conversation more grounded in reality. I will definitely use this tactic in the future.