Category: Business

Forbes Crunched

My tweetstream has been backfilled this evening with (entirely deserved!) kudos upon HubSpot regarding their placement in Forbes’s America’s 100 Most Promising Private Companies article. Since I pay attention to regional tech startup competitiveness, I was curious to slice and dice Forbes’s numbers on a state level to see what’s what.

It’s admittedly a roughshod cut of the data, but here’s the quick output:

The first set of numbers are for the complete 100 companies in the list. The second set are for the 48 of the companies that are technology firms (my analysis*). Green numbers are above the mean for the category and red numbers are below the mean.

I am neither drawing conclusions nor making any value judgements on the output (yet). Just sayin’…


* These are software companies and computer hardware companies. The medical company that sells systems that read doctor’s notes is included. The medical company that makes artificial hearts is not included. If you don’t like my division, do your own analysis 😉

Competition Fucking Rocks!!!

I still have my iPhone 3GS, and it’s a solid device, for sure. The iPhone 4 is very cool. The rumored next-gen iPhone looks quite nice too.

But the pace of innovation in handsets outside the iOS world seems to just be accelerating and accelerating. This article discusses five upcoming Android devices – including the Nexus Prime that I’m particularly curious about (my Nexus One is still my main squeeze).

Long term, Apple simply won’t be able to keep up with the pace of change of dozens of independent handset manufacturers who spend their EVERY WAKING HOUR working to out-do their counterparts. Competition is a great fucking thing, and Apple has nobody shoving hard on their back.

Similarly, the tablet market is going to evolve in the same way. Today, you’d literally have to shoot me, stab me, and dump me in a ditch to pry my iPad 2 out of my hands. But in 12 months or 18 months the market will have radically shifted in favor of a more open OS than what Apple can offer – because the hardware manufacturers are WILDLY more paranoid than Apple cares to be.

PS: my wife inherited my iPhone 3GS some time ago, and last week she replaced it with an Android phone

The Tasty Sausage of Startups

Startups are all about making sausage. Until the mixture ends up in the casing, it’s messy, chaotic, unattractive and even scary. And of course once you’ve got one set of sausage made, you start all over again! This is the life we choose :).

play140 is at a stage where we’re rapidly shoving stuff into casing these days. The first few links are out, and DAMN they’re yummy! Crazy marketing traction. Truly global uptake. All sorts of double and triple digit stat growth on a daily basis. We’re all working like dogs to fill the casings but lovin’ every minute (and there are lots of minutes!) of it. Over the next week or so this batch of sausage will be wrapped up – so I for one am lookin’ forward to a few great weeks of progress!

Nom nom nom! Sausage!

Help us test T.A.G. on Facebook (it’s fun!)

My company play140 has just put live our game T.A.G. The Acronym Game on FACEBOOK! If you can spare a few minutes to poke at it and give us feedback (it’s definitely still “alpha”) that’d be stupendously helpful.

Blog post:

More info:

The Facebook App (if you have no patience!):


Changes at TechStars Boston

As most of the people around me know, this fall has been nothing short of insane for me. Good insane, but insane. I’ve been trying to hire an EA for the last three weeks – but haven’t had the bandwidth. That’s what it’s come to! Oy!

This spring I started a new company play140 which has now raised seed funding, is growing to five employees, and launches formally in a few weeks. I started teaching this year in a new masters program at Boston University, which has been rewarding, but certainly time consuming. Of course once TechStars Boston 2010 wrapped, I started working on preparations for TechStars Boston 2011. Oh – and I have a wife and two kids and a house and some consulting clients 😉 .

Something had to give.

When applications opened last week for TechStars Boston 2011, the reality of the 24-hours-in-a-day constraint started settling in. David Cohen, CEO of TechStars, and I had a number of back-and-forths and we’ve come to the conclusion that I should bow out of TechStars.

David has asked me to stay on as a mentor in Boston, which I, of course, plan to do! We do not have a new Managing Director for Boston sorted out, but are obviously working feverishly on that now. If you know someone you think could be a good fit, let us know!

Obviously this is a sad transition for me. However, I am immensely proud of what I have been able to accomplish getting TechStars setup, running, and now firmly-established in my home town. Go Boston! To whoever takes over for 2011: please don’t fuck it up! 🙂 .

The last two years of running TechStars Boston have been an incredible incredible experience. I have to thank a bunch of amazing people without whom the two programs wouldn’t have been a success. First, the 19 stupendous TechStars Boston companies from the 2009 and 2010 programs, who continue to kick ass. Second, the AMAZING Boston mentors, whose dedication and willingness to help the next generation of entrepreneurs appears to know no bounds. Thank you thank you thank you. Third, the bold investors who were willing to make TechStars a reality in Boston. Fourth, the stellar interns, advisors, and Diane & Elizabeth – all of whom kept the wheels on the car as it careened along its way! And last, but certainly not least, David Cohen who created TechStars and made the whole thing possible; and Brad Feld who thought I might really dig this – you were right, dude – thanks!

Ready to Hire = Ready to Fire

Jeff Bennett of incredibly cool service (and a TechStars Boston mentor) posted a deck on hiring for startups he used in helping out with the Mass Challenge companies. If you’re a startup and you’re thinking of starting to hire your first employees, you’d be well-served to give it a once-through (if not a twice-through or thrice-through!).

One thing I wanted to add to the discussion is the notion that if you’re “ready to hire” then you also must be “ready to fire.” All too often, entrepreneurs put tremendous thought, time, and care into the hiring process (as we should!) but fail to be as diligent when it comes time to let those same employees go if the fit isn’t right.

Layoffs driven by lack of cash are one thing – they happen and your decision process to let people go is largely out of your direct control. So that’s straightforward. But the more problematic situations are when you have hired wrong (and it WILL happen!) and you need to terminate that person.

Entrepreneurs are hopeful, optimistic people. QED. We couldn’t do what we do without being somewhat irrational 🙂 .

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, bad employees are often like a cancer. Their bad attitudes, their bad cultural fit, their bad work ethic – and whatever else makes them bad for your organization – will impede the rest of your company. Your good employees will question your judgment the longer you keep bad employees around. They’re not stupid (or you wouldn’t have hired ’em and kept them around!!). These bad employees WILL slow your business down. In case you haven’t had your morning coffee yet: slow = bad.

Firing people is hard. It should be hard. You’re fucking with their livelihood and probably their families. That’s why we try so hard to hire right. But you will have to fire people and you must be able to do it. The smaller your company is, the less bandwidth you have to “fix” a bad hire. Cut them loose. Have a good cry and/or a stiff drink. Move on.

My friend Will Herman has put together some useful thoughts on the firing/layoff process that’s worth checking out.

Net-net: don’t hire unless you’re also ready to fire.

A Letter to Entrepreneurs

Dear Entrepreneur:

It has recently come to my attention that you are making some rookie mistakes raising capital. I’m told some of these have been expensive mistakes, sucking hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars out of your moth-eaten pockets. As it is in the best interest of the entrepreneurial ecosystem for all parties to be educated, I am writing to you today to address one error you are committing.

That error is the sin of paying to pitch to investors. Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, just stop doing it. It rewards shitty behavior. It props up lame investors. It makes you look like a fool. It propagates bad behavior throughout the ecosystem.

If you really have something cool to pitch, I promise you that investors really really want to hear from you. Trust me. Pick up the phone and make some calls. Talk to your mentors and co-workers and professors and friends and family and make some connections. Do your research. Get in touch with the right investors. You don’t have to pay to get a meeting.

In fact, if you walk up to an investor and tell them “Hi, my name is Bob and I just paid thousands of dollars to pitch to you!” I promise you the investor is going to think: “Wow. Bob’s a moron. I’m sure as shit never gonna fund Bob.”

If you want to pitch investors, make a connection to them. In the world of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more (and don’t forget the old standby: the telephone!) anybody with a pulse and useful brain cells should be able to make connections to meaningful investment groups. A few emails and calls are a LOT cheaper than some of the whack things I see going on out there. Let’s stop the insanity.

Of course it is a free country. If you must flush your money down the toilet, then that is absolutely your prerogative. Just don’t expect caviar and wine to spew out when the toilet backs up.