I attended this months SpringStage Startup Happy Hour and came to a conclusion after I spoke with a handful of startup employees and owners: Businesses and startups are hiring.

Update: I failed to post justifying information when I wrote this post. I have had individuals contact me regarding 7 positions since the economy started to take a crap in September. Three for rails development, one for PHP, two for product manager, and one for iPhone development. All of these positions came to me through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and SpringStage.

A few reasons why…

  1. Bootstrapped technology startups have low costs thanks to Amazon Web Services and co-working environments
  2. Marketing expenses create more value because word of mouth is faster and presence in large social networks is free
  3. if a > 12mo old startup hasn’t fallen through the cracks by now, they’re doing pretty damn good
  4. Mobile application platforms are now mainstream
  5. Investors are still investing

If the number of startups looking for good talent in the Dallas area is anything like the rest of the US then it seems to me it won’t take long for our newly unemployed to get back on the saddle.

As I began working this evening I realized I haven’t backed up my laptop in a few months. In fact, three months ago I backed up to a system which recently crashed. I lost data and freaked out a little and losing my laptop hard disk right now would be bad. After hearing about someone’s laptop being stolen I can’t procrastinate any longer. So what am I going to do about it?

Well, after purchasing two 500GB USB drives and a Time Capsule, I’m going to connect some cables and CLICK FOUR TIMES. Then every month I’ll CLICK FOUR TIMES, swap out one of the 500GB “archive” drives, then take the other off site. For less than $500 and 52 clicks a year I will have “secure” historical backups of my laptop.

This does NOT happen in IT.

With a business of 5-50 employees and non-Apple systems, secure offsite backups will cost anywhere from $3-30k worth of software, hardware, media, and/or bandwidth. There are valid reasons for the costs, however, once a solution is in place you maybe looking at paying for a full time employee which will cost much more than four mouse clicks.

While seemingly far-fetched, there are few differences between backing up my laptop and backing up a business; let’s keep in mind that no matter how much data is involved, the process of securely backing up, storing, and restoring data is the same. The backup life-cycle consists of transferring data to offline media, archiving, restoring, and retention. Upfront costs are typically associated with how much data you have and the recurring cost correlates with your retention and archiving policies. What a business adds in complexity is gathering data for backup, as the data may reside on multiple servers and/or desktops. The second complexity a business adds maybe proprietary software which requires additional licensing to efficiently backup data without downtime.

Unfortunately at this time there isn’t a four click backup solution for IT in small or enterprise businesses. Backups are costly and complicated. Moreover, while you can deploy Time Machine for all Macs, not every machine is a Mac and servers typically run Windows or Linux. So, while Apple has done a great job of solving the task of backups by integrating the service into their OS for free, they have not solved what is still a significantly difficult task in IT. Apple is poised for the enterprise yet continues focusing on consumers. Considering all the new avenues Apple has ventured in the last five years — Aperture, AppleTV, iPhone w/Exchange support, iLife/FinalCut/Logic, iTunes, iWork, MobileMe, Shake, and Time Machine — I have to ask myself why Apple remains out of the enterprise?

Surveys, DNS, and Your Brand

September 29, 2008

In the last 6 months I have received and/or completed surveys for the following:

  • Purchasing a new car (2 total; Dealer – Auto Nation and BMW Assist)
  • Sun Microsystems CommunityOne event
  • Nine Inch Nails (yes, the band — I purchased the new album by naming my price)
  • PayPal ‘Phone Handling Opinion’
  • Microsoft Feedback Program
The surveys came as links in emails and were provided by 3rd party companies such as Auto USA (not a dealer), comScore, Customer Sat, Benchmark Portal, Zoomerang, and Question Pro.
This reflects poorly on these brands and immediately causes me to associate them with ‘spam’. Fortunately I know better – dynamic DNS isn’t easy, outsourcing surveys to another company is cheap, and I was cognizant of events which triggered a survey. Only when buying a car and participating in Microsoft’s feedback program did I “opt in” to receiving these surveys. Microsoft and the car dealership (BMW of Dallas) both notified me of the surveys before I received them.
None of the surveys were sent from an email address I recognized and none of the email messages had links to a domain I recognized. Sure, the emails had links to the respective company, however, any teenager with a godaddy account could produce the same result.
All of the surveys were ugly or lacked respective branding. How am I suppose to know any of these surveys are genuine?
The irony here is that companies spend a significant portion of their revenue on their brand and customer service only to outsource their only feedback request to survey systems which are ugly and don’t appear genuine. This easily lays to waste all of the value created by building the brand in the first place.
To me, a brand exists for two kinds of persons – your customers and everyone else. Which one is most important? If you only care about revolving business and not keeping recurring revenue from long-term customers then it is obvious you don’t need to care about your customers and can focus only on everyone else. This can work great for three years but sooner or later people are going to figure out you suck — and say so on the Internet for millions to read. If you’re looking for long-term recurring revenue from customers who come back on a consistent basis then you will be more interested in their feedback so you can improve you products, business model, and continue satisfying your customer.
Surveys seem now, to be one of the first chances a customer gets to give feedback. Shouldn’t you make the customer feel safe, secure, empowered, proud, and vocal to be submitting feedback about your brand, company, and products?
The answer is obvious, yet, none of the surveys I mentioned so far gave me such an impression. One company has this year, and I was surprised. The company was Blizzard for their game, World of Warcraft. There was a discrepancy in the game and I opened a ‘ticket’ which was resolved and I was informed I would receive a feedback request. Blizzard did everything I would expect:
  • Notified me ahead of time I would receive an opportunity to give feedback
  • Sent notification from an email address with a domain I recognized
  • Feedback questionnaire resided at a domain I recognized
  • Questionnaire site promoted company’s brand and assured me I was at the right place
  • Questionnaire gave me the opportunity to leave free-form comments
After looking around I found a few survey sites who easily enable you to integrate your site with their survey system — all you have to do is point DNS at their service. Of course it’s not free, but if you really care about what your customer thinks then it’s worth the price. Surveygizmo seems to offer the service for $159/mo — I can’t vouch for them, but it’s the first one I found who listed DNS as a feature. Coupled with some CSS and any standards-supporting web designer it’s not difficult to help your customer feel comfortable about answering your questions.
With all of that said, my best experience giving feedback as a new customer is when I opt-in and receive a courteous phone call where I’m also able to give commentary. Talking to a human being gives me more confidence and being able to tell them how I really feel gives me the impression somebody is listening.
If you’re genuinely interested in what your customers have to say then be sure and make it appear that way. When it comes down to email-initiated surveys, the delete key is all it takes for anyone to forget you care.

Putting together a Half-Baked Web 2.0 get together ended up with some entertaining startup ideas. I can’t remember them all, but here’s a brief summary.

Epic Fail
Idea: Sharing content, all original – give back revenue like metacafe
Tag Line: screwing up on an epic scale or doing it wrong all day long
Marketing: Viral via browser plugins / xgames, cheap cable (extreme crashing)

This idea was not funded because it was agreed the brand would live up to it’s name.

Purple Energy
Idea: Coaching for your alter ego [in second life]
It was noted this was “coaching” and NOT “psycho-therapy”

The judges determined this was a perfect boot strap idea and could be started immediately and did not require funding.

PiratePirate
Idea: Pursue digital attackers after they strike (identify theft, piracy, corporate hacking, etc.)
Logo: A pirate and cross bones, attacking a pirate
Marketing Plan: Free unwarranted security audits (an example of what we’ll do)
Revenue Model: Old fashioned contracts. If you don’t pay…we’ll get the money from you anyways!

This idea was funded for fear of the consequences of NOT being funded.

Green Circle
Idea: A peer-to-peer system for trading carbon credits
Logo: A green circleMarketing Plan: guilt free environmental exploitation
Revenue Model: Transactional feesThis idea genuinely made fun of carbon credits.

It was not funded, as a carbon credit has yet to *really* be defined.

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