Lost love for Apple, Google, Mozilla

Two to three years ago it seemed that our heros in the tech world were Apple, Google, Facebook and Mozilla.   Apple was riding a streak of product wins and scored massive multi-ball points with the iPhone and iPod Touch.  The app store was an example of industry and made money for lots of people.   Google was showing the world that the Do no Evil mantra was still alive and showed us the PaaS model was alive.  Facebook started to become the destination for social conversation and calendar and Mozilla had a solid browser that gave it’s users access to plug-ins that worked and a platform that didn’t cause issues.

Now in 2010 it’s a different story.

Apple is being called arrogant from some of it’s most ardent supporters and important tech-cheerleaders.  The iPad is not being cheered on and hailed – it’s Apples version of the pinball TILT at this point (granted it’s only been a day since it’s been announced).   Google is trying to recapture some of it’s hacker and painter magic by standing up for human rights, throwing a fit about China’s cyber attack.  Facebook puts you on a roller-coaster of privacy concerns and Mozilla’s browser as of 3.5 has introduced a number of issues with Flash that cause stability issues and are leaving the tech adopters with Google Chrome as the choice for solid web browser.

What is it that turned the fortunes?    Was it that American people are super distrustful of any large corporation after the latest recession?  Is it that these companies got enough mind share and are running into classic PR and image issues?   Is it arrogance and greed that is seeping in?

Installing Ruby On Rails and the dreaded Error Message

If you attempt to install rails via the standard

yo@yo:/ sudo gem install rails

And you get the dreaded message:

ERROR:  could not find rails locally or in a repository

There is a simple cure.  Simply install the new gem (1.3.1) package from source and try again.  Apparently 1.1.1 and 1.2.1 get the connection to the mother ship snipped some how.   I tried and failed and tried and failed to install Rails via gem until i reinstalled the new gem package.

Keep in mind this is a full install.  You’ll have to get the package as follows

wget http://rubyforge.org/frs/download.php/45905/rubygems-1.3.1.tgz

unzip and untar and build the sources via

sudo ruby setup.rb

HTH,

Shaun twitter.com/h0h0h0

Working Capital and Your Small Business

Catherine Juon of Pure Visibility sat with MichiganInnovators.org to discuss her journey with a new business and some of the ways she financed her business while bootstrapping.  I was really drawn to this particular set of interviews because she is one of the local entrepreneurs I followed on Twitter and because I am very interested in the different ways a business is financed.

One thing that you should know is that I am pretty much dead set against all forms of debt financing.  I am more interested in bootstrapping with personal savings than with a debt instrument like a personal credit card.  This mostly has to do with my own poor behavior using credit cards and the fact that being out of debt is just so freeing.  There really was no underlying education on how to properly use a debt instrument for business financing.

I’m a little smarter after watching these interviews.  Pure Visibility helps with marketing website and is a pure serviced based business.  Catherine used her personal credit card as the needed working capital to help finance her ongoing daily operations.  Working capital was a new term for me:  this is capital (cash) you will need to finance your business while you wait for recievables to post.

Working capital, regardless of how it is financed, pays your employees and the electric company.  When you’re in bootstrapping mode, working capital is what you’re drawing on to keep the business going.  For many people that means financing with a debt instrument.

Her needs for working capital grew from a personal credit card to a corporate credit card and now Catherine is exploring a Line Of Credit as a stable and more appropriate source for working capital. Her experience has taught her a lot about how credit can best be found.   She began to pre-qualify the bank sources by explaining exactly what Pure Visibility was and making sure that the relationship was going to be the right fit.  Specifically she was wondering if the bank even “got it”.   She also began to look at her business in a component based viewpoint.  This leads her to ask what parts of her business are consulting, and which parts of her business become trade secrets.  Knowing the answer to these questions let her explain to prospective bankers in terms they understood.

Catherine was also very clear on her funding sources.  She acknowledges that venture capitalist funding is quite the cool thing to do but is seeking bank sources of credit to finance her business.   V.C. funding requires you to ask yourself what parts of the business will you give up to grow.  This is an question that I knew existed but had not really admitted to myself.

These were very educational videos for me.  While I am not convinced about debt financing, I did learn a couple things on the operational aspects of running an enterprise.  I’m curious about the application to a business plan.  Should working capital be laid out in the business plan as part of the operations?   I’m also wondering if you have to burn through all the cash or if some can be saved to self-fund growth opportunities in the future?  A trip to Entreleadership might answer that question for me.

Shaun Farrugia

Angel Investors Pocket Knife – Terry Cross

I recently watched both of the Terry Cross interviews on MichiganInnovators.org and am better for taking the time to do this.  Terry Cross has been angel-investing for 46 years and has “learned a few things” in his time.   I learned more about how angel investing works from watching these interviews than I knew before.  It’s true that I was pretty limited in what I knew about this topic.  The interview questions and answers were precise and informative as well as clear and understandable.  I felt so educated by these interviews that I wanted even more detail on how Terry thought.   

Terry talked about how an entrepreneur needs to perform risk mitigation before he really begins to take them seriously.  I have never written any sort of business plan yet but I am glad I listened to this interview before doing this.  Terry made clear exactly how he expects the funded entrepreneur to think through his plan.  I plan on taking my plan through the same rigor that Terry laid out in the interview.  The litany of “things that can go wrong” was not supposed to be taken as a fear-inducer.  The point was to give your business plan more direction.  It can also allow the business plan to remind you of those pitfalls as they occur.  Clear thinking early in the process might be better than panic thinking when the problem arises.  Maybe..

 I found it to be a very cogent and clear way to think through risk in a way that will benefit your plan and the investor.  Then I got the feeling that risk becomes the guide at this point.  Is this a true statement?  I’m wondering if risk should be the right guidance factor for any business?  I am naturally risk-averse, but born and raised a Roman Catholic, so there is a natural avoidance of any sort of “control”.  It’s more palatable to me to see risk as a strong guidance mechanism, but I cannot accept that risk is the “point” of the whole enterprise.  

Overall, the interviews gave me a number of great ideas and was HIGHLY educational for me.  Glad to have the opportunity to have viewed them.

Thanks,

Shaun Farrugia

 

Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund

The Michigan pre-seed capital fund allows technology companies that are just beginning to receive funds to help assist their growth and development.  The fund allows entrepreneurs come to the table with funds and have those funds matched by the Pre-Seed Capital Fund. Skip Simms, fund manager, tells us that this is a very unique capital fund.   Many areas of the country do not have such a fund and have approached the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund for guidance on setting up their own funds.

Many companies got out of investing in early-stage companies after the tech bubble burst in 2001.  Early-stage companies are those companies that have not had a round of funding and are seeking funding to help bring a product to market.  These rounds of funding are typically small.   These investors who started to avoid early stage rounds of funding wanted to concentrate their funds on companies that came out of the embryonic stage and had a solid foundation.   Skip refers to these types of investments as up-stream investments.

This was my first time reviewing anything of this nature.  I’ve always wondered how funding was sought after and awarded.  I have become more aware of the different types of funding that are out there.   This is the first glimpse I’ve seen of a fund being a collaborative effort between government, industry and academics.  Then again, I haven’t seen many funds.  

I am excited to see this type of opportunity given to entrepreneurs in the State of Michigan.   I was a resident of the State of Michigan for 29 years I relocated to New York City.  I know that I will champion the State of Michigan in my new home, both in spirit and in deed.  I can let people know about these types of opportunities in a city that is known for opportunities.

 

One thing that concerns me is the low amount of business clusters this can be available to.  I am concerned about the lack of pure information technology categories that are qualified for funds.  Many creative and young people that are leaving the State are pure programmers or visual and creative designers.  These types of people do not want to be in an unsexy automotive or homeland security type operation.  

 

The over designation of “Advanced automotive” is unsettling.  Most of the news in the state is focused on the automotive industry crumbling before our eyes.  Many young people believe that these companies are reaping the product of a corporate culture that protects “position” over “innovation” and talent.  There is no creative or fiduciary incentive for these individuals to contribute to this industry as a supplier or an employee.  Doing so would be almost un-tasteful.

 

Furthermore, nanotechnology makes a brief bullet point appearance under “Advanced Automotive”.  This is the over-designation that is hiding some of the more interesting aspects of this pre-seed fund.  Nanotechnology is a much more sexier technology for creatives to follow.  Why is it hidden under automotive and manufacturing?  Nanotechnology should stand out on it’s own.  

 

Lastly, why do we not hear about this?  It’s possible that commercials for this fund have been on WWJ but much of the energy that SPARK and SmartZONE is seeking is possibly listening to other forms of media.  Not to be trite but advertising these types of things on modern rock stations might enlist a younger more creative energy to help out in Michigan.  

 

Overall I’m glad to see something like this happen in Michigan.  I’ll be exploring the other structures of support for new business in the coming future!

 

Shaun Farrugia

9-22-2008

New Class and Final Class

Hi All,

I am pretty excited to be learning about entrepreneurship at Eastern Michigan University.  The class is 388 – Introduction to Entrepreneurship.  I will be using this blog to post comments and responses to blog posts as I read them.

Thanks!

Shaun Farrugia

Java, where art thou? aka .isAvailable()?

So for the past two years I’ve really wanted to jump on the Ruby On Rails train (is that what it’s called?).  It seems that PHP has had a similar MVC pattern happening with PEAR.  Rails is under the gun from this “hackers framework” called MERB.   Python has Django (pownce.com is using this) and Pylon (nothing like maintaining alliteration).

As a web developer I am always looking for ways to maintain some semblance of automation amongst my coding activities.  There’s only so many view patterns one can write before you say “Really?  I need to do this again?”  I’m wondering why a pure POJO framework hasn’t caught fire amongst us yet.   Is RUBY that much of a step up that it allows such a strong framework to exist.  Are we doomed to have  Groovy fill in the cracks with scripting putty and Grails?

 

 

Getting rid of life-spam

I have a suggestion for you.

Ready?

Get rid of life-spam.  Declutter your email box by ensuring it doesn’t get cluttered at all.

I realized this week after listening to The 4 Hour Work Week audiobook that I not only spend too much time on the inbox, but I actually HAVE NOTHING TO DO in my inbox.   For example:  Over the past 2 days my Gmail and Emich inbox combined have received over 40 promotional emails from companies that I have done business with in the past.   

Since I’ve made it a point to de-stuff, I’ve also have to make a point to ignore and delete these promotional messages.  I’m not interested.   I am interested in deals but honestly you can find those same deals by searching google/ebay/yahoo what ever.  These giant time-wasters give you absolutely NO VALUE.  

 

Do yourself a favor:  Next time you do your Inbox 0 or Collection process, go ahead and unsubscribe to all of that promotional email.  You’ll be so glad you did!

 

Don’t worry if your idea already exists

Are you the type of person that has lots of ideas and struggles to find time to do any of them?   Then this post isn’t for you.

This post is for you if you’ve finally found some time to work on that wonderful idea that you’ve had bumping around your head.   You sit down and start to do some research on the topic.   You know what you need to get it done.   Your laundry is set and your girlfriend/wife/husband/boyfriend is away for the week.  Things are all good.  You open up google and do some searching for the ideas and tools you need to make your idea reality.

And then you see it.   Someone did it already!

Don’t sweat it.  You need to continue to work on your idea!

One of the most disheartening things than can happen to yourself is seeing the fruits of someone elses labor evolve into a working, real implementation of that world-changing idea that you had.   It’s easy to question yourself and think that you lost your chance or you are behind the game.  You might even think it’s time to pack it in and have kids and hope that they succeed at dreams that you failed at.   You might even go so far as to say, oh, sell your things and move to an ashram.  What’s an ashram?

In anycase you will need to fight off that urge to give up and continue following your dreams.   There is one strong reason for this – innovation.

While someone else may have already built the thing you are thinking of, you have no idea if your efforts will produce something that is better, faster, stronger, more user-friendly, less power-consuming, more earth-friendly and so on.   Take a look at google.  When google was launched there were already a number of search engines on the market.   Fast forward to just a few years after google was launched and you start to see that google completely dominated the field.   it would have been easy for Sergey Pergey to just say “F it.  I’m going just work for some dude and make my money” but he didn’t.  S and L went about building google into what it is today.

So if you think that your idea is now useless, or you can’t implement it please think again.   You might just have the improvement on the idea that push the idea to the next level.