February 5, 2017: My regular readers may have noticed longer intervals between TechDrawl posts. Your editor has transitioned from considerable “drive-by” mentoring through my affiliations with UT and the Austin tech community toward deep immersion in four promising ventures. All these are at inflection points where things are getting real. Their common thread is data science, even though they serve very different markets.
January 5, 2017: After a long Holiday break, it’s not easy this week to get back in gear for full-contact startup action. However, the expenses took no time off, and many items left untended two or three weeks ago are still there demanding our attention. There’s considerable pressure to make up for lost time.
December 17, 2016: With the constant drumbeat of headlines about the Russians attempting to influence the US Election via electronic espionage, or just plain hacking, we’re all more attuned to the risks associated with our convenient communication methods. Yahoo added this past week a few more beats to that message. Closer to home, in the past month I’ve had two email intrusions in the biomedical company I’m working with.
November 30, 2016: One of the most difficult challenges for a fast-charging startup entrepreneur is learning when patience is the correct tactic. Everyone likes to leave a meeting with specific next steps and action items, and no one enjoys just sitting around. That’s a natural bias that helps lead people into this dangerous arena.
November 17, 2016: Last week was the semiannual Georgia Tech Research Corporation board meeting, and I took advantage of that occasion to spend a couple of extra days in Atlanta catching up a bit with the startup scene there. All the news from GT was good; research is on a great trajectory. And, the complement of 17 or so corporate innovation centers surrounding the ATDC is a unique advantage for startups.
November 13, 2016: For those of you who went to church on the Sunday I’m writing this after the Election, you probably heard this morning a sermon of comfort aimed at congregants who voted their conscience for either of the two major candidates. It was a week for the history books, and it is full of lessons that transcend politics. My “Re-elect Nixon” tie from 1972 (photo above) that I wear to the polls every 4 years has now been consigned to ancient history.
October 30, 2016: It’s commonly expected that startups will pivot as their original concepts meet the tests of the market. Even the most carefully crafted plans may not correctly anticipate customer behavior, may overlook competitors, may run into unexpected technical obstacles, may be blindsided by external forces, and may ultimately not translate the founder’s vision into a workable business model. It’s generally better, however, to pivot than perish, and startup teams that can accept reality and adapt are the ones that are most likely to succeed again and again.
October 23, 1016: There’s been a lot of talk about stamina in the Presidential campaign, and coincidentally I’m reading two books about historical figures whose success was propelled by an abundance of that trait. Startups are never easy, and, if you are the founder, you need to have a continuous reserve of energy to meet the challenges ahead. You must be able to light up the room with your enthusiasm when you are with your team, or with customers.
October 16, 2016: As the founder of a startup, you have three constitu- encies: your customers, your team, and your investors. Being a low maintenance leader is a great way to get the maximum support from all three. This is not such a common term; it’s much easier to find references on low maintenance pets, for example. For this week’s essay let’s define some of the traits of “going low when others go high” (sorry but I couldn’t help that rephrasing from the politics of the day).
October 9, 2016: This week’s essay takes a look at the personnel issues of trying to scale a company. A young entrepreneur inspired this; he wonders why his employees are not always eager to take on more responsibility. He’s trying to scale to meet customer demand, and he’s running into a common problem I have experienced many times.