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November 11, 2010

The second mover advantage

There is a mythology out there that he who moves second has an advantage because you can see all of the mistakes of the first mover, and you get to position yourself where your competitor is not positioned.

Sound advice, great idea... unless you are competing with Apple...

When Apple moves the industry moves with it.They represent the classic example why the second mover advantage should only ever be a fall back position because you were not smart/quick/innovative enough to get there first.

I had a Blackberry. But this wasn't really the first smart phone was it. Looking back on it, it was more like a transitional device between what was (Nokia type stuff) and what was to come. (The iPhone)

Even when the iPhone came out, despite being a bit of a gadget freak, I hung in there with my trusty blackberry. But ultimately I switched. It was inevitable...

Today there are real smart phones every where. A dozen or so that look like the Google Android, a dozen or so that look like Windows 7 and a few other brands. (RIM is a finished force, they just haven't realized it yet)

But I love my iPhone. It does most everything I require, attaches me to the greatest mobile app store and enables me to listen to audio books, watch TV and listen to podcasts.

This is the problem with moving second. If you move second than you need two things in your favour. Dissatisfaction with the incumbent, and a very good reason for people to switch.

If you moved first all you need to do is continue to deliver outstanding products.

Microsoft moved first on the desktop and their product were good enough for the majority of the world to stick with them through several decades. Yahoo thought it was winning the directory game until Google appeared to teach them that they were actually in the Search business.

Think fast, find a niche, protect the heck out of it and drive it home with powerful marketing and services... beat playing catch up.

November 1, 2010

Apple saved my business

Part of the ultimate business model I have planned includes online software. The sort that doesn't yet exist and is very much needed in my industry. (As well as a few ideas for other industries)

But to kick that off you need funding, and to get funding you need... time. Something I don't have a lot of right now. 

So as a keen bootstrapper I have been looking at low cost (or free is better) ways to get this site built. 

My funding strategy has continued with both VC's and client companies being approached for funding. But in the meantime I need to start working on some of this stuff myself... unfortunately my programming skills became outdated in around 1992. (Apparently things have moved on since then... who knew?)

Then I stumbled across iTunes U, and immediately kicked myself for not being more curious during the past few months of using iTunes. 

To date I have powered through the programming methodology downloads from (wait for it) Stanford U!! Wow... Pushing into probabilistic modelling and web programming also right now.

Since starting this I have already started my web program project. I am still hunting for funding because the vast majority of companies fail due to a lack of adequate funding, but at least now I will soon have some form of prototype to show them what I am talking about. 

Exciting times... 

September 14, 2010

Just when you knew all the answers - Why Google won't dominate the future

2 - 3 years ago it was obvious. Google was a sprawling powerful empire whose tentacles could reach into everything we ever did. They were going to dominate the worlds progress and dictate terms...

Well, they are still the gorilla in the room, but the future isn't what it used to be.

As Apple continues to innovate, the world is held captive by the "coolness" of the iPhone. The worlds leading game console with more games than any other vendor in the space. The words leading pocket computer with an estimated 250,000 apps available, which have been downloaded over 6 billion times.

Wow... Apps from medical instrumentation, to engineering to science to games and time-wasters. An then there is the seamless integration between iPods, iPhones, Mac's, AppleTV and so on... the world got really cool and exciting all of a sudden.

So we are now all living, more than ever before, on mobile apps. And something strange happens on Mobile apps. We don't use search as much.....

We use apps. We search for apps, maybe search on maps. But we don't spend our lives attached to a search engine as we seem to do on laptops and desktop devices.

Amazing isn't it. You think you know where things are going and how they will pan out, and suddenly the future is vastly different than you could have ever imagined. Innovation is wonderful.

September 11, 2010

Why are HR people so arrogant?

I have a particular dislike for labor hire companies, recruitment firms and those working in HR in large organizations. (No CEO of a major corporation. to my knowledge comes from a HR background. There's a reason for that...)

After working for ages on an application, nothing used to annoy me more than receiving a "Dear John"letter from an anonymous person, with no possible return address and no way of gaining further feedback.

Particularly when you know that the role is in your area, and covers skill sets that you have a very strong background in. You would think that something like that deserves a bit of an explanation right? At least the common decency of helping you to improve in areas where you may have weak spots.

As the talent war rages on companies with these attitudes and arrogant ways of dealing with people will be targeted by companies that sincerely care about their employees, and show that sincerity in every interaction.

(At least have no doubt that I will be going after their employees)

I had 30 high level applicants for a role I recently ran.

We worked through the candidates, spoke to some and selected the guy that was to go forward. (No women applied this time around)

Then today I spent two hours drafting personal emails to every one of the people who had applied telling them why I couldn't consider their application, why it fell short, and realistic expectations of working with us in the future. (instead of the bland feel free to apply statements)

Have had two replies already, and both of them seemed to sincerely appreciate the feedback.

They aren't just email addresses, they are people. They aren't just candidates they are a ball of dreams, aspirations and goals, and they are worthy of your (our) respect. Even if they didn't win the chance to earn you money over the next few years.

September 10, 2010

Choosing your markets

Often your markets choose you, you don't get to choose them.

I am presently working diligently on three market sectors that I am hoping to dominate within the next few years.

The reason? They appeared to be under-served, and for a variety of reasons:

  1. They are in inhospitable locations. The types of places that suffer 25% + turnover rates of people. 
  2. They aren't the "big spenders" of the market. So everybody else seems to be going for other, larger targets. 
  3. And lastly, they are recovering from the in-housing "We can do it all" sort of foolishness that occasionally grips companies.
Some things I have learned over the past few years, but sharpened as I became a very small organization. (Just me right now)

1. Don't go after the top of the town. (Ever) You need to know them, touch base with them, establish relationships with people in them, but do not get too hung up trying to chase work there.

There is a lot of work available in these companies, and there are a lot of competitors vying for it with lots of sharp elbows. Sure, you can pull off an upset. And an upset with a large organization can be a company making move. But in general, it is frustrating and something to put down as a long term goal. 

2. Cold Calling still works. I wrote on this previously and have written on it several times since. But cold calls work, and they work best when you can follow up with an in person meeting. 

Before you start whining that this is hard and expensive - my clients often live around 5,000 miles away. The goal is to try to work it into the day to day work that you are carrying out when possible. 

3. It may not be where you think. I started out wanting to deliver services to the oil and gas sectors as my work history would lend itself to. My best options, through almost totally random events, appeared in very obscure sectors of the mining industry. (Uranium, Manganese and Mineral Sands)

4. Display ads work. NO matter what people tell you, or what Seth has to say on the matter, the raw facts are that display ads do work. Even if it is only to get your name known as a household (and therefore trusted) name in the game. 

I have some display ads out now, and I am going to run a  few internet display ads in the very near future. I will link to them here so you can see what I am up to directly.

I hope this helps, I will be writing the tips I learn and my adventures into this blog on a regular basis.