Thursday, March 31, 2005

What exactly is a brand?

There was an interesting discussion of the question "What Exactly is a Brand?" over on the Tom Peters blog and other blogs it referenced (should we call that "blog chaining"?). It is a great question and one that entrepreneurs especially need to consider.

Is your primary product your brand? Is your overall business the brand? Are you the brand (ala Tom Peters)? Is your personalized view of your industry your brand? Is your tactics and style your brand? And, some of us seem to specialize in being an invisible brand.

Your brand is not simply a name or logo or "trade dress" or slogan or product category, but it's the essense of how your customer audience see you and what you mean to them. It's the combination of your brand symbol (the stuff that they can see and sense about you) and your brand meaning (how they feel about you and the role they expect you to perform in their own "world").

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Open source software businesses

Here's an interesting list of companies that are busy turning open source software into viable businesses. Here's another version of the same list. These companies will be at the Open Source Business Conference next week.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Cold, wet, dead fish

I ran across a great line in a ZDNet post: A running joke is that some IT vendors do such a poor job of explaining their products that if they were to try to sell sushi, it will be marketed as "cold, wet, dead fish." Sad, but true. It makes me laugh, but I suppose that I do little better in my own efforts.

The term "blog" seems so silly... shouldn't we call it what it really is: repackaged drivel? But, as entrepreneurs, we do need to package our ideas in ways that are appealing to our intended audiences.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 27, 2005

EntConnect 2006 web page up

I've posted a web page for the Entprepreneurial Connections 2006 conference which with be held out in Denver, Colorado March 23-26, 2006.

See you there!

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Thinking inside the box... sometimes

I'm no fan of bureaucracies, but people do like it when the trains run on time (and they wish that planes would run on time). That kind of timeliness comes from an intensely structured bureaucracy in which each "cast member" has a well-defined role or "box". We would all hope that all of those people tried diligently to stay in their boxes. On the other hand, we occasionally run into service problems and incidents where the first thing we're looking for is for people to "think outside the box" and work towards a solution instead of offering a curt "I'm sorry sir, but that's not part of our standard procedure."

So, sometimes "thinking inside the box" is quite acceptable and desirable, but the ability to sense an urgent need to move outside the box is equally valuable, and sometimes mandatory.

On the other hand, life can sometimes be quite annoying if you have to interact with people who do nothing by think outside the box. But, it's quite possible that such people may actually be thinking inside their boxes which happen to be outside of your box.

It would seem that the most comfortable situation (and possibly the most growth-oriented) would be when you surround yourself with people whose boxes are so flexible that these people can remain within their boxes even while you in fact can think way outside yours.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Lee Devlin's commentary on EntConnect 2005

Lee Devlin has written a short commentary on his impressions of the EntConnect 2005 conference. He even has some pictures, such as this one:

See Lee's blog for links to more photos.

-- Jack Krupansky

The 8th Habit

Everybody has either read or at least heard of Dr. Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He succeeded that book with a new one, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, which is about finding and finding "your voice" to transcend the environments in which we find ourselves and helping others to do the same. As his web site puts it:

We must tap into the voice of the human spirit -- full of hope and intelligence -- and encompass the soul of organizations so they can survive, thrive and profoundly impact the future of the world. Tapping into these higher reaches of human genius and motivation -- what we would call voice -- requires the 8th Habit.

The 8th Habit is about seeing and harnessing the power of a third dimension to the 7 Habits that meets this central challenge of the new Knowledge Worker Age. It is about finding your voice and helping others to find theirs. Voice is unique personal significance -- significance that is revealed as we face our greatest challenges and that makes us equal to them.

When you engage in work that taps your talent and fuels your passion -- that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet -- therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul's code. The purpose of The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness is to give you a roadmap that will lead you from pain and frustration to true fulfillment, relevance, significance, and contribution in today's new landscape -- not only in your work and organization, but also in your whole life.

I haven't personally read the book, but I have skimmed through enough of it to get a sense that it's really about true leadership and how not only to rise above everything around you, but how to help others do so as well.

All of us entrepreneurs need to do a dramatically better job of finding our own voices as well as helping others to find theirs.

Maybe we need to come up with a customer-oriented version of The 8th Habit which is about how we help customers see new ways of addressing their needs in a way that goes far beyond mere "win-win" to "giant win-giant win". After all, the best customers are not simply those from whom you directly earn a significant profit, but those who feel so energized by your products and services that they can't help but tell (and sell) others as well.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Thinking outside the box, version 0.1

Entrepreneurs by definition need to spend a lot of time "thinking outside the box", but it's not so simple and sometimes we can't even be sure what the box is, let alone whether we're really outside of it, or even whether it matters much at the time. This is a topic that deserves a lot of attention, hence the "version 0.1" in the title of this post. Expect many revisions.

I ran across a web page by a Dr. Will Barratt with an article entitled "The Box Paradox!". I'm not prepared to give it a summary that does it justice, but I'd simply note two points among those it makes:
  1. Successful businesses are run by people who are good at incremental change.
  2. Innovators need to learn to speak incremental.
Yes, we innovators do need to think way outside the box, but we also need to tie those far-out paradigm shifts to current business problems in a way that we can implement them in the here and now.

Not everyone has the right personality to think outside of their box. The key is to have enough innovators around to deliver "a jolt of innovation" when it's needed most, but to have some stability as well to capitalize on those disruptive, innovative jolts.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Entrepreneurial Mind

I just ran across a blog entitled "The Entrepreneurial Mind" authored by Dr. Jeffrey R. Cornwall, professor at the University of Nashville. He consults with a variety of businesses on start-up and growth related issues, and with larger corporations on re-establishing entrepreneurial cultures within their organizations.

I especially enjoyed reading his post entitled "Advice from a Bootstrapper".

-- Jack Krupansky

The Long Tail

Entrepreneurs, especially technical entrepreneurs with modest expectations should take a serious look at what Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, calls "The Long Tail". The basic idea is that the overall economy is made up of millions of niches and business success will increasingly come from being able to accommodate the focused needs of each small niche, rather than generalized products and services that are designed for mass markets. As Chris says:

The Long Tail is about how the mass market is turning into a million niches. The term refers to the yellow part of the sales chart at left [below], which shows a standard demand curve that could apply to any industry, from entertainment to services. The vertical axis is sales, the horizontal is products. The red part of the curve is the "hits", which have dominated our commercial decisions to date. The yellow part is the non-hits, or niches, which I argue in the article will prove equally important in the future now that technology has provided efficient ways to give consumers access to them thanks to the "infnite shelf-space effect" of new distribution mechanisms that break thought the bottlenecks of broadcast and traditional bricks and mortar.

The two big points of the Long Tail theory are these: 1) The yellow part potentially extends forever to the right; 2) The area under that line--the market it represents--may become as big as the hits at the left.

See the Wikipedia article for The Long Tail.

Check out Chris Anderson's The Long Tail blog. It's a great example of an idea that grew into an article that spawned an idea for a book and is now essentially a book in progress that will eventually become a physical book but continue to evolve independently of the physical book as technology and the eocnomy continue to evolve. This is a model that will be increasingly used in the future.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 20, 2005

EntConnect 2005 a big success... get ready for EntConnect 2006

The Entrepreneurial Connections conference 2005 (EntConnect) is now history, but it was a big success, as it always is. It's an informal, but intensive opportunity for technical entrepreneurs to pick each others brains on both technical and business issues.

Mark your calendar for Entrepreneurial Connections 2006, March 23-26, 2006.

Details will gradually evolve on the official conference web site.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ecologies of innovation

I just saw a reference by Mitch Kapor to "ecologies of innovation", whatever that really is.

Maybe it's a reference to an "ecosystem of innovation" or an "ecosystem for innovation".

Whatever it is, I suspect that we entrepreneurs need to get a lot more of it.

In any case, from my perspective the question is what technologies and tools are needed to support such ecologies or ecosystems. My belief is that intelligent software agent technology will fit at least part of the bill. But I'm sure it's much more than technologies and tools and involves a revamp of culture and values.

The real bottom line is that we each are responsible for creating and nurturing our own "ecologies of innovation."

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Northwest Entrepreneur Network

My previous post happened to refer to a web site that I just ran across for a group called the Northwest Entrepreneur Network:
The Northwest Entrepreneur Network helps entrepreneurs make the connections and access the resources they need to succeed. Focused on helping entrepreneurs build their business network, the Northwest Entrepreneur Network provides the knowledge, mentoring, and access to investors that creates and grows successful companies.

I don't know anything about them other than what I learned from a quick perusal of their web site. They're located in Bellevue, Washington.

Trademark registration on the cheap

I was thinking about how to go about renewing a trademark registration that I had thoughtlessly allow to expire and ran across this interesting discussion about how to register a trademark. It starts:

Dear Sage:

I want to trademark my company's name but don't want to pay a lawyer to do it, what can I do that's quick, easy and cheap?

Dear Entrepreneur:

First you should make sure that you have a trademark and not just a trade name. A trademarks are words, names symbols, designs, phrases, slogans, or a combination of these that are used to identify and distinguish goods in the marketplace (like a brand name or logo). A name that identifies a business entity is a trade name. Your company's name is a trade name, but it may or may not be a trademark. Microsoft is both a trademark and a trade name (as part of Microsoft Corporation). Jeep is a trademark, but Daimler-Chrysler is not.

Assuming you have trademark usage, the simplest thing to do is nothing. Trademark rights in the United States are vested upon use of a trademark. Whoever uses a particular mark first in commerce in connection with particular goods or services has seniority for that mark. These rights are called "common law" trademark rights and require no registration. You can use the "TM" symbol next to the mark to put others on notice that you are claiming trademark rights in it. Common law trademark rights only provide protection in the geographic areas in which the mark is used.

Read on for the rest of the story.

The bottom line is that I'm not completely SOL with a lapsed registration.

BTW, it would cost about $400 just for the government fee to renew my mark, even if they would do so without me having to reapply since it's been over a year since expiration.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Update: EntConnect conference schedule now available

Flash! A preliminary schedule for the EntConnect Entrepreneurial Connections conference is now available on the official conference web site.

It is rumored that Bill Gates of Midnight Engineering magazine fame will be at the conference, giving us an update on his adventures over the past couple of years.

We may even have a virtual appearance by Matt Trask.

See you there... in 8 days! I'll be there by 5-6 p.m. or so on Friday.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Entrepreneurial Connections conference less than two weeks away

The annual Entrepreneurial Connections (EntConnect) conference is now less than two weeks away out in beautiful Denver, Colorado.

The skiers will be doing their thing on March 17&18. The rest of us will start grouping late in the afternoon of Friday, March 18. The conference runs through Sunday, March 20.

This is a great chance to meet like-minded entrepreneurial engineers, whether you are already running a small technology-based company, an independent consultant, or simply have dreams of someday "doing the entrepreneurial thing".

Check out the pictures of both the skiing and the "formal conference".

Visit the official EntConnect conference web site.

Or check out info about past conferences at our web site.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Exactly what problem are you solving for a prospective customer?

The biggest blunder we technical entrepreneurs commit is to focus on the raw technology or how wonderful the product or service is (or will be), but ultimately the only thing that really matters is your answer to the question "Exactly what problem are you solving for a prospective customer?". More specificially, what problem or opportunity does the prospect have that they already recognize and desperately want solved, and are actually willing to pay you a fair amount of money for.

Ideally, you want situations where the prospect already has a budget in place and your product or service fits the bill for that pre-existing and pressing need.

Sure, if you have a truly novel product or service the prospect may not even know they have a need, but that kind of "missionary sell" is much more difficult than simply matching up your solution with the prospect's known problem.