Distractions.

One of the things I picked up when I worked in North Carolina was a love of barbecue. Over the past couple of months

After 12 hours...

I’ve been picking up a Boston butt when I see one with a good fat cap and putting going low and slow with it. It’s turning out so well that we no longer go out for barbecue. It’s provided a good distraction from everything else that’s been going on over the past year. Breaks are needed. New (or in this case, old) experiences are needed. And sometimes it’s just for fun. Maybe a little healthy competition now and then too. But for right now, it’s breakfast.

Ignite Tampa Bay

Ignite Tampa Bay is returning in 2013. Twenty slides. Fifteen seconds each.

Ignite-Logo copy

All you get is five minutes to tell us what you’re passionate about. The venue, date and time are all open at this point.

What’s Tampa Bay excited about? What are you really passionate about? Enlighten us, share your story with us.

More details will be coming on the FB page as we get this together for the coming year. The 2012 event was very well done and had some tremendous speakers. A bit of a different audience than we’re accustomed to for BarCamp events but that’s probably a great thing at this point.

Well… [Google|Microsoft|Facebook|Amazon] could do that…

I’ve heard this three or four times over the last six months, not only with ChannelLauncher but with other companies that are getting off the ground in Tampa. Originally my response was (at least when this was said about ChannelLauncher) to defend. “Yes but here’s our approach…”  It’s become clear to me that the people stating this don’t understand innovation and have probably never read Crossing the Chasm. Here’s how this plays out. Small company grows into big company. Big company focuses on larger and larger clients. The smaller clients get left behind, their needs aren’t met and begin to look for alternatives. Tiny company builds tiny product for tiny group of clients. Tiny company improves on tiny product and becomes larger company with larger product and starts eating away at big company’s core customer base. Big company acquires said company. This is always happening. Now my response to “Google could do that.” is to ask what the person saying this actually does. Regardless of the response, 90% of the time I can say in complete honesty that Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, you name it, they already do it. You’re an investor? Google does that [Google Ventures]. You’re a business consultant? McKinsey does that and is bigger than you’ll ever be. You’re a social media expert? @MissDestructo does that and has more followers than you do. The fact is this, yes a [insert fortune 500 company name here] could do this. But is it cost effective for them to really go after your potential clients? It may in fact be better for the large company to let you build the market and get the clients – then acquire your business. So the next time someone tells you “Google could do that” you can, if you’ve done your homework and understand the market, tell them it’s more cost effective for Google to acquire you. See what their response to that one is.

 

Tampa Bay is About to Take Off.

Not from all the rain we’re getting. Not from the RNC. What is about to explode is the number of startups getting off the ground. Unfortunately they will look like nothing the area has ever seen before. We’re largely known for medical companies and real estate but a growing core of entrepreneurs are bringing new companies and products to market that don’t even closely resemble these verticals. From BumperCrop and TourWrist to ChannelLauncher (my personal favorite) and Carvoyant,  the landscape is slowly changing. And I say “unfortunately” because the infrastructure (for example, Capital) isn’t in place yet for companies like these. Tampa’s 60/20 Plan as well as Gazelle Lab are working to change that but it will take time. In fact it will take 20 years to change the face of the entrepreneurial community in Tampa Bay. I peg year 1 as 2008, the first year of BarCamp Tampa Bay, so we still have 16 years before we can really call ourselves a successful entrepreneurial community. Many have argued with me that it will only take 5 years to complete the transition. They’re dead wrong. Here’s why. We need three key components to make this happen

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Technology Professionals
  • Angel Investors

We have a small number of entrepreneurs, the risk takers that can distinguish a ‘good idea’ from a ‘good business idea’ and figure out how to build a product and a company around it. Then there are the technologists – developers, architects and sys admins that build great stuff. There’s plenty of them in the area but relatively few are engaged in the community. And then there’s the Angel Investors. This group is virtually non-existant for tech startups looking for  seed stage funding in Tampa Bay. These three groups form a symbiotic relationship when it comes to starting a tech company, they need to work in unison and be in direct contact. Today they are not, not even close. It will take time, trust, missed opportunities and big successes to bring all three together, in particular the Angel component. That’s what will take 20 years to build a thriving entrepreneurial community. So Tampa Bay really is ready to take off and if you’re one of these three groups, you’ve got a huge opportunity to directly impact the direction of the community. Just realize that the goal line is in the year 2028.

ChannelLauncher [UPDATE]

[UPDATE] We’ve rebranded ChannelShift to ChannelLauncher. Turns out that it wasn’t obvious to our (potential)

customers just exactly what the hell we do for them. Using ChannelLauncher makes that a whole lot easier and it’s a

much smoother conversation to have when your brand name reflects what your product does. Fortunately we made the decision before it became a crisis and we based it on customer feedback as well. There were other things that fed into this decision but never assume that people will “just know” what you do. It’s always going to be obvious to you what your product does and how great it is. But when people are scratching their heads before you’re even off the first phone call with them, it’s time to reconsider.

A lot has been going on in the streaming video space over the past 12 months. A “rumored” TV from Apple is on the way, UI updates for the existing AppleTV as well as GoogleTV, Boxee and an upcoming one from Roku. Intel announcesthat they’re entering the streaming video platform arena, Ubuntu launches UbuntuTV and HULU is mid-season for one of it’s exclusive shows. With that inmind, we’re working to bring more great content to SmartTVs, Roku, Boxee, and other platforms. Since so much is happening so quickly, we’ve put up Tumblr [and Pinterest] accounts that will have the latest news and announcements about what’s coming to ChannelShift and how people can get the most out of Internet TV. Honestly, aside from Netflix and HULU, there’s not a lot of really awesome stuff out there, but that’s why this market is poised to explode over the next couple of years.

Intra-preneurship (Unless it’s a top down effort, don’t even try it.)

In February, @phillmckinney wrote an article about corporate anti-bodies and their effect on innovation. I’ve got a few thoughts on this… First off, if you’ve got a track record for seeing problems, coming up with solutions, figuring out how to make money at it and then convincing people to help you make them happen, start your own company. So few people can see the root cause of a problem and go for the throat to solve it that it’s one of the rarest of skills out there. Go make a lot of money for yourself and your family. Second, it’s the role of an organization to maintain the course of the organization and extend the profitability of the company. Things that get in the way or cause the organization to go off course are sidelined and then pushed out of that organization. Intrapreneurship, as defined by Guy Kawasaki, is really the antithesis of what the company is set up to do. It’s simply not realistic to believe that any mature organization is going to accept developing a product that kills the cash cow. Unless… it’s driven by the CEO and backed by the Board of Directors. That gives credibility, protection for the creative thinkers and innovators on staff, and it gives one more thing: the approval to take risks. Most mature companies are risk averse – they’re organized to extend the life of a product, optimize the sales process and in tough times, cut costs. The innovator is diametrically opposed to this. For that reason alone it’s my belief that intrapreneurship is a myth. If you are ready to strike out on your own then there’s a growing list of resources for you: Startup Weekend, Startup Bus (which just wrapped up at SxSW) as well as TechStars and lots of accelerator and incubator programs. If you’re in Tampa, StartupWeekend Tampa is launching on April 13, there’s Gazelle Lab and a really successful StartupBus just finished with BumperCrop placing second. Do you want to beat your head against a wall for somebody else, or do you want to do it for yourself and get even bigger reward?

The Most Daring of Ideas

In March, Paul Graham wrote a post about the top 7 most daring startup ideas. At number 4 was “Internet Drama” which discussed how video content delivery will be changing consumer’s viewing habits. He also identified two ways that this was likely to play out – either Netflix, HULU or a similar platform will continue to aggregate content from studios or a platform will provide streaming a-la-carte programming along with out of the box subscription services. The latter is exactly what ChannelShift does for video content providers. In my opinion, video distributed over Netflix or HULU builds the brands of the aggregators, not the content producers. It also makes it difficult to grow an audience and recognize increased revenue as a result. So what’s needed is a platform that allows video content with high production value (i.e. not cats swinging from a fan) to get to mobile, tablet, IPTV and ConnectedTV’s quickly and through a subscription payment method to consumers. Precisely what we’ve built with ChannelShift.

When I started the company a year ago I had no idea that it would be called the most daring of ideas. What I did see was the need for a company that focused specifically on what was happening in streaming technology and that could make it simple and profitable for companies to get access to it. So to me, it’s only  a daring idea if you don’t break it down into smaller pieces and then start knocking them out. Face your most daring ideas head-on, I promise you it’s the most rewarding of accomplishments.

Tampa Twilight Criterium

Cigar City Brewing Criterium 2012Stephanie and I had a great time watching the Pro-1-2 from under the tent at the start/finish line. I want to thank David Green for being a gracious host and a shout out to my old team mates Davey A, Tim, Jim and Bill. Here’s a pic of the action just as the sun was dropping. It’s also the first time we had a chance to eat at Taco Bus. Service…meh. Food? I’m going back for more.

Falling DVD Sales

In this month’s issue of The Deal, way back on page 48, there’s a discussion of how “Disruption has been rearranging the media landscape…” There’s a brief paragraph “…falling DVD sales, insufficiently counterbalanced by … digital sources like Netflix Inc.” Essentially the article is pointing out a number of sub-sectors that are suffering at the increased pace of innovation and disruption. The overall DVD manufacturing industry is projected to decline at about 3% annually for the next 4 years. That’s a net loss of about $1 billion from now until 2016. To me, there’s plenty of room to disrupt in this market – clearly there’s demand for content from consumers and on top of that the medium they’re accustomed to using is slowly disappearing. The streaming video market is an obvious choice, that’s why I started ChannelShift. But what other opportunities exist? Kid’s interactive programming like LeapFrog. Try this – Google ‘cdrom interactive instruction’ and see what comes up. You should get about 12 million results. What we need are companies that help this content get in front of an audience that is accustomed to immediate gratification. With the bandwidth going into homes now there is no reason a consumer has to wait for a shipment of DVD’s. All we need are companies to make it happen.

90 Days In a Startup Accelerator – Part 1

As one of the first six companies to complete Gazelle Lab‘s accelerator program I can say that it was well worth the effort. If you’re a startup in Tampa Bay then I highly recommend submitting your application NOW. Check the FAQ on their site for an up-to-date list of the benefits you receive and be prepared to part with 6% of the company in exchange for those benefits. In my opinion, it was more than worth it. Also be prepared to work full time on your venture, if you’re holding down a day job and trying to do this… Let’s just say that you need to make a choice between one or the other. Be prepared to work late. Be prepared to speak in front of an audience of up to 1,000 (or more!) or as few as 10. Be prepared to bring a team that can execute – you cannot do this alone as it’s not just a technology solution but a business you’re building. Be prepared to take criticism of yourself, your idea and your company. You’ll be fielding a lot of feedback from mentors and other founders so if you haven’t figured out how to ‘trust your gut’ you probably need to have another founder with that skill or learn for yourself. There’s a saying at TechStars that “It’s just data” and it’s true. Your experience, perceptions and beliefs turn it into actionable information. That’s the ‘gut check’ we’re talking about. Get as informed as you can. Read Venture Deals, Do More Faster and Lean Startup at a minimum before you enter the program. I also recommend Business Model Generation as you’ll need to answer the “How do you make money?” question fairly early on.  Finally, be prepared for things to change right in front of you. It’s just how things work today. If the facts change (such as your target audience) and you don’t change your mind… You’re not going to survive. I had to change the founding team on day 1 as well as the business model and product four weeks into the program. Nobody’s fault – we just couldn’t get the companies we were targeting for strategic partnerships to open up. I had to make a decision to change everything and in the end, we came up with a better product that was more disruptive and far more scalable.

Now, one more thing. If you’re in a corporate job and are feeling a little bored, burnt out or just plain “missing opportunities” then you’re in luck. The “corporate refugee” was a recurring theme of many conversations with both the media and mentors. If you’ve been in a corporate position for a while then you bring a wealth of connections, experience and a built in “gut check” of your own. Hopefully you bring a healthy lack of tolerance for bullshit. I strongly encourage you to consider jumping into the Gazelle Lab program if you’re in this situation. I did and I have not regretted it for a second. You can DM me on twitter if you want to talk.

Since this is Part 1, subsequent parts will delve into the “Be prepared to’s” that I spelled out earlier. This is a great time for Tampa Bay, StartupBus is coming in March, StartupWeekend is coming again next year and BarCamp Tampa Bay was the biggest we’ve ever had. Keep pushing!

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