What Have You Lerned, lately?

  • “I don’t want to learn anything new, I just want to get through the next couple years and then retire” – actual quote from a CIO at a London conference I hosted.
  • “I know COBOL, I just want to work on those projects” – actual quote from a Professional Services employee at a large technology company.
  • “I went to school, I’m done learning new things” – A recruit during an interview
    “I am so SMRT” – Homer Simpson

I’ve done many, many discussions and interviews with technical people over the years and it never ceases to amaze me when I find someone who refuses to keep up to date on the latest technologies.  To me it’s part of the job-description – stay on top of the latest technology, trends, processes and anything that helps to be a better technologist.

Continuous learning may be mandatory for any technical person, but also business people better serve their companies and careers when they look to technology to be more valuable to their employer.   A finance person who educates themselves on analytics tools such as ‘R’, Tableau or even MapReduce can provide tremendous value, and knowing these technologies will help their career advancement.  It’s everyone’s job to be technically literate and to contribute.

The best thing about staying technically relevant is that it’s very low cost or free!  Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others provide free online tutorials and even cloud resources to learn valuable skills on their platforms.  Open Source software is free and there are communities who ‘meet up’ to discuss best practices.  And, as always, you can reach out to many, many people willing online to give you advice and help.

I’m talking to students this evening at Oakland University and my message to them is:

PCz

Ignite Automotive 2015

On February 9th, a bunch of us got together with seven-hundred Slide01and fifty new friends at the Royal Oak Music Theatre to talk about careers in the Automotive economy.  The 3rd “Ignite Automotive” was a complete success with many amazing talks given.  If you have never been to an ‘ignite’ event, make sure you attend one in the future.  It’s about giving a five-minute talk – twenty slides – timed at fifteen seconds a slide.  Yes, timed.  It’s harrowing for the speaker, because if you miss a cue, or slow down, or have a brain-fart, you’re basically screwed.  My talk was “Chasing the Connected Vehicle” and I only had a couple brain farts.

There were many students in the audience and our goal was to inspire them to seek employment in the automotive industry.  Advances in technology and design has really opened up opportunities for young people to participate and lead the way in building the next-generation connected vehicle.  I focused on technology because there is a dramatic shortage of technology talent, and these young people have the aptitude, skills and attitude that we need to keep in Michigan.

Slide02I tried to focus on the fact that a lot of auto companies are chasing ‘connected vehicle’ products, but no one really understands what drivers really want because there are so many demographic differences between drivers and their connected vehicle needs.  Because of this, products have been rolled out unevenly and even dangerously. Slide15

This has caused delay in product rollout  while the technology continues to advance.

This gap needs to be filled by young people who have lived with connectivity for most of their lives, and better understand the needs for connected products in the future.  The job opportunities are enormous and these are great jobs!Slide18All in all, I got to talk to a lot of young people and thought leaders in the industry.  I kinda felt like a poseur because I’m not a ‘car guy’ and never will be.  However, the industry needs tech-folks as well as design-folks to help automotive engineers design the next generation of connected vehicle.

Cheers! Paul Cz

Slide20

Detroit Startup Weekend Success!

I spent last weekend with my new bestest friends, the people who StartupWeekendDet_Horizorganized and participated in Detroit Startup Weekend #SWDetroit.   Twelve teams of very smart, dedicated entrepreneurs stuck out the fifty-four hours to pitch their ideas and companies to the judges, of which I was one.

The twelve teams were: WeCollab, Gathrd, NFC Interactive, GameGeek, DineRoll, Pop-Up, Nfluents, RFP-House, Menti, Mundo, Trelay and MySwimPal.

The judging criteria was quite specific.  We evaluated teams on their Value Proposition, Uniqueness of their idea, Rollout/Growth Strategy, Revenue Model, Research, Customer Validation, Target Market, MVP/Prototype, Functional Technical Demo and User Experience/Design.

I also coached the teams and told them that I was interested in their financial model, but, most importantly, that their idea has ‘obvious value’, best answered a problem statement and captured my imagination.

Many teams focused on “what” they were building but neglected “who” they were building for and “WHY” they were in existence.   My advice for future startup-ees is to focus on the judging criteria because it’s very important to understand what we are looking for.  The teams that did the best were balanced in all areas.  Most teams fell into the middle-of-the-pack because they neglected their MVP/Prototype or business model.

Well, the top three teams were Gathrd, Pop-up and MySwimPal.  Number #3, MySwimPal, had an authentic idea and presentation and did very well in the Q&A.  Number #2, Gathrd, really rocked out their MVP and understood their place in the market.  Number #1, Pop-Up, which pivoted to name which escapes me now, did very well with their Technical MVP and focus.

As for me, I had a lot of fun, meeting new friends and inspiration from all the energy in the room!  So, congratulations to all and thanks for letting me participate!  I look forward to future events!

P-Cz

 

 

Detroit Startup Weekend – November 14-16

StartupWeekendDet_Horiz

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again.  Time to get the startup juices flowing and participate in Startup Weekend Detroit!   This is my fourth time attending, once as a participant, once as a mentor, and now my second time as a judge.   Judging at this event is an honor and I always spend as much of the three day event observing and helping any way I can.   The actual judging timeframe is pretty quick.  Team pitches are short: 5 minutes for the pitch/demo and 5 minutes for Q&A.   After all pitches are complete, the judges deliberate and select the top 3 teams from the weekend.

Some of the ‘official’ judging criteria are:

  • Validation – Did the team get out and talk to customers? Are they actually solving a problem? Have they identified a specific target market?
  • Product Execution & Design – Does the team have an minimum viable product or prototype? How functional is the technical demo? How easy to use is their product (design matters)?
  • Business Model – What is their value proposition and how does it impact the problem they’re trying to solve? Is the idea unique? What is their revenue model and how do they plan on making the business successful?

In addition, some of my  ‘unofficial’ judging criteria is based on the team and the individuals who make up the team:

  •   Is each individual “genuine”?
  • Are they ‘authentic’ with their pitch?
  • Are they in sync with each other?
  • Do they like each other?

I am currently reading the excellent book  ‘The Innovators: How a21856367-2
Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution’ by Walter Isaacson.  One thing that struck me was that the concept of the Silicon Valley startup happened in the 1950’s by a gentleman named Arthur Rock, who took the east-coast venture model (first named “adventure capital”) and funded a group of entrepreneurial engineers at Fairfield Camera.

As Walter Isaacson writes: “He had a background in business research, a love of technology, an intuitive feel for business leadership, and a lot of East Coast investors he had made happy. “The money was on the East Coast but the exciting companies were in California, so I decided to move west knowing that I could connect the two,” he said.

But Arthur’s true brilliance was in his evaluation (judging) of startup ventures.

Isaacson continues: “One of his key investment maxims was to bet primarily on the people rather than the idea. In addition to going over business plans, he conducted incisive personal interviews with those who sought funding. “I believe so strongly in people that I think talking to the individual is much more important than finding out too much about what they want to do,” he explained.”

I agree with this so very much.  I have evaluated hundreds of companies and I sat through their pitches, the overwhelming criteria for considering an investment was the people involved.  Ideas are wonderful but if they are not backed by people who are passionate and committed, the probability of success is extremely low.

So, to my friends participating in the fun, consider my perspective as you work with your colleagues this weekend.  I’ll be watching, and judging (and helping).

PCzStartup Weekend Detroit in Detroit Michigan on November 15-17th 2013

Head in the Clouds? It’s a Good Place to be!

ClouDogBack in January I wrote about my passion and desire to work on cloud projects.  http://http://paulczarnik.com/wordpress/2014/01/25/enter-stage-right/

Since them I found some folks I’ve known a long time who also saw the opportunity to work on something completely different; cloud applications.  We all decided to ‘team-up’ and work together.

MadDogLogoWelcome to MadDog, a new  company with years of experience but a startup attitude that  exists to help enterprise companies exploit their own process and data IP with cloud technologies.  We already have consulting gigs to help a large companies replace their on-premise, custom systems with cloud-based solutions.  The opportunities are enormous and we are selective about who we work with.

Enough said, we will have additional public information in the days to come.  Visit our website and social-media sites for more information.   If you want more information on the technologies that I’m focusing on, visit AWS (Amazon Web Services).

If you’re ready for your own cloud initiative, contact me!

P-Cz

Seeding Cloud Apps

CloudSeedingCloud Seeding is the methodology of dispersing chemicals in order to alter weather patterns.  Effectiveness of this practice remains controversial even these days, with one of the latest controversies being the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where rockets were used to seed clouds in order to prevent rain during the opening and closing ceremonies.   Nobody seems to know if this worked or not.

So, what does this have to do with cloud-computing?  Sometimes you have all the ingredients you need to change your computing paradigm but you’re reluctant to do so because:

  • It’s perceivably too hard
  • You don’t have the aptitude or talent
  • It goes against status-quo
  • You’re afraid to invest time and money

I’ve noticed a backlash against cloud-computing recently.  Surveys in the press seem to indicate that CIO’s are not planning to do much in 2014 with their cloud-computing strategy, that is if they have a strategy at all.  They cite security issues or lack of ROI as the reason.  I understand, these issues are real and need to be confronted.  Security is a red-herring – securing cloud applications is (mostly) the same as securing your in-house applications.  ROI is another issue.  Although computing costs are getting cheaper, software vendors are playing games with licensing, not willing to give up perpetual-license revenues.  So they play games with setting “minimum licenses”, either steering you to perpetual licenses or locking you in to a long-term contract.  In either case, it’s short-sighted on their part and will backfire.   I’ll be happy to see them fail and go out of business.

“DISRUPT OR BE DISRUPTED”

This is what should be keeping you up at night.  If you don’t have Focus, Urgency and Discipline (FUD), you’re done for.  At some point your competition will wake up and invest in these platform, gain the competitive advantage, and by the time you start to think about moving to cloud-computing it will be too late.  At least too late for you, because you didn’t act.

WHAT TO DO

Take inventory of all your old systems.  The only thing left inside your cloud-seedingdata-center should be security-critical applications that you aren’t ready to move.  Retire old systems and move to cloud-solution vendors that truly offer a SaaS solution and subscription license model.  Be strategic, work on ROI that’s in front of you and that’s achievable in an agile project.  If you have a differentiated application that provides competitive advantage, consider opening up the application to cloud-based web-services.

Most of all, avoid the negativity from analysts and the press who say that there is no urgency to move to these platforms.  I’m happy to talk to anyone balking at the opportunity of building cloud-based apps and how to move forward.

P-Cz