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September 2009
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Snow Leopard Upgrade on Mac Mini: No Problem

It was with great apprehension when I decided to upgrade my OS.  Remembering the pain of several XP upgrades I suppose.  I backed up everything and made a bootable drive just in case.   Installed the disk, told it o.k.

Aa Two hours later it was done, rebooted my machine and everything worked perfectly.

I was flabbergasted.  

It just worked.  And that's a worthy goal whenever we do software development.

Experience vs Experts

Experts are great when you have a well defined problem and need a quick solution.   Which is why I like union journeyman electricians.  But not so hot with ill-defined problems you tend to find in start up companies.  Experts tend to be very deep in their field but not very wide.  The classic "if all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail".

Experienced people are much better at ill defined problems.  They have a large tool kit of pre-made partial solutions from which they can build a custom solution.   In the food world Sandra Lee prepares fantastic meals, but not from scratch.  She calls it " semi-homemade cooking".   I never realized Bisquick was so versatile.

It's very frustrating to deal with both ends of the spectrum in a startup:  On one hand you have the talented "build everything from scratch", which constantly re-invents the wheel and takes forever, and on the other side you have the "experts" who have one solution for everything.   Finding that experienced middle is a task in itself.  

But once you find them, keep them close and keep them happy.

Citibank Increase Credit Card Rates by 50%, Citigroup loses 27 cents per share last quarter

Found out today Citibank increased their Master Card rate to 29.99% from 19.99%.  That's prime plus 26.74%.

So, they are making 800% return on money they lend you.   But if you "opt out" (read cancel) your card, you can continue paying off at the 19.99% rate.

We give Citi $45B in taxpayer TARP money and they return the favor by burning us.   

And Citigroup wonders why they lost 27 cents a share.   Maybe people aren't as clueless as Vikram thinks.

Funding a Start up: Lessons from The Brothers Bloom

I watched the Brothers Bloom a couple of days ago. Aa  Quirky but entertaining.   It the story of two brothers who become the worlds best con men.  (no, raising money is not a con job)  Three things were interesting about their approach:

1) The older brother Stephen would build a complete storyboard of the con, usually consisting of 15 parts.

2) They would spend a lot of time understanding their target (mark), hopes, dreams and desires.

3) The last part was always an exit, but the mark would have their dreams realized, so even though they were in reality conned, the mark never complained, because they got everything they wanted.

Business is always personal.  First off, do have to have a well developed thought out story about the journey an investor will have with you?   The next step is the one most founders ignore.  Understand your investors hopes, dreams and desires.   Does your story deliver on those?  If not, no deal.  And finally have a good exit where everyone gets what they want and need.   If you don't deliver on this, you'll be a one trick pony.

This is hard.  But it does work.   

JP Morgan Chase Online Support Crash

Chase seems to be having another problem with their IT.  They have this nifty secure internal email system to which they will reply within 4 hours.   I started a discussion the other day about why they cut my credit card limit by 80% without telling me.   (I thought that was pretty rude).   

Anytime I try to send a message, the system logs me off before sending.  That's one way to control customer support costs I suppose.

Penn Schoen and Berland Flawed Online Surveys

PSB claims to give people who buy their service "Winning Knowledge tm".  Unless you are interested in that very small segment of the market who run on a Mac.   O.K. that's 10% of the market PSB is ignoring.

Why?  Because the opinionguru survey system will not run in a browser on Mac OS X.  Oh, and it won't run on Safari.

Hey Mark.  Here's a trend; a lot of people use Mac's and maybe, just maybe your clients are interested in their views.

Today's lesson.  When you're getting the pulse of the market, be very careful not to put up any roadblocks between you and the people who are your market.

Cream of the Crap: American Express touts J.D. Powers Ranking

I like spin as much as the next person, but American Express takes it to a whole new level.  This was on their home page:


Aa  Amex repaid their TARP money in June and is now restoring compensation cuts they made.  And how did they do this?  By increasing interest rates up to 50% and lowering credit limits.

So how did they get this wonderful rating?

Let's see what J.D. Powers has to say:

Fees and Rates Drive Decline in Overall Credit Card Customer Satisfaction

Driven by a significant decrease in satisfaction with fees and rates, overall credit card customer satisfaction declines to a three-year low....Overall satisfaction among credit card customers remains the lowest across the financial services industries....

Ah, so consumer satisfaction has dived for credit card companies, but among the fallen American Express is the best of the worse.  Now that makes sense.

Pigs can fly!

Doing a Presentation: Dealing with the Hecklers

It's been a long time since I've done a presentation to a general audience.   But last week I did one at the University of New Mexico about doing a startup on the cheap.   50% of the people in attendance came from outside the University.  It was a lot of fun. 

From past experience I knew there would be a ringer in the crowd who would ask me deep questions to see if I knew my stuff.  Sure enough, there was one, and I answered all of his questions.   So far, so good.

Then I kept getting questions from someone who kept challenging me on corporate entity types.  For investors, you always do a "C" corporation.  Period.  They insisted that an LLC was a better format.  I strongly disagreed because we were talking about venture type businesses, not lifestyle.  After about the third time an angel investor in the audience stood up and said they would never invest in an LLC and explained why.  Finally that ended that discussion.

Never ran into that before, but it was good that the audience was engaged enough to back up the key points.  

Afterward I decided to check up on the heckler's company.   They did "Internet marketing" and "Search Engine Optimization".   So just for grins, I put in those key words in Google and added "Albuquerque".   Guess which company did not show up in the search results?  And I looked back three pages.  

So here are my definitions.  A heckler just makes noise but has no substance.  A ringer has substance and just wants to make sure you do too.  So if you run into a heckler, ask them to see you after the presentation.  If that doesn't work, walk up to them and ask them to leave.   You owe that much to the people who want to learn something.