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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

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Starting up and Startup (Part 2)

Part II – With a Little Help from my Friends

The road does not seem so long and hard when in the good company


Convincing others - Being a humble CEO

I enjoyed working for Microsoft for those few years in the past. I was presented with many challenges, especially at a time when securing Microsoft product was a major problem which required prompt solving, due to Microsoft software being regularly infected by viruses.
I had multiple roles in the organization, the major one being building our customer messaging system from scratch, a system designed to deal with the frustration caused by hackers attacks on the Microsoft software. People used to hate Microsoft so much back then (now they've shifted their attention to other targets
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I loved Microsoft as a company, I loved the people around me and I loved dealing with these  challenges.
However when working in corporations one too often finds himself seeing holes when others see only walls. You find yourself knowing what the right thing to do is, yet taking forever to convince others. You spend all your energy talking to people instead of taking action. Too often I found myself frustrated and thinking: 'oh well, when I have my own company I'll be the one making the decisions, and I’ll lead all my people to the Promised Land, in my own way'.
Years went by, and ironically I must admit, I've learned that in order to be a good leader one has to sometimes let other people lead him.
Everybody's seeking guidelines. And still, if you chose to work with great and smart people such as yourself, you must allow them the freedom of choice; otherwise you will only find yourself building another corporation, with people taking forever to convince you and each other before actually beginning to build the product. Startup companies do not have this time to waste, and as the leader of such a company, you must hire great and creative people, and make sure you allow them the space and freedom to spread their wings and take you up.
This is why, even at the earliest stage of founding my own company, I realized I cannot tell people: 'hey! THIS is the right thing to do'. Instead, I knew I had to bring them around my ideas, make them understand what I want, and let them come with their own solutions, so that they can express themselves the same way I always wanted to do myself back then.

Raising Money - Being a modest CEO

For the longest time, my impression of people who went around raising money from strangers in order to support the development of their own ideas was that they must be arrogant.
Today I know otherwise. People, who believe so strongly in their own ideas, can feel comfortable enough asking for other people's money as a mean to realize their dreams. However, whether it's VC's money or Angel's money, it all comes from people who worked very hard for it, and therefore must be very well respected.
So this way or that, I eventually found myself as well, asking these investors to believe in an idea of mine.

It took me a while to understand that it is not the idea I’m selling for the money, but it is rather me and my skills. I don’t think that Genieo is the cleverest idea I ever had, but I do believe it came up at the right moment which enabled me to make it happen and lead my company to success.
Oh yes, I may fail, the investors may lose their money, but they can rest assured that they've put their money into a great management team which increases their chance to hit success.
When you go around raising money, do not fix yourself on the idea itself only or on its potential. Investors are after the full package, they are looking for the right people who can make it happen for them! 
I never spend extra money on a business class ticket when I travel around the world, I never buy fancy stuff to make me feel like a successful CEO, yet I do always try to spend a fair amount of money on my employees. That is the wisest investment I can make with my investor’s money.


Find your partner

Never start a company by yourself alone. Great partnership and collaboration will always prove more beneficial than anything you will do on your own.
The greatest challenge when starting up a new company is finding the right partner. A person to walk with you all the way “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part” – yes, exactly like with a good marriage, you must find the person who will complete you, fill in your weak spots, encourage you when you lose faith, a person with whom you will be able to share all your intimate thoughts on your way to success. It may be hard to do, but you'd better find that great partner for this journey.

Consider as well, that your investors and employees are also partners of yours. When they lose, you lose, when they fail, you fail, their success is your success as well. And always remember, that when you win, they should all be winners, and you must make them part of the celebration by showing them your good will and gratitude and give them more than you promised to give. Remember that without them you wouldn't be standing there, at that moment of success.

We can all fail, as great as we may be. Sometimes, it'll be because of wrong timing, other times we may take the wrong direction. People who dare always make mistakes. Remember that you are not defined by what you do or don't do, or by what you achieve or do not achieve. You are the reflection of the strength of your faith, and of the power of your will and diligence. This is what makes you who you are and it all has to do with the freedom you give your mind. You are the dreams you dare to dream.

Every light, bright or faint, begins with a spark of the freedom of dreaming and courage to believe. That is the difference between the creator and his opposite, the eliminator.

Monday, August 23, 2010

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Starting up and Startup (Part 1)

As a young CEO and Co-founder of a startup company I often find myself thinking of the path I chose and the destination I lead myself to.
Thinking of all those lonely times, when I’m traveling around the world in the middle of the night - sometimes even in the middle of nowhere really; crossing the world from one corner to another; scheduling meetings with different people from different cultures; speaking in a foreign language which forces me to concentrate not only on what I have to say but also on how to build a proper sentence, all in the cause of reaching out and touching these different cultures.

This is my idea of living: exploring, learning, teaching others, sharing thoughts and ideas, braking rules and lines I locked myself in years ago without even noticing, growing day by day and becoming the person I am today, re-inventing myself to with every new dawn -  every day I am the person I am that day.

Our definition of ourselves as people is based on our past: past behavior, past experiences, past achievements. And yet, is observing a prior behavior really the best approach to understand who we really are? Well, to some extent – yes. But then this could lead us to live in a false impression and view of ourselves. After all, we humans are only trying to simplify complex questions, such as who we are.

Can we really do it?

Ordinarily, we'll try to answer these questions with reference to our past achievements in life as oppose to our qualities, capabilities and skills. We've all heard stories of people who suddenly found a new hobby at which they really excel. One starts painting at the age of 60, another starts playing the guitar at the age of 50. Talent is most of all about faith, will power, practice and a hard work. So yes, one can live up to his dreams by having strong faith, powerful will and diligence. Easy to say – after all, I must admit myself to accommodating a lazy demon inside of me as well as anyone. I do like to do the things I love, and the things I love come fairly easy to me most of the time - easier than other things anyway.
Yes, I could fool myself and fall into this magic circle of doing only the easy things, but instead I chose to break this circle, free my mind and dare to dream.
I keep reminding myself that every light, bright or faint, begins with a spark of the freedom of dreaming, and the courage to believe. That is the difference between the creator and his opposite, the eliminator.

The creator and the eliminator

I think about every great idea I ever had along the years, and of the obstacles which stood in my way to realize them. I could start a company 10 or 15 years ago. So what was it that was so different two and a half years ago, at the moment when Genieo was only an idea in my mind, not even a dream?


Insight and instincts – your guides on the journey

Whenever I felt I had a good idea, I used to go to people I admire and consult them upon it, in hope to get some kind of approval to my insane concepts. 100% of the time, the feedback I got was that it’s impossible to technically do, impossible to monetize, impossible to raise the money for it… All those clever peers of mine, those great company employees simply told me to forget about it, and that it won’t work.
It took me nearly 10 years to see that those ideas of mine were actually possible; unfortunately however, it happened only by way of it coming to my attention when someone else had realized them. Some of those ideas proved to be rather good ones and made their developers very successful.

So what was it that made my friends tell me my ideas were impossible? Was it me? Maybe I failed to communicate my thoughts properly? Or was it a matter of bad timing?
In fact, throughout the years I began to realize that many of my ideas involved instincts that I had in me, instincts that kicked so strong and became in away part of reality - a reality I saw but they did not.
There were things that were so clear to me and I didn’t even bother to explain, because they were so obvious in my vision. Well, it appears that sometimes there's a big difference between consulting with any of your peers and consulting with someone who's actually realized his dreams already.

Your peers can never be a good starting point. They are working for all those great corporations, and are imprisoned within this false transparent wall which prevents their minds from roaming free. Your peers can become innovators, they can be creative, they can posses a great variety of skills, and they can be very willing - But they too often will lack faith.

But don’t get me wrong, I do think that one should seek other people's opinion, learn from it, embrace good advice as one lives through this journey. However, one should never lose his faith and should always listen to his inner voice and let himself be guided by it.
If you are a problem solver, you will find your way. You do not need to figure out and have all the details lined up ahead from the start. Even if you could do it, I would advise against it, as things have a way of changing around us, and we must keep our eyes wide open and move very consciously step by step, from one point to the next; most of the time, the idea we've started with will become something else along this journey; a product may turn out to be quite different from the one we've thought of at the beginning; we may come across a different methodology of solving the problems we set out to solve. Many a time, success will present itself actually when what you've created will seem to have nothing to do with the plans you made for it at the beginning your journey. Sometimes, you may even find that your consumers will redefine your product for you by the way they chose to use it.
So let the world surprise you, let people around you become creative and innovative, let them grow and spread with the seeds you plant. It will make the things you yourself do even better.

Friday, August 6, 2010

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Comment on: HP Labs imagines your computer watching you

Comment on: HP Labs imagines your computer watching you
Genieo.com already have this technology ready. you are welcome to give it a try and see your personal digital reflaction.