Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Technology Invasion 2018

It has been a few years since I witnessed a remarkable public event in San Francisco. It was not an ordinary tech conference or seminar series. It was literally an invasion. The invaders were not your ordinary conquering horde from way back in ye olden days of yore. These aspiring techies were positive go-getters looking for something productive in the next chapter of their lives.

There is a huge job shortage in tech these days, with tens of thousands of available positions going unfilled. Plenty of organizations and partnerships want you (yes you, dear reader) to get in on this tech action. The Cyber Threat Alliance is one starting point for anyone who wants to learn about how fighting online threats demands a high degree of cooperation across industries. Building your own Linux box qualifies as a job skill. Being the one person on a cybersecurity volunteer committee who actually does the work sounds like a success story that predates the cybersecurity field. Lockheed Martin's Cyber Kill Chain is a good reference for anyone in the field. The Palo Alto Networks Cyber Security Canon is a similarly good reading list, and Palo Alto's Unit 42 is good for current threat intelligence. I have no idea whether the Security Roundtable experts actually sit at a round table, but they probably know more about fighting cyber threats than the legendary knights of King Arthur's round table.

The cyber career bonanza is not limited to security. Product managers determine what to build, coordinate across job functions to get the product completed, and then sell it with evangelizing optimism. Product execution requires tradeoffs between time, budget, and functionality; two out of three is typically good enough, given capacity limitations.

Wanna grow your startup? Of course you do. Every execution is a trade-off between time available, budget constraints, and product functionality. Getting two out of those three right is typically good enough. The simple math of "frustration equals expectation minus results" is humbling for every startup launching a product. Startup founders are always a little bit crazy to launch something radically new. They should take the Strong Interest Inventory before founding a startup to figure out if the entrepreneurial path is right for them. Right path or not, product launches confer lifetime transferable skills upon the launchers.

Founders do not need to be lawyers but they must know the law. Know current case law on corporate finance and private equity (check out the Practising Law Institute for case studies). Document everything from day one because VCs will ask to see your paperwork during their due diligence phase. Your corporate structure is your first business decision, so you had better have a standard equity structure with agreed roles and control authorities if you are serious about raising outside capital. Delaware C-corporation law is robust and predictable in the eyes of VC and private equity investors. Assigning all IP to the corporation via a proprietary inventions information and assignment agreement with technical employees will prevent your tech developers from ripping off your ideas. 

It is sad that America's military veterans are not tapped in to the right insider networks (Stanford, Harvard, Google, etc.) that feed the tech and finance sectors. That holds them back from key careers. Bad leadership is common in startups and our veterans would bring the discipline that startups need. The magic formula for a founding team would be veteran founders teaming up with elite network contacts.

Funding pitches to investors can be fun and rewarding (yes, I'm serious). Professional VCs understand that startups lose money and are prepared for long relationships. It's easy to say that founders should find out how VCs behaved with other startups during hard times but such knowledge is not always publicly available. The founding team that has enough of a stake to work through hard times and a critical mass of competence at the start will have an advantage, even if the starting team is not the same team that makes it to the exit event. Gallup Q12 model questions will help founders understand whether their team is engaged.

I said all of this without telling you much about who these people were or what they represented in 2018. I met some of them through VetsinTech (big clue right there). They're still around today in San Francisco and other tech clusters around the country. They are my kind of people. Get to know them, just in case you end up working for them someday.

Author's Note: I am gradually working through a backlog of writing material that I have gathered since 2018. It will take me some time to get caught up to the present day.