Friday, August 02, 2013

Alfidi Capital Method for Accelerating a Technology Company

Entrepreneurs sometimes ask me whether my professional practices translate into actions that can jump-start the growth of small companies.  If I had to boil down what I do into a core process, it would resemble a shortened version of a military intelligence cycle:  collection, analysis, and dissemination.  Collection is what I do when I search a public database or attend a conference; I look for raw information that touches any of the business subjects I understand.  Analysis is me sifting through my conference notes looking for salient points that I can link to news items or industry references.  Dissemination doesn't stop when I push the "publish" button that displays the final version of my blog article on the web.  It includes all of the SEO and republishing tasks I accomplish to ensure my extreme blog wisdom is carried on as many relevant websites as possible.

This is the kind of scanning process any business can accomplish to get the word out about its offerings.  My product line of intellectual content is simple and cheap to execute.  Technology companies face different challenges.  If I were running a high-tech firm, I could adapt my process for that environment.

Where do I collect industry-specific information?

I get daily email feeds from multiple news sites and professional organizations.  I've discovered excellent industry conferences to attend by subscribing to feeds from Eventbrite and Meetup.  I set keywords for those feeds that match my business interests.  Some Meetups have little quality control.  I've learned to attend the sessions run by reputable experts and stay away from those that attract bored housewives.  Simple searches of LinkedIn groups used to turn up good events until LinkedIn removed that function.

I also do Google searches of keywords like "San Francisco investment conference" or "Northern California convention" to see what's happening in my neck of the woods.  That's how I find out about big trade shows like SEMICON West / Intersolar that add nodes to my latticework of mental models.  Nodes don't just come from raw ideas.  People I meet become nodes in my network if I can offer them something of value.  I don't prospect for customers but I do connect with people whom I judge to be thought leaders.  If I connect them to someone I already know, it makes me look good in their eyes and feeds their ego.

I can also attest to the value of several local ecosystems where entrepreneurs thrive.  TiE Silicon Valley has been a tremendous source of entrepreneurial wisdom and many of their events are open to members of the public who pre-register.  I periodically monitor the event calendars of SVForum, VC Taskforce, and the Churchill Club.  I haven't attended their events in recent memory because I'm too cheap to pay up, but my ambition is to work my way onto their calendars as a speaker or panelist.  Nothing beats free publicity.  The opportunity to connect with insiders is too attractive to resist if they let me inside the tent to contribute knowledge.

How would I develop and launch a new product?

Launching one of my finance reports is a heck of a lot easier than launching a high-tech product or service.  Product development doesn't end with a launch announcement; that is only the beginning.  Winning firms continually refine their product lines using Customer Development and the wisdom of Steve Blank on that subject.  I haven't used it myself because I'm not in a customer-oriented sector, but I've heard every subject matter expert at every entrepreneurial conclave I've attended refer to CustDev as the gold standard for piloting a product and pivoting an enterprise.  I'll betcha it's pretty important to know (hint, hint).

Applying for a patent through the USPTO is step one of a long effort in protecting proprietary creations.  High-tech ideas often attract the attention of patent trolls no matter how well protected they might be with their own patents.  The White House has studied patent trolls and is taking executive action to curb the problem.  Entrepreneurs can take their own actions while waiting for the law to catch up to marketplace reality.  IEEE Xplore has a searchable database of technical articles going back a century or more.  I consider it to be a source of long-forgotten wisdom on manufacturing and quality control practices that companies can transform into trade secrets.

I've never participated in a product development cycle except briefly as an observer.  There are tons of things I don't know about making a real product.  That's why I'm a blogger and not an engineer or inventor.  My outline above scratches the surface.  It's up to entrepreneurs to fill in the blanks.