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The Giving Season

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I've spoken a lot about giving to others and the impact that it's had on my life. Around this time last year, I encouraged people to join me in pushing back the darkness in the world by "turning on the light," giving gifts to their neighbors, friends, and even strangers without expecting anything in return. When the world seems bent on evil and destruction, you have two choices: you can get angry and add to the noise or you can fight back with love. My family and I choose the latter, and I hope that you, gentle reader, will do so as well.

I try to do find ways to give and to help others all year long, but there's something about the last six weeks of the year that calls to me to do more, give more, spread more light. This week, I thought about why that is and I came up with three reasons:
It's the Holidays Whether or not you want to attach special meaning to the December holidays,  time of year is special in America. We're bombarded with images of happy …

The growing funding gap

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“Pre-seed is the new seed.”
“We need to see traction before we can write a check. Come back when you have a product and customers.”
“We don’t do sub-500K rounds anymore. If you want less than that, talk to your friends and family.”
There’s a growing gap in the funding market, and early-stage companies are finding it more and more difficult to raise the money they need to get their products off the ground. Those that do spark investor interest face constant pressure to think bigger, ask for more money than they need, and commit to accelerating their company’s growth before they’re ready. None of this is healthy. I’ve seen this trend in the Boulder/Denver market over the past couple of years and I’ve confirmed it with friends and peers in Boston and the Bay Area: VCs and angel investors are moving up-market, de-risking their investments by waiting until a company has already proven its viability by releasing a product and winning its first few customers. Meanwhile, most entrepreneurs’ frie…

Announcing Da Primus Consulting

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"Give First."

These words drew me and my family to Boulder in 2009. We were drawn to a place that favored community over cutthroat competition, support over secrecy, where one company's success was a victory for everyone. We came here to join a small but rapidly growing group of people who wanted to tackle wicked problems and change the world through entrepreneurship. And boy, am I glad that we did.

"Give first." It's more than a motto: it's a way of life that looks at the world not as a Darwinian experiment but as a system that returns what you put into it. If you sow generously, then you'll reap generously. If you're only here to harvest, then you'll find that the resources eventually dry up. "For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Give, and it will come back to you. And if it doesn't, then that's OK, too, because you helped someone who needed it.

Giving has always been a big part of my personal life, an…

You Have to Give to Succeed

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Giving is a way of life in my family.  I've talked before about how we make this a priority in our lives and our finances, and we try to make it a part of our everyday lives as well.  For years, when anyone left the house for the day, they would leave with the words "Be a blessing!" in their ears.  We want to be more than good people; we want to be a blessing to the world, and every part of my personal life is tuned toward that purpose.

Work?  Not so much.  Putting other people first at home is one thing, but doing it at work always seemed to be the fast track to a career in doormats and punching bags.  When your boss has Sun Tzu's  The Art of War on his desk, maybe graceful capitulation isn't the best strategy.  So I learned to keep my generosity at home and to be more strategic in my dealings at work.

I had a certain image in my mind of what a "giver" looked like: nice, soft, beaten down, carrying some girl's books to school while she walked arm…

When to hire a CxO

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In my last article, I told you that you don't need a CTO yet, and I received some interesting responses.       In one discussion, someone pointed out that this doesn't just apply to CTOs but could really include any C-level position that the founding team doesn't already have covered.  I agree: I chose to write about the CTO role because it's closer to my experience, so I end up discussing this function with startup teams, but you could just as easily say, "Don't hire a CFO yet."  As this person pointed out, you need to take care of the functions that are covered by these roles, but you don't need to create the titles until they're absolutely necessary.

So let's assume you took my advice (because you really should).  The logical next question is: when should I hire a CxO?  The actual timing varies by your company and situation, but here are some pointers to tell you when the time is right.

When the hat gets too big "We all wear a lot of …

Startups: You Don't Need a CTO (Yet)

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"My technical co-founder just quit," she says, "and he took all of the product code with him.  Now I have to negotiate to get my product back."

"I had to fire my CTO last week," he says, swirling the coffee in his mug and looking around the coffee shop.  "The entire engineering team quit within a few days, so now I'm just hoping nothing breaks before I can hire some people to review the code and learn how it all works."

I hear stories like this all the time from the startups that I work with and from other startup mentors.  Companies who are just starting to get traction are suddenly paralyzed by a loss of technical leadership and lose precious time, money, and reputation strength as they rebuild.  The cause: hiring a CTO too early.

Every software company needs technical leadership, and it can seem especially critical in the early stages, but do you need a CTO right out of the gate?  Tradition (and perhaps investors) would say so, but experie…

Feeding the Elephant: Building for Enterprise Customers

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In my last post, I told you how to identify the real customers of your software. Now let's talk about what you do if that customer is a large enterprise.

Many development teams think that if they worked for a “real” product company, then they would build a cool product, with features that they knew everyone would want, and the world would beat a path to their door.  “Real products predict what the market will want, they build it, and then everyone buys it,” they say.  “Better yet, they disrupt the market by building things that no one even knew they needed!  Why aren’t we doing that?”

Personally, I can think of one company that worked this way: Apple.  And even Apple had the Lisa, an expensive mistake that illustrated the high risks of the “artistic savant” approach to product development.  All other development teams have to actually talk to some customers, figure out what they need, and build it.  To make things more complicated, the voices of those customers vary widely depend…