links for 2009-04-19

  • One of my recent blogs discussed the DNA of great entrepreneurs as a mix of three simple things: smarts, guts, and luck. But what about the characteristics of entrepreneurs that can hinder success and prevent their companies from getting to the next level?
    More than 10 years ago a classmate of mine at Harvard Business School said to me, in the thickest of Japanese accents and a slow and forceful voice, “Tony, you are a true entrepreneur…your strengths are your weaknesses and your weaknesses are your strengths.” The statement was profound and has resonated with me through the years.
    Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the following entrepreneurial traits:
  • In the latest example of investors trying new approaches during the downturn, a venture-capital firm that was an early backer of Facebook Inc. is devising a plan to outsource early investing decisions to hand-picked entrepreneurs and technology executives.
    The Silicon Valley firm Founders Fund plans to give at least 12 “fellows” $25,000 to invest in an early-stage company of their choosing. Founders Fund will invest $25,000 alongside those initial investments and request the right to invest an additional $250,000 when the companies raise their next round, according to Sean Parker, managing partner at Founders Fund, which announced it raised a $220 million fund in late 2007. The firm expects to devote roughly $3.6 million to the new program.

  • The Internet needs to be more trustworthy if it wants to grow, according to Microsoft’s senior security executive, Scott Charney.
    In a video posted to Microsoft’s Web site ahead of Charney’s keynote at next week’s RSA security conference, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Trustworthy Computing described how anonymity on the Internet is increasingly being exploited by cyber criminals. “We need to push back on anonymity and lack of traceability,” he said.
    “Because the Internet can be anonymous and untraceable, criminals flock to the Internet,” Charney explained. “Today too many people do not know what software is running on their machine and often they have malware. They often don’t know who they’re communicating with, whether an e-mail they’ve received is spoofed or from some unknown sender even when it appears to come from someone they know. When they visit Web sites, they don’t know if that Web site is to be trusted or not.”
    “For all of these reasons we need End-to-End Trust”
  • “Doing more with less.” For marketers, this is not a recession-specific catchphrase. In my experience, organizations are always asking marketing departments to do more (drive more leads, Web site visits, online transactions) with less (budget, staff, services). While this tendency has caused more than a few ulcers, the positive byproduct has been (and continues to be) innovation in direct marketing technology.
    In fact, it is safe to say that it’s easier than ever for marketers to do more with less. The trick is finding the application of technology that makes the most sense for your business. From an email communication perspective, a great place to start is automation. If you are not automating a good portion of email communications, you may be missing a chance to be more relevant, timely and efficient. If email automation was on your list of 2009 objectives, here is a primer that can get you started before 2010 rolls around!
    (tags: marketing)
  • A survey suggests the growing acceptance of a 36-week job hunt.
    The longer the job search, the bigger the need for antidepressants. But that may be less true if you are higher up the corporate ladder.
    Last month Robert Half Management Resources (RHMR) released an interesting survey, suggesting that senior-level managers can be out of work for nine months before it has adverse affects on their careers.
    The research was based on a telephone survey of 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.
    “Extended [job] searches aren’t unusual,” Paul McDonald, RHMR’s executive director, said in a press release. “Most hiring managers recognize the economy has sidelined many outstanding people.”
    But the economy has sidelined many others who might not classify themselves as “senior managers” or be calm about a 36-week job hunt. For them, the question may be less a matter of “how long” but “how you handle it” in a resume or interview.
    (tags: career)
  • Open source software is getting plenty of looks from all Web professionals as the collective focus has turned to making the most of a limited budget. Many are now choosing open source over their commercial counterparts.
    However, the decision requires serious consideration, especially for those involved in e-commerce and Internet retailing. While open source does provide significant cost savings, does it require Web professionals to take some serious risks on the integrity of their systems?
    Ask 10 Web professionals the definition of open source and you will receive 10 different answers. The promise of open source as defined and provided by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) is that open source software is of better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, ends predatory vendor lock-in and, of course, comes at a lower cost.
    (tags: ecommerce)
  • Just last year, venture capitalists in the Washington region were willing to take a chance on an idea that might be promising, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars during the first quarter into projects such as an e-commerce site and a social network for music fans.
    But during the first three months of this year, investments have fallen to their lowest level since 1997, and start-ups without customers, revenue and an air-tight business model have little hope of receiving money.
    Investors have put just $59.1 million into 20 deals in the region since Jan. 1, down from $237.7 million into 49 deals during the comparable period a year ago. The drop reflects the uncertainty felt by both venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in this tight economic time.
    (tags: vc)
  • As media market-share wars go, this one’s epochal. This week Ashton Kutcher — the former “That ’70s Show” star and “Punk’d” auteur now mostly known for being married to Demi Moore and doing Nikon commercials — declared his intention to beat out CNN in the race to become the first Twitterer with one million followers. At midday Tuesday, when ABC News first reported on the throwdown, it counted 858,660 Kutcher followers; by Wednesday afternoon he was up to 903,508, coming within spitting distance of top celebrity Twitterer, Britney Spears; by Thursday he overtook her. By the time you’re reading this — well, check for yourself.
    (tags: Twitter)

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