Category Archives: Business, Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital

Make the new CEO an intern first.

This sounds like a really good idea.   “Experience matters? The Impact of Prior CEO Experience on Firm Performance” discusses research by Monika Hamori of the IE Business School in Spain and Burack Koyuncu of the NEOMA Business School in France which indicates that “past performance is not an indicator of future success”.  That sounds like the waiver in most financial documents, and good advice.

Their suggestion on how to ensure that a new CEO hits the ground running is smart.  They suggest putting CEOs with prior experience in an interim position for at least a year before they take on the full CEO role. This, they say, would enable them to acquire company-specific knowledge and also to “unlearn” some of the assumptions about the job.

Forbes: For CEOs Past Performance Is No Guarantee Of Future Success by Roger Trapp

The power of emotional intelligence in a cognitive world.

Breathe to focus.

It sounds simple, even foolish, but it’s not.

Daniel Goleman recently gave a presentation on his new book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, which was reviewed by IMD.   Goleman explains why attention is a little-noticed mental asset that makes a huge difference in how well we find our way in our personal lives, our careers, as parents and partners, and in virtually everything we do.

In the business environment, mastering focus is crucial. And there’s a simple mind exercise we can all do to improve our focusing ability. Simply close your eyes, relax and breathe calmly. Listen to yourself breathe, over and over. And slowly, as your mind starts to drift to a foreign thought, stop it and bring it back to focusing on just the breathing. Over time, the exercise will expand your focusing ability.

“The brain captures and records everything we do in life and makes a mental recording of what works and what doesn’t,” said Goleman. “All decisions that we make are related to these recordings. By engaging in the mind exercise, you work on your cognitive control, keeping the mind focused on a goal, while forcing out distractions.”

The “Syndrome of Disavowed Yearning”

It’s a weird idea, but something about disavowed and yearning had some truth in it.

Sometimes you wonder if celebrities and successful people are happy.  Sometimes it is easy to wonder if it is possible to have friends when someone is so popular or attractive.  Life must be intense.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to imagine that all that hard work might cover up a deep yearning for something desired, but can never admit you want, especially if it’s unobtainable … like your youth back.

So here’s what Dr Mark Goulson says (from the Huffington Post):

The “Syndrome of Disavowed Yearning.”

They often come from parents where their dad was too busy with his job or career and their mother lacked warmth. Often these were not bad parents. The dad was worried about earning a living and so was focused more on his boss or his customers and clients than his family. The mom came from a mother who also lacked warmth (it was often a condition passed on for generations).

In the ideal situation, a child feels solid from the inside out because there is warmth to comfort them when they are hurt or afraid or just plain lonely. They benefit from “you can do it” guidance, support and coaching that can lead to confidence and courage.

If these elements are missing, that child’s personality discovers that instead of feeling the pain from the lack of warmth and enthusiastic support, it hurts less if you disavow needing either.

In the people who become high achievers, they sublimate an aching yearning into accomplishing things. If you’re like them, even if that doesn’t fill you up from the inside out, the conditional grin of approval for what you do, instead of the love and celebration for who you are, can certainly distract you from the yearning. However, as great a way as that is to cope, down deep something at your core feels false. And after many years of accomplishments, those grins of conditional love and approval wear thin and you can feel empty.

Goulston then talks about the kind of person that has been able to get a bigger perspective and see themselves.  And love.


Huffington Post: Why Many High Achievers Feel Unfulfilled: The Syndrome of Disavowed Yearning

Does philanthropy work?

Yes, of course it does.  But being an analyst, and one who must count the pennies too, it has always been a pertinent question.  I’ve always found it difficult to give money to an organisation that has high paid, educated staff taking a third to half the donations in administrative overhead.  I know that when I fly to Africa to help at the village, the cost of the flight alone could feed, house and educate a child in secondary school for a year.  That makes me want to have commercial disciplines and performance metrics in philanthropy.

Fortunately, we are associated with PestalozziWorld which has a clear cut policy of having all donations go to serve their beneficiaries; trustees pay all administrative overhead.  That means operations are necessarily frugal, while they focus on results.

If you have worked hard for your wealth and now enjoy the happiness that comes from making other people’s lives better, you probably also want to bring professionalism and commercial standards to your philanthropy.  Take five minutes to have a look at this article by Guy Sorman in City Journal (copied below) which discusses some of the leading executive philanthropists, like Robin Hood (a favourite of mine) and the Gates Foundation.

Can charities accurately measure their effect on society?

On October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 22.6 percent, a single-day loss unequaled before or since on Wall Street. To most observers, the Black Monday crash came without warning and remained deeply mysterious ever after. The stock market, many concluded, was like the weather: from time to time, an unpredictable convergence of phenomena would have catastrophic effects.

Yet at least one man believed that the crash was coming. In Greenwich, Connecticut, money manager Paul Tudor Jones had been studying the accelerated methods of buying and selling stocks that computers had made possible. The speed of transactions, he felt, had inflated prices, and a major correction was inevitable. Through his hedge fund, Tudor Investment, Jones bet everything on a downward turn. Black Monday tripled his stake, making him one of the country’s richest financiers. In the world of stock-market speculation, a single big win is enough to attract a clientele, whose holdings one can then manage without taking excessive risks, and that’s just what Jones did.

But he didn’t stop there. Jones was born in Tennessee into a religious family; as a young man, instilled with the evangelical values of the South and outraged over the poverty of blacks and working-class whites, he and his congregation had joined civil rights protests and handed out clothing and meals to Tennessee’s poor. Perhaps that background explains why he saw Black Monday as the opening of a new era in which the divide between America’s rich and poor would worsen, threatening the social order. At least part of his prediction proved accurate: while the poor in the United States haven’t gotten poorer since 1987, the distance between their economic position and that of the wealthy has widened.

Jones believed that private philanthropy could help the poor improve their lot and reduce inequality—but only if that philanthropy was effective. Such large foundations as Ford and Rockefeller were fossilized bureaucracies, better at paying their own administrators than at lifting up the worse-off, Jones thought. “Charitable institutions are often content when they build a big budget and spend as much as possible,” he explains 25 years later. “Spending is their criterion of success, which is opposite to how a business operates.” He decided to try to revolutionize social philanthropy by infusing it with methods from the world of finance, seeking to measure the result—the “output” produced—rather than simply track the money spent, the “input.”

Can philanthropy be calculated that way? In the private economy, of course, everything gets measured in dollars. But how can one measure the benefit of a drug addict detoxed or a child properly educated? Economists have long claimed to be able to quantify all human actions—to measure the value of a life, for example, or the added benefit of an additional year of school. Yet no philanthropic institution had ever functioned on such a rigorously quantitative basis. Why did Jones believe that it was necessary? “The resources directed to philanthropy are by definition finite, like all resources,” he argues. “It is legitimate and respectful to donors as well as to recipients to see that these rare resources are directed as a priority to projects that have the greatest measurable results.” Not measuring results could lead to wasting donations.

Moved by the gospel of measurement and seeing no philanthropic organization honoring it fully, Jones created the Robin Hood Foundation in 1987, locating its offices in Harlem. To differentiate their outfit from the thousands of other groups fighting poverty, Robin Hood’s founders—Jones, three fellow financial managers, and a New York–based social-services administrator, all in their thirties—chose not to name it after themselves. (Jones finds it hard to understand the vanity that leads some donors to inscribe their names on museums.) Nor did he wish to create an endowed foundation that would simply spend a fraction of its capital annually—for instance, the minimum 5 percent or so mandated by the IRS. Rather, he wanted to raise a lot of money and distribute it immediately. The foundation has done exactly that since its inception, collecting roughly $150 million per year, mostly from Wall Street, and spending it in New York City—all $150 million of it, every year. Dedicating all funds raised to beneficiaries is rare in the philanthropic world, where staff salaries and overhead frequently take a big cut. Robin Hood can put every cent it raises into its programs because its board of directors pays those administrative costs.

The costs include 25 researchers who work to make Robin Hood’s donations “the most effective in the world,” says David Saltzman, the foundation’s director. They measure effectiveness with a system called RM, for “Relentless Monetization,” which was developed by Michael Weinstein, an economist at the foundation and the coauthor of The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving. Most philanthropists let “instinct, passion, and illusion” guide them, says Weinstein; philanthropy needs to become more quantitative. “All philanthropic activity can, in principle, be monetized,” he explains, “because it involves spending by the donor and a measurable benefit for the recipient”—access to a school, or better hygiene, or access to new services. To proceed without quantifiable information, Weinstein contends, might give a donor or an administrator a clear conscience or improve his or her reputation, but it’s ultimately irresponsible, since charitable dollars might not benefit the neediest recipients and might even do damage.

Here’s an example of Robin Hood’s quantitative approach in action. The foundation sets a goal: improving the health of children living in a certain poor New York neighborhood. The most productive intervention, Robin Hood discovers, is to increase the proportion of neighborhood children graduating from high school, which gets a bigger bang for the buck even than getting them to the doctor more regularly. A typical graduate lives 1.8 years longer in good health than a typical nongraduate, research from Columbia University’s Peter Muennig shows. That extra time is worth about $50,000 annually, according to insurance data, so a high school graduation is worth roughly $90,000—that is, $50,000 times 1.8 years. Further, studies show that a high school graduate earns at least $6,500 more per year over the course of his career than a nongraduate does—equivalent to $120,000 if it were spent in advance. So every philanthropic investment that results in the graduation of a student who otherwise wouldn’t have graduated, RM calculates, produces a monetized social benefit of $210,000. Such an investment is therefore a financially positive one if it amounts to less than $210,000. Above that figure, the return on investment is negative.

The difficulty in making this calculation stems from the fact that it adds income, which is easy to measure, to the harder-to-quantify benefits of life and health. But the insurance industry makes this kind of assessment all the time. And Robin Hood’s goal isn’t to arrive at incontestable numbers but rather to present donors with figures that can help guide giving decisions.

The foundation’s approach makes it easier to assess the effectiveness of institutions. If a school receives a grant that helps, say, ten disadvantaged students graduate who’d otherwise drop out, the total social benefit adds up to $2.1 million. One can therefore understand the reasoning behind Robin Hood’s grant to the acclaimed Promise Academy Charter Schools, part of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit that provides extensive services to the poor. Promise Academy graduates all its disadvantaged minority students. Can we be certain that, without this grant, the school wouldn’t have achieved similar results? A major difficulty in determining philanthropic effectiveness lies in comparing action with inaction. In the case of the Promise Academy schools, a comparison, however imperfect, is possible with other schools in the area with students from similar backgrounds; the Promise Academy’s results are indisputably superior.

Robin Hood’s number-based standards often result in rethinking programs. For example, in 2006, it established “Single Stop” offices within the Rikers Island jail complex to educate prisoners about social services available to them at the end of their sentences. The foundation figured that if the newly released could more readily access the services, which included drug-treatment and job-training programs, their transition into society would go more smoothly. The success of the effort, at least on its own terms, appeared incontestable at first. After all, one-third of those entering Rikers had received some form of aid before their first incarceration; after the Robin Hood initiative was up and running, two-thirds of those released accessed services. The foundation attributed this increase to its own work.

But then prison renovations cut in half the space available for Robin Hood’s prison operation, and halved, too, the number of prisoners who could participate in it, whom the foundation now selected by lottery. Yet despite the shrinking of the program, the overall proportion of exiting prisoners accessing social services was the same: two-thirds. Many prisoners had clearly educated themselves about the help that they could get upon release, but the Single Stop office had made no difference. The prisoners who had participated in Robin Hood’s initiative, it turned out, had already known that they could get help outside; those ignorant of the services had never bothered to visit the office. Robin Hood, working with Rikers officials, has now changed the program to focus on that uninformed one-third, many of whom are particularly disorganized young women. “Never fall in love with your philanthropic work, take careful note of numbers, and check for biases that exaggerate the impact of a grant,” says Weinstein, ticking off the foundation’s methods. “Then check again.”

Robin Hood’s approach encourages humility, as another example shows. A correct tax filing can provide rebates and other subsidies to those of modest income but only if they can find a way through the labyrinth of the U.S. tax code. A Robin Hood program accordingly offers free tax-return services to the New York needy—about 50,000 of them yearly, who wind up collecting a total of about $120 million annually from the adjusted returns. Though this looked like a smart philanthropic investment at first, Robin Hood compared those served by its tax program with other groups and discovered that the results weren’t that impressive. Two-thirds of the amount recovered by the adjusted tax returns would have been received anyway, the analysis showed, because most of the Robin Hood clients would have sought help from a relative or used a free Web service to do their taxes. The foundation’s return on investment had thus fallen two-thirds. Nevertheless, Robin Hood continues to support the initiative.

Robin Hood’s evaluation system has its critics. Some are doubtless irritated by its implication that many humanitarian projects are undertaken blindly, based on poor information, and driven more by fashion than by a real need to improve the condition of the poor. Relentless Monetization challenges all that is haphazard, narcissistic, superficial, and even counterproductive in social philanthropy.

But others, such as billionaire philanthropist George Soros, mount more substantive objections. For one thing, he says, even careful measurement can’t protect philanthropy from unintended consequences. Soros cites the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s African vaccination program, which had all sorts of metrics in place, as Laurie Garrett reported several years ago in Foreign Affairs—but nevertheless damaged the existing health infrastructure of African villages by drawing health workers to its own, better-paid initiative.

The director of Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Chris Stone, who long taught nonprofit management at Harvard University, adds that quantification is difficult when the philanthropist lacks solid information about the value of a particular approach: “When we fight poverty, discrimination, addiction, or oppression, we do not know what works and what doesn’t.” The only way to learn is to experiment with innovative approaches, in full awareness of the possibility of failure—which is more likely than success. “How is it possible to quantify what you don’t yet know?” he asks. When Soros took the initiative in the 1980s to back independent journalists in Communist Eastern Europe, his intuition that doing so could have long-term positive effects was impossible to quantify. Yet those journalists eventually played a role in the democratization of their countries and the creation of a free press, Soros points out. Of course, some counting was necessary: he had to decide which journalists would get money, and in which countries. “Yet I did not quantify in a narrow sense,” he says. “I experimented and refined my strategic choices based on my failures and successes.” Soros adds that philanthropists should assess and revise their goals continually: “Freedom of speech, the fruit of hard struggle in the 1990s, has more recently become a tool in the hands of demagogues and enemies of liberal democracy in Hungary and Russia.” The philanthropist who wants to encourage an open society in Eastern Europe must now foster more than free speech alone.

Both Soros and Stone further reproach the quantitative method for ignoring the human dimension of philanthropy. Those who become philanthropists after making fortunes in the highly monetized world of business tend to be attracted by the very different values that should guide the nonprofit sphere, with numbers giving way to love for one’s neighbor and spiritual concerns. To reduce everything to counting, they charge, is to contravene the act of giving. And quantification also fails to take into account the psychological benefit that philanthropic work can bring to its beneficiaries. Soros money underwrites evening classes for schoolchildren in rougher sections of Baltimore and New York with no expectation of improving their academic achievement; the end is simply to bring parents an incalculable sense of security.

The Robin Hood Foundation also supports evening classes in New York but tries to measure their scholastic impact. “We run our shops differently, though we respect one another’s efforts,” Weinstein observes of Soros (who is himself a donor to Robin Hood). In fact, the Open Society Foundations will join Robin Hood, the New York City education department, and the city council in a partnership to advance literacy in the city’s middle schools.

Confronted with Soros’s and Stone’s critique, Weinstein sees less an attack on quantification than an invitation to improve it. Relentless Monetization is an imperfect instrument, he admits, “but who today has anything else to propose in order to ensure the optimal allocation of the scarce resources of philanthropy?” Further, Robin Hood is aware of the need to experiment, but it insists on collecting data on unproved programs, so as to provide a basis for evaluation when particular initiatives come up for grant renewals. Let me confess a personal interest in this question. When I was directing a French humanitarian organization, Action contre la faim (Action Against Hunger), I would have appreciated the help of Weinstein’s methods. The RM system provides a strong incentive to limit waste and can be a check on philanthropic giving that does little actual good or, worse, commits harm. “Interventions should not be funded because they look good, or even because they are good, but because they are the best available options,” Weinstein says.

Still, one can’t easily dismiss Soros’s and Stone’s arguments. It’s even possible that, as Soros suggests, “the quantification of goals discourages philanthropists from fighting certain inequities because they are hard to measure.” If charities do start shifting their priorities toward programs that lend themselves to measurement, something important could get lost in the process.

Guy Sorman, a City Journal contributing editor and French public intellectual, is the author of many books, including Economics Does Not Lie. His article was translated by Alexis Cornel.


Deepak Chopra on putting together good teams.

Chopra on good teams.  He hits all the right buttons:

Since my life’s work has always focused on self-awareness and well being, I have made those two attributes the criterion for people I want to work with. In my course, The Soul of Leadership, I advise employers not only to get references and bios from prospective employees, but also to engage with them before hiring in creating a “Soul Profile”. Here are the questions that we ask when we create a soul profile:

1. What makes you joyful? Can you recall the most joyous moments of your life?

2. What is your life purpose?

3. In what way do you want to contribute to the business or organization?

4. What are your unique talents and skills and who would benefit from them?

5. Who are your heroes/heroines/mentors in history, mythology, religion or contemporary times?

6. What are the qualities you look for in a good friendship?

7. What are the best attributes that you have that contribute to a meaningful relationship?

Asking a person to write down two or three words or phrases in answer to each of these questions gives both them and you an idea of the meanings, the context, the relationships, and the archetypal themes in their life. It also is an expression of their deeper core consciousness and what drives their passion and their vision. The key to a successful business or organization is the creation of dynamic teams where a) there is a shared vision, b) people acknowledge and complement each other strengths (as in a sports team), c) everyone is emotionally bonded and cares for each other. Such teams, between 5-12 people take time to form, but guarantee success.

In my view, focusing only on professional skills can lead to problems. In many instances technical skills can frequently be outsourced adequately. However, what makes an organization or business successful are core values, qualities of character, vision, purpose, camaraderie, and joy. And these cannot be outsourced.

In addition, I am realizing more and more that addiction to distraction is becoming a hazard in the workplace. Employees who have an interest in personal growth including practices like mindfulness and focused awareness are not only healthier, but contribute to the well being of an organization/business. It is becoming clear now that multitasking is the one skill that gets worse with practice and may indeed be harmful to our cortical brain. In an information-based society, information overload can actually be a hazard. Information overload cost US businesses about 28% of their knowledge workers’ day and up to $1 trillion dollars in lowered productivity. This, in a nation where the gross domestic product, is about $15 trillion dollars. We pay a huge price in productivity and well being for addiction to technologies, distractions, and mindlessness instead of mindfulness. If as an employer you are aware that the well being of your employees includes the following you will be enormously successful as a business/organization.

1. Career wellbeing – make sure that employees enjoy what they do; acknowledge their strengths and make their opinions count.

2. Social well being – encourage friendships, camaraderie, and celebration in the workplace.

3. Provide encouragement and facilities if possible for meditation, exercise and recreation.

4. Encourage employees in the well-being of their communities.

5. Make sure that employees feel safe financially; help create plans for savings and adequate insurance.

The above suggestions are gathered from data over several years at The Gallup Organization where I serve as a senior scientist. While the above recommendations are not exactly about how to hire people, when people find out that those criteria are important to your business and organization, then the right kind of employees will be attracted to your business/organization.

Remember that your own personal well-being, and how you model that in your life, will attract the right people to you.

Recent research as outlined above is the best predictor of long-term employee engagement and the success of an organization/business/community.

Seane Corn “Transformation through Yoga” Who Are You? Courtesy of YouTube/The Chopra Well

The god and bad of not having enough …

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir was reviewed by The Economist here.

People can succumb to a “scarcity mindset” when they feel they have too few friends, time or calories, as well as too little money.

This mindset has benefits because it helps you focus on pressing needs and gives a better sense of the value of a dollar, minute, calorie or smile.  If you are lonely you are attuned to  deciphering expressions of emotion; if you are poor you have a better grasp of costs.

But this scarcity mindset has drawbacks which can be self perpetuating by shortening your horizons and narrowing your perspective, which reduce creativity, brainpower and enthusiasm.  Feeling poor or friendlessness lowers a person’s IQ by as much as a night without sleep.

Scarcity creates a mindset that perpetuates scarcity by making people slower witted and weaker willed.  In developing countries too many of the poor neglect to weed their crops, vaccinate their children, wash their hands, treat their water, take their pills or eat properly when pregnant.   Ironically we (in “developed” countries) suffer the same problem: When there is so much to do we don’t put tools away properly (so they waste) and we grab chocolate and slump in front of the TV “exhausted” instead of grabbing an apple and going for a walk or jog.  So it seems you need enough to have enough, but if you expect more than enough, you’ll never have enough and will make bad choices.

The Bell-Mason Diagnostic explained

A useful introduction to the Bell-Mason diagnostic from


Silicon Valley has developed a “genius” business model. You find a genius. You build a business around him.

The problem is that geniuses are hard to come by. Perhaps more importantly, this emphasis on inspired, highly caffeinated, insomniac heroes contributes to the biggest reason for the failure of new ideas that we’ve seen in our decades of working in everything from teeny start-ups to mega-projects financed by mammoth corporations.

There is this idea that speed to market is more important than anything else. In fact, it’s more important to be right than to be fast. If you take the time to get it right, you actually will find that you often accelerate the venture.

This whole issue of how to deal with start-up ventures is going to be increasingly important. Whether the ventures are done by entrepreneurs as stand-alone companies or are set up by “intrapreneurs” trying out new ideas inside a large corporation, there are going to be a lot more of them.

As the forces of digitisation, globalisation, and deregulation make the business world more competitive, companies are going to have to become much better at trying out innovative ideas and bringing them to market.

So Bell and Mason developed a way to determine how a start-up stacks up on 12 dimensions and have refined the diagnostic by using it to evaluate more than 450 ventures over the past seven years. There are 4 Stages to the Capital Raising Process:-



We measure on these 12 dimensions at each of a venture’s four stages-concept, seed, product development, and market development.

The 12 dimensions can be grouped into four categories.


  1. Operational:- This category includes technology and engineering, manufacturing capability, and the state of the product.
  2. Financial:- This category includes cash on hand and the ability to raise more.
  3. Managerial:- This category includes organisational control and the chief executive’s leadership.
  4. Market:- This category includes the marketing and sales activities.

The diagnosis, a half-day analysis based on our 1,000 standard questions, yields a graph generated by expert system software that evaluates the answers based on more than 700 rules and relationships.

The graph shows how a venture compares against the ideal for a start-up at that stage, pinpointing where the venture is weak and where it is unnecessarily strong.

The balanced approach that is reinforced by the Bell-Mason Diagnostic is crucial because, for all the genius in the world, one missed item can kill a great idea when it’s in a vulnerable, fledgling state. In one instance we tracked, management reasoned that an innovative product being offered at $500,000 had ducked under an important price barrier.

There would only be one evaluator to win over. A purchase decision would require at most three months. Instead, customers took the new product more seriously than the venture itself did, suspecting that it might change their corporate direction. Naturally, everyone wanted to touch the check. Decisions often took nine months. Gasping for cash, the venture suffocated eyes wide open.

“It’s so easy for new companies to get bogged down in a lot of things,” says Geir Ramleth, an entrepreneur. “The Bell-Mason questioning-which becomes more of a conversation between senior individuals-helps you get your head screwed on right.” Although we’re arguing for a nuanced approach and against generalisations, our work has yielded some rules of thumb that can give you a flavour of the kind of surprise it can produce when used to evaluate a venture:

Falling short on financial goals can be okay in the early stages of a venture, but missing product-development milestones is not. While financial disappointments are never fun, product-development problems can be catastrophic because they mean the venture’s basic schedule is no longer predictable.

In the later stages, financial goals become more important. At that point, the venture has to show that it not only has a product but also has a business. If more than three basic concepts still need proving, the company is engaged in research, not product development.

Consider the case of a company innovating a laser technology using “brave new world” semiconductor materials. The creators had only produced the most rudimentary version of the product, using just two or three tiny electronic devices known as gates. A commercial version required thousands of gates, a solution that was beyond the powers of the design team.

If you haven’t done it before, you can’t schedule it with any degree of accuracy. A lot of big companies seem to think they can get around this problem, but they can’t. Project planning for an intrapreneurial or entrepreneurial venture is a fundamentally different beast than for a going concern. It has to be. It’s not based on experience, just on reasonable guesses. Life isn’t reasonable. The way to deal with the uncertainty is to continually check your progress and recalibrate as you go, to link the schedule ever closer to reality.

If you’ve begun a venture that has something to do with electronic commerce or that has some other significant software aspect to it, there is a whole slew of other rules of thumb. For instance, skipping tests with customers is the wrong thing to do. When technology is involved, product lifecycles are brutally short. So the impulse to break surface immediately into the market after months of technological deep diving is almost irresistible. Resist it. Take the time to observe a few customers trying out the product in a real-use environment. Once the product goes public, the costs of changing something rise exponentially.

Look what happened to the Social Security Administration. When it tried to roll out a program to let people check their accounts over the Internet, it had to quickly yank the plan because people worried that information wasn’t adequately shielded from snoopers. In fact, the Social Security Administration had done a reasonable job on privacy. It just hadn’t tested the market’s reaction well enough.

If you’re driving up a narrow mountain road, you can either keep some general pointers in mind or you can keep track of how far your outside tire is from the edge of the road. If you translate that image into investing, a general pointer might be Arthur Rock’s idea that he only cares about “people, people, people.” That pointer certainly got him safely to the summit. But he was a genius at venture capital. We think most people have a far better chance of making their way safely if they always know how many inches they are away from the abyss.

Gordon Bell managed the development of time-sharing and minicomputing, two major advances in computer design, during 23 years at Digital Equipment. He is currently a venture capitalist and a senior researcher at Microsoft. He is reachable at Heidi Mason is director of the Bell-Mason Group. She was the founder and chief executive of Acuity, a Silicon Valley marketing firm. She is reachable at

Open business to change the world.

What do you mean open business?  I could tell you, or you could look here

Open business is a concept of doing business in a transparent way, intimately integrating an ecosystem of collaborating participants.  It is a holonic approach.

Objectives are multifaceted and recognise the interdependence of organisations and participants.  They recognise natural law.  For example, cooperation is preferred to competition, externally as well as internally.

Structures allow visibility of participants and the flows of value (physical, technical and emotional) so that self management occurs naturally – “organisational homestasis”.

If we fail to change the way we manage ourselves now, the choice to do so will evaporate tomorrow.

LibreOffice, OpenOffice and Oracle

Once upon a time OpenOffice, or Ooo (OpenOffice.Org) as it became known was the leader in open source office productivity software.  I loved it.  It was loved.

Then one day a cunning suitor, Oracle, offered to give gold to the very attractive, but not rich, Ooo.  Ooo agreed to become part of Oracle.  But Oracle did not look after Ooo.

At first I was upset because when I opened Ooo, a message came up saying that it was an Oracle product.  As far as I was concerned it wasn’t.  Oracke did not have the spirit of Ooo.  I looked to see if I could find a part of Ooo which didn’t have Oracle.  I couldn’t.  I was stuck.  So, as usual, I persevered and waited.

Then one day, I saw that something called LibreOffice was available and it was supposed to be like Ooo.  So I started using LibreOffice instead.  Ahhhhh!  Much better.

Ooo is dying because Oracle didn’t look after it.  Fortunately for us all, the developers of Ooo recreated LibreOffice for us.

I suppose Oracle made some bad decisions. Not about money. but about people and values.

The open tech revolution is a natural, inevitable evolution.  Behemoths are incompatible with it.  They can not adapt fast enough.  They are bloated.

The story was revealed to me by by Sam Glover on April 27, 2011 under the heading is Dead; Long Live LibreOffice! at Copied below.

Enjoy LibreOffice! is Dead; Long Live LibreOffice!

Oracle acquired the free, open-source office suite when it bought Sun. After that, it apparently completely failed to engage the community of OOo developers, who “forked” the project and started LibreOffice. For a while, the two existed side-by-side, but a parade of major companies, including Red Hat, Novell, Google, and Canonical, lined up to support LibreOffice. So Oracle’s announcement just the other day was, perhaps, inevitable. is dead.

OOo users can breathe a collective sigh of meh, though, since LibreOffice is a perfectly acceptable alternative with big commercial supporters. I’ve already removed OOo from my system and switched to LibreOffice without a hitch.

One more reason to love open source software

This is not an example of why you should not use open source software. It is just the opposite. It is an example of why I use open source software whenever I can.

If Microsoft were to discontinue Word tomorrow, there would be no non-profit foundation that would keep the software alive. More likely, Microsoft would sue into oblivion anyone who tried to restore usefulness to your hard drive full of Word files. But when an enormous open source project like starts to flail, it nearly always gets picked up, preserved, and moved on.

(Sure, Microsoft is unlikely to discontinue Office in the near future, but in ten years, when cloud alternatives are stronger? Maybe.)

Make the switch to LibreOffice

Whether you are using or Microsoft Office, consider switching to LibreOffice. Cost savings are part of the reason, but so is document longevity. I have also been been impressed with how quickly the LibreOffice developers are moving it forward. While was starting to feel a bit long in the tooth compared to Microsoft Office, it won’t be long before LibreOffice is innovating out ahead of Microsoft.

LibreOffice is perfectly usable for a law practice. I used in a litigation-intensive practice for over six years, with no problems of compatibility (whether proposed orders to the court or shared 26(f) report drafts with opposing counsel). I see no reason why moving to LibreOffice will cause any problems. It’s also just as easy to create beautiful documents with LibreOffice as with Microsoft Office.

However, if you have a good reason to stick with Microsoft Office, don’t feel compelled to switch. PowerPoint is far better than Impress, for example. And any macros you have built for Office will need to be re-created in LibreOffice. There is a cost to switching, even if the software is free. It just may be worth it, anyway.