Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Talent Acquisition" - aka Employment Audition

Image representing Fluther as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
Owen Thomas at VentureBeat has an interesting take on Twitter's acquisition of Fluther, which has been referred to as a "talent acquisition." We've seen a few of these recently, as Owen points out. Kudos to him for calling out Twitter on this: In no uncertain terms, this is simply Twitter hiring smart people. Nothing wrong with that at all. His point is, companies acquire assets or they hire people; no such thing as a "talent acquisition" in M&A practice.

I wouldn't proclaim Fluther a failed start-up. I had never heard of Fluther before yesterday. And I'm sure most people had not. And I don't expect to see it's use explode. It will, supposedly, live on as a standalone service. Is it a failure? I guess that depends on how you view it.

As an "employment audition" it is highly successful, having captured the attention of Twitter and secured these guys great jobs. That's a big success in my mind.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010 and the "Spawning of Features"

Facebook headquarters in downtown Palo Alto, C...Image via WikipediaAol announced yesterday that they acquired the recently launched service called There's been some discussion about why a brand new service was sold four days after they launched, and what unique proposition they offered. If you haven't heard, is a simple-to-setup "calling card" webpage. Here's mine: Jim's page.

There are two things that captured my imagination about this service. The first is, why them? There are many other sites that have been doing this for a long time. comes to mind, but so do services from the "big boys". Check out Google Profiles and Yahoo Pulse - they're giving these services serious attention in an effort to capture the "identity space" that Facebook and LinkedIn have done such a good job with.

I suppose Aol wanted to provide a simple to use service (I have to admit, the user experience on is clean and simple - a big plus), at an easy to remember an effort to stay competitive with Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, among others. If Facebook has proven anything, it's that "identity" on the web is important to growth.

The other thing that captured my attention about this service - more so than all the other discussed and debated points - is the "spawning of features" effect. What do I mean by that? If you view Facebook as a collection of features, services, and applications, it can be overwhelming. Certainly it's not a user experience to be admired (aside: this point validated by the recent appointment at Facebook of Paul Adams, previously Google Researcher that critiqued Facebook's user experience). So, I see a trend where companies are launched based solely on one simple feature that was previously part of Facebook.

A service like is just a simplified, standalone version, of your Facebook profile, with a dash of design elegance and a dose clean UI/UX. It doesn't stop there. Don't forget Twitter. It is, in it's genesis, a standalone version of Facebook's status update. Ditto for Path, the latest buzzed about photo sharing service. What else?

It's interesting to speculate what might come next. But it's equally perplexing when you consider that many critiques of new start-ups brush them aside as mere features, not companies.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cater to a Niche

A guy I know in the NY Tech scene asked me for advice on his new application and the market for it. It occurred to me that he's built a great utility that could be used for many different purposes. You might say he's built a platform in a particular category that makes it easy for just about anyone to launch a service in this medium.

He hasn't given me the go ahead to mention his company...that's why I'm being opaque.

Point is: Being a platform (think: Twitter, Blogger, YouTube) is a formidable goal, however, it's hard to accomplish and doesn't succeed as often as niche plays. The target market needs to understand what they can do with the service. Remember, people don't want tools; they want what the tools can do for them. (Reminds me of the expression: People don't want drills, they want the hole it makes.) Defining the target market for people makes it easier for them to understand the fit. For instance, don't just say it's a communications platform; tell us that it's an innovative way for teachers to communicate with student. Cater to a niche.

Finding the niche market and succeeding in it is easier. And if need be, the same underlying technology can be applied to other niches later.

It reminds me of the expression, "Jack of all trades, master of none." When you're trying to solve a problem, you want an expert, not a generalist. The same holds true for products (IOW, people want the right tool for the job).

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Attention, That's the Point

attention signImage via WikipediaQuite often the pitch you get or the pitch you receive asks for your time. "Could you spare 30 minutes to meet with me to discuss...", or "I just need 5 minutes of your time to show you the value of our service".

But it isn't time. It's attention.

In this age of distraction and "multi-tasking" (a misnomer, but that's another post) it's not easy getting someone's attention. But the point is, it doesn't matter how much time you have been granted. Make sure you get their attention and use that attention wisely to make your point.

For instance, don't write a long email describing your product if your intent is to get a meeting. A long email is a "homework assignment",  and no one likes homework. Keep the email brief, grab their attention with a genuine statement, and ask for the meeting. Once you have the meeting (and their attention), then you can tell them more.

Realize that when most people say they're too busy to meet with you or they're too busy to advance your project, it's not because of a shortage of time. It's that there are too many things that demand their attention - and the perceived benefit you're presenting does not justify attention.

So, if you're not getting attention, fix the perception (are you not articulating it effectively?) or fix the benefit (does your product need improvement?). 

Thanks for your attention.
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