Do You Have a Failover Plan?

I thought it was funny when I saw a Tweet come through from Alex Payne (aka @al3x) this afternoon. Alex is something along the lines of the Big Daddy Architect at Twitter. The tweet stated that power was out at Twitter HQ and that they had failed over to abacuses.

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That’s not really funny, actually.

Actually, in my time as a contractor for some random alphabet soup government agency, we regularly went through “hotsite” drills where a core team would disappear to Chicago or New Jersey or somewhere offsite and in a different geographical region to perform disaster recovery drills.

After 9/11, the companies like JP Morgan that had decentralized their operations, were able to recover from the World Trade Center attacks much quicker than those who did not. Maybe those who did not were small businesses.

Which reminds me of the day the email died at the Wall Street Journal…

We’ve been through a fair bit ourselves at b5media. It was bad when our service provider, very early on and before funding, allowed a power surge to fry our servers. It was a “death to our enemies” moment when another power-related failure occurred two weeks later. Our question: Why the heck is there even a hint of power failures in a data center?

Sadly, that question never was answered before we moved to LogicWorks after taking funding.

But this is not the point.

As a small business – what are you doing to mitigate catastrophic loss? Are you relying on simple backups? Are you shipping data offsite in case you need to do a data recovery? What happens if your data center is in NYC and another terrorist attack happens and takes out your systems?

What do you do? Is it in your plans?

If all else fails, there are always abacuses.

What Makes You Tick?

This weekend I was at Podcamp NYC 2. This is my fourth podcamp and second in two weeks. As someone who gets to go to a lot of events, conferences, unconferences, networking thingys, etc. I decided going into this trip that I would treat this thing differently than normal.

Normally, I’m speaking or otherwise outgoing and talking to everyone and anything that moves. As someone with some minor celebrity, this is usually not a problem. At SXSW, I was on my feet running for four days straight conducting interviews and being interviewed, having long lunches with bloggers, entrepreneurs, continually running into The Brogan(TM), etc.

In New York, I made a conscious effort to listen way more than I talked and take a low profile approach to the event. Two of my observations, I’ve already blogged.

My discoveries really stemmed from watching how people interacted with people and thinking about what the causes were that made people behave the ways they did. Armchair Psychiatry.

I observed people with significant fan base interact with fans and peers and the differences between fans and peers. I observed people who started businesses explaining why exactly they did what they did. I talked with people who had no idea what the hell they were at and how they wiggled their way out of uncomfortable conversations. I witnessed sales guys who were so New York cool that people could be convinced they needed to do business just by his say so. I witnessed people who just wanted a man. Or a woman. Maybe both.

What makes people tick? What causes them to do what they do? They say that who we are today is a product of everything we’ve ever done in the past. So what did the past look like.

This weekend, for me, was largely one based around the human experience. We are all so widely different and that is fascinating.

Contrived Transparency

There is way too much talk about transparency going around. Seriously. I’m guilty. Apparently, 40,292 other people are also guilty.

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Transparency is one of those buzzwords people like to throw around to demonstrate that they’re savvy in the business of social media. If we have a blog, says one marketing strategist at XYZ company, we’ll be seen as transparent.

Transparency. See through. Invisible. In social media, it means that we’re open and honest. We don’t try to pull the wool over customers, or users, or readers eyes. We trust openly and want to be trusted openly.

However, this is more often than not, contrived.

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Contrived transparency indicated that this notion of being honest and open is not a culturally accepted thing in a company. It’s a strategic decision made to drive sales. It’s a devious, and by it’s very nature, non-transparent way of saying, “You’re stupid enough to believe that I’m a great person to do business with because I’m doing all the right things and sending all the right signals”.

Yep. Contrived transparency.

Guy: Maybe when we’re done here, we can go back to my place.
Girl: Sure, but you do know that I’m not going to sleep with you on the first date, right?
Guy: Oh, I wasn’t thinking that at all!

Yeah, right.

Friends vs. Fans

I think that maybe we’ve done some serious harm to the concept of friends with all this social media stuff.

Seriously.

On Facebook, how many of your friends are really friends?

I have over 2000 followers on Twitter. How many of them know my real name without looking?

How many events do people with significant online personal brand go to where people know who they really are?

Or is brand all that really matters in friendship?

Is it more important to have presence? Or relationship?

What do we do off camera, and who really knows?

If a tree falls in the middle of the woods, and everyone sees the tree online, did it really happen?

Do you find more value in spending time with four people or forty?

What does technosailor mean to you? Aaron Brazell?

Food for thought. Questions to be answered. Have we hurt our human experience or helped?

Business Plan Series: Part 10 – Appendicies

We have reached the end of our Business Plan series with this final entry on “Appendicies”. Our next series will dive into the marketing plan for your business so be on the lookout for that next week.

So what exactly is in the appendix section of the business plan?

In short, it is the kitchen sink of things that are relevant to your business plan that add value for the reader. Here is a short list:

  • Photographs of products, equipment, facilities, etc.
  • Patent/Copyright/Trademark Documents
  • Legal Agreements
  • Marketing Materials
  • Research and/or studies
  • Operation Schedules
  • Organization Charts
  • Job Descriptions
  • Resumes of Key Personnel
  • Additional Financial Documentation

Photographs of products, equipment, facilities, etc

Here you want to include scanned photos of your physical products (if you have them), equipment you have that is important to the function of the business and the facilities you have your company. Facilities include production plants, corporate headquarters and any branch offices.

Patent/Copyright/Trademark Documents

In your business plan you discuss the value of your IP and this is where you include supporting documentation including patent applications and any copyright/trademark filings that support your statements in the business plan.

Legal Agreements

There are many legal documents you have for the business, but the most important would be your operating agreements, shareholder agreements, stock option plans and critical contracts that you mention in the business plan.

Marketing Materials

This is essentially your collateral materials that you use to sell your products/services. It should also include screenshots of your web site.

Research and/or studies

Here you can include any white papers you have written to cover research you have conducted, grant studies you have completed and any additional marketing research you have completed to support the case for your business.

Operation Schedules

Whatever you are creating there must be a schedule behind it to complete the product and/or roadmap it out. If you are building hard goods there are facilities operation schedules to meet production forecasts. If you are building software products you will have development schedules to bring the product from prototype to beta to production. That will be critical to match the forecasts in your business plan that you have projected for launch and subsequent customers coming online with the system.

Organization Charts

You might have put a small chart in the management section of the plan but this is where you can expand on the entire corporate structure including identification of key hires throughout your business plan’s timeline.

Job Descriptions

Linking to your organization chart, you will need to write job descriptions for all of the staff, current and future, in your company. This will help you identify any overlap that might be there but it will also show the reader that you have thoroughly thought out who needs to be working for the company and what they will be doing for your business.

Resumes of Key Personnel

Since you put smaller bios of your management team in the management section, this is the place to put the full resumes of the team to back up their bios and allow readers to get the full background of the team to feel confident in their inclusion in the business.

Additional Financial Documentation

Beyond the standard documents in the financial section (cash flow, balance sheet, income statement) you might want to include tax returns for the business for the last three years (if you have them). This should also include key elements in your financial model like the revenue sheet to show how you will met the projections you set out. You should also include expenses and salary costs so that readers know you are market competitive but not going crazy (as in too high or too low) to support the numbers you have projected.

Starting our next series – The Marketing Plan

Our next series will dive into a good supporting document for your business plan but it is much more internal. This is a critical document that will guide your sales and marketing function to create the right materials and identify the best campaigns for maximum customer acquisition. We will also discuss setting up your sales processes and sales organization to be the most effective.
If any of you out there have written a marketing plan I would love your thoughts, opinions and war stories to help our readers looking for advice and guidance in this area. Please e-mail me at steven_fisher at yahoo dot com.

TECHcocktail DC – The DC Tech Scene is definitely back

I have seen my share of networking events. Back during the dotcom era it was full of open bars and crazy companies with the latest software to change your life in some way. Then it was all about buying stuff on the web or a portal for something or another.

After the bubble burst most people were just trying to hold on and all that you had a choice between in the DC area were NVTC (Northern VA Tech Council) and Potomac Officer Club events. NVTC was very government focused and who mostly showed up were service providers (I have the 100’s of insurance and lawyer business cards to prove it). POC events were big events with well known people but not alot of good networking.

One good networking event I liked was the Tech Prayer breakfast but that was only once a year. What most of us were left with was going to conferences, usually not here, to get our networking on and find fellow entrepreneurs and real innovative thinkers.

Lately, there has been a change in the winds here in the DC area. With events like PodCampDC and Social Media Club’s events we are starting to see our cutting edge tech scene finally re-emerge. Last Thursday night it was totally confirmed with the TECH Cocktail DC event. It was held at MCCXXIII (1223) in DC. A swanky place that is over-priced for my usual weekend partying but this event had cheap drinks (thank you drink tickets) and about 300 people.

Below is a picture of the scene at the height of the evening.

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While there have been many events that have drawn 400 people, this was different. Almost everyone was doing something startup related that was really cutting edge. There were social media people there (Technosailor and me included), innovative startups and actual investors looking to network.

There were also a great group of sponsors with great products to demo. Here is a great list from Jimmy over at EastCoastBlogging:

AwayFind – a product aimed at helping combat the email problem by letting your contacts get in touch with you via an online form.

iGala – a digital photo frame with a touchscreen interface that connects directly to Flickr and Gmail to stream photos to the frame like a slideshow.

Loladex – offers local recommendations from your trusted network of Facebook friends.

Odeo – launched a new beta verision which offers both search and personalized content (audio and video) recommendations.

Voxant – a free licensed content offering for publishers which offers a pageview based revenue share to anyone that embeds the content on a their site.

WhyGoSolo – a new social networking site aimed at helping you to create spontaneous new connections so, as its name implies, you won’t go solo any longer.

A huge amount of thanks go out to Frank Gruber and Eric Olson who do the TECH Cocktails around the country and they need to do it more than once a year here.

The vibe around this region is changing and since we will never will be Silicon Valley and never want to be, it is fantastic to see that there is a refreshed ecosystem of entrepreneurship here in the region.

Photo courtesy of jgarber

Editor’s Note: Some comments don’t seem to apply to this post as viewers of a show I was on were instructed to leave comments on this blog to get an invite to BrightKite. These comments will be approved but do not necessarily go with this post. Sorry!

Siguiendo la F1 (y otras noticias) con Twitter

Esta mañana fue el Gran Premio de Barcelona de la Formula 1 y qué mejor manera de seguirlo que a través de Twitter y la TV.

Twitter (una red social que permite compartir mensajes de texto rápida y públicamente) es la herramienta perfecta para seguir eventos en vivo y enterarse de los últimos acontecimientos. Con Twitter no sólo pude compartir comentarios sobre la carrera con mis amigos alrededor del mundo (cada uno viendo la carrera en su canal favorito), sino que usando herramientas como Summize podía mantenerme al tanto de los comentarios de otros usuarios que no están en mi red de Twitter.

Mientras ningún medio online había reportado todavía noticias sobre la condición del piloto Kovalainen -quién sufrió un accidente a alta velocidad – ya Twitter tenía la información al respecto. Y es que es mucho más rápido escribir una nota de 140 caracteres y ponerla en línea que actualizar un website de noticias y esperar que Google News lo incorpore a su índice.

Twitter pone a tu alcance una red de comentaristas distribuidos alrededor del mundo… 24 horas de noticias, al momento. Y con herramientas como Summize, ni siquiera necesitas una cuenta en Twitter para aprovecharla.

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Welcome Huffington Post Readers

I’d like to extend a warm greeting to readers of the Huffington Post where a piece I wrote earlier today, entitled Two Castles of Power, was published.

I don’t talk about politics much around here. I used to. Back in the day. However, the audience here is generally keen on reading thoughts about technology and business – particular social technologies and how this stuff really affects our lives.

My name is Aaron Brazell, and I’m the Editor here at Technosailor.com, however, others also contribute and we’re working on putting together a nice team of folks.

Generally, Technosailor.com is not about the news. Instead, we like to come in after the fact and offer analysis of the news. We like to leave the news breaking to TechCrunch and other large technology news blogs.

There are several really great series that have been written here and I’d like to point them out.

In addition, you are probably politically minded. You might want to see why I think the President should be impeached.

Otherwise, enjoy your stay. If you like what you see, go ahead and subscribe and keep up with us.

The Jolly Green Bubble

Earth Day was yesterday. I my college years all that meant to me was that the band Green Day was coming to town to play. Now it means “save the planet, if it can make us money”.

“Greed, I mean Green is Good”

CNN, the New York Times, Business Week, Advertising Age, “Good Morning America,” the Sundance Channel, Reuters, the Discovery Channel, Marketplace radio, and a slew of local papers. Newpapers? You kill trees to create a huge insert about Earth Day. Is that not the stupidest thing you have ever heard. And a surprising number seem to have some variation of the same two questions:

“Is all of this focus on the greening of business merely a fad? When will the bubble burst?”

Green tech and marketing means green dollar signs for companies like GE, Disney and BP. NBC has created this load of crap called “green week” for their TV shows which is a thinly veiled attempt to sell their “green” products sold by their parent company GE. Disney announced a new “green movie” division which will capitalize on people’s concern with the environment so they can get more ticket revenues and DVD’s sold. BP is all about alternative energy these days and while they have been the most progressive when it comes to solar and natural gas they are really doing it to hedge their position as oil prices rise and people are ready for an alternative that must come within the next five years. I mean have you filled your tank lately? Bought a loaf of bread? It is crazy and things definitely must change.

There are motivating factors that support the argument that “Green is Good”. Here is the bullet list from a post by Joel Makower:

  1. The problems aren’t getting any better.
  2. The political will is finally emerging.
  3. Consumers are waking up.
  4. The supply chain is gaining power.
  5. The environment has become a fiduciary issue.
  6. The bar keeps moving.
  7. Companies are moving beyond “sustainability.”
  8. More companies are telling their stories.
  9. Clean technology is changing the game.
  10. There’s money to be made.

The bubble is growing

I am the farthest from a bleeding heart liberal, tree-hugging, save the polar bears person you will find. Although Polar Bears are just so darn cute I am not turning my air conditioner down during a heat wave in the DC area this summer to save them. I am also not a cold-blooded oil junkie who thinks that this global warming thing is a myth. I just think that the real intentions of being concerned for our environment has caused the investment community to pop its head out of its butt and see greedy potential to fund investments in everything “green”.

Since most of us survived the tech bubble we have learned our lessons and despite the Web 2.0 wave causing a mini investment bubble, we still have kept most of our sanity because the IPO market really hasn’t returned and the M&A wave is slowing down too. Most who couldn’t get jobs when the tech bubble burst left the industry and you guessed it, become real estate agents and mortgage brokers. As some people bounce from bubble to bubble, we will probably start seeing “Environmental
Consultants” and “Green Advisors” to, and pardon this one, “advise and recommend to companies how they can become more green and offset their impact on the environment”.

With the rising price of oil we are near a tipping point where many technologies are on par with the cost of traditional fuel so it will start to make economic sense in some cases. Where it doesn’t make sense is to stop growing wheat so you can grow corn for Ethanol (which takes 2/3 of a gallon of gas to produce a gallon of ethanol) causing wheat and rice shortages around the world. Right now in developed nations people spend 10% of their income on food and in developing nations it is around 80%. We have enough food to feed the planet but we just can’t afford to get it there. If we start diverting resources in the name of “green living” to make ourselves feel better the ramifications might be worse than we could imagine.

Oh crap, the Government is getting involved

The state of the government getting involved is a mess. I think Thomas Friedman sums it up well. “Some lawmakers are pushing corn ethanol from Iowa, either because they hail from that area and are looking to give more welfare to farmers by wasting money on an alternative fuel that will never reach the scale of what is needed, or because they plan to run in the Iowa caucuses. Others are pushing huge subsidies to turn coal into gasoline, because they come from coal states. Those who don’t come from Michigan want higher mileage standards imposed on Detroit, while those who come from Michigan prefer to continue their assisted suicide of the U.S. auto industry by blocking tougher mileage requirements.”

So you ready to call me “chicken little” yet?

You really call this “Green Investing”?

In the venture community we are seeing new funds popping up dedicated to “Green Investing” which in a diversified portfolio is good for funding innovations that will only help our world. What is really scary is many funds without the proper background to invest in this sector are jumping all over anything with buzzwords like “alternative energy”, “biofuels” and “eco-friendly”. VC’s like John Doerr cry when they talk about the environment and are dumping millions into companies that do things like nano-solar and grid optimization technologies. Hedge funds like Winslow Green Growth Fund are seeing their portfolios transform with the rush of new companies and new investments.

I hear a popping sound….

There are two popping scenarios:

1. Green will index within the mainstream and become ubiquitous.
It sticks. People keep pushing corporations to deeper levels of sustainability. Greenwashers fall on their face because it’s an unfulfilled promise, and then they mean it and real change happens. Green becomes ubiquitous. Smaller, plucky green companies struggle to regain any competitive advantage. When everything is green, green means nothing. (The study of green language is already there.)

2. It’s a fad and will vanish back to the margins of our society.
Green Fever goes away because it is a trend, a fad. News stories drop off, the chasing arrows shrink smaller on the back of packaging again, people stop bragging that their letterhead is 100% FCS Certified and Acid Free. Some small vestiges will still remain, and progress will have been made. New products were launched and the consumers will be more aware. But the trend died… popped.

Final thoughts…

I do believe we are economically in trouble as a country and I do believe that we are beginning to see the beginnings of a “green bubble”. However, as with bubbles like the tech bubble we saw massive innovation that benefits us to this day. So while there will be many bull**it artists and charlitans convincing investors they can solve the planets problems there will be innovation that will benefit us and the entire planet. I would just caution people on two things – don’t invest in every “Green IPO” when the fundamentals don’t work and don’t transfer your career into this field unless you are already in it or willing to passionately stay in it the rest of your life. We don’t need armies of unemployed “green consultants” trying to come back to tech in five years when the bubble bursts, because it eventually will.

Please leave your comments below, I want to hear from the evil oil people, the treehuggers and especially the Polar Bear lovers.