Displaying articles for: 08-12-2012 - 08-18-2012
This is a guest post from my http://www.badlanguage.net blog.
I used to run a computer games company, calledIntelligent Games, and occasionally I get emails from people who played our games. That’s always a pleasure and I had one today from an Australian architect (and SimIsle fan) who is just starting out in his new practice. He made the flattering mistake of asking if I had any advice for him. Here is what I wrote and this is what I might have done differently if I had known then what I know now (it’s also what I’m trying to do now at Articulate and Turbine):
Hiring people is very expensive
They are ‘sticky’ in that it’s hard to unhire them when you can’t afford to pay them or don’t need them. Keep flexible and hire contractors, freelancers or remote workers as well as full time employees. Also – and someone said this to me when I was 20 and I ignored it then but it’s very true – don’t hire someone until you need two of them.
You’ve got to plan for the long term
We didn’t really anticipate the shift to multiplayer games or console games or the internet. We could have exploited any of these opportunities to grow the business but instead stuck to what we knew – PC strategy games. So you need to be a step ahead of the market and constantly looking for the next new thing.
Find something that you do exceptionally well or find a way to create some branding or intellectual property or proprietary technology that gives your business value beyond the cost of just hiring your staff or other employees like them. For an entrepreneur this is the most important thing because it will help you differentiate your business from its competitors and it will build value in the business so that you can earn the option to sell it.
After emailing him, I thought of another tip:
Spend your time on the good people
Once you have a reasonable number of employees, some of them will cause you problems. They’ll want pay rises, make complaints, threaten to leave, underperform, break the rules etc. It happens. As boss, you end up spending a lot of time dealing with these people. But you should try to keep that stuff as efficient and brisk as possible and spend much more time on your good people. Pay attention to them, help them get better, recognise their successes. Generally be a good boss to good employees.
This is a guest post by Joanna Higgins from my http://turbinehq.com/blog.
In June, The Economist reported that Pebble, a customizable watch that displays smartphone messages, had raised $10.3m. That, in itself, isn’t noteworthy. What is, however, was the way Pebble raised the money — not from venture capitalists or private equity firms, but from 68,929 ordinary people using the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
It was yet another milestone for crowdfunding, which started out as a way for charities and creatives to raise cash. Individuals would pledge money for a project in return for ‘rewards’ – credit in an indie film, or, in Pebble’s case, a free watch.
That model has quickly evolved and has started to attract entrepreneurs and small businesses in search of growth capital. With banks increasingly unwilling to lend — and less trusted by small and medium-sized enterprises – the market for crowdfunded finance is only likely to grow.
Research from Massolution estimates there will be $2.8bn raised by the end of 2012 and there are already some 450 platforms globally, with lending-based funds particularly active.
The big challenge now is regulation. There are plenty of peer-to-peer lenders, but most have so far avoided equity-based models in order to steer clear of regulation that requires investors to be ‘sophisticated’ (or ‘professional’).
But does it compare with VC lending? According to the BVCA, the UK trade body representing venture capital and private equity houses, VCs in Europe have been moving away from seed and start-up deals for a number of years to larger, less risky deals. (It’s the crowdfunding platforms themselves that have piqued the attention of VCs.)
How does crowdfunding stack up against VC investment? Here are some benefits:
- Social proof: Arguably, ideas aren’t as rigorously vetted by the crowd. But crowdfunding is a better form of ‘social proof’ – if you can convince the crowd of your venture, it suggests there is a market for it.
- Visibility: As entrepreneur Tom Serres says, crowdfunding is valuable in bringing “the product and the market together for investors to see.” Online visibility attracts a wider investment pool of potential customers.
- No dilution: At the moment, there’s more appetite for lending without strings – for no loss of equity.
- No interference: There’s less pressure to exit – a mixed blessing, as exits can provide a focal point and more allowance for slower, but more measured growth.
Here’s what you miss out on:
- Board expertise: Small firms that want a board member and an expert won’t find this via the current crop of platforms – but who knows what the model will evolve into?
- Connections: You don’t get the enthusiasm of the angel investor, nor the institutional support and networking connections of the VC.
- Financial credibility: Equity-backed businesses are more likely to win the trust of the bank manager.
- Scalability: VCs can help a business scale up fast. But Pebble’s story indicates crowdfunding’s catching up.
If you don’t want advice, just cash, crowfunding is a godsend. As platforms grow closer to investment firms, they may yet start to edge the VC out of the way.
Effectively, the crowdfunding model is unlikely to replace VCs in the short-term, but should act as a proving ground for fledgling companies or individuals with ideas. If they survive on crowdfunded capital, they may start to attract the VCs.
Longer term, though, will regulation make it possible for individual, unsophisticated investors to hold onto stock in companies they’ve helped to grow?
Flexible, mobile, and affordable, laptops are the computing way to go for most small to medium businesses. Notebooks such as HP Probooks not only help you get stuff done wherever you are, they can save you some extra cash.
More bang for your buck
Laptops are more cost-effective purchases compared to desktops and the requisite tangle of monitors, keyboards, and accessories. Since laptops are meant to be mobile, they are compact, all-in-one machines, with everything including options such as web cameras, built right in. More features and less clutter for less money mean more savings. Plus, with trade-in programs like Trade up to HP, you can receive up to £150 for your old computer when you buy a qualifying HP business notebook.
Reduced energy costs
Reduced communication costs
Use internet calling options such as Skype to make free to cheap phone calls just about anywhere. HP Probooks also support video and web conferencing with a dual-microphone array for clear sound and less time asking, “Can you hear me?”
Notebooks let you work wherever you are. Make the most of your in-person meeting with clients by using your HP Probook to share information or show a presentation on its high-resolution, large screen. HP Mobile Broadband lets you securely plug into the internet in more places, including hotels and airports where there’s often an extra charge and in cafés where there are security concerns.
Additional benefits of mobility and portability are significant. HP studies in the UK found that 46% of employees would be happier if they could work from home and that greater flexibility would result in higher productivity. With laptops, you can foster happier and more productive employees, reduce commuting and travel costs for meetings, and offer a better work-life balance while remaining responsive to work needs
Reduced time costs
On HP Business notebooks such as HP Probooks, you can access the web in seconds with a push of the QuickWeb button, even if your laptop is shutdown. Avoid having to wait while the system boots and in seconds, you can use e-mail, Skype, check the news, pay bills in the additional write-protected security mode, and save files onto a USB drive.
When you’re on the go and you need to look up a phone number or that e-mail to check where you’re meeting your client, HP QuickLook boots up your notebook in ten seconds to let you access Outlook data and edit e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks, which syncs up next time you start the computer.