December 28, 2009

Learning How to Stop

Learning How to Stop This is my last post about thoughts I had coming out of the NYC Lean Startup Meetup that I spoke at a couple weeks ago.  Being lean, the discussion went at this event, means not doing extraneous things.  While it’s true for startups that it’s important to make great decisions about what to do up front, it’s also true — especially as companies get larger and more important older — that organizations and individuals have to be vigilant about stopping activities that become extraneous over time. This is HARD.  Once things — product features, business processes, reports, ways of communicating or thinking about things — get ingrained in an organization, there’s never a natural impetus to stop doing them.  Even the smartest and most thoughtful individuals often find themselves doing things that once made sense but no longer do.  We encourage people at Return Path to create space to work OTB (on the business), not just ITB (in the business).  Take time not just to perfect what you’re doing and do it, but take time to reexamine what you’re doing and ask whether or not it needs to be done.  My staff is going to start […]


December 21, 2009

Innovating in New York City

Innovating in New York City Last week I wrote about speaking at the NYC Lean Startup Meetup.  One of my other key takeaways from this, which I’ve known for a while and have been meaning to blog about, is just how vibrant the tech startup community is here in New York.  I know others have been blogging about this like mad – Fred has some thoughts here, here, and here, and Charlie has some here and here.  Chris Dixon’s seminal post on this is here. (I even blogged a bit about why NYC is a good place to start a […]


December 17, 2009

Pivot, Don’t Jump!

Pivot, Don’t Jump! I spoke last night at the NYC Lean Startup Meetup, which was fun.  I will write a couple other posts based on the experience over the next week or so.  The Meetup is all about creating “lean startups,” not just meaning lean as in cheap and lightweight, but meaning smart at doing product development from the perspective of finding the quickest path to product-market fit.  No wasted cycles of innovation.  Something we are spending a lot of time on right now at Return Path, actually. My topic was “The Pivot,” by which the group meant How do […]


October 21, 2009

Why I joined the DMA Board, and what you can expect of me in that role

Why I joined the DMA Board, and what you can expect of me in that role I don’t normally think of myself as a rebel. But one outcome of the DMA’s recent proxy fight with Board member Gerry Pike is that I’ve been appointed to the DMA’s Board and its Executive Committee and have been labeled “part of the reform movement” in the trade press. While I wasn’t actively leading the charge on DMA reform with Gerry, I am very enthusiastic about taking up my new role. I gave Gerry my proxy and support for a number of reasons, and […]


September 18, 2009

How Deliverability is Like SEO and SEM for Email

How Deliverability is Like SEO and SEM for Email I admit this is an imperfect analogy, and I’m sure many of my colleagues in the email industry are going to blanch at a comparison to search, but the reality is that email deliverability is still not well understood — and search engines are.  I hope that I can make a comparison here that will help you better understand what it really means to work on deliverability – they same way you understand what it means to work on search. But before we get to that, let’s start with the language […]


August 26, 2009

What if There’s No Reason to Eat the Dog Food?

What if There’s No Reason to Eat the Dog Food? There’s an expression in software about producing a product and market testing it — “seeing if the dogs will eat the dog food.”  I’ve heard it mangled many times around the employees of a software company using the software their own company produces as “seeing if the dogs will eat their own dog food.”  This is always true in consumer software and service companies.  Employees are often the best users, the power users, and the source of the best feedback to the organization about the product and competition.  We certainly […]


August 7, 2009

Techstars Roundup: Why I Mentor Other Entrepreneurs

Techstars Roundup:  Why I Mentor Other Entrepreneurs Yesterday was Demo/Investor day at Techstars in Boulder, Colorado.  A lot of people have written about it – Fred, Brad, and a great piece by Don Dodge on TechCrunch listing out all the companies.  My colleague George and I co-mentored two of the companies, SendGrid and Mailana, and we really enjoyed working with Isaac and Pete, the two entrepreneurs. I posted twice earlier this summer on the TechStars experience.  My first post on this, Where do you Start?, was about whether to be methodical in business planning for a startup or dive right […]


July 28, 2009

Book Short: Worth Buying Free

Book Short:  Worth Buying Free The cynic in me wanted to start this book review of  Free: The Future of a Radical Price, by Chris Anderson, by complaining that I had to pay for the book.  But it ended up being good enough that I won’t do that (plus, the author said there are free digital versions available — though the Kindle edition still costs money).  At any rate, a bunch of reviews I read about the book panned it when compared to Anderson’s prior book, The Long Tail (post, link to book). I won’t get into the details of […]


July 23, 2009

A David Allen nightmare

IMG_3029.JPG Originally uploaded by heif A David Allen nightmare The comments on Flickr are almost as funny as the picture, but for those of you who can’t see the detail, I believe this is Esther Dyson peering over an inbox that has almost 4.3 billion emails in it.


June 24, 2009

Techstars: One Pitfall to Avoid

Techstars:  One Pitfall to Avoid George and I met with our Techstars “mentee” companies again yesterday.  As was the case with the last meetings, the sessions were energizing and fun and great to see new companies unfolding. One lesson I was reminded of yesterday with both companies is a timeless one, since at least the beginning of the commercial internet: Don’t create a “solution looking for a problem” I call this the Pointcast problem, after the mid-90s service that pulled headlines into screensavers and clogged corporate networks until the fad passed.  One of the companies we’re working with has this […]


May 29, 2009

First day at Techstars: Where do you start?

First day at Techstars:  Where do you start? I’m a new mentor this year at Techstars, a program in its third or fourth year in Boulder (and this year also in Boston for the first time) that provides a couple dozen companies with seed capital, advice and mentorship, and summer “incubation” services in a really well conceived for-profit venture started by David Cohen in Colorado. Yesterday was my first day up there with my colleague George Bilbrey, and we met with three different companies, two of which we will tag team mentor through the summer.  I won’t get into who […]