Monday, October 6, 2008

Bay area - list of things to do

A colleague at work was kind enough to send me a list of things we might be interested in doing in the bay area. Thanks Linas!
As you can see, the world is centered around Santa Cruz for him ;-)

Around Santa Cruz:

Boardwalk (amusement park - may not be operational in winter)
The main street - Pacific Ave
There are wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains
The concrete ship in Aptos
Big Basin Redwoods Park (camping)

South of Santa Cruz:

Caramel - art & shopping - may want to spend the night
17 mile drive - ends at Pebble Beach - nice drive - good golfing
Drive down Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle - its a long, beautiful drive

Monterey Aquarium in Monterey
If you like US literature, the John Steinbeck museum is in Salinas

Point Lobos State Park – 5 minutes south of Caramel– directly off of Highway #1

San Francisco (North of Santa Cruz):

Bank of America - top of a tall building - good view - Montgomery & California - financial district -need to buy a drink at their bar
Lombard St - near Leavenworth - crookedest street in USA
row houses - Alamo square - Fulton and Steiner - classical famous SF view of houses with city in the background
Alcatraz tours - You need to order tickets days in advance – they sell out early in the summer.
Fisherman's Wharf is totally a tourist trap. Enjoy it for that.
Alcatraz tour start at Fisherman's wharf (Pier 39?).

Ghiardelli - Chocolate - need we say more?
Chinatown is cool - go into the places which have live fish flopping around in baskets at the curb - talk about fresh fish.

In/around the Bay area:
Aircraft carrier in Oakland - USS Hornet - on Alameda island
Nike missile Facility north of San Francisco - in Marin county. Open some Saturdays
Winchester house in San Jose
On Wednesday, Friday afternoons, from 1-3pm, you might be interested in seeing the Computer History Museum.

A little further out:

Napa/Sonoma 1 hour north of San Francisco (2.5 hours from Santa Cruz)

Driving Hwy 1 north of Santa Cruz

Driving all the little roads in the mountains

Yosemite – 4-5 hours away

Mono Lake, Bode, Mammoth Lakes – 6-7 hours away

Sequoia – King's Canyon – 6 hours away

Reno – Tahoe –5-6 hours away

Enterprise vs Consumer plays

Article: Moving From Enterprise To Consumer.
Posted on Silicon Valley Product Group Newsletter – October 6, 2008. I couldn't find a link online.

Another good article on the topic -

Article: Moving From Enterprise To Consumer.
Occasionally a company starts its life as one type of business but then finds that they need to change into another type of business. The most common such transition I see is to start by building products for very large companies (enterprises), but then decide you need to switch (or expand) to sell to consumers and/or small businesses.

Even before the recent turmoil in the financial services industry, I was often asked by enterprise CEO’s how can they change course to a consumer company. Or, I would be asked by product managers how to make the move from product management in an enterprise company to product management in a consumer internet company.

There are many potential reasons for this.

It may be because the company has saturated the enterprise market. Or because they determine that there simply aren’t enough companies out there with pockets deep enough to pay what they would need to survive. Or because their investors point to the dramatically larger market of consumers and small businesses and say that’s the new objective. Or sometimes companies simply tire of their fate being driven more by deals on the golf course, rather than the fruits of their product efforts.

For whatever reason, if your company decides it must evolve from an enterprise business to a consumer business, then I’ve learned that there are several things that you can do to increase your chances of success.

I will warn you however that changing your company like this might sound easy but let me assure you it’s not. In fact, most companies don’t survive the transition. Unfortunately, often this transition is necessary, so the business may not have any choice but to try to change.

Note that much of this also applies to product managers that wish to transition from working in an enterprise software company to a consumer software company.

Corporate DNA

First, realize that whether intentional or unintentional, your company is surely populated by many people that have spent their career in enterprise businesses, and that’s the world they know.

There are clues to this all over the office. Do you see anyone with ties on? Do you have a direct sales organization? Does the company have a box at the local arena to entertain clients? Do you have a customer briefing center? Is your company name along the side of some race car or sailboat? Is the role of marketing at your company to support the sales force? Do you see a lot of specials? Are there a handful of very big customers that cause the entire company to bend over backwards?

At a superficial level all of these things may seem easy to change, but they stem from deep down beliefs about how to run a business and how to attract and retain customers.

Start at the Top

The CEO must tackle this DNA issue head on and take a hard look at the culture and the organization and consciously set the new tone. This will almost certainly require some new blood on his or her staff with the new DNA.

But it’s also almost certain that there will be people in the company that will resist these changes, and push back hard. Many of them see the writing on the wall and know they are fighting for their jobs. Fortunately, many of them have long wanted to make the switch to consumer but with their enterprise experience have had trouble finding a company to take them. If your company is willing to teach them what they need to learn then they can often become strong supporters. But honestly those that don’t want to move will need to be moved out of the way.

Consumer Companies

I’ve written earlier about what makes a great consumer internet service (see so I won’t repeat that here, but I will emphasize a few key points:

- You only survive if you create a product that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people want to use.

- With consumer products, every customer is a user, and as such, every user makes the decision to purchase or use.

- It’s all about scale – the ability to scale the software, to scale the marketing/customer acquisition, and scale the customer support processes.

- In an enterprise company, it’s really mostly about sales and the sales organization. In a consumer company, it’s all about product, with a good dose of online marketing challenges as well.

- Because you can’t depend on training classes, online tutorials, or an SE to hold the hands of the new users, the product has to be dramatically easier to learn and use. This means building out a user experience team that knows how to design this type of software, and a product organization that knows how to work with this team to define, design, build and run this software.

- In an enterprise sale, you may have charged on average say $100K in license fees with $25K in yearly maintenance, and of course the marginal cost of the software is essentially zero, so there’s plenty of room for the sales rep, the SE, the big dinners with the client, the time required for custom RFP responses, the special visit the engineer makes to customer to help get the software working, etc. But for a consumer or small business sale, for say $25/month/user (and realize that most consumer or small business revenue is actually significantly less per customer), you obviously have no room for such luxuries on a per customer basis. Even at $250/month per small business you have no such room.

- In consumer products, the software absolutely has to actually work. No more leaning on professional services or SE’s or integration partners to glue things together for the customer. It has to work, work well, and work immediately. Exceptions to this will destroy your customer service costs and erode your margins.

Back to the Culture

Much of what I’m describing above has to do with skills and best practices, but a lot of this is really about the culture, and I think that not enough companies attempting to make this transition pay enough attention to the cultural aspects.

Remember that in the consumer software company culture, it’s not about ties or sales or big customers, it’s about how many people are loving the product, how do you make the product even better, how do you get people to engage even more with the site, and how do you continue to get the message out to others that will love the product.

Once companies truly get this, they usually end up significantly reducing the size of the sales and sales support organization, and significantly increasing the size of the product and marketing organizations.

Changing jobs smoothly

Never an easy job. Especially complicated when you are moving to another company in the same domain.

Couple of tenets to go by -
1. Inform your current company as soon as you have made any concrete plans. Be completely up front on your move. I had some people suggest that I do not need to tell my company where I am going - and they were right from a strict legal standpoint. But you do not want to be involved in any kind of conversations that could be deemed competitive during the transition out of the company, so I decided to inform them immediately. In my case, my manager was working late, so I went and told him as soon as I had faxed my acceptance letter to my new company...

2. Do _not_ try to copy or save any material - confidential or not. On a side note, I would refrain from keeping any personal material on your work laptop. Gets tricky when you need to decide whether you should move it off the laptop or not. I decided to leave it all, except for some personal pictures. And I did that a while before leaving.

3. Meet and talk to as many people as you can. Unless you are a slimeball, they will understand that you had good reasons to leave. A boss once told me that the only loyalty anyone should have is to people - not to companies. It is a good idea to ensure that you don't burn those bridges as much as possible.

4. Finally, remember that you _have_ to take care of yourself. If you are like me, you probably have pretty much given your life to work, and feel bad about leaving. But by the same token, you have no obligations - you have given more than enough. You have to take the decision that is best for you, and you need to take it now.

Move to California

After 10 years in Austin (6 for my wife), we recently moved to the bay area. It was certainly a difficult choice given the number of close friends we have in Austin, but we decided that it was essential for our career growth. While the silicon hills - as some call Austin - is pretty good in terms of opportunities, it still pales in comparison to the silicon valley, and we decided to make this change now since it was time for a job change anyway.

So, good bye Austin! We will certainly miss you. Actually we will miss the folks we know there more than the place itself.
I am sure we will be making the SJC-AUS circuit quite regularly...

And from now on, I will be posting about the different things we try out here in the bay area! Lots and lots of things to do around here!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Amazing what you can find on the internet! I can't find the link any more, but check this out.

If you are buying something from Pottery Barn which is worth putting in some work to save some money (it was for us :-) ) here is something you can do -
-Create a registry for an event dated the next day
-Add what you want to get to it.
-Wait for a day. You will get an email about your registry list, giving you 10% off for all the things left on the registry _after_ the "day of your event"... (Now you know why I said date it only 1-2 days away)
-Buy what you need for a 10% discount...

Simple! And worth it when you are buying a king size bed, drawers, etc etc............