Friday, May 29, 2009

Payback is a Perk

Vibhoosh Gupta, one of my Babson students from last year, stopped by the booth at Interop.

He's with Motorola.

Last year, he was an engineer - with good ideas and good busines sense. He always seemed somewhat frustrated to me, and I was happy to hear he wanted to move into marketing.

He stopped by last week to tell me that he had indeed moved to a Market Development role - he had come up with a great idea - taking fiber directly into commercial buildings and distributing it to the desktop in place of ethernet cabling. Benefit is pretty straightforward - no power required for switches, no switch closets, hi-performance, and total security (no EMI emission to tap). Vibhoosh ran with the idea, put a business plan together, got it approved and launched it at Interop.

He was nice enough to say that he was able to use his learnings from my class in doing so.

It meant a lot to me that I was able to help someone along the way - you never really know, do you? The reason I teach is to give something back - pay forward in reverse, I guess - and in the case of Vibhoosh, it seems to have worked. Made my day.

Boy, I hope he's successful with the idea, and if not, I sure hope he took good notes during the "starting from scratch is hard" class about getting up, dusting off, and starting over again...after you fail...once, twice, or a dozen times...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Brad O'Neill showed me his idea for TechValidate in the lobby of the New York Hilton at SNW a couple of years ago.

I loved it then, and I love it a lot more now. StumbleUpon was a pipsqueak of an idea compared to TechValidate.

As long as I have been doing this - marketing black boxes to IT geeks, that is - it's been near impossible to get and keep customer references.

This dearth of referencable customers leads to half a dozen thorny problems.

- Editors won't let reporters/writers do stories without customer quotes. Even if you have the best mousetrap since cheese, you can't get anyone to write a story about it.

- Frustrated writers/reporters can't publish even their most interesting stories.

- Prospects won't buy unless they can speak to a customer.

- Salesreps drive marketing crazy asking for references.

- Customers who do make themselves available quickly get besieged and 'burn out'

- Salesreps lucky enough to have customers willing to take calls, horde them like squirrels horde nuts, and won't let other reps (or marketing and PR people) get to them for fear of 'burning them out'

This friction in getting, keeping, and managing customer references creates scarcity and high cost. Industry analysts fill the void - for a price - acting as a proxy for real customers, offering quotes to press releases and reporters, opinion (expert or not) on the value of the product to customers, etc.

Along comes Golden-Hand O'Neill - OK, arguably with a bit of a chip on his shoulder for industry analysts perhaps - and innovates a tool that blows up the whole mess.

Talk about disruptive...

TechValidate lets customers offer their honest opinions directly and anonymously, but verifiably.

Writers and editors can now write stories with validated quotes, without the hassle of getting permission.

Prospects can get validated experiences from real customers to increase their comfort levels.

Salesreps can confidently make claims of value based on validated customer response.

Marketing people can stop fighting alligators and get back to draining the swamp.

Just once, please, can't I have a brilliant idea like this that will make me $10 or $20 million...?

Just once?