Building a company is about “doing,” so if you need to partner with a technical co-founder or hire top engineering talent to do so, then start networking and building relationships within the technical community now to find the right candidates.
There is no magic formula for building a technical team. However, I can offer advice based on my hard-won experience through meeting with over 60 developers, development shops and technical mentors.
Here are a few things that I learned the hard way about finding a technical co-founder:
1. Don’t be the “idea guy” looking for a “coder.”
Talented engineers can see “idea guys” from a mile away and will avoid them like the plague. No hacker wants to be the code monkey for your [insert hyperbolic superlative here] idea. The reality of the market is that there’s a great demand for developers, from growing startups to established companies like Google and Facebook.
The most talented are not merely one-dimensional tech geeks, but entrepreneurial-minded engineers who have ideas of their own. Get your perspective right from the start to attract top candidates.
I was able to attract and build relationships with a number of top-tier engineers because I was seeking true partners that could grow and shape my vision with me, not simply execute it for me.
2. Validate your concept before you start building.
Part of attracting talent is not only having a great idea, but also demonstrating that you are the right person to execute it. There are a lot of ways you can field test your concept early on before programming anything.
For example, you can collect invaluable feedback from potential users and customers with simple mock-ups that can help refine your product road map. InVision is a great user interface prototyping tool that turns designs into interactive mock-ups. Additionally, it takes minutes to set up a landing page with LaunchRock and Optimizely. With minimal ad spend, you can prove whether there would be interest in your product by getting actual signups and analyzing click-through rates.
When I started out, I got buy-in from key stakeholders on a simple video and deck, which I also used to sign up 75 retailer partners. The feedback I got from potential users on my front-end prototypes was invaluable in shaping and focusing our product road map.
3. Find advocates and supporters within the software engineering community.
If you don’t have a network in the developer community, build one! The relationships that I fostered were integral to my process and are paying off in dividends today. The developers I met early on have become friends who have made developer introductions, helped out with technical interviews and even reviewed GitHub accounts (a popular repository for code).
Additionally, these mentors have helped me understand how to manage development resources. To build these relationships, I generally avoided the “find a co-founder” type of meet-ups. Instead, I learned a lot more and made meaningful relationships at meet-ups for developers (e.g., Ruby Developers, machine learning, CTO School, etc.).
Apple has a good deal of cash. And, in the Valley, the startup ecosystem — for many reasons — wants to see Apple spend that cash. As their cash pile continued to grow as their stock price and market cap soared, Apple’s inability to provide robust software services combined with opportunities to expand their reach through acquisitions has become a fancy parlor game which includes every stripe of public and private investor imaginable. On top of this, pumping even a small percentage of cash pile into acquisitions could provide another pool of much-needed liquidity for founders and investors alike. While it all makes sense on paper, part of what makes Apple “Apple” is that they operate how they want to — not how the market wants them to. Recently, in response to a variety of pressures to do something, to do anything, Apple announced a two-part share buyback. There are many explanations for this financial strategy, and while the Valley may have their own armchair financial analysts with a Twitter account, I reached out to some friends who actually work in technology banking or at techonology-focused hedge funds and asked them to send me a paragraph on their perception of the move. Because of the world these folks work in, I’ve reproduced their answers below anonymously, as they are not permitted to publicly share their opinions on such matters:
Technology Investment Banker: With the amount of cash stock piled by Apple, and mainly overseas, it was only a matter of time until the water would break, especially with activist investor David Einhorn ruffling feathers. Apple did something very standard and not uncommon, but on a large scale the way Apple likes to do things. At the end of the day I feel Apple’s actions represent the following four points: (1) Increased Shareholder Value: There are many ways to value a profitable company but the most common measurement is Earnings Per Share (EPS). If earnings are flat but the number of outstanding shares decreases. . Voila! . . A magical increase in period-to-period EPS will result; (2) Higher Stock Prices: An increase in EPS will often alert investors that a stock is undervalued or has the potential for increasing in value. The most common result is an increase in demand and an upward movement in the price of a stock; (3) Increased Float – As the number of outstanding shares decreases, the shares remaining represent a larger percentage of the float. If demand increases and there is less supply, then fuel is added to a potential upward movement in the price of a stock; and (4) Excess Cash: Companies usually buy back their stock with excess cash. If a company has excess cash, then at a minimum you can bank that it doesn’t have a cash flow problem. More importantly, it signals that executives feel that cash re-invested in the corporation will get a better return than alternative investments. This is definitely a positive sign for the company going forward. Customers and investors should feel confident with these events transpiring that Apple will continue to deliver value to both parties respectively.
Technology Hedge Fund Principal: Since Apple has around $ 150B cash on the books (70% of which is foreign), it’s clear they need to do something with this cash because it’s just wasted sitting on the balance sheet earning low interest rates. People have assumed the market would respond well to Apple making acquisitions, especially in software and services, particularly in cloud and mobile software. While they have reaped the benefits of profits in mobile hardware, the value going forward is at the application and services layer. Other hardware manufacturers are catching up, if they haven’t caught up already. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to have an appetite for these types of acquisitions. Another option is to buy back shares, a proven way to deploy cash, though doing so sends a signal that they are a mature (read: not growth) company. Tactically, buybacks can decouple EPS growth from new product lines, and Apple could see 2x its buyback investment in earnings growth as a result. Ultimately, Apple has withstood significant pressure from the investment community to do something with the cash, especially as growth has slowed. (Venture arms, since you asked, are not an effective use of capital for a corporate player; I see the share repurchase as a much more responsible use of proceeds.
Hedge Fund Partner #2: Apple had four basic choices of what to do with their cash, remembering that apple has a duty to its shareholders: (1) Do nothing (status quo), which makes zero sense. given that they have ~$ 145Bn in cash and are adding ~ $ 40Bn in cash annually assuming zero growth earnings earning; (2) Strategic acquisition or expansion, though Apple will be hard pushed to effectively put either their cash hoard or future cash flows to use to do this; (3) a one-time special dividend and increased annual dividend; or (4) a share buyback (or various form of it). Only options #3 or #4 made any sense to me and I assumed it was only a matter of time before they did something. #1 is out as they are would not be meeting their shareholder responsibility and #2 is out simply because of scale.
I see the share buyback as positive for three key reasons: (1) Apple stock is currently very cheap. My back of the envelope calculations conservatively value them at $ 500-$ 550/share, so they are effectively leveraging and creating additional shareholder value here until the multiple recovers to fair value. What’s more is that management knows a lot more than what we all do, so they should be able to calculate their own value in two to three years fairly well, and I assume they saw this as a positive. (2) Because Apple issued bonds to finance the deal rather than using cash, this way they will not need to repatriate taxable offshore cash to perform the buyback and they will likely get a bond rate the crazy low prices. Bottom line, they are saving shareholders cash, although at some point they will need to find a way to address the offshore cash, so perhaps they are waiting for another tax holiday. And (3), assuming the market reacts rationally, a buy back signals that managements believes in stock and the story and believes that this will generate returns that will outperform for long-term investors, something that a cash hoard did not address at any level and effectively generate returns far in excess of what could be achieved in any other safe manner.
More often than not I do not like share buybacks. often management does this to boost their own salary bonuses (EPS biased etc) or simply follow bad advice and follow the investment banking herd, but this time I liked Apple’s share buyback at this share price and multiple and applaud the debt financing way of doing it, I would have applauded it more if they had also issued a $ 40 special dividend.
Hedge Fund Partner #3: The view is Apple has stopped being an innovator. While they were at the forefront of technology, people bugged them to use their cash for a dividend or buyback and they could say “no” because the stock price was going up on leading edge innovation. Once Jobs passed away, Tim Cook hasn’t been able to keep that going, and if anything they are now playing catch-up to Samsung or even Google. When you aren’t innovating and you have $ 150B in cash, a board has to find ways to keep investors happy and one tactic is to conduct a massive buyback. Showing they are returning money to shareholders, creating a new base if “capital return” investors rather than growth investors. It’s all a game to prop up the stock price, money is cheap because of Bernanke, so it’s an easy way for them to please shareholders without much cost to the business. In general, I think that Apple is falling behind and trying to figure out how to regain their lead, and I’m not sure if its possible any time soon.
Technology Stock Investor: They’re doing the buyback because: 1) they have an unprecedented amount of cash ($ 140+ billion) that’s earning nearly nothing; 2) the stock is down nearly 40% from its high and shareholders are angry; 3) the stock is cheap on every financial metric, signaling that buying shares is a good use of cash if you believe in the long-term growth of the company. The company does not appear to want to do a large acquisition or massively increase its capital expenditures. They don’t “need” to hold that much cash. So the company had a very inefficient capital structure ($ 140+ billion of cash and no debt). Equity investors (who, in the end, own the company) sooner or later demand to get returns on their companies’ cash. Capital markets are competitive, and if management doesn’t give investors great reasons to own their stock, investors will go somewhere else. AAPL is facing slowing revenue growth, margin pressure, and uncertainty about their next major product line. A management team that is perceived as unfriendly to shareholders is another reason for investors to sell the stock. The buyback is a big gesture by management that they understand their shareholders’ concerns, in addition to likely being a good investment.
Photo Credit: Eddi 07 / Flickr Creative Commons
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Are you an innovator at the convergence of Internet, music, and technology? One of the entrepreneurs, investors, developers, or press who are building a better future for musicians and fans? If so, the 13th SF MusicTech Summit is for you! It takes place on Tuesday, May 28 at San Francisco’s Hotel Kabuki.
With close to 1,000 attendees and 100 speakers, the SF MusicTech Summit is the best place to connect and do business with the industry leaders who are productively moving the music/technology ecosystem ahead.
See old friends, connect with new ones, do business, and have a great time. Participants come away energized and ready to take on the world. There will be dozens of panels and presentations, elevator pitches, speed networking, and an expo hall and all-day lounge where deals will get done.
Parties the night before and the night of the event also offer ample opportunities to make connections.
Our amazing speakers include mega-producer Jermaine Dupri, Ime Archibong of Facebook, Ken Jordan of The Crystal Method, Judy Estrin of EVNTLive, Jack Conte of Pomplamoose, Stephen Phillips of Twitter #Music, Nick Adler of The Roxy, Nate Auerbach of Tumbler, Mahbod Moghadam of Rap Genius, Caroline Burruss of Austin City Limits Live, Larry Marcus of Walden Venture Capitol, Lewis Gersh of Metamorphic.VC, and many more. View the speaker list.
And the conference participants are just as amazing as those onstage. View the attendee list.
Are you a developer or startup? Here is your chance to showcase your work at our next summit! Enter the “Startup Innovators Showcase Challenge” here: Apply now! Winning startups will be invited to do a one-minute live demo in front of our community members, including: investors, marketers, biz dev, and more, which could lead to great opportunities.
For example, the CEO of Boombotix performed during our recent Elevator Pitch Session. Larry Marcus of Walden Venture Capital was in the crowd, loved what he saw, and went on to lead an investment round.
Will you get those same sort of results at the SF MusicTech Summit? Not guaranteed, of course, but if you aren’t there, it’s guaranteed that you wont.
Use discount code “venturebeat” for 20 percent off, and we’re thrilled that VentureBeat’s own Christina Farr will be hosting the Demo sessions! Hope to see you there. More information, please visit www.sfmusictech.com
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VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
Top 10 Engineering College Teams Up With Udacity, AT&T To Offer $6K Master’s Degree In Computer Science, Entirely Online
If there was any question as to Sebastian Thrun and Udacity’s resolve to re-imagine higher education in a more affordable, accessible virtual classroom — or their ability to actually make any real headway among the Ivory Towers of academia — we should probably just go ahead and put that to bed. This morning, Udacity continues to push forward with its plans to bring higher education online — and not just in bits, pieces and homework assignments. Following 2U’s lead, which set the ball rolling by pioneering the approach of partnering with graduate programs to go beyond asynchronous video learning to create custom, accredited full-service web and mobile-compatible graduate degree programs.
To date, 2U has worked with graduate programs in nursing, education, law, business and international, and today, Udacity took the next step — in what could mark an important moment for STEM education — announcing that it has partnered with Georgia Tech to jointly offer an accredited master’s degree in computer science, completely online. Not only that, but thanks to support from AT&T, the program will be offered for less than $ 7,000. So, really, this could be not just an important moment for STEM, but for MOOCs and online education as a whole.
The other point of note here is that Georgia Tech ain’t no safety school. According to U.S. News’ rankings of the best engineering schools in the U.S., Georgia Tech is tied for fifth place with Carnegie Mellon. So, it looks like Coursera and EdX aren’t the only ones providing online educational experiences with content from elite universities.
Furthermore, tuition (full-time, out of state) for Georgia Tech is $ 26,860 — which makes Udacity’s online degree look more than a little appealing in comparison. However, while anyone will be able to sign up and take Udacity’s Computer Science courses for free, only those actually enrolled at Georgia Tech will be able to earn credits towards a degree. The companies plan to launch a pilot of the program in the fall of 2014, beginning with a couple hundred students.
As for AT&T, it’s not exactly crystal clear what the company’s role in the partnership is, other than providing what the announcement calls “generous” support. Naturally, of course, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson thinks the partnership has transformative potential. He said:
We believe that high-quality and 100 percent online degrees can be on par with degrees received in traditional on-campus settings, and that this program could be a blueprint for helping the United States address the shortage of people with STEM degrees, as well as exponentially expand access to computer science education for students around the world.
Again, while the idea itself isn’t new, and Udacity isn’t the first to partner with an elite graduate program to provide quality education and an actual, graduate-level degree to students online, the quality of the academic program (and presumably its content), its focus on Computer Science, combined with its relative affordability and the ability to receive credit and complete a full, graduate-level degree online, is absolutely huge. Sure, the launch is still quite a ways off, which is at once makes the announcement perhaps a little bit premature, but is also evidence that they’re taking the development of this program seriously. No status quo.
This is also refreshing news, because, over the last year, there’s been a huge amount of buzz around massive open online course (MOOC) platforms, particularly around Udacity, Coursera, EdX and 2U, among a few others. With how much play MOOCs have gotten in education and in the media, it’s as if MOOCs are expected to employ some kind of techno-voodoo magic to totally “save” higher education from collapsing under its own weight.
Of course, since online courses are far from being new, some questioned just how innovative, effective (and collaborative) MOOC platforms actually are at the end of the day. And for good reason. Porting a lecture hall to YouTube or putting your professor in a Google Hangout probably won’t end higher education. At least, not on its own.
Is accessibility important? Yes, of course. But even in the traditionally offline world of higher education, “scalable” and “cloud” can only act as stand-ins for real “innovation” for so long before schools will want to see more. There still needs to be substantial proof that MOOC platforms offer a better learning experience (improve outcomes and retention rates), before higher ed simply turns over the keys to the kingdom.
Reservations aside, what Thrun and Udacity have done in a relatively short amount of time is impressive and everyone — not just teachers — should be keeping tabs. In January, Udacity already played a part in a potentially key symbolic moment for higher ed, as California Governor Jerry Brown approved a partnership with San Jose State University to create Udacity-powered, low-cost and lower-division online classes.
This was significant because it was really the first time a MOOC platform has been tapped to build a complete, automated (remedial) class experience online — let alone state-wide at the largest university system in the world.
As of April, the pilot had seen 85 percent retention going into midterms. At time time, EdSurge noted that it’s not the 100 percent retention rate Thrun has boasted about previously, but it’s not a bad start.
In the big picture, it may not seem important, but retention rates are critical for online courses and course platforms. If entire remedial classes are being automated/flipped, they need to be more effective than their offline counterparts. (Un)fortunately, our current education system has set the bar pretty low on this one, which will hopefully make it easy to leap over it.
But, on the other hand, universities have limited resources, and class sizes continue to grow as more and more people go (or return) to universities, community colleges and continuing education programs. Online platforms take the scale issue out of the equation, but droves of students now matriculate with little to no grasp of fundamental concepts, San Jose State Provost and Vice President Ellen Junn told TechCrunch in January.
If technology and online education are going to truly transform education, maintaining the status quo isn’t acceptable, especially if these automated courses replace or curb the need for real, live human teachers. So, not to be party pooper or anything, but while this program has significant implications, it’s still all about quality content/presentation, improving retention, outcomes and ye olde learning experience. Without that, scale and affordability don’t mean quite as much.
TechCrunch » Social
Most web and cloud giants are always after more efficient ways of processing their data. So what magic does Ubalo have that excited Twitter enough to snap up the company more or less out of the blue?
If you’re headed to an important meeting or big date, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you don’t stink. Don’t burden your friends or family members with the heinous job of sniffing your parts, enlist a robot.
Japanese company CrazyLabo teamed up with Kitakyushu National College of Technology to build a robot that looks like a bulldog and another shaped like a woman’s head.
The dog robot sniffs your feet, generating one of four responses depending on how bad the odor. If it’s particularly bad, the robot loses consciousness. If your feet smell okay, the robot will nuzzle up to you.
The female head (named “Kaori,” which can translate as “aroma,” “fragrance” or simply “smell”) does something similar. Exhale onto its face, and it will produce an answer: “Good, like citrus,” “Yuck! You have bad breath,” “No way! I can’t stand it!” and “Emergency taking place!” (These translations are a bit rough). Read more…
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