# Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Twenty years ago when I entered the high tech industry, every aspiring young entrepreneur dreamed of building the next Microsoft and being the “next Bill Gates.” News articles told us that the next Bill Gates would probably come from Eastern Europe rather than from Silicon Valley (or Seattle where Microsoft is located). Ten years ago when Google got big and went public, every new entrepreneur wanted to be the “next Larry Page.” News articles told us that the next Larry Page would probably come from India or China rather than from Silicon Valley. As Facebook eyes its IPO next month, today young entrepreneurs hope to be the “next Mark Zuckerberg”. News articles now tell us that the next Mark Zuckerberg will come from Brazil, rather than from Silicon Valley.

While I am generally optimistic that the environment for entrepreneurship will only get better all over the world in the coming decades, it is important to realize that there are a number of things that make Silicon Valley unique and for that reason, it is more likely that the next Gates/Page/Zuckerberg will come from the Valley.

There are many things that a location needs in order to support entrepreneurship and its startups: access to capital, awesome infrastructure, a large talent pool, a world class education system, rule of law, contract enforcement and property rights, transparency/free media, tax structure, modern labor laws, and an underlying geopolitical system that supports all of the above. You can’t have a successful startup if the local government is going to tax you too high, can’t enforce a contract, or is unstable and about to be overthrown in a revolution (though a revolution is probably good for entrepreneurship in the longer term!)

Most of the places in the world today are moving in the right direction. Some developing nations support all the items above in my list. Unfortunately, that is only the entrance ticket to a startup culture.

Many places that meet the above criteria have a startup community, but lack a startup culture. A startup community is just that, a community of lots of startups who help each other, have regular meet-ups, co-work spaces, pitch nights, and even attract capital. What is lacking is the startup culture.

What is a startup culture? A culture that celebrates failure, a culture that encourages people to take risks, an ecosystem of startup support that will work on equity only or super reduced rates that range from office space, legal services, accounting services, design, advertising, PR, and so on.

Most importantly, you need a talent pool that has had several generations of people who have been through an “exit” or acquisition or IPO. These people serve as both the inspiration for new local startups (“I can’t believe that Bob from the neighborhood made it big at that local startup!”) but also as their mentors and even Angel Investors.  The second and third generation folks are willing to work for equity/reduced wages and inspire others who have not had an exit to do so too. This includes not just the founders and developers, but every position in the company. The more people in your location that has been through an exit, the easier it is to build a new company.

My beloved home town of New York and my adopted home town of Hong Kong both have vibrant startup communities, but are years away from building a proper startup culture. Why? They are both very expensive cities to live in and all the money is in the finance or real estate industries. So if you are starting a new business in New York or Hong Kong you are competing with the banks for not only your developers  and marketing people, but also for office space, accountants, and lawyers, etc. Only after several generations of startups reaching the exit will the floodgates open and the ecosystem will form.

Silicon Valley is one of the few places in the world where this ecosystem exits. I am watching as other locations are trying to build this ecosystem prematurely. Unfortunately, it will take time, potentially decades in some places.

Will the next Mark Zuckerberg come from Silicon Valley or somewhere else? I hope that he or she will come from somewhere else, however, my money is on Silicon Valley. Does this mean you should move, that your startup is doomed unless you are in Silicon Valley? No! All it means is that the odds are stacked against you, but with entrepreneurship the odds are always stacked against you anyway.

The company where I work, Telerik, started almost 10 years ago in Sofia, Bulgaria. At the time (sorry guys!) Sofia was an European backwater that was known more for its corruption and mafia than high-tech entrepreneurship. Telerik has defied the odds and has “made it” and has been selected as a Red Herring Global 100 company. How? By changing the culture and consistently earning the best place to work in Bulgaria award. The odds were stacked against Telerik too.  

posted on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 04:17:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Monday, 19 March 2012

After a successful TechDays Hong Kong the week before last, I am off to Bangalore today to speak at Tech Ed India 2012! Besides the usual running around and talking with customers, partners, attendees, and MVPs, I’ll be doing three breakout sessions:

Wednesday @ 12:15 : Beyond Scrum: Kanban and Software Kaizen

This is a slight modification of my Introduction to Kanban talk, here are the slides for that one:

On Wednesday afternoon at 2:15, I’ll be doing a session on Big Data Processing with SQL Server 2012 and Hadoop. I don’t really have any slides for this one besides a few from MS DPE, I plan on using all my time in demos. I’ll be talking about Hadoop on Azure, columnstore indicies, data warehouse improvements, and other things that will help you deal with large amounts of data like table partitioning (I know, I know, “Big Data” does not always mean “Big” data. Smile ) This will be a fun session, come see me screw up some live demos. Smile

Lastly, on Thursday at 4:30, I’ll be doing a session on Agile Estimation. I’ve done this one in India a few times before, but my first time at TechEd India. Here are the slides:

If you can’t make that session, I did it last year at TechEd North America and it was live streamed, so the recording is here:

See you all in Bangalore!

posted on Monday, 19 March 2012 01:52:59 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Thursday, 09 February 2012

It’s time for all .NET Ninjas to sharpen their skills! Winking smile

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The latest Telerik release is just around the corner and we have tons of new stuff to show off. If you are eager to see the new bits and sharpen your .NET skills, be sure to sign up for Release Webinar Week. This 3-day event is packed with hour-long webinar sessions on the coolest new features shipping with the Q1 2012 release. Release Webinar Week will be held on February 20 – 22, so mark your calendars. One lucky winner from each webinar will leave with a Telerik Ultimate Collection license worth $1999. To enter the drawing and participate in the Q&A session, you must attend the live webinar.

Registration Link: http://www.telerik.com/support/webinars.aspx

posted on Thursday, 09 February 2012 03:50:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Monday, 02 January 2012

I’ve been using the Kindle Fire for three weeks now and figured it was time to post my thoughts on the Fire.

Getting Started

Living in Hong Kong, the Fire is not available here, so I had to order one (the day it was announced) and have it shipped to my mom’s house in New York. I couldn’t wait to go home to New York to visit for the Christmas holiday and get my Fire. As soon as I got there, I opened it up and got started. Out of the box, the experience was great.

Almost immediately I was up and running. Since I use the Amazon App store in my Nexus One Android phone, I was able to immediately log in and download all of my favorite apps. Since I am an Amazon customer and “normal” Kindle owner, I was also able to load up my Amazon cloud stuff right away (my Kindle books, MP3 music, and videos that I have purchased via Amazon.) I like the carousel/bookshelf UI of the Fire and found it easy to navigate (and to be fair, my Fire was updated, so I did not have the swipe problems early owners had.) I also seem to be the only person on the planet who likes the UI, but the iPad and Android UI of icons just bores me, reminds me of Windows 3.1.

I started using the mail client and web browser as well as Pulse to aggregate news and content in the popular e-magazine format. Loaded Twitter and Facebook of course. I also installed my favorite app of all time, Evernote, and immediately started to use it. I also fired up the Amazon Cloud player and got to all of my stored MP3s and videos. Using the Amazon Prime account that comes with the Fire, I was able to watch a bunch of movies and other video content. (But since I live in Hong Kong, I have to push my internet connection via a VPN to fool Amazon that I am in the United States as they don’t have distribution deals internationally.) I sat with my dad and watched a news commentary on YouTube about the street protests in Europe. Lastly, I transferred some of my Kindle magazines over to the Fire as well as all of my books and started to supplement my Kindle Touch reading with the Fire. Reading with the Kindle Fire is just like reading with the iPad or another non e-ink device.

The Fire has a tremendous amount of games. So many that I think they are going after the family segment. (I don’t play games all that often, but at times when I am bored on a plane, you can find me playing Angry Birds.) This is real smart, every kid wants an iPad, but what they really want is a tablet to play games and surf the web. My nephew wants an iPad, so I gave him my Fire to play with and he found Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja in 10 seconds and then disappeared with my Fire for a few hours. I don’t think that he needs an iPad and at $200, families can buy Fires for each kid.

As a frequent traveler (with a laptop) and huge content consumer, the Fire is perfect for me. The smaller size makes it easier to hold and read and travels better than a 10 inch tablet.

The Elephant in the Room

Since the Fire is a tablet, it will get compared the grand daddy of the category: the iPad. While it is only natural to compare the iPad and the Fire, I am not sure it is the right thing to do. While in different categories, they are selling to different segments. Similar to a BMW convertible and a four door Toyota sedan, they are in the same category (autos) but sell to and appeal to different segments (single men for the BMW and a family for the Toyota.)

The iPad appeals to the tech elite and folks who have already made a significant investment in iTunes or the Apple ecosystem. The Fire will appeal to those people who have not yet bought a tablet and like the Kindle, kids, and folks who like to play games. In addition, the Fire will appeal to uber tech geeks who will want to root it and play with the underlying Android OS (like me).

As an iPad 1.0 user, I am not missing anything with the Fire, except the Economist application, but I can side load that on the Fire if I get impatient waiting for that to be available (or break down and buy the Kindle version). Everyone complained about a lack of a webcam on the Fire, but as a iPad 1.0 user I don’t miss it. When I am on the road, I travel with my laptop and tablet, so I don’t need a webcam. The Fire will replace my iPad (at least for now, who knows what the future will bring…)

I won’t say that Apple is in trouble, since Amazon has attacked the bottom segment of the market. Traditionally, vendors eventually work their way up after they conquer the bottom segment, so expect to see higher end Fires in the future.

Enjoy!

posted on Monday, 02 January 2012 22:45:20 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Friday, 23 December 2011

Earlier this week the voting was completed and I was elected to the board of the Scrum Alliance for a three year term. It is a great honor to have been elected to the Board of Directors; I hope my experience will be valuable to the board and further the aims of the Scrum community.

My congratulations also go out to Daniel Mezick and George Gosieski who were also running. Daniel and George are both very impressive individuals and their selection as candidates only shows how strong the Scrum community is.

posted on Friday, 23 December 2011 21:10:17 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [2] Trackback
# Monday, 05 December 2011

If you are a member of the Scrum Alliance you should have gotten an email asking you to vote for a new member of the board. Please vote! I am one of the three people who are standing for election, below is my candidate summary statement that I submitted to the Scrum Alliance.

Scrum Alliance Board Candidate Summary Statement:

I am honored to stand for election as a board member of the Scrum Alliance. If elevated, I feel that my education (MBA) and past industry experience as a developer, venture-backed entrepreneur, consultant, CIO, and senior management at an ISV will bring a unique perspective to the board.

Having managed both a P&L at an established firm as well as my own self-funded startup, I think my business experience will contribute to the financial and legal health of the Scrum Alliance. I understand what it is like to sit on a board of a high profile industry organization: I have served on the board of similar organizations and take the role very seriously. During the “.com” era, I was on the board of the New York Software Industry Association (NYSIA) from 1998-2004, and served as vice-chairman from 2001-2004. (NYSIA has now merged with the NY Tech Council.)

I am motivated to serve on the Scrum Alliance board since as a professional, I have implemented Agile and Scrum at the places I have worked. I would consider my experience very diverse. For example, I have implemented XP at Zagat (venture backed consumer site) during the “.com” era, as well as Scrum at Telerik (an ISV) in the post- “Lehman” economy. I have also implemented Scrum at my startup that was acquired by a larger non-Agile company and had to re-implement it as part of the merger. Additionally, I visit several Telerik customers in Asia who are bumping into some of the limits of Scrum and are implementing some of the “Lean” practices such as Kanban and “Software Kaizen.”

While my experience with Agile and Scrum comes as a practitioner, not a trainer, I do speak on Agile and Scrum at several industry events a year worldwide, so understand the educational and certification side of the organization. In 2011, I have spoken about Agile several times in many countries, reaching thousands of practitioners.

As a Certified Scrum Master (#37679) and member of the Scrum Alliance’s insiders “Agile Leaders” Google email group, I feel that I know the organization well and can contribute to its mission. I am familiar with the Scrum Alliance’s 2010-11 Strategic Plan and Certified Scrum Professional Program (I volunteered as a beta tester of the exam and passed, so I am now a CSP as well). I also feel that the Scrum Alliance’s goal of larger community outreach fits in with my experience as a conference speaker and user group leader.

While based in Asia, I am a New Yorker, and am an executive at a European company, so I have a truly global reach. I speak about Agile, Scrum, Lean, and Kanban all over the world. My company, Telerik, makes Agile tools and also has a global reach. (This year I helped Telerik open offices and launch new business in the UK, India, and Australia.) I’ll bring a global perspective, and if desired, I can also help the Scrum Alliance expand outside of its core markets.

I have a long history of volunteering and giving back to the community. I have been running user group events since 1996 and have been awarded an “MVP” award from Microsoft for my community outreach. I also am heavily involved with charity, helping raise money and organize a charity, Education Elevated, dedicated to building schools in remote villages. I lead treks to Mt. Everest Base Camp each year to raise money for the school.

I can wear jeans and a tee shirt (preferred) and speak to developers about deep technical and process issues and then turn around and put on a suit and talk to a CEO about business models, strategy, and macroeconomics. It would be an honor to bring my experience and creativity to the board of the Scrum Alliance. I have a passion for Agile and Scrum since they truly have changed the way I do business, and I want to help spread the word and adoption of Scrum worldwide. Lastly, I want to “give back” to Scrum by volunteering my time on the board since I feel Scrum has given me so much over the course of my career.

Thank you for considering me; it is an honor to even be considered for the board of directors.

posted on Monday, 05 December 2011 19:10:15 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Over the weekend I had the privilege of being a judge for the Startup Weekend Hong Kong. We had eight very impressive teams ranging from consumer apps to enterprise software. After the “speed dating” five minute presentations with only three minutes of questions, myself and the other judges went to deliberate. We could not agree on a winner at first and debated and took two votes where nobody had the same identical #1 and #2.  The fact that it took a few rounds of votes by the five judges to come up with a winner shows just how much quality there was in the startup teams. The winner, Awesome-Ship, was a team that wants to revolutionize shipping and be a platform for companies that ship products.

On Wednesday I will be speaking at the Hong Kong International Computer Conference event and my session, “The Use of Knowledge in Today’s Society” is about information overload, knowledge management, and entrepreneurship opportunity in Hong Kong. I make the case that with the super fast broadband, great business environment (ranked #1 by the World Competitive Index), access to the Asian markets, and a Facebook/iPhone obsessed society, Hong Kong is a great place to start a business.

I hope to see you at the Hong Kong Convention Center, but if not, my slides are posted below.

posted on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 05:23:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, 01 November 2011

Today I will be speaking at the 1st World CIO Forum held in booming city of Shenzhen, China sponsored by the International Federation for Information Processing.

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My talk today is on Lean Manufacturing's influence on Agile methodologies: The Past, the Present, and the Future. I talk about how XP was a reaction to Waterfall’s “batch” mentality and heavily influenced by Lean’s notion of units of work v batch and reducing lead time (which heavily influenced iterations.) Then I talk about how Scrum and Kanban come directly from Lean, but with modifications for software development. I stress how lean is about eliminating waste by reducing the quantity of what is produced at one time (translations: very small iterations, if at all) and building a culture of continuous improvement. Sessions are only given 25 minutes, so I had to to this at a high level. I’ll work on a longer more in depth one for TechEd and the speaker circuit in 2012.

posted on Tuesday, 01 November 2011 21:52:19 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback