When Venture Capital Calls – Setting your own rules

Eight years ago, getting calls from Venture Capital was exciting.  They came in many flavors.  The most distasteful wanted to bleed me for information.  I was oblivious. Perhaps they funded a competitor to Broadlook and they wanted determine the competitive landscape.  Good business sense, bad moral compass. 

On the other hand I had some great conversations, where, very early in the conversation I was informed that Broadlook did not match their portfolio requirements.  Even though this was the case, they freely spent time giving great advice for a fledgling company.  Some of them are my clients today.  Like every industry, VC has the good and the bad.  A book every VC should read is Blue Ocean Strategy.  Yes, sometimes you must bloody the competition and create the red ocean, however, more often than not, there is a blue ocean potential.  The lack of seeing the Blue Ocean potential is due to lack of desire, creativity, or core philosophy.

To digress a bit, we once had a team member at Broadlook that stated there is no such thing as win-win negotiating and that there always a loser.  Myopic Idiocy.  He left.  We are better for it.  I now ask more philosophical interview questions when adding team members.  One of my mantras when interviewing and coaching other team members to interview is this:  First determine who someone is and then and only then what they know.  Translation: no pricks allowed at Broadlook.

Fast forward to today.  When a Venture Capitalist calls, I am still excited.  When I say VC in this article, I’m lumping in Venture Capital, Private Equity and Investment Banks together.  Each have their place and focus, but the outreach tends to be very similar.  I guess I should set the stage.  Today, Broadlook has steadily grown for 8 years, sometimes a modest 15-20% and sometimes 200-300% in a given year. 

Broadlook started in 2002 and self funded without any outside investment.  Our team members are proud of our accomplishments and we have fun doing our jobs.  We have talented people in all areas and we are continuing our growth path. Broadlook has thousands of clients and is starting to be recognized as the defacto “high bar” (not standard) for company and contact data for sales and recruitment.  (I don’t say “standard” because what is accepted as “standard” from traditional data vendors is Zombie Data*).   Broadlook is not, and will not tie itself to any single CRM vendor (Jigsaw is now salesforce), we are agnostic to all systems that may hold the data our technology provides. 

*Zombie Data is data that is dead, but still making walking around (D&B, InfoUSA, etc)

Over ninety five percent of Broadlook’s sales are from incoming calls, emails or client referrals.  We just hired our person in Marketing.  It’s a good place to be in. We are still very humble and realize that there is much more work to do.   Broadlook is not actively looking for Venture Capital, but we receive many inquires, thus I wrote this article.

Why not take VC?  I didn’t say we would never take it.  The approach we take is this.  We know that there will be a point that there will be a tremendous market opportunity with a limited window to execute; we must scale quickly if we want to capitalize.  The age old question is how much of the company to give up in order to have the investment?   The age old dilemma for the entrepreneur.

Over the last three years, as Broadlook was noticed in the market, we’ve had increased outreach from VC firms.  Along the way, I learned;  somewhere in that journey I realized that VC’s needed our technology for their internal due diligence process.  I learned what research associates at VC firms did.  It was an interesting turning point.  It changed the nature of the conversation from a one way discovery call into a real conversation.   Today, Broadlook powers VC firms with technology that fundamentally changes the due diligence research process.

They have been great clients.  Some of the absolute smartest people coming out of the best Universities and go to work for these firms.  Bright people early in their career who absolutely “get” what Broadlook does.  I like people who get it.

Yes, this is a unique position to be in, but what was the *real* change in how I took those calls? How can someone else that is not in Broadlook’s position get the most out of an outreach from a VC?  Read on.  I am sharing my learning process and my stumbles.

The reality is that a more experienced executive (yes, I consider myself fledgling) would have entered the conversation with a greater level of  equivalence. Venture Capitalists are typically very smart.  They go right for the heart and will chew you up and spit you out to get the information they want. I’m basically a nice guy.  I’m still a nice guy, but now, after many calls that ended up in one-way conversations, I’ve established a set of rules for talking with VC’s. 

1.  Quality outreach

The best outreaches by VC’s that I have seen have come through referrals.  A mutual connection that can attest to the quality of an individual.  An email that looks like a form letter should get ignored.  This is my weak point… while I know I should ignore it, I usually write back and let them know how poor their outreach was.  Since I teach classes on how to use the Internet to make a quality outreach, I can’t help myself.  

2.  Equivilance

When the conversation starts and they only want to know your revenue, remind them that they called you.  Remind them they need to sell you first, and then there is no guarantee that you will be interested.  If if gets to the point of sharing confidential information, if they won’t sign an NDA…stop.  Think.  If they don’t want to sign one because they are making investments in your space, ask them for specifics.  This is all the more reason to sign an NDA.  If they are really interested, they can customize and NDA with specificity to protect both parties.  If they flatly refuse, remember, you are more unique than they are. 

3.  DWYSYWD; Do what you say you will do.  To be a liar you need to have a perfect memory.  If you slow down the process of discussion over several conversations, you have the chance to observe behavior.  If the VC outreach is of the class “Drain you for information”, he will have plenty of rope to hang himself.   The best VC’s will disqualify you openly if you do not meet their criteria.  I have had my share of liars calling.  Conversely, I regularly talk to VC’s that long ago disqualified Broadlook for not being a fit.  

4.  Revenge.  In a fun way.  Keep track of VC’s that were pricks.  Watch which companies they invest in.  When you have the chance, take extra pleasure in winning business from those companies.  If the portfolio tanks, send a nice “thanks for the motivation” card.   Recruit their analysts.  Robin Hood!

Missing an analyst?  Ever wonder why that analyst left?  Does it seem like you keep losing them after they are trained?

Yeah that’s right… it was me  *#&%!

(You should have been nicer.)

Will Broadlook take VC/Private Equity/Investment Capital?  My answer: Absolutely!   Some day.  Will any potential investor run the other way when they read this?  Hopefully not the ones with a sense of humor.  Every industry knows the good and the bad within itself.  I’m trying to kill 2 birds here.  Share a bit, prepare a bit.
This is not a soliciation for capital.  While I may chase away potential future investors, I won’t have to search through my email to send my engagement criteria to reply to the next canned outreach. 

Broadlook’s Venture Capital Engagement Criteria

 

 1.  Do your homework.  I guarantee I will talk to any VC that takes the time to at least review our website, bad as it is, there is a good deal of information there. Read this blog: 11 rules to sell to me

2.  Don’t have a first year analyst call unless they are brilliant. Remember, I may recruit them.  If they sound like they are going through a checklist when talking to me, they are not ready.  That can be cured for $10,000 and a one day training session. 

3. Demo.  Take a demo of our technology.  If you don’t get it or don’t like it.  We are not a match.  When Broadlook takes capital, there is a high likelyhood it will be from one of our clients.  Include a decision maker on the presentation.  If this is not acceptable, there is not reason for us to talk.

My guarantee(s): 

  1. You have no idea what Broadlook does (think iceberg)
  2. You have never seen anything like it

4.  Portfolio.  If you invest in grain elevators you probably don’t have the connections, expertise and potential adivsors to help a software company making the transition to SaaS.  Show us high tech.  Show us software that scaled from 5 to 8 to 50 million.

5.  Enthusiasm.  Money is easy.  Thus far we are a lifestyle company where people love coming into work every day.  Show us passion for building great companies.

6.  Contribution.  aka Smart money.  People, people, people.  Who can be brought to the table in stategic positions as well as an advisory capacity?  While a marketing person that ran a billion $ division from IBM may sound like a great idea, it is not…not yet.

7.  Ideas.  What markets can Broadlook’s technology be leveraged…that we haven’t thought of yet?

8.  I don’t work on Isaac Asimov’s Birthday

9.  As long as I work at the company. The dog(s) stay.

Grandfathering bandwidth and the flexible appliance

Grandfathering bandwidth and the flexible appliance

There is a new commodity in the high tech world.

Unlimited bandwidth.



Ask any of the iPad user that got one in the early days. Unlimited bandwidth is no longer available on the iPad.   I am one of the lucky users. With a combination of my travel schedule,  high Bandwidth using applications like Netflix and Broadlook’s Profiler, I regularly top 12-15 Gigabytes per month in data transfer.  Data plans today cover 2GB which means I am using 6-8 times the bandwidth that new iPad users get.

I am a bandwidth hog.   I am one of the 2% of people that use the majority of the bandwidth and I’ve got a message for AT&T…I’m keeping my plan…forever.

Why blog about this?  It is a warning for the uninformed.

Guess what?  Very soon you will be a bandwidth hog.  AT&T, Verizon and the other carriers understand this.  It is the nature of technology.  More and more applications, business logic and media rests in the cloud.  Now Apple and Google each want to offer streaming music services.  No longer will you have your iTunes on your desktop, laptop or iPad.  Nope.  They want all your music in the cloud.  Why?   Apple gets a piece of the service fee that you pay AT&T for your iPhone or iPad.  Bandwidth is the new electricity.

This is reminiscent of 2002–2008 when every idiot said that you must make your software offering SaaS (Software as a service).  SaaS is mostly good for service providers since it gives them reoccurring revenue, but it is not always the best solution.  Don’t get me wrong, I am huge believer in SaaS, but it is not a panacea.

Now they (the same smart zealots who want your $$)…are saying that they want all your stuff in the cloud.  Why?  Simple, if you store everything : backups, music, CRM, etc in the cloud then you need bandwidth to access it.

Whose cloud?

At the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle talked about the cloud NOT being a single set of servers but a flexible appliance.  Thank you Larry!  He gets it. Most don’t.

The Flexible Appliance

What is it?  My iPhone is a flexible appliance.  In a recent talk at the MRI Worldwide conference (The Near and far Future of Recruiting), I demonstrated on stage the advent of the mobile web server.  My laptop connected to a website that was hosted on my iPhone and one person in the front row said “that’s cool!” out loud.  Not the response I was hoping for, but it sunk in to enough  people that had time to think about it.  It inspired some great conversations about the future of recruiting.

I used an iPhone app called ServersMan that makes your iPhone a web server.  Being able to run a web server on a mobile phone has huge implications.

If you want to test the vision of a technical leader ask them this question:

When mobile devices (iPhones, iPads) can act as functional web servers, what does that mean for the technology landscape?”

They should be stunned, they should be wondering, they should be smiling.  If they don’t, then they lack vision.  The advent of the true flexible appliance will bring:

-Massive bandwidth usage.  Via your mobile flexible appliance/personal web server, you will be connected to everything

-Downfall of Facebook.  News to Zuck.  The future social networks will be controlled from the pocket.

-movement from “their” cloud to “my” cloud.

When I have proposed the above, among tech folks, they remind me that some sort of middleware needs to facilitate one mobile web server finding and connecting to another.  This already exists, it is called dynamic DNS and their are a bunch of companies that offer this.   With DynamicDNS, my iPhone web server could very quickly connect to 200 of my friends and update my status on their mobile devices.   No cloud, no Facebook needed.   The only limitation is bandwidth and mobile processing speed.

The above scenario will happen once people realize they don’t want Facebook storing everything about them.  Due to the nature of the beast, they will continue to violate the privacy of their users.  Eventually it will go away.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook.  It gives me a way to connect with grandma and show pictures of the kids.  Facebook may change and become the king of the middle, middleware the ties everything consumer together.  But do you trust them?  I don’t.

It’s all about the middleware.

As I look at SaaS (Software as a Service) and then PaaS (Platform as a Service) combined with the advent of the flexible appliance, I realize that my previous thinking was limited.  In the mobile future,  the mobile is the cloud, the flexible appliance.  For consumer apps like Facebook, people will eventually prefer to keep their personal data in a place they control it.  However, for business applications like CRM and ATS (Applicant Tracking), I see a new class of business.  Middleware as a service (MaaS).

Middleware as a service will balance the load between the cloud and the flexible appliance.  Unlike the limited browser-based applications today, MaaS systems will balance the rich interface and local power of flexible appliance with the security, flexible business logic and data storage in the cloud.  It will be interesting to watch it evolve.

With all this stuff in the works… if you get an unlimited bandwidth package, read the contract and if you can, never give it up.  Providers will offer unlimited bandwidth as a promotion and then like AT&T/Apple, try to get you to downgrade from $30 per month to $25 per month to relinquish your unlimited package.

Did I mention that once you get it, never give it up?

What you know about Internet Resume searching is wrong

What you know about Internet Resume searching is wrong

Do you use search engines to look for resumes on the Internet?   Do you use exclusions such as “-jobs”  or  “-submit”?

If you do. Stop it. Read on and I’ll tell you why.

First a story about Easter hams.

To understand what I am going to say about searching for resumes, you will need to be in the right frame of mind. Here we go…

A little girl was closely watching her mother prepare the Easter Ham. She was five years old, a great age for asking questions about the world.  She watched her mother prepared the glaze, preheated the oven and brought out the large roasting pan.   In an automatic fashion, her mother took a large knife and sliced off 2 full inches of meat from each end of the ham.

The little girl,  Sarah, smiled as a question came to mind.

“Mommy, why do you cut the ends off the ham?”  she asked.

As if startled the mother replied, unconvincingly  “I don’t know Sarah, my mom always did it.  Maybe it is so the glaze gets inside. ”

Not being satisfied with the answer, Sarah tracked down Grandma.

“Grandma” She asked.  “I just saw mommy cut off the two ends of the Easter Ham.  She said that she learned it from you.  Why did you make the Easter Ham that way?”

Grandma answered.  “That is a good question, Sarah, but I learned it from my mom, your great grandma.  I always thought that it was so the Ham cooked faster.”

Again, unsatisfied, Sarah tracked down, Great Grandma, the family Matriarch.

“Great grandma”, She asked as she crawled up on her lap.  “Mommy cut the ends off the Easter Ham. She thought is was so the glaze flavor got into the ham.  She did this because Grandma did it.  Grandma thought it was so the Ham would cook faster.  Grandma learned it from you. ”

With anticipation, Sarah asked her Great Grandma. “Grandma, why did you cut the ends off the Easter Ham?”

Grandma, wise as she was old, chuckled and answered.  “Sarah, when I married your great grandfather, the roasting pan we got for our wedding was too small for a Christmas Ham.”

“We cut the ends off the Ham so it would fit in the pan”.
xmas ham

Such is the progression of knowledge.  There is no fault when we inherit a practical idea that worked in the past, yet is anachronistic.  In the case of the Easter Ham, a practical, real world solution should have lived and died within a single generation, a single iteration.  However, it continued until one with a child’s mind, a questioning mind, wanted to know why.  When she was not satisfied with the answer, went on a journey of discovery.

Looking at resume search with a “Beginners Mind”

In the past 2 year I’ve taken a bit of a journey in questioning how people use search engines to search the Internet.

Observation:  Top Internet searchers, myself included, had an innate set of beliefs that they held.  These observations eventually evolved into The 8 Laws of Internet Search,  which are a set of axioms for searching the Internet.

At this point I want to make a disclaimer:  I am really, really good at finding things on the Internet. This is not due to any formal training, nor did I have the advantage of a teacher or mentor.  I am self-taught.  I have literally been immersed in searching the Internet for the last 15 years.

Second disclaimer:  I do not include myself as one of the search-string guru’s out there.  To be a search string guru, you need to be current, know the latest websites that are out there, as well as the latest capabilities of each of the search engines; you need to be immersed in the searching.  My immersion is in the underlying rules.

I recently had a conversation with a search string guru .  We agreed that the best analogy was that I design the aircraft and the search string gurus are the pilots.  Works for me.

So what about resumes and searching the Internet?

If I attempted to research the state of resume search, without a basis or set of axioms to work from, I would not have known where to start.  Fortunately, I decided to use the 8 Laws of Internet Search as a starting point. With a special emphasis on the first 3.

8 laws of internet search

So the question I decided to ask myself is: How do the commonly taught practices of resume search stack up to the Laws of Internet Search?  This was a definable goal.   Caveat: My focus is “Open web” resume searches and not searches within a controlled environment like Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com.

1-law of environment
The Law of Environment. Trainers do an excellent good job talking about the various search engines, their capabilities and limitations.

Industry score on the Law of Environment: A+

2-law of permutation

In taking The Law of Permutation into consideration, I found 2 areas that were very different.

1.  Boolean search methods

Sub-score:  B.   Trainers are clear on the concepts that you must search using multiple permutations such as “VP of Sales”, “Vice President of Sales”,  “VP Sales”, etc.  However, the reality is that you may need 15-20 title combinations to reach all possible results.

2.  Semantic search methods

Sub-score: C.  A good deal of mis-information is being spread about semantic search.  Some of this stems from irresponsible vendors that are trying to make a buck.  It would not be a big deal,  if trainers actually tested, scientifically, what they started teaching.  The funny thing is that the value proposition is significant with semantic search.  Say what it can (and can not do) and those vendors will have happy customers with proper expectations.  I shouldn’t be too harsh here, in the early days, I believed the software from Broadlook was meant for everyone.  It is not.  Setting clear expectations of technology capabilities is the mark of a mature vendor.

Semantic search is great when you have a type of resume that is well identified and the rules have been built.  However, throw it a niche area that has not been cataloged and it will fall flat.  Advice:  If you are looking for a commodity position like a .NET programmer, semantic search can work marvels.  If you are working in a niche area, pick a semantic search engine that can be trained by inputting sample resume data.  In the later case, you may have to do the leg work with good old Boolean search first.  Also, ask your semantic search vendor if they use exclusions when they mine search engines.  If they do, twist their arm until they stop.  It’s an old Easter Ham.

Industry score on the Law of Permutation: C+


3-law of completeness
The Law of Completeness.    Widely taught methodologies, that have not been questioned in years (like the Easter Ham) are yielding approximately 65%.  If you get 65% on a math test, that is not a good grade.   The first example is not using the full available results from a search string query.  If a google search yields 380 results,  the Law of Completeness states that you must work with the entire set of results for maximum yield.

Completeness is not being reached. Why?  When trainers first started teaching how to use search engines (before google),  there were limitations in the technology.  Those limitations were:

(1) No high accuracy method to screen out page results that were NOT a resume.  Therefore search strings needed to be modified to exclude results that were not resumes.

(2) No method to extract all results from a search query.  Therefore search strings needed to be modified to reduce results to a manageable quantity

In both cases, the strategy worked, unfortunately there was a side effect:  Many good results were also thrown out.

Industry score on the Law of Completeness: D

Dropping the bomb on search string exclusions.

So where is the proof, where is the science?

First, I want to thank Cory Dickenson at Broadlook Technologies for leading the team of researchers on search string exclusion metrics.  Looking through tens of thousands of resumes, by hand, and then doing it two more times, is not a fun task.  The reality is that someone had to do it.  Hopefully when this study is reviewed both recruiters and technology vendors will have a better foundation in which to build upon.  I basically hate inefficiency.

Resume Exclusion Metrics (Broadlook project: FRET, Frikken Resume Exclusion Test)

The study was simple.  What was the effect of using exclusions on a resume search string?

The first thing we did for the study was to mine a bunch of social networks and sites that had advice on resume search strings.  We wanted examples, over the past 10 years, that experts were using.  From a few hundred examples, we made a list off all the popular resume search string exclusions that were being used (i.e. -job -job -you -your -submit).

Creating the resume data set

To set up the study, we created search strings for about job 50 positions.  The positions were a wide range: IT , biotechnology, health care, sales, business development, financial, etc.  Next for each search,  we made sure that the search string was specific enough so the results from the search engine was <1000. We did not use any exclusions.  Last step:  Hand verification of every single search engine result.  Each result was classified in one of 4 categories (1) Resume (2) Resume sample page  (3) resume book page (4) Junk: Not a resume.

At this point, we could bring automation into the equation.  Using Broadlook’s Eclipse tool, we automated each of the 50 searches with one of the exclusion terms.  We then repeated the each of the 50 searches with each of the exclusion terms.  Since we already hand-identified which search engine result pages were resumes, we were able to calculate, for each search-exclusion combination, how many REAL resumes were skipped by using each exclusion term. When the searching was done, we had average percentages, across many industries and titles.  We know, with high precision, what percentage of resumes you will lose by using an exclusion term.

Why did I do this study?  Too much time on my hands?..no.  I was interested in making the best open web resume search tool possible.  To accomplish that goal, the tool needs to work within the framework of the Laws of Internet Search.  Specifically the first 3:  Environment, Permutation, Completeness.  The end result was Broadlook Diver 3.0.  The resume search part of the tool *automatically* screens out pages that are not resumes.  In addition, since it is an automation tool, it allows the user to work with complete results from a search engine.   While you can only get Diver from Broadlook, the Resume Exclusion Metrics are free to all.  Enjoy.

The Axioms of Internet Resume Search

1.  Seek <1000 results per search.

You should conduct your search with enough specificity that the search engine reports that there are less than 1000 results.  If you are doing a search that yields many thousands, break up the search into a few separate searches

2.  Never use single-phrase exclusions

Otherwise you will miss a good percentage of resumes.  It is reasonable to use multi-word exclusions, as the level of ambiguity is low.

3.  Use multiple search engines.

There are varying reports of the cross over being as low as 20%.   (Happy to get comments from additional sources on this)

4.  Use automation to screen out non-resumes

Don’t do it by hand and don’t ignore the data below and use exclusions.  This is not 1998 anymore.  Let automation technology screen out Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS) that are not resumes. This includes sample resume pages, job pages, etc.

And now for the Exclusion metrics.

From pool of about 50 job descriptions,  100+ searches,  75,000 search engine results, 28200 resumes, hand verified.  The sort order is based on the worst offending term.  These exclusion terms were pulled from top experts answers on forums about resume search.  Remember the Easter Ham, it is not my intention to reduce the tremendous contribution of those people that freely answer questions (every day) about internet resume search.  It is my intention to give more data so that the entire industry has more facts in which to work with.

Exclusion % REAL Resumes Missed
-job 49.78%
-jobs 40.89%
-summary 37.33%
-intext:resumes 34.37%
-about 34.07%
-writing 32.74%
-your 29.19%
-you 27.41%
-example 25.78%
-required 25.19%
-require 23.70%
-free 23.26%
-list 19.11%
-“how to” 17.04%
-template 16.15%
-library 14.96%
-intitle:jobs 14.37%
-professor 13.48%
-intitle:job 13.19%
-inurl:aspx 12.74%
-send 12.44%
-write 11.56%
-inurl:php 11.41%
-requirement 10.22%
-apply 9.78%
-intitle:apply 9.78%
-sample 9.78%
-intitle:sample 9.48%
-“resume
service”
9.19%
-intitle:career 9.04%
-intitle:example 9.04%
-careers 8.89%
-submit 8.89%
-intitle:examples 8.59%
-intitle:write 8.59%
-intitle:how 8.44%
-intitle:submit 8.44%
-inurl:books 8.44%
-trainings 8.00%
-wizard 7.70%
-samples 7.41%
-inanchor:apply 6.67%
-opening 6.37%
-reply 6.22%
-wanted 6.07%
-applicant 4.89%
-inanchor:sample 4.59%
-inanchor:submit 4.00%
-eoe 3.70%

This resume research project yielded many other interesting facts, such as percentages of doc files vs. pdf, etc.  In the coming weeks, I will be publishing a white paper that breaks down the data in a bunch of categories… after I get back from DisneyWorld!

Are mobile Sales & Recruiting apps for real?

Are mobile Sales & Recruiting apps for real?

The Stage

The Apple AppStore has over 100,000 iPhone applications.  Verizon’s Droid is a a few months old and Google just launched the Nexus One.  Microsoft has Windows Mobile and the Palm has the hot new Palm Pre.  The current king of Mobile Business is the Blackberry (RIM),  but it is losing ground fast.  Apple, Microsoft, Google, Palm, Verizon & RIM all going   after the same market and that makes for great headlines.

The Hype

Articles are starting to appear talking about the mobile replacing desktop as a work environment.  For the most part, this is bunk; A symptom of someone looking for a headline, but not thinking.  When I see an interesting article about a controversial topic, I like to first look at the last 2-3 headlines by that author.  If last week they were talking about global warming, the week before about cyber-crime and this week about mobile technology replacing the desktop; I classify them as “reporter”.  Reporter does not equal expert.  While reporters are absolutely essential to get a pulse on minor variations on trends,  I prefer to seek the experts to get a deep understanding of a new technology.   Even better is to immerse yourself and get first-hand experience.  Most of the buzz today is reporter, not expert created.

Definitions

To better understand if/when/why mobile will or will not replace the desktop, definitions are in order:  Desktop refers to the hardware, be it PC, Mac, Linux, either desktop or laptop.  This desktop can be running any form of software including installed, Client-Server, SaaS and browser based.  Mobile is the generally understood concept of a smart-phone like a Blackberry or iPhone.

Mobile vs. Desktop

So will “mobile” business application replace the “desktop”?  Yes and No.  The first Hurtle for Mobile to replace Desktop is CPU & Memory. Over the next decade, mobile form factor devices will have the processor and memory of today’s desktops.  So throw out processing power as a differentiator.  Mobile will catch up.  In fact, most applications today, especially SaaS applications only take up a small amount of CPU and memory on the desktop.

What else constitutes a desktop environment?   Input and output devices.  This is the big one.  I personally have both Mac and PC setups, each with a bunch of big monitors. Besides the large monitors, I use full size keyboards, and a laser mouse.

My Mac & PC workstations

Big ideas need big work spaces.  When I first realized that my iPhone was actually a mobile computer, I tested the limits.  Doing basic operations like reading email works fine.  What about spreadsheets I thought?

Designing a spreadsheet on a mobile device is possible, but very, very inefficient.  I tried it and it’s infuriating.  However, using an already designed spreadsheet on mobile device is realistic.  Reading email; easy.  Writing email; possible, but not as easy as using a full size keyboard.

This is where I had my epiphany that would steer the mobile strategy for Broadlook.

Mobile Technology is an extension of and not a replacement for PC-based business applications.

Why?  Desktop business applications have evolved over the years to take advantage of everything possible.  Case in point, at Broadlook, we switched to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  The default setup did not fit our selling model, so we modified Dynamics to fit our business process.  Dynamics is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) environment; a base of CRM functionality which each business can build on.  Our modifications to Dynamics CRM included data points that most companies don’t have access to (unless they are Broadlook customers).  Simply put, the average screen was too small to get all the data on it that we needed.  We could have created a system where everything was accessible in a drill-down fashion (click, click, click).  However, this included too many clicks to be efficient.  I can’t stand having to click 3-4 times to get to data that should be there.  The answer: bigger monitors.  Standard at Broadlook, we now have 24 inch monitors with 1920×1200 resolution.  The things that most people have to click 2-3 extra times to get to their CRM, we have on the first screen.  Simple things like having all the contact info points in the initial search grid.


Broadlook’s Leads Screen in MS Dynamics CRM on a 24 inch monitor.  All info points are available so a sales rep can take action from the first screen.  A typical implementation of SalesForce.com or MS CRM would require you to click 2-3 times to get at all the information on this screen.

As a side note.  These monitors are about $250.  Picking up 50 of these monitors was many many more times cheaper than wasting the time of a sales rep in click-click hell.  In addition developing with the large monitors in mind is much more forgiving than having limited screen real estate and making a design decision that makes 1/2 the people happy and 1/2 ticked off.

How would this business process, which depends on “big hardware” translate to a 4 inch mobile screen?

It won’t.

No way, no how. This is why we won’t see CRM for mobile replacing CRM on the desktop/laptop.  I’ve seen a few mobile “stand-alone” CRM’s on both the sales and recruiting sides.  They are a joke.  An absolute productivity waste.  What works with mobile CRM is when it is used to enhance the desktop experience.  Salesforce has done a good job of it, as have several others.  If your mobile can access your CRM, you can look up a contact, review notes, or line up a few calls for when you are on the road or after hours.  Mobile CRM as a value add to your CRM is an absolute must-have.

What about applications like social networking?  LinkedIN is a good example.  LinkedIN for iPhone is great, I’m looking forward to when LinkedIN or Facebook adds a practical proximity alert to your social network.  That would be something that the desktop or even laptop would not be practical for.   This leads me into the areas that mobile will dominate and why.

For those existing business applications that have evolved on the desktop, mobile will add additional value.  However, for the new frontiers, areas that were birthed in mobile, those will be the areas where mobile can stand alone. It is the same concept which allowed desktop applications to evolve.  You develop to the potential of the environment.  CPU, memory, screen size, input devices, always on (yes/no), network connectivity, battery life.  All of these are the factors that effect Darwinism on both the desktop and mobile device.

Today, most of the successful mobile applications are consumer-based.   As of this writing, none of the top 25 apps in the iPhone AppStore were business apps.  Blackberry pundits:  only 2 of the top 25 for Blackberry were business apps.

So where does this leave us?

  • For business applications that evolved on larger form factor systems such as CRM and  Spreadsheets, mobile will be a value-add, but not a replacement.  If someone is promising CRM on your mobile to replace your desktop, run like hell or carry a 12 year old with tiny fingers to type for you everywhere you go.
  • New and currently undiscovered business applications that are born and evolve on the mobile will rule the mobile.

2010 is going to be a fantastic year for mobile! I am excited and personally committed to developing on mobile.

Caveats:  (1) When mobile becomes a conduit to work with outside peripherals such as an wall screens and video goggles, then mobile could replace the desktop, however, what is really being accomplished here is emulating the functions of a full form factor desktop & monitor. (2) Seamless voice recognition can get around the problems with small form factor keyboards.  I have not seen voice recognition that is worth it’s salt.  I tell my car “Radio Off” and it says “Please say the name of the street you want to navigate to”.

The 8th law of Internet Search;  The Law of Environment

The 8th law of Internet Search; The Law of Environment

Steven Covey published The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People and it was a great book.

When Dr. Covey came out with a new book, The 8th Habit, I was skeptical.  Why didn’t he think up the 8th habit right from the start?

Now I understand it.  Ideas evolve.  We are the sum total of your experiences at any point in time. You create a set of rules that you believe are universal.  In my case, I am the author of The Seven Laws of Internet Search.

The Original Laws …
1. Permutation
2. Completeness
3. Iteration
4. Frequency
5.  Process
6. Taxonomy
7. Measurable Results

It has been about a year and a half and now, guess what?  I came up with another Law of Internet Search.  The 8th law could not have been created by me…unless I was able to observe people learning and implementing the first seven laws in their Internet search activity.

Here is what I observed:  The Internet is “non-homogeneous”.  The idea of homogeneity  also resonated with me as I wrote the original seven laws.  I played with the idea of a Law of Non-homogeneity.  This means that the Internet exists in many different formats and there is no way to query everything, with a single method or game plan.

“Non-Homogeneous” sounds ugly.  To define something with “non” in front of it…it would be like cheating.  Each of the seven laws of Internet Search is meant to be a simple axiom of advice.    I failed to get my concept of Homogeneity into the laws.

Why did I fail?  It is simple.  Each of the seven laws is a solution.  Whereas “non-homogeneous” or “non-homogeneity” was talking about a problem.

What was I trying to get at?  It is also simple.  The Internet is not homogeneous, therefore, many different methods are needed to search it.  It is those very search mechanisms that the 8th Law takes into account.  The 8th law is  The Law of Environment.

In fact, the 8th Law is so important, I have moved it the top spot in The Laws of Internet Search.  It is now The 1st Law of Internet Search.

8th law of internet search

To understand the Law of Environment.  Get your mind around the concept of the Internet having many modalities. Many sites, each with it’s own set of rules or search environment.

internet_environments

Next.  There are some simple questions to ask.   What is the access method?  What are the sites restrictions?  Etc

environment_questions

In addition to the simple questions about the environment, the more advanced Internet search may want to dive into further understand the full capabilities of the search environment.

in depth environment questions

Once the simple questions about the environment are answered, the Internet search can proceed with quantifiable expectations on what to expect from their chosen search medium.

an ordered vision

For example, it is important to understand that Google will only give you a maximum of 1000 results from any search.  Even if Google reports that their are 2450 results, you only have access to the first 1000.  Understanding this is understanding the limitation of the environment.

google environment

Here are the The Laws of Internet Search, Reloaded

1.  Environment
2. Permutation
3. Completeness
4. Iteration
5. Frequency
6. Process
7. Taxonomy
8. Measurable Results

Dr. Steven Covey, now I understand. Looking forward to the ninth law.

Finding the right place for semantic search

Semantic search is a fantastic technology, if used correctly.  I am not talking about users of semantic search technology, I am talking about the technology vendors that make it part of a system

I was inspired to write this blog after reading Glen Cathey’s (The Boolean Black Belt) Article on Why Do So Many ATS Vendors Offer Poor Search Capability.  The article made me think about search engines (google, yahoo, etc) and how semantic search is being used with them.

What is semantic search?  To put is simple: semantic search can take, as input, a word like “Java” and offers up other related terms like “J2EE” or “Beans” (both are related to Java).  This allows the user to type in a few terms but match many, many terms.

The matching terms are built into an “expert system” that is continually built over time.  Many fancy names are given to these systems, based on how they are built, but basically they are sets of rules.

Semantic search is not AI (artificial intelligence).  If you hear that, it probably started in a marketing department somewhere.

Companies that have built semantic search engines, while they have not created AI, have spent a tremendous amount of time and resources to build these sets of rules.  The better engines can build rules on the fly from a new set of data, like resumes.  This is very cool stuff.

Overall, I like semantic search.  It has great potential, however, it has great weaknesses if used incorrectly.   If built into the engine itself, semantic search can be very powerful,  this is because semantic processing is done at the search engine side, without any limitations or constraints.  However, if bolted onto a search engine, it can be more harmful than good.

Here is what I mean.  I’ll try to keep my logic simple.

1. The Google search engine has a limit in how many terms can be submitted to it.

2. Semantic search, by it’s nature, creates permutations upon given terms. For example:

“Senior VP of Sales”  can be “SVP Sales” or “Senior Vice President of Sales”

to translate that into a boolean expression you get

“senior vp of sales” OR “SVP sales” OR “senior vice president of sales”

3.  After creating permutations upon several concepts, you are out of search terms.

I’m a big believe in laws (maybe not speed-limit laws), but more the “laws of the universe” type stuff.  I like to understand and deconstruct the rules and see if each one stands alone, or, do I need to recheck my premises.  In this spirit, just before the first sourceCon conference, I developed the Seven Laws of Internet Research.  I felt there was too much emphasis on memorizing search strings and the latest search engines or sites, but not enough fundamental thought leadership on how to think about searching the Internet.

The first two laws are

1. The Law of Permutation
2. The Law of Completeness

The Law of Permutation simply states that when searching the Internet, as it is not a homogeneous source of data, you must describe what you are looking for in the language of the many vs. the language of the one.  (YES, this is what Semantic search is doing).

The Law of Completeness states you must strive for completeness of search engine results in order to have the superior outcome

Big Question:  What happens if semantic search is applied before you reach completeness of results?

Answer:  Missing data. Competitors eat your lunch.  If you are a sales person, it means missed sales leads, if you are a recruiter, it means missed resumes or passive candidates.

Does this mean that I am anti-semantic search?  No way.  I think it has great potential.

Here are my take-aways:

-Semantic search should be inside the search engine for optimal results

-Semantic search bolted onto a standard search engine is severely limited.

-Semantic search will cause data to be missed if applied before reaching completeness of possible results

-When combining a standard search engine and semantic search, it is best to apply the semantic processing AFTER completeness of data has been reached.  In reality, this would not be semantic search, but semantic filtering.