Archive for September, 2010

4-years on Amazon Cloud!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I was introduced to Amazon EC2 by a friend who gave me early access to Amazon cloud infrastructure before it was launched publicly. Then Amazon announced a limited public beta on Aug 25 2006 (We used to read DDJ, then) and I got my personal account and have been hooked since then. While doing Tejit, I ran a crawler farm with an early implementation of Map-Reduce along with an NLP engine on EC2. At it’s peak, I had around a dozen instances wired via the Simple Queuing Service for job propagation. I discovered SQS by chance, while struggling with a Java-RMI based implementation for crawler job assignments.

If I remember it correctly, there was only one instance during launch which was m1.small:

the equivalent of a 1.7 GHz Xeon processor, 1.75 GB of RAM, 160 GB of local disk and 250 Mb/second of network bandwidth. You pay just 10 cents per clock hour

During it’s peak and several months before and after I have paid a lot of money to Amazon’s Cloud infrastructure specially to EC2 and sucked in a lot of bandwidth. Happy that today, I complete 4 years as a paid-user of Amazon! Here’s a snapshot of my Access Key which was created on Sep 27, 2006! Viva Amazon.

4 years as a paid user at Amazon Cloud

Why the pitch is important?

Monday, September 20th, 2010

PresentationWhat’s a pitch? It’s a short presentation, which talks about your startup in less than 10 minutes. The pitch could be in the form of a presentation along with A/V in front of crowd. Or done in a meeting room setup for just 2 prospects. A pitch may also be in the form of a sit-down discussion to prospective employees or investors. Why it is important? Simple answer. No product or service can be sold better unless it is marketed even better.

Couple of months ago, while speaking at a business planning workshop, I was confronted by a senior academician on the subject of delivery of the content, rather than the content itself. The question came up when I gave a very candid feedback about one of the presenters after he delivered his ‘pitch’ in front of me and the rest of the audience. I stuck to the guns of the importance of delivery and said:

I strongly believe that the pitch is super important. Why?

  1. You are convincing an audience to believe in your product
  2. We are living in a hyper-competitive world. Unless you are able to communicate, your message remains confined to your vocal cords
  3. If you as an entrepreneur can’t deliver a 5-minute pitch, how would you talk a customer into buying your product

Let’s take the perspective of the audience. The audience may have your prospective customers, investors, employees. In today’s hyper-competitive and noisy world, they get bombarded with marketing message all the time. Customers are inundated with options for various products, investors are bombarded with offer to invest. The best idea is to convince them when they have your attention as an audience.

The content is equally important. It happens all the time that the messenger delivered an excellent pitch, but the content is weak. Sure, for the uninitiated, who may not understand the content, may get hypnotized by the delivery, but it does not go beyond that pitch.

Moreover, presentation skills to get the job done are very acquirable. Here are some quick tips:

  1. You have to start practicing. If you suck at it, then you need at least 20 hours of face-time with an audience to get better and stop being perceived like an idiot
  2. Go to barcamp. Propose a session. Barcampers are forgetful, they see all sorts of presenters all the time! I personally have done sessions since 2005 and each subsequent was 5x better than the previous one.
  3. Call up a college and tell them that you want to do a 1-hour session on some random topic of your choice. Don’t worry, students are forgiving
  4. Record a 30-second greeting on your phone. Play it back. Even better, record yourself on camera, play it back, get embarrassed and fix it. Show the recording to friends you trust, take their feedback
  5. Organize a karaoke at home. Call at least 2 common friends, you have never met. Sing.
  6. Even simpler–Call up the customer service of a company. Towards the end of the call, ask for feedback, how fluent your english was. Not joking. Try it. Works.

You don’t have to be Guy Kawasaki to hypnotize the crowd–Instead, simply someone who stands comfortably in front of other people and is able to articulate the business.

image credit to aussiegall