edoceo

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CyberCoders Shameful Recruit Solicitation

I’ve got a role as a CTO (among other things). In this role one of my duties is finding and acquiring talent for our engineering team. Functionally this duty involves posting job applications, reviewing resumes and candidates. Additionally it involves fielding emails from recruiters from companies such as CyberCoders, TopTal, various boot-camps and others.

Finding talent is hard, there is a good book about the problem: Smart & Gets Things Done I find myself agreeing with Joel more often than not. These “flashy” recruiting firms don’t make it any easier – quite the opposite in fact.

I don’t respect the work of CyberCoders. It’s not recruiters that bother me. In reality, good recruiters are totally worth the money they earn – which is true of anything: Quality has Value. Durrrr. The problem with CyberCoders specifically is this email footer.

The candidate identified in this email is a recruited candidate of CyberCoders, Inc. If the candidate is hired for any position whether part time or full time, as “Contract”, “Direct Hire”, or in any other capacity by your organization or any affiliate within 12 months from the date of this submission, your organization will owe a fee in accordance with CyberCoders’ standard Fee Agreement. If you have any questions about our standard Fee Agreement, please check our web site www.cybercoders.com or contact 949-885-5151.

Look at that. Read it again. CyberCoders has now injected themselves into any financial transactions I may have with this candidate for the next 12 months. “Oh, but they need to get paid for their services” I hear you saying. People should be paid for services rendered. However, we’ve never engaged CyberCoders. We’ve requested many times for them to stop sending us this spam. We have rejected their solicitations multiple times.

Shit got real today. Yet another spam from CyberCoders identified a candidate for us. This candidate is a person I’ve known since 2012! We are directly connected on LinkedIn. Now they are blocked. It was embarrassing to tell them that I couldn’t consider them for any position for at least the next 12 months. At this point any candidate who arrives via CyberCoders has to be immediately rejected – and blocked for the next 12 months. We’ve had to start keeping a spreadsheet.

It also makes me wonder if CyberCoders is just surfing my LinkedIn and sending me links to folks I already know, maybe with some algo to identify specific connections. I mean, I could write this code, so I’m sure they could too.

for C in djb.connections:
    if is_viable_candiate(C):
        send_recruit_spam(djb)

Getting Fucked by Stripe

At Edoceo we’ve been using Stripe for a very long time (2, maybe 3 years) without issue. Part of that may have been because our volume of CC payments was so very low. For our little spin-off projects we’ve mostly used PayPal and using Stripe for consulting invoicing was dumb – most clients there paid via wire.

A few months ago we started using Stripe as they payment gateway for our marijuana regulatory compliance software: WeedTraQR – which is sold as a SaaS model.  They have just kicked us off are giving us five days. You’ve seen this warning, Stripe has threatened other Start-Ups.  So we were sort of prepared.  Here is the message we got – it’s the same copy they send to everyone.

Hi David,

Thanks for signing up with Stripe!

Unfortunately, we will need to stop offering service for edoceo.com/. Stripe can only support users with a low risk of customer disputes–after reviewing your submitted information and website, it does seem like your site presents a higher level of risk than we can currently support.

That said, we understand that there may be some work involved with moving your business away from Stripe, and we’re happy to help out with this process by giving you 5 days to switch to a new provider. After that, you won’t be able to accept additional charges on your account, but we will continue making transfers to your bank account until you receive all of your funds[1].

We’re sorry that we can’t offer ongoing service, and we wish you the best of luck with your business.

Best,
Olivia

[1] https://dashboard.stripe.com/transfers/overview

Why were were booted from Stripe?  Is it because we are in the marijuana industry?  We don’t sell pot, we sell software. They made no mention of this. We have zero customer disputes over our entire history.  In point of fact this is not even a customer dispute!  We were only trying a partial refund.

We moved a customer from one subscription plan to a less expensive plan.  Internally Stripe handles all this magic, crediting the customers account and pro-rating the next subscription.  This doesn’t issue an actual refund to the customer – it’s just an accounting trick inside of Stripe – they keep the money the whole time.  Neither Edoceo (or WeedTraQR) not the Customer has access to these funds (about $600) until the next subscription cycle.  I had simply inquired about how to issue and ACTUAL REFUND for the difference rather than leave the funds un-allocated in Stripes pocket.

It’s pretty clear to me, if you use Stripe and then have ANY normal business issues they get ready to boot you.  If you want to issue an actual refund for the difference between two subscription plans and not use their pro-rated magic it’s also a red flag.  Even when it’s not a customer dispute.  Maybe Stripe makes money on the arbitrage and actually REFUNDING will threaten their business model.

Anyway, fuck Stripe.  They can shove the five day window up their ass; we’ll be moving on to providers. I’ll be encouraging the other start-ups I advise to make a contengency plan and/or begin migration process right now.

 

Changing Business Address in Washington State

We’re in Washington, Ballard (Seattle) to be precise. We recently move the business and then needed to update our business records with the State. In Washington every business is assigned a Unified Business Identifier (UBI). One would think that I could update my business address in one location but…nope.

Department of Revenue / Business Licensing

First I have to call to determine if a new Business License Application is necessary. Call in and press zero then wait on hold a few minutes. Change via phone and will receive confirmation mail in 7 to 10 days.

See Here.

Department of Labor and Industries

I was able to call them and update the information over the telephone; no problem. Only took a few minutes.

Employment Security

This department has a downloadable form-fill PDF which you can then mail or fax back to them. If you don’t have a fax machine use Phaxio.

Each City

You may also have a license for each city you do business or have a presence in, Seattle, Bellevue, and Olympia for example. For the City of Seattle I couldn’t remember my password and neither did my password manager, I’ve tried to reset but received a technicial error.

Where is the “Change of Address as a Service” play?

Finding the Right Startup Idea

I recently read a blog post about “unusual sources of startup ideas“. None of the sources seem unusual to me (I see many attempts to re-create built-in apps or copy recently acquired or shutdown startups) and I don’t think that copying others is a good path to success.

I feel like I see a lot of clones (another lo/mo/so sharing app please) because it’s easy to build a copy cat. You’ll leave the hard work (building customers) for later. As if that works!. To me it appears copycat is more usual and that proper customer development is more unusual.

In the book Zero to One Peter makes a very good case for building a new business in a monopoly (or oligopoly) space. That seems impossible if you copy a built-in or recently closed service.

What Worked for Me

I’ve tried maybe a dozen times to start something new; the two that worked are technology and workflow innovations in an existing problem space. Here are the steps I followed to find the product that customers wanted, using the most recent one as an example.

  1. Define the General Market Space you want to work in: Weed
  2. Define the Customers: Growers, Processors
  3. Contact these prospects and listen to stories for six months: IDEA SHOWS ITSELF! (or fails)
  4. Build MVP that solves core problems, demonstrate, collect feedback: IDEA REFINES ITSELF! (or fails)
  5. Validate by asking for money: VALIDATION (or failure)

#1 – The Marijuana business space was just opening up in Washington State, that was immediately a strong signal of opportunity. A new space, with few competitors.

#2 – Of all the problems I assumed existed I narrowed to ones I thought I could fix (technology, process automation) and who would have the more urgent need. Pick a game you could win if you try.

#3 – I went to meetups and listened, I went to prospects site to listen and watch. I wrote pages of notes from each visit. This is commonly called Customer Development, it works. Do It! It took about six months calendar time but man-hours invested was less than 200.

#4 – The first MVP was just HTML/CSS mock-ups of the application, which I showed around and took feedback on. From this I received a massive amount of additional insights into my customers desires. It’s critical at this point to shutup; listen and watch intently. Received strong signal that we were on the right path but without that the entire project would have been over. Repeat this step ensuring that your concepts match customer desires and incrementally improving the MVP.

#5 – Every stage ask about money. How much does current solution cost? How much is your time worth? How much time does current solution cost? Is feature X worth $120/mo to you? Is feature Y worth $240/mo? Will you pay me right now for software I’ll deliver in eight weeks? If you don’t talk to your customers about money, who will? Receive strong signal (read: money) and proceed else bail out.

Summary

It’s very difficult to innovate a copycat that is 10x better in a crowded space. Find a new, narrow problem, identify the group with money that is willing to pay for a solution, build relationships and become the big fish in a pond of your own making.

Entrepreneurship & Letting go of Ideas

In Oct 2010 I had this concept of an IT related skills quiz, community constructed and community graded.
Conversations with others in the field led me to register a domain (ibise.org) and create a prototype of the system.
The grand scheme was to create some type of community regulated certification system.

Progress was(is?) slow.
By 2012: I’d told a few people; created code to handle various question types (pick one, pick many, fill-in and essay) and created a few questions.
The breadth of skills represented was small.
The name had changed to Opus, and now Ars.

It’s hard, very hard, to grow a project when it’s not able to get more than 10% of your time.
I wanted this thing; however I had no time to grow it.
Nor did I feel like spending a few buck to have it populated with questions, polished and published.

Over time the idea morphed around; what was the real issue I’m solving.
What did/does/are/were the problems which others in my field faced with regards to representing skill-set?
The name changed, more than once (Opus, then finally Ars I/O) which makes it hard to get a good bond with the project.

Time to Let it Go

Recently I came across Smarterer which provides for very similar quiz functionality (limited to pick-one style questions).
And the Ars project (as it’s now called) had migrated away from the focus on the Skills quiz and become yet another on-line profile.
I think we have to let-go of the Quiz part and simply integrate with Smarterer.

I had/have some "my baby" feelings about what I’ve built so far, so it’s tough.
However…

From the feedback the my associates gave me the site had morphed into a system that pulls your IT profile from a bunch of sites and makes a pretty display.
From fancy Quiz system to simple Resume Editor.

So, yes, now Ars integrates with Smarterer.
And, of course Stack Exchange is getting into the Resume business with their Careers 2.0 option, which is suprisingly like Ars.

I’ll either have to give more time to Ars to compete with Stack Exchange, or I’ll have to let this thing it’s morphed into go too.

http://blog.edoceo.com/

Backorder Domain Auctions – False Metrics, Lost Revenue

Domain brokers and re-sellsers are inflating their metrics with false numbers.

The Back Story

Edoceo has been tasked with acquiring a domain name on behalf of a client. We’ll call it "V.com"

We review the WHOIS to attempt a direct transaction.
This is blocked by the GoDaddy Domains by Proxy addresses.
No matter, simply make a purchase attempt via GoDaddy to use their auction system.
We began that process and submitted our bid.

The False Metrics

When we first viewed the domain auction with GoDaddy the metrics were zero (0) direct visits and zero (0) auction views.
We attempted bid placement however, since we had to login in we were redirected back – now the view count was two (2).
Our bid was entered and prompted to visit the shopping cart – for a domain with a bid view count of four (4).
Returning back to the domain review page the view count now shows six (6)!
We completed the bid process with a view count of seven (7) showing; still zero direct visitors.

Lost Revenue

The domain auction had a few (20+) days to close.
Of course, we kept checking on it too.
By the time it close the view count for the auction was over 20 – that was 99% us.

The down side is that the seller viewed this as an increased interest in their domain.
And while we were interested and bid accordingly ($600) this decade old, unused domain remains unsold.

It appears that the false counts delivered by GoDaddy & Sedo provide a soft-basis for inflated value for the domain holders.
Rather than pocket $500, this domain owner will likely lose another $50 over the next five years waiting for another buyer.
And with new TLDs coming on-line, the demand for .com is waning.

Whatever, domains are easy to find – $9.95 got us another very cool .co.

http://blog.edoceo.com/

10 Business Model Canvas Tools – Review

The business model canvas gets mentioned a lot in lean/start-up circles.
Here’s my quick review of 8 of them.

The current best-list of business model canvas tools is located at http://leanstartup.pbworks.com/w/page/47250326/BusinessModelCanvas.

BM Designer

A free tool, embeddable on blog or web-page, highly interactive UI, good clues/info-tips on the various sections.

BMFiddle

Also free and based directly from Osterwalder. This is a very attractive JS based UI, pretty colours, good prompts for the section data, excellent highlighting/diff viewer. Markdown support.

canvanizer

Free, only requires email (but fakes accepted). Multiple canvas templates (business model, lean, swot, customer journey) to choose from. A very awesome and unique canvas history replay tool.

Business Model Brainstorm Kit

This is an actual, tangible kit for purchase. It comes with magnetic icon blocks that you can stick to surfaces and then draw on. They also have links to some super awesome examples around companies you’ve heard of (Spotify, Groupon).

The Business
Model Canvas & Toolbox

The original, a big PDF to download to help you get started as well as an iPad application. A web-application is in the works.

Business Model Press

This one is a WordPress plugin, if you’re already on WP why not give this one a try? It’s currently invite only beta.

Lean Canvas

This one provides a nice canvas UI, between $12 and $49/mo and a two person free plan. The Lean Canvas based on the Osterwalder canvas.

Lean Launch Lab

Free for a single user, then plans between $9 and $99/mo. Allows for multiple projects, multiple collaborators. LLL also provides more tools than just a canvas. There are some good tools for experiments and customer interviews for example as well as team communication tools.

Plan Cruncher

Not so much a canvas but a quick plan/model builder; has some very plesant icons to add to the model. Produces a PDF document of your Idea, Team, Product, Revenue, Funding Goals and Partnership. I think this is turning out an executive summary and does really help you focus on the message (with “tweet length” limits)

Opus Business Canvas

update: dropping this canvas tool – use bmfiddle!

This last one is ours, just made it while working through Start-Up Owners Manual.
It has a typical canvas layout, allows for markdown input, exportable as markdown as well. Canvas is free and can be shared widely with your collaborators. Our UI is a bit more limited than the others.

http://blog.edoceo.com/