Michael Eisenberg is a well known VC partner (Benchmark Capital) and an avid blogger. In one of his recent posts, Michael refers to 8 different approaches to raising a start-up company, in the midst of an economic crisis. The full blog entry can be found at his blog, however, after reading it myself, I would like to comment on it. The below section will also be commented to Michael’s blog for reference:

“Everyone in the company is a salesman – Your R&D team should be selling too”

This is an interesting approach, however, R&D people are R&D people because usually they don’t do sales well. Actually, most of the R&D people I know are the worst sales people I’ve ever met. To be honest, in my previous position, our R&D Manager basically screwed a 500,000$ deal that we worked on for 6 months, because I said something in the form of: “It’s possible to do, however, I can’t really say what would be required to do so.” – R&D people can easily sell products that are closed, not products that are under development. As start-ups are constantly in the development phase – this is a BAD idea.

“Hire sales people on commission only”

YES! This is a great idea, although, it means that you’ll need a hell of a lot more sales people to manage. When a sales person works on commissions only, it means that while he’s selling your stuff, he’s selling other stuff too. It requires a certain degree of finesse and agility to be able to manage such a team, but the general idea is good, actually it’s GREAT!

“Virtual company”

Michael’s idea of a virtual company isn’t new, dozens of companies around the world utilize this methodology. However, this methodology sometimes requires quite some resources. For example, according to Michael, the utilization of sites like oDesk and rent-a-coder may assist in your quest to lower general spending. That is true, however, it automatically poses a problem. Let us imagine that I develop a service that is made of 3 distinct areas of expertise. I hire all coders from oDesk, now, I need to remotely co-ordinate them all, so that the code I’ll get is manageable and well documented. If not, the end result will a running service that becomes stagnant, as no one can go into the code and continue its development (seen it happen to 2 of my customers, both start-ups).

“Choose Self-PR over paid search”

Hmmm… I can’t really comment on that, as I practice it – and can honestly say, it’s very hard.

“Focus on product”

Killer applications in the web are a must, if it’s not a killer – your service is dead in the water. Killer services like PokeTalk have a great potential to become the next big thing, but they highly rely on the company’s ability to market the product correctly within the available channels.

“New distribution channels”

Michael talks about the creation of affiliate programs – that’s not as simple as it sounds. Many companies made a shitload of money out of building distribution channels and affiliate program management systems – affiliates are a wonderful idea as long as you are capable of managing these in a proper manner (See my comment about commission only sales people).

All in all, Michael surely has some valid points, however, these require delicate work and proper management in order to work right – if executed improperly, will not only end in failure, may also send you down debt country.

For the past 3 years I’ve been a devoted CentOS/Fedora fan. I mean, while CentOS gave me a highly robust and stable server platform, Fedora enriched my desktop and allowed me to work seemlessly and easily. While others kept snering at me: “Fedora? Fedora? I use Ubuntu, I’m hard core Debian”, I kept to myself and kept on working with my Fedora desktop.

Before I move on, I’ll have to comment with the following: Over the years I’ve become somewhat agnostic to my choice of desktop. Where I seemed to use Fedora, Ubunto, XP or Vista, it all seemed to do the same job for me – just allow me to run Eclipse properly, provide me with a 90% stable environment and allow my office productivity to increase – and I was fairly content. My uncle, who lives in the US, is a hard core, highly devoted Mac fan. He’s been a Mac fan since the early 1990’s, and always tried migrating me to Mac, however, I kept to my PC and RedHat Desktop. Now, as time progressed, Linux Desktop evolved – actually, it is so evolved today, that I get the same buzz working on KDE or GNOME that I get working on MacOSX – so now, from my point of view, the desktop environment is completely agnostic.

Now, back in 2000 I was a devoted Mandrake Linux fan – I was so devoted that I got the company I was working for to represent them in Israel (the year was 2000 may I remind you). Now, 8 years later, some one picked up the tab of representing Mandriva Linux in Israel (formerly Mandriva) and he asked me to evaluate the new Mandriva Power Pack edition and the Mandriva 8GB Flash Edition.

The installation

The new Mandriva installer is so simple, that even my 9 year old nease will be able to install it. Bearing in mind that I was installing on a fresh computer, the installation was streight forward. I’ve installed the Power Pack 2008 distro on a spiffy new Pentium 4 Core Duo 2 machine, running at 2.0GHz with 4GB RAM and 2 hard drives of 160GB – NICE!

One thing I always remembered about Mandriva installations was that the package selector was very simplistic, and the 2008 version is no different – it’s a good thing to know that Mandriva doesn’t go about changing things that work – like Fedora or Ubuntu. The installation process itself is clean and runs smoothly, even on a highly advanced board with a funky NVidia display adapter. Actually, after the installation completed, I was greeted with an Nvidia logo upon rebooting, indicating me that I need to configure my screen settings for my card – that’s much better than running into a text screen that doesn’t really help the novice.

URPMI – The ever annoying package manager

Ok, apt-get and yum are MUCH (and I do mean MUCH) more advanced than urpmi. However, using the easyurpmi web tool enables you to add web based urpmi repositories, making your entire urpmi experience less painful. As I was using yum and Fedora/CentOS over the past 3-4 years, it took me a while to re-acustom back to the urpmi methodology of thinking – however, one thing to say about urpmi – it’s fast, way faster than yum.

Mandriva Configuration Tool

The Mandriva configuration tool is a delight to use, easy, straight forward, gives you all the options that you may need – all in all, a very pleasent experience. The nice thing about it, is that even if you managed to screw up something in one graphical environment, you can always invokes another one, launch it, verify/fix your faulty installation (although, it’s very hard to mis-install anything on Mandriva), and you’re back on your way.

I’ll be adding more information about my findings in the future…

Apparently, according to the BBC, the most spoken language in Israel is most probably Arabic. Well, at least judging from their website. I was browsing the web for some information about the “Doctor Who” TV series (if you have no idea what I’m talking about – shame on you!). As it is a BBC series, I pointed my browser to the BBC website, to be greeted with the following:

While I’m not offended at all (really I’m not), I do pitty the people at the BBC that can’t seem to get their GeoIP working properly, and mistake Israel for another Middle Eastern country. It is true that there are many Arabic speaking residents and citizens in Israel, but still, the major language here is Hebrew.

Clicking the banner actually brought me to an HP page, fully in English, fully targeted to this region.

In the words of a great man: “Not bad – but not perfect”.

So, my trip to the US is finally over, and I’m currently sitting at the BA lounge in JFK, NYC. I have to admit, that compared to the BA lounges in LHR, the JFK lounge seems somewhat dull and disappointing.

The time right now is 7am (US time), and apart from coffee, drinks and some cookies and stuff like that, there isn’t really anything in the lounge worth while eating of munching on – how disappointing.

The internet work stations are based on OLD !!!! Dell P4 machines, that seems to be have taken from their reception desks and converted their task. Even the screens are old 15″ TFT screens… I think I hadn’t seen a 15″ monitor since 2003. I may be a little stuck up, I admit it, but hey – it’s supposed to be a luxuries experience, not just and experience.

Well, too tired right now, I’ll write some stuff about NYC next time.

It’s the 27th of September, and AstriCon 2008 is over. I have to say that I really enjoyed myself. Apart from the lectures that I attended, that had opened my eyes to some new areas of Asterisk (I’ll be needing to think about those), I’ve met some people and finally managed to achieve some of my personal goals – in regards to Asterisk and the Asterisk community.

One of the people I’ve met and we’ve talked extensively is Philippe Lindheimer, from the FreePBX project. Our main topic of discussion was regarding FreePBX training for Israel, where I am located. However, as the discussion continued, we started talking about the various aspects that we both see as problematic with FreePBX. My general take on the FreePBX issue is that currently, FreePBX is the only open source, feature rich, highly versatile PBX environment for Asterisk. As Philippe commented, FreePBX was initially designed to support all the varient Open Source PBX projects running around the market, however, as Asterisk is the most predominent one, the rest of the isoteric projects were, more or less, left out.

The highlight of AstriCon for me was actually not AstriCon itself, but the DevCon that started on the 26th, right after AstriCon. I admit that I didn’t have the time to stay for the entire DevCon (although I really would have liked to) – I can say that the short time at DevCon was well spent (at least in my view). During the DevCon, the participants had split into initial thinking groups, each one in charge of analysing either a problem or future aspect of Asterisk. Essentially, there were 3 major groups, a SIP group, a framework API group and a group that had made it its business to look at all the other aspects that were not covered by the two initial groups.

The primary groups (SIP and API) were formed after a discussion about the would-be soft belly of Asterisk. Being a consultant and platform developer, the API group appealed to me and I joined that group. The initial talks among the group members was around an idea for an application/function that I had, to add an XML-RPC client application for Asterisk. My main insentive for this is the idea that in 90% of the cases that I’ve used AGI, I’ve usually performed a database call or remote web service call, returned a value to Asterisk, and continued on my way. Utilizing an XML-RPC application or function will enable me to lower the bar on the knowledge my customers require in order to interact with Asterisk. I’ve realized the potential of such a standard interface, during a project I’ve done about a year ago – a database driven dynamic IVR engine, that works of a unified dialplan, without creating any configuration changes. As I discuessed the idea with corydon76, other people shared their feelings and thoughts on the idea, and slowly patterns started emerging and other people started contributing more ideas and thoughts. As a certain point I had to leave for a couple of hours, only to come back later one, after the group had designed a completely new engine for Asterisk’s logic. Basically, the framework is not just a framework, it seperates the application logic of Asterisk from the asterisk core environment, returning much of the control and power back to the application developer. It’s a little hard for me to go about and describe the various aspects here, however, the general agreement was that for Asterisk to evolve into the next starge – these changes are a must.

One of the new ideas introduced to the framework was the ability to create namespace hooks to Asterisk. This means that asterisk will provide to the developer a set of namespaces, allowing the developer to interact – almost directly – with an internal part. For example, tying SIP codec negotiation to an externally provided business logic. As brian mentioned this specific functionality, he got a set of screams from the SIP work group – which I warned him that would happen – but hey, we’ve got to laugh too 🙂

Around 5pm the teams seperated – as most of the guys wanted to watch the presendial debate on TV, only to meet back around 8pm. Led by Kevin Fleming, we drove to a miniture gold course, not far away from the hotel. It’s the first time I ever played miniture golf – it’s alot harder than it actually looks.

For the time being, I’m well defining the XML-RPC application/function I’ve mentioned about, while corydon76 helps me in gaining the experience in writing the application/function to a workable code. While I’ve written a couple of patches for say.c and app_voicemail.c – writing a complete application from scratch is new to me – and it’s nice to have corydon76 as my tutor and guide on this one – Let’s see how it comes out in the end.

Oh, there’s also a small matter of the Digium Innovation award that i’ve won – however, that’s already old news on Google.