How many times have we heard or said the phrase: “It’s not you, it’s me” or “I’m sorry, but it’s not going the right way” – why do we say these phrases? why are we all so self involved with the way we see the world? are we that self involved and incapable of seeing other perspectives? – the answer in most cases is “YES”. Sorry to say, most CEOs and managers are so self involved, so self centered – that apart from their little point of view, they are incapable of seeing the big picture (or in some extreme cases, any picture).

Over the course of the past few months I’ve come to learn that running your own venture is not about myself and it’s not about the venture – it’s about one simple thing, my ability to let go and let others do their job. Being a tech-head and a CEO is always problematic – it’s the never ending conflict between the “I’ll do it myself in 10 minutes” and the “I need to let go”. It’s so hard to let go, personally speaking, it’s virtually impossible at times. But, and this is the biggest but in the world, if as CEOs we want our companies to evolve, grow, expand and succeed in their goals – we must simply let go.

What have I let go? I have let go of my own personal desire to know each and every line of code in our platform. I’ve let go of my own fear of not having intricate details of each and every one of our products. I’ve let go my overbearing nature of telling other people what and how to do things, and most importantly, I’ve accepted the fact that just like myself – other people prefer to be shown the way, but walk it on their own. Personally speaking, it’s one of the most frightening thing a person needs to do. It’s like walking into a self-driven car, put the destination and sit in the back, grasping the seat with fear, praying and hoping that the car doesn’t crash into another one along the way. But, if you learn how to communicate with said self-driven car – you rapidly realize that while it is autonomous, it listens to you. You are able to direct it and point out various flaws to it – after all, it is intelligent, but still lacks your years of experience and know-how.

So, as I’ve let go of some things, I had to take ownership of other things. While I no longer cared how the “Object Factory” was implemented, and the reasoning of using one library against another was no longer an issue to me – I’ve discovered that my mind started racing to deal with the larger questions. For example: “How to increase my deal funnel?”, “How to I convey my thoughts and ideas in a clearer way?”, “How do I turn my ideas into actionable items?” – and then I realized one little thing, all these questions are no longer about me, they are all about THEM.

Who are THEM? Them are the company employees that work alongside with me with a shared vision, them are the various prospects that we converse with, them are our customers and partners whom we’re at constant communications. It’s no longer about my own personal wellbeing or success – it’s about theirs. Their success become my company’s success, their personal growth and advancement are my advancement and growth – and as they grow and advance, so do I, as a leader, as a CEO, as a person – and as a human being.

In the world of business it’s easy to forget. Easy to forget that we are all human, that we all make mistakes, that at the end of day we all crave and desire the same basic things. I used to work to someone who said: “If an employee doesn’t challenge me technically, I have no use for that employee” –  what a stupid thing to say. This is not a Trivia contest, this is not an academic decathlon, business has its own set of challenges and issues. Some are technical, but most of them are not.

So, what CEO will you be?

For those of you that know me in person, most of you know the various turmoils I’ve gone through during 2017. There is so much I would like to write about, but due to various reasons, I can’t (or don’t want to) write about. Instead of dwelling about what I can’t (or won’t) write about – I would like to write about my own personal process of growth.

Being an entrepreneur is very challenging – everyone will tell you that. If you would ask various entrepreneurs what are their challenges, most of them would indicate one of the following:

  1. Raising funds for my venture
  2. Defining the product
  3. Building a strategy
  4. Hiring the right people
  5. Dealing with customers
  6. Dealing with employees
  7. Dealing with investors
  8. Dealing with Banks
  9. Dealing…
  10. Dealing…
  11. Dealing…

Then if you ask most of them what is the thing they need help with, they will most probably answer: “Oh, I already have people working on all of these – they’re covered”. The thing is, that most entrepreneurs won’t admit, or purely are afraid to admit – the only thing the challenges them truly is: LONELINESS. It never quite hit me, at least as hard as it did during 2017, how lonely is the seat of the CEO.

If you ask my dad how hard the role of the CEO is, he will comment: “It’s not hard, you get the deals, other people do the work and you collect the cash.” – and that is soooooooo wrong. Most CEO’s are alone. Alone with their decisions, alone with their achievements, alone with their failures, alone with their mistakes and alone with their guilt. As CEO’s we are always examined, by our employees, by our customers, by our partners, by the market – if in some manner it is capable of thought or perception, you are being examined, judged and executed according to it. You can be perfect at everything, mess up one little thing – and from that moment you are cursed (at least by one of them) – or if you’re in Hollywood, you’re toxic.

Regardless of what you believe, there are things CEOs can’t talk about with other people. Things that CEOs can talk to other CEOs only – why? because no one other than another CEO will understand these. A CEO may be tackling financial issues, business issues, operational issues or any other type of issue – he is always the CEO, for good and for bad.

Since July 2015 I’ve been undergoing a personal coaching process. For some it would seem really odd that a CEO may need coaching, specifically when that CEO provides mentorship to other start-ups. However, allow me to say the following, every CEO, and I do mean EVERY CEO, needs a personal coach to work them. The coach doesn’t tell you what to do, he simply provides another level of external reflection on your actions and thoughts, kind of like an alter-ego that may sometimes say: “You know, that’s a good idea, have your considered all possible options? can you see other options? can you backup your decision with fact or just gutt feeling?”. Your coach can be a hired business/personal coach, or for the lack of a better term, it can be another CEO you trust, or a seasoned family member with some serious lifelong experience – but it has to be someone you look up to, someone you trust and most importantly, someone who is capable of listening and reflecting with you – not simply tell you what to do.

Since September 2016, the business coaching had evolved into CEO peer review sessions. Peer reviews are really important – I never quite realized how important they are, till I started attending these myself. As I previously said, the CEO chair and office are a lonely one. Being inside a Peer review group of CEOs helps get an additional perspective on things. There are various forms of review boards, the one I am part of is called TAB. Don’t get me wrong, the review board is there not to echo your thoughts, it is there to provide you with a set of “slanted mirrors”, with each CEO in the review board seeing your issues from a different angle – each one giving his own feelings, reflections and experience into the mix. Personally speaking, without the assistance of the review board I’m a part of, I’m not sure I would have been able to pull off 2017 as I did.

Thus, allow me to provide you with the following pieces of advice:

  1. If you are an entrepreneur or CEO and you are contemplating upon an issue, feel free to contact me via the message board – leave me your email, I promise to come back to you.
  2. If you are about to lose your mind about something relating to your business – relax! It’s nothing more than a minor anxiety attack, take a deep breath, pour yourself a nice little drink and reflect. After 5 minutes, trust me, it would all look extremely simple.
  3. Make sure you have someone to confide with – it’s important. If you are going to some form of therapy, DO NOT CONFIDE with your therapist – they are therapist, not business people. Only confide with people who can truly appreciate your currently status and position, anything else is just imagination.

And the most important advice is the following:

With every challenge and difficulty lies an opportunity. Winners see the opportunity in everything, losers see only the difficulties – be a winner

 

Last week I attended Astricon 2017, in Orlando, FL. I’ve attended every Astricon since 2007, each time as a speaker – and last week was the first time as a sponsor. People normally believe that companies sponsor things in trade shows according to the exposure they want to get, that is normally true. However, for Greenfield, sponsorship meant something else. We wanted to sponsor something that meant something for us, which means, an event within the conference we feel close to and see a value to the community. As a result, we’ve decided to sponsor Dangerous Demos, which had become during the past few years one of the highlights of the show. To those who are not familiar, Dangerous Demos is a section of the show, where talented developers/makers/inventors will come up on stage, showing off a cool thing they created – preferably, during the course of the conference or demoing a cool proof of concept. Why does Greenfield have an affinity to Dangerous Demos? Simple, as the makers of cloudonix.io we see ourselves and makers and innovators, thus, we felt that putting our name on this section would best represent the things we believe in.

Now, while most of the demos that were presented indeed showed original work and high level of talent, I can’t stress out how disgusted I was with “false dangerous demos” that came on stage. With all due respect, going on the stage and showing off a feature of a commercial product is simply not the spirit of dangerous demos. This is all about being original, being cheeky, walking on the bleeding edge willing to fail publicly and having a good laugh about it. For me, Dangerous Demos is very much like climbing Mt. Everest – We climb it because it’s there and its a challenge. We want to climb it with our feet and grit, not reach the top of the mountain with a helicopter. Yes, indeed the feature shown by company X or Y had talented people work on it, but there is no risk associated with it – as the feature simply works.

This years’ Astricon marked a special occasion, this was the first time that all leading Open Source VoIP projects participated in the show: Asterisk, Freeswitch, Kamailio, OpenSIPS and Homer. Now, for those who are new to this community, this would seem like something trivial and meaningless. For someone like me, who had been with these projects for over a decade, it’s nothing short than a miracle for something like this to happen. Some may not know this, but Freeswitch developer were originally working on the Asterisk project, while OpenSIPS developers were originally working on the Kamailio (OpenSER) project. The projects branched off due to differences of opinions between people, hence the splits. For example, while Freeswitch people were a little fed-up with the methodology with which Digium was accepting patches to the project, the OpenSIPS project people wanted to go to a more “market oriented” product, while the original OpenSER was fairly “Academic” in nature. The diversity of people and diversity of opinions is the thing that drove all these projects to their success. Nonetheless, when the projects split, some invisible “bad-blood” could have been sensed. Since the various splits, over a decade passed and I believe that the various projects had come to accept one another. Where one project took one path, the other took another, eventually turning each project into its own unique being, instead of being a mere competitive clone. I’ve known most of the people involved in these projects and their creation over the years and during previous years, it was always hard to get them to talk, due to these feelings. Last week was the first time that some of them met face-to-face in over 12 years, which was impressive. I’m not sure exactly who is the person behind this “summit of the minds”, but who ever they are, they need to keep this up and make sure that the projects keep on innovating and succeeding.

Now, let’s talk content. The overall panel of talks and presentations that Astricon boasts is nothing short of amazing. The sheer number of speakers and subjects turns the event to something that is sometimes confusing and hard to attend. Multiple talks at the same time, on 4-5 different tracks, with multiple points of interest always pose a hard choice – “What should I attend?”. However, this year was one of the most packed ones. For example, during the pre-conference day (AKA: DevCon), RedHat held a “NFV Track” which I really wanted to attend, but couldn’t, as I was attending DevCon. I wanted to attend some of the container talks, but couldn’t, as I was either talking at the same time – or was attending a different talk as well. In other words, I really hope the Video’s are good, as I would be truly disappointed. In this respect, I really like KamailioWorld. This one has one track, mostly technical in nature – and you can attend all the talks. It’s not because there aren’t enough speakers, I’m confident that many people answer the call-for-papers, it’s simply a choice of the organizers. In the past, Astricon used to have 3 tracks, thus the choice was simpler. I believe that maybe adding another day to the conference, or changing the format a little bit will enable people to get more from the conference.

I have other thoughts, but I believe these are the primary ones. C’ya all again next year @Astricon 2018.

 

Marissa Meyer is attributed to the following saying: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. Over the past 6 months, due to various changes in my workplace and some personal changes of my own – I’ve been reflecting upon this sentence multiple times. I’ve been trying to understand what it truly means, as an engineer, as a CEO, as a human being or in general terms – what does it truly mean…

Regardless if the attribution is correct or not, the sentence can be interpreted in various forms. It all depends on who you are, how you see yourself and how you see others. Or to be more exact, not how you see others – but how you communicate with others. But in order to understand communications, let’s try and get a grasp on how people communicate. In order to do this, I would like to introduce you to a small psychology related term, called DISC.

“DISC is a behavior assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centers on four different behavioral traits: dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance. This theory was then developed into a behavioral assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment

Now, without dwelling too much into the psychology analysis, or the “accurateness” of the DISC assessment methodology, judging from my personal experience with DISC assessments, they are fairly accurate – or at least, as accurate as you can get with human behaviour is in play. So, DISC stands for Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance. Some describe it Dominance, Influence, Supportive and Compliant. In general, they all means the same thing exactly. Each of us is a mix of these 4 traits, where the statistics show the following:

Only 5% of society will exhibit a single dominant trait. For example, a person with an extremely high “D”, but all others will be really low – will be a highly passive aggressive person, with very little care towards other people and a very short trigger. Basically, this person will be a decision making machine, but mainly for the sake of making a decision.

80% of society will exhibit two dominant traits. For example, a person with high levels of “I” and “S” will normally be a very good sales person, while a person with high levels of “D” and “S” will natural born leaders. A combination of high “D” and high “C” will result in a highly results driven person, driven much by fact, however capable of making rapid gut based decisions.

15% of society exhibit 3 dominant traits – these are your true motivational leaders. For example, a person with a combination of high “D”,”S” and “I” will be a combination of a sales person, a leader and a mentor. A person with a combination of high “D”, “S” and “C” will be a a mentor, a doer, a facts driven decision maker. A combination of high “I”, “S” and “C” will an ultimate team member, highly influencial, highly supportive and facts driven – these are normally highly valued teachers, highly valued mentors and role models.

So, back to our previous statement: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” – means multiple things to multiple people, depending on their behavioral traits. While one person may interpret it as: “Damn, this room is filled with idiots, I need to leave this place”, another may interpret this as: “Wait, the people in this room appear to be wrong, how can I fix that?”, while the third may say: “These people are just wrong and I’m going to tell them out loud”. The interpretation of the statement is in direct relation to your behavioural traits. For example, a person with a high “D” only will believe his decisions and thoughts are what counts and everything else is pointless. While at the same time, a person with a high “D” and “I” will believe that he’s right and everybody else is wrong, but he needs to educate them and teach them.

These various communication styles and behavioral traits will dictate the dynamics and performance of your team. It is true that every team will have a leader, be it a choosen one or a naturally appointed one – but the performance is directly dependent on each persons’ ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas to the other team members, in a manner that they can relate to and able to assimilate the information accordingly. For example, a person with a high “D” will responed better to the phrase: “I see your point, however, let’s try and examine another point of view or option”, than to the phrase “Dude, you’re so wrong, I can’t even start expressing it!”. While at the time, a person with a high “C” and low “D” will respond better to the phrase: “Go over the facts and give me some options”, than the phrase “Dude, just make a decision already!”.

While understanding the various communication traits people exhibit in close quarters is one thing, it is entirely a different thing to maintain proper communication paths with open source projects. It is fairly amazing at how poorly, sometimes, people within various projects communicate with one another. Not because they don’t want, simply because they don’t see and discuss things in person on a regular basis, which makes their communications based on email, chat, forums and the yearly developers meetup. This drives a situation where developers working alone in remote locations will provide a highly valued product, but only if they communicate with their team members on a regular basis. Of course, I don’t expect open source projects to perform DISC assessments to their team members, that would be just plain bizzare, but people should always try to assess the communication traits of their team members and figure out what works well with whom. We do it naturally, but if you try and thing about deeper, you may discover new things and new methods of promoting ideas, agendas and most importantly – innovation and exelence.

Do we perform DISC assessments as part of hiring process – absolutely. Do we rule out a candidate due to their results in the assessment – absolutely not. The assessment only helps us in understanding who the person is, how they communicate and should we hire them – how do we introduce them to the team and instruct the team leader accordingly, in order to successfully assimilate them to the team. Hiring someone new is hard, you always want to make the best choice. Sometimes, the most qualified person is simply bad for the team – in that case it’s a bad hire. But if you hire someone that fits the communication style inside your team and they are highly qualified for the job – you have a win-win situation.

As the world around changes, services are rapidly changing from human rendered services, to bots and applications that run on your mobile device. Ranging from your local pizza shop, to a multi-billion corporation – all are rapidly moving to the bot/application economy paradigm – in order to facilitate growth and lower their TCO.

According to SkyHigh Networks study, the following may come as a shock to most – but most  enterprises will use up to 900 different cloud applications. These require an amazing number  of over 1,500 different cloud services in order to work. Out of these 1,500 cloud services, a group of 50 top-most cloud services can be observed, normally relating directly to infrastructure – we’ll call these “Super Clouds”.

The “Super Clouds” can be divided into several “Primary” groups:

– Infrastructure Clouds (Amazon AWS, Google Compute, Microsoft Azure, etc.)
– Customer Relation Clouds (Salesforce, ZenDesk, etc.)
– Real Time Communication Clouds (Twilio, Nexmo, Tropo, etc.)

It is very common for a company to work solely with various cloud services – in order to provide a service. However, using cloud services has a tipping point, which is: “When is a cloud service no longer commercially viable for my service?” – or in other words: “When do I become Uber for  Twilio?”

Twilio’s stock recently dropped significantly, following Uber’s announcement – http://bit.ly/2rVbzxG. Judging from the PR, Uber was paying Twilio over $12M a year for their services, which means that for same cash, Uber could actually buyout a telecom company to do the same service. And apparently, this is exactly what’s going to happen, as Uber works to establish the same level of service with internal resources.

Now, the question that comes to mind is the following: “What is my tipping point?” – and while most will not agree with my writing (specifically if they are working for an RTC Cloud service), every, and I do mean EVERY type of service has a tipping point. To figure out an estimate your tipping point, try following the below rules to provide an “educated guess” of your tipping point – before getting there.

Rules of Thumb

  • Your infrastructure cloud is the least of your worries
    As storage, CPU, networking and bandwidth costs drop world-wide – so does your infrastructure costs. IaaS and PaaS providers are constantly updating prices and are in constant competition. In addition, when you commit to certain sizing, they can be negotiated with. I have several colleagues working at the 3 main competitors – they are in such competition, where they are willing to pay the migration prices and render services for up to 12 or 24 months for free, in order to get new business.
  • Customer Relation Clouds hold your most critical data
    As your service/product is consumer oriented, your customers are your most important asset. Take great care at choosing your partner and make sure you don’t outgrow them. In addition, make sure that if you use one, you truly need their service. Sometimes, a simple VTiger or other self hosted CRM will be enough. In other words, Salesforce isn’t always the answer.
  • Understand your business
    If your business is selling rides (Uber, Lyft, Via, etc), tools like Twilio are a pure expense. If your business is building premium rate services or providing custom IVR services, Twilio is part of your pricing model. Understand how each and every cloud provider affects your business, your bottom line and most importantly, its affect on the consumer.

Normally, most companies in the RTC space will start using Amazon AWS as their IaaS and services such as Twilio, Plivo, Tropo and others as their CPaas. Now, let us examine a hypothetical service use case:

– Step 1: User uses an application to dial into an IVR
– Step 2: IVR uses speech recognition to analyze the caller intent
– Step 3: IVR forwards the call to a PSTN line and records the call for future transcription

Let us assume that we utilize Twilio to store the recordings, Google Speech API for transcription, Twilio for the IVR application and we’re forwarding to a phone number in the US. Now, let’s assume that the average call duration is 5 minutes. Thus, we can extrapolate the following:

– Cost of transcription using Google Speech API: $0.06 USD
– Cost of call termination: $0.065 USD
– Cost of call recording: $0.0125 USD
– Cost of IVR handling at Twilio: $0.06 USD

So, where is the tipping point for this use case? Let’s try and separate into 2 distinct business cases: a chargeable service (a transcription service) and a free service (eg. Uber Driver Connection).

  • A Chargeable Service
    Assumption: we charge a flat $0.25 USD per minute
    Let’s calculate our monthly revenue and expense according to the number of users and minutes served.

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $12,500 – $9,625 = $2,875
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes: $125,000 – $96,250 = $28,750
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes: $625,000 – $481,250 = $143,750

Honestly, not a bad model for a medium size business. But the minute you take in the multitude of marketing costs, office costs, operational costs, etc – you need around 500,000 users in order to truly make your business profitable. Yes, I can negotiate some volume discounts with Twilio and the Google, but still, even after that, my overall discount will be 20%? maybe 30% – so the math will look like this:

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $12,500 – $9,625 = $2,875
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $125,000 – $48,475 = $57,625
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $625,000 – $336,875 = $288,125

But, just to be honest with ourselves, even at a monthly cost of $48,475 USD, I can actually build my own platform to do the same thing. In this case, the 500,000 minutes mark is very much a tipping point.

  • A Free Service
    Assumption: we charge a flat $0.00 USD per minute
    Let’s calculate our monthly revenue and expense according to the number of users and minutes served.

– Up-to 1,000 users – generating 50,000 monthly minutes: $9,625
– Up-to 10,000 users – generating 500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $48,475
– Up-to 50,000 users – generating 2,500,000 monthly minutes with a 30% discount: $336,875

In this case, there is just no case in building this service using Twilio or a similar service, because it will be too darn expensive from the start. Twilio will provide a wonderful test bed and PoV environment, but when push comes to shove – it will just not hold up the financial aspects.This is a major part why services such as Uber, Lyft, Gett and others will eventually leave Twilio type services, simply due to the fact that at some point, the service they are consuming becomes too expensive – and they must take the service back home to make sure they are competitive and profitable.

When Greenfield started working on Cloudonix – we understood from the start the above growth issue, and that’s why Cloudonix isn’t priced or serviced in such a way. In addition, as Cloudonix includes the ability to obtain your own slice of Cloudonix or even your own on premise installation – your investment is always safe.

To learn more about our Cloudonix CPaaS and our On-premise offering, click here.