React: Test Your Reflexes On the iPhone/iPod Touch

I entertain no illusions when it comes to my reaction time. I won’t be catching any katana blades between my hands, that’s for sure. It’s my secret shame, since it means I’m not terribly good at video games, despite my professed love of them. There may be hope for me yet, thanks to DoApp’s new “skills-sharpening” game for the iPhone and iPod touch, appropriately titled React ($0.99).

React is a reflex and coordination game, using the unique multi-touch abilities of the iPhone and iPod touch to test your ability to complete a series of actions on your device. It’s actually kind of similar to Nintendo’s Wario Ware series, minus the crass, slightly vulgar main character. React has no characters, unless you count colorful shapes and contemporary, monochromatic design palettes as characters. In fact, it probably has more in common with Simon, although there is no pattern to memorize in this case.
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A GigaOM Family Thanksgiving

We’re like a big family here at the GigaOM network of blogs. We look out for each other. We help one another. And once a year we drink too much sherry and sulk because mom always liked you best.
But until we get there, we have some cooking to do! We asked GigaOM staffers to submit their favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal. If you’re looking for menu inspiration, watch one of these how-to recipes to see if that gets those cooking juices going.
Craig already did a great turkey roundup so let’s move on to some other fixin’s.
Onion and Cornbread Stuffing
Personally, I like stuffing (or dressing), and I also do a wicked good impersonation of Food Network Chef Tyler Florence, so I thought I’d bring those two worlds together.

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Yoskovitz: Be a Data Hog, Make More Money!

Editor’s Note: our readers are familiar now with contributor Ben Yoskovitz’s work. (His company, Standout Jobs was just named one of Canada’s hottest startups. Congratulations, Ben!) This week, on his Instigator Blog, Ben offers a great treatise on how founders can leverage data collecting to make more money for their startups.

The pervading approach to launching a startup is to do it quickly, iterate constantly and make as much noise as possible throughout the process. It’s not a bad way of doing things, and given the lower cost of startup operations, and the nature of consumer web startups in particular, and it’s completely doable. But be careful if you’re not a data hog.

Getting your startup launched as quickly as possible is fine – but you should also spend a good chunk of time preparing to collect data. [Why? Because data is something you can leverage to make money, Ben explains below. ] This means building the necessary infrastructure into your system to collect, review and analyze the data generated by users, right from the start. Read More about Yoskovitz: Be a Data Hog, Make More Money!

Do You Have a Hard Time Staying Focused?

Editor’s Note: If you do, consider these four tips from contributor Ben Yoskovitz over at the Instigator Blog. Ben’s full post, The Challenge of Staying Focused in a Startup, was originally published on on April 8.

Startups need to be laser-focused on what they’re trying to do. It’s damn near impossible – especially when having to simultaneously build a product, sell a product, market a product, hire A-talent, raise more money, manage operations and more – but without focus (as Sequoia Capital notes) your startup is in big trouble.

I’ve suffered from “opportunity-itis” on numerous occasions. I still do. It’s so easy to get a bit of product feedback and chase those feature ideas. Or have a good conversation with a potential partner, and then decide to find 10,000 more partners like that. Or see a minor shift in the marketplace, only to revamp your entire business model and 12-month product roadmap (OK, I haven’t done that yet!)

You know you need to focus but at the same time you have to be looking for the right opportunities to make your startup a success. So how do you achieve startup focus? What follows are Ben’s four rules … Read More about Do You Have a Hard Time Staying Focused?

How to ‘flack’ effectively — off a startup budget!

One of the biggest challenges for startups is keeping in the public eye – getting the word out on a consistent basis to drive an audience, customers, buzz, etc. There are lots of marketing techniques for startups but one that I think is under used and under appreciated is public relations.

Generally, PR is used to reach the mainstream press and a mainstream audience. (Reporters call this “flacking.”) Anyway, a lot of startups don’t (or can’t) focus much energy (or resources) on PR – especially those living in a Web 2.0 bubble. If your startup is in the Valley or another true startup ecosystem, you may be able to generate sufficient buzz through the community, but for the rest of us, we need everything we can to keep in front of people, garnering attention.

The thing with PR is that it’s not just for attracting mainstream press, Read More about How to ‘flack’ effectively — off a startup budget!

Found|LINKS: Mar. 15 – Mar. 22

Our weekly roundup of posts you might have missed, but shouldn’t.

1) The 1st and 2nd Gospels of Sequoia Capital.
We posted on these last week, following a nod form TechCrunch (thank you). Gospel 1: Elements of Sustainable Companies. Gospel 2: Writing A Business Plan. Sequoia funded Google, Yahoo, Apple and others, so these lists are like success crib sheets from the Burning Bush. Frame them on your wall.

2.) Strategic Tools: Site performance is a moving target, and demands your constant attention. On Mar. 19 we found this compendium of 20 posts on how to use Google Analytics better. We get it via Manoj Jasra.

3) Creativity: You’re working so hard, it’s really difficult to keep the mind inspired. On Mar. 20, Lifehack.org published one of the best lists I’ve read recently on how to nurture your own creativity. 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity.

4.) Hiring & Retaining Talent: On Mar. 21 our friend Ben Yoskovitz published How To Use Perks and Rewards in Startups to Get The Best Talent, following the flak over Jason Calacanis’ claim that you should hire workaholics. One of Ben’s readers noted: “the best employees are motivated by a combination of working on something intellectually stimulating, working with smart people, and making money… in that order.” Great! but where paying people is easy, motivating them in HARD. So how to motivate your employees? Ben’s has your tips.

5.) Book of the Week: on Mar. 17 Harvard Working Knowledge wrote about the new Oxford Handbook of Business History. All of business history in one tome? Sounds grand, but consider picking up the handbook for one reason: it offers accounts from all geographies and cultures (Japanese business history, Latin American business history). Euro-centric histories still dominate our academic business literature, but a world view is important to startups too in an era of globaization! “The references in almost every chapter contain multiple citations to literatures not published in English [on] entrepreneurship, corporate governance, technology and innovation, and economic theory and development.” Check it out.

So You Want to Be a “SaaS-y” Founder?

Editor’s Note: Founder and contributor Ben Yoskovitz has been involved with SaaS businesses (Software as a Service) for some 9 years. This includes his current startup, Standout Jobs . How to do “SaaS” right has been debated lately. VC Byron Deeter outlined Bessemer Venture Partners’ 10 Laws for Being “SaaS-y”, some of which were quickly disputed. At his Instigator Blog, Ben recently used his own experience to illustrate the good and bad of being a SaaS vendor, and how to do it better.

We’ve abbreviated Ben’s thoughts below, but here’s his whole post:Lessons Learned Running a SaaS Business.

Extending and responding to Byron’s 10 Laws, here are [my SaaS] lessons learned:

1. Monthly or Yearly Payments?

… as Byron points out, smart SaaS vendors will offer discounts for longer term commitments and payment up-front. “Pay me for a full year today and I’ll give you 2 months free…” This is a smart approach. Anything that helps you get money up-front is a good thing because it’s money you can absolutely bank on. Future potential earnings are not set in stone. And the more money you have in potential bookings the harder it is to plan. Read More about So You Want to Be a “SaaS-y” Founder?

5 Tips for Maintaining Vision in the Day-to-Day

Editor’s Note: Ben Yoskovitz is one of our favorite contributors. Today he offers a nice post at his Instigator Blog about vision, and how to keep “the big picture” in focus while struggling through the minutiae of “moving the ball forward” on a daily basis. Ben’s whole post is here, Keeping a 20,000 Foot View One Day at a Time, but here are his takeaways.

It’s definitely easy to lose sight of the 20,000 foot strategic goals and vision when battling daily issues. What’s worse, is how easy it becomes to change strategies quickly when you lose sight of what you were originally setting out to do. Strategies, goals and visions will change. There’s no doubt about that. But it strikes me how easy it is to change gears too quickly because of factors “on the ground” … without stepping back and taking an overall view of things.

On that front, here are [5] things I’ve been thinking about further … Read More about 5 Tips for Maintaining Vision in the Day-to-Day

One Way to Differentiate Your Startup: Customer Support

ob-bb903_starbu_20080226175035.jpg
Update: for another lesson on the imperative of customer support, spend a few minutes studying Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s decision this week to close hundreds of stores nationwide for 3 hours in order to retrain Baristas in good customer service. The Wall Street Journal: Starbucks Closes Stores To Retrain Baristas (Photo credit, from WSJ: Kurt Wilberding)

customer-service1.gifBen Yoskovitz is a very thoughtful founder, and we republish posts from his Instigator Blog here frequently. (See list at bottom). Yesterday, Ben put up an ode to his customers that is (OK) a tad mushy but, as always, material.

Ben points out an all-too-common shortcoming of cash- and time-strapped startups: a lack of attention on customer support. Maybe we’re overly focused on our code or our funding. Whatever the reasons, this is a weakness Ben argues — and therein lies a potential strategic advantage.

Of course it’s just good business to offer quality customer support. The fact that so few startups do so only compounds the value to you if you can:

Luckily for you, very few companies (especially startups!) provide anything remotely resembling quality customer support and so you can immediately use it as a differentiator

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FoundLINKS: Feb 17 – Feb 23

This weeks pics for helpful posts to read over your weekend. If you had a bad week, or just got turned down for funding, do yourself a favor and skip to #5 right away. Then work backwards…

1) Operations: 5 Lessons Learned From Gordon Ramsay (the infamous chef from Kitchen Nightmares) brought to our attention by Micah, at Learn to Duck. Micah writes: “Ramsay’s rules for running a successful restaurant are really not all that different than getting a startup off the ground.”

2) Leadership and Hiring:
More in the restaurant motif, a short video interview of celebrity chef and entrepreneur Charlie Trotter, from Crain’s Chicago. A hyperactive Charlie talks about how you can never get complacent with your success (recall our Lombardi post on the same) and his tricks for spotting future leaders in 10-minute job interviews. (See also Passion Spotting.)

3) Mentorship :
Rules for Great Advisory Boards, from Marc McCloud, a serial software entrepreneur, on his blog Startup CFO. (Also read F|R contributor Ben Yoskovitz’s take on the subject: The Importance of Advisory Boards for Startup CEOs.)

4) Strategy:
A reminder of why failure is nothing to be afraid of, and why you should embrace sooner rather than later, from Mitchell Ashley: Fail Early and Often.

And saving the best for last….

5) Funding & “PC”-VC-Fashion : we found this hilarious post courtesy of VentureHacks, whose authors have shared their tricks for getting the better of nasty term sheets with us in the past. (See: Vesting Hacks: Part I, Vesting Hacks: Part II, Vesting Hacks: Part 3, and Vesting Hacks 4.) I just can’t decide which T-shirt to order as the F|R holiday gift next year!:

vcwear_puke.jpg

Or

vcwear_noidea.jpg

There are many more to choose from, so take a break and spend some time this Sunday on my new favorite home page: VCWear.