Sunday, November 13, 2011

Skimming : Behind The Cloud

Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry

The Startup Playbook

  • My vision was to make software easier to purchase, simpler to use, and more democratic without the com-plexities of installation, maintenance, and constant upgrades. (p.3)
  • “The number-one mistake entrepreneurs make is that they hold their ideas too closely to their chest,” Bobby said. “Their destiny is their destiny, though. If they share their ideas, others can help make it happen.” (p.7)
  • My summers at Apple had taught me that the secret to encouraging creativity and producing the best possible product was to keep people fulfilled and happy. (p.11)
  • So focus on the 20 percent that makes 80 percent of the difference. (p.13)
  • Creating an attractive user interface that people enjoy using is the key to building a truly great product. (p.14)
  • What I learned from Larry:
    • Always have a vision.
    • Be passionate.
    • Act confident, even when you’re not.
    • Think of it as you want it, not as it is!
    • Don’t let others sway you from your point of view.
    • See things in the present, even if they are in the future.
    • Don’t give others your power. Ever.

The Marketing Playbook

  • Position yourself either as the leader or against the leader in your industry. Every experience you give a journalist or potential customer must explain why you are different and incorporate a clear call to action. (p.25)
  • I was confident that would be very profitable. In order to get there, though, we needed to build a powerful brand behind our great service. (p.26)
  • Anyone can create a persona, but it takes time and energy to do it properly. Your ‘‘character’’ must fit with your company’s story to bolster your brand. It must be heartfelt and authentic to who you are if it is to be successful. It should not be mere artifice.(p.28)
  • Although I loved the NO SOFTWARE logo immediately, almost everyone else hated it. ... Although research and logic were behind some of their concerns, I felt that their arguments were overruled by the most important rule in marketing—the necessity to differentiate your brand. (p.29)
  • What a company can own, however, is a personality. We own NO SOFTWARE —not because we are the only one doing it but because we were the first to think it was important to customers. (p.32)
  • Over time, as we grew, we required that all customer-facing employees become ‘‘certified’’ in how to position the service and how to deliver our messages. We taught everyone how to defend the messages against objections, which made them feel more prepared and confident. (p.34)
  • only acknowledged one competitor—the market leader. (p.34)
  • Don’t ever let the competition make you angry. You must have clarity of mind to make your own decisions—not the ones that your competitors want you to make. You must be transparent to the competition. See, recognize, and understand what your competitor is doing. (p.40)
  • No doubt, sending carefully chosen members of the press well-crafted office memos is one more way to get your story told. (p.42)
  • It’s significantly cheaper to encourage a journalist to write a story than it is to buy an ad in the Wall Street Journal,... (p.43)

The Events Playbook

  • ... after seeing this unfold at event after event, we began to recognize what was happening: people weren’t attending these events to meet us. They were coming to meet other people using the product. (p.50)
  • customers are mostly sales, marketing, or customer support people, the people who use traditional enterprise software products. Yet traditional enterprise software companies had never marketed to these people. Enterprise software companies target the executives who control the budget. (p.52)
  • Selecting the right site is important—the location should be one that reflects what you want to say about your brand. (p.54)
  • We rely on the quality of the product and provide an opportunity for the product to be discussed. The most effective selling is done not by a sales team but by people you don’t even know who are talking about your products without your being aware of it. (p.58)
  • A market doesn’t exist until there is a competitor, and ideally two or three competitors. (p.61)
  • Most of all, our smaller competitor’s stunt didn’t work because we never forgot or underestimated the lessons we’ve learned. We’ve seen what happens when bigger companies act defensively and validate small competitors. No one should ever make that mistake. (p.65)

The Sales Playbook

  • A good Web site is more effective than any direct marketing campaign. A lead capture screen, where visitors are required to enter their contact information, is an effective way to find hot leads. It’s essential to keep a Web site easy to use and fresh with regular updates. (p.73)
  • We quickly discovered that the more salespeople we hired, the more we saw revenue increase. This proved that we couldn’t simply encourage salespeople to sell more. We needed to increase the number of salespeople. This was the key to growing revenue. (p.79)

The Technology Playbook

  • As we went against conventional wisdom, we found the secret to being successful in the technology industry. Companies must not only see innovation before it is obvious to the market but also have the courage to pursue that innovation years before it’s accepted, or even understood. (p.106)
  • When it came to building innovative technology, we took a bet on a few existing things. First, we took a big bet on the Internet, and on Java as the programming language for the Internet. Second, we relied on the Oracle database. (p.109)
  • The site—located at—offers real-time information on system performance with up-to-the minute information on planned maintenance, historical information on transaction volume and speed, reports on current and recent phishing and malware attempts, and information on new security technologies and the best security practices. (p.113)
  • Today, if our servers are down—even for twenty minutes—we call our top customers. (p.114)

The Corporate Philantrophy Playbook

  • About thirty minutes after the awful phone call, a battalion of U.S. Marines swept into the school. Our team was caught by surprise when they said they were there to install the computers. Although there was relief in knowing that this force would get the job done, it didn’t give me much solace. Oracle had its own army of fifty thousand tech-savvy employees, several thousand of them just a few miles away; why did we require the Marines’ assistance to set up computers in a middle school? (p.139)
  • I began to consider how to make a philanthropic program part of a company’s DNA. I knew that if we had been able to draw on Oracle’s full assets—its employees, customers, products, money, and partners—we could have made a much more substantial contribution. This idea became a passion of mine, and it further ignited my interest in starting my own company. (p.139)
  • We understood that although we would not immediately see the cash for this commitment, we needed to take a long-term approach. This eventually led to a 1 percent product initiative (whereby we donate the service in lieu of profits)—a contribution that we’ve since realized can have a much greater impact on a nonprofit organization (by helping it scale) than a cash donation might have. (p.144)
  • One way to get your philanthropic programs started easily is to begin by providing your product or service for free or at a dramatically discounted rate to nonprofits. Gather a team of people to think creatively about how your product or service might help answer a social problem or move a nonprofit’s mission forward. (p.158)
  • The foundation has made us a better company. It has served as a tool for collaboration with other companies. It has made our employees more fulfilled, more productive, and more loyal. (p.167)

The Global Playbook

  • This idea stemmed from my work at Oracle with principal technologist Yoshi Oikawa; it demonstrated that global capabilities were not an add-on feature but an intrinsic part of our service. (p.170)
  • The market loved the David versus Goliath strategy, and we launched the business in Europe by using the same tactics that dictated our strategies in the United States: free trials, building relationships with members of the press, and encouraging customer evangelism. (p.173)
  • I had loved working in Japan when I was at Oracle and had always considered’s international focus on Japan a high priority. It was the second-largest IT market in the world, and I knew that Japanese businesses could benefit from our service. (p.179)
  • Whereas we were able to start with smaller companies in the United States and Europe, the top-down model is the way to succeed in Japan, where the largest companies provide the most powerful references. (p.186)
  • The end goal is always for the international business to be run by local leaders. However, during the earlier stages of international expansion, tapping two leaders with different experiences is an effective way to lay the right foundation for a company. (p.186)
  • Many U.S. companies use Australia as a gateway. The demographics are similar to those in the United States, the market is made up of early adopters, and the similar time zone and close proximity to Asia make it easy to do business with the rest of the region. (p.188)
  • Technology companies have historically centered their Asia-Pacific operations in Singapore, making the area rich with tech-savvy talent. Furthermore, the city-state’s high standards of education and emphasis on bilingual or trilingual skills meant that candidates were often fluent in three or more languages, making them valuable across various geographies. (p.194)
  • In Asia, business is conducted face-to-face, and anyone with whom we wanted to do business expected to see us a lot more often than we had first planned. (p.199)

The Finance Playbook

  • She might be your friend, or your grandmother, but treat her as an investor. This is not only because it’s respectful but also because not doing so could come back to bite you. If you target larger investors later, the legal teams at these organizations will scrutinize your capitalization structure, and any previous negligence will cost you. (p.204)
  • I’m not suggesting that profits aren’t necessary, pivotal, and even beautiful. It’s just not appropriate to stress profits over revenue in the beginning when you are starting out and building a company. (p.208)

The Leadership Playbook

  • V2MOM enabled me to clarify what I was doing and communicate it to the entire company as well. The vision helped us define what we wanted to do. The values established what was most important about that vision; it set the principles and beliefs that guided it (in priority). The methods illustrated how we would get the job done by outlining the actions and the steps that everyone needed to take. The obstacles identified the challenges, problems, and issues we would have to overcome to achieve our vision. Finally, the measures specified the actual result we aimed to achieve; often this was defined as a numerical outcome. Combined, V2MOM gave us a detailed map of where we were going as well as a compass to direct us there. (p.226)
  • We now collaborate on the corporate V2MOM with all employees through IdeaExchange, a social networking tool that employees use to contribute their ideas as well as promote and comment on others’ ideas. Most recently, when our V2MOM went live on IdeaExchange, we received feedback from more than half of the company’s employees over a two-week period. (p.231)
  • Although most start-ups don’t hire a dedicated HR person right away, doing so made sense to me because acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth. (p.233)
  • ... the better the developers you have, the better the product you build. The more developers you have, the more products you can build. (p.233)
  • Asking candidates to present allows us to see how they perform on the fly, and especially how deftly they can handle curve balls. It works on a more subtle level, too. Preparation demonstrates how badly candidates want to be with us. We note whether or not they have been to our Web site. Are they familiar with our products? Do they know our customers? (p.235)
  • If we move into a new market or a new product, I want the most knowledgeable person—the guru—on our side. Once the guru articulates the strategy, he or she makes the necessary hires and invests the resources necessary to execute it. (p.239)
  • Conventional wisdom says you should hire people who are not like you. That’s wrong. Hire people who are like you, only better. (p.240)
  • It’s very important for hiring to be consensus driven. To that end, we use the ‘‘all yes’’ rule. If a candidate meets ten people and nine say yes and one says no, that candidate will not work at our company (p.242)
  • Brands are built and sustained on consistency. Whether employees realize it or not, everyone in a company interfaces with customers in one way or another, and their attitude will affect the brand. A wrong message or attitude from one person has the potential to dilute our brand, so we try to make sure everyone is in alignment from the beginning. (p.244)
  • After several months, the Ebersoles went back to Atlanta. Everyone is doing great now, and that’s what’s most important, but as a result of helping his family in a difficult time, we earned the 100 percent loyalty of a valued employee. ‘‘ has made this situation as good as it could have been,’’ Scott said. ‘‘I’ve always felt that I have their support, and it’s made me to want to work even harder to give back.’’ (p.247)
  • Using education as a way to extend our service and expand our capabilities is our strategy for future growth. It comes down to simple mathematics: we can hire one hundred developers to develop new functionality, or we can hire ten trainers who have the capacity to train thousands of developers. Leveraging the power of trainers has allowed us to have thousands of developers creating new functionality, sharing it in our online marketplace, and enabling us to offer a more comprehensive service to our customers. (p.253)

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