Small Business? Throw out your file server and get Dropbox for Teams.

A few weeks ago one of the companies I work with had a file server dramatically crash after years of faithful service.??The crash cost two days of engineering time to set up a new server from scratch and restore files from backups. Even before the crash, it would take engineering time to add new users and set permissions. The permissions were never really done properly and many folders were accessible simply by using a shared username & password that made the rounds.??

There were also occasional issues with files being overwritten with older versions and work needing to be redone!??

Running their own "cheap" in-house server was actually getting expensive and introducing huge amounts of risk. Some of the employees at the company started using their personal Dropbox accounts for handling mission critical files such as accounting records. This had the benefit of giving Revision Control up to one year and rollbacks in case of files getting corrupted. Folders could also be shared, but, the file ownership was by nature "personal". If an employee left the company it would create security problems.??

Luckily, DropBox recently lauched Dropbox for Teams. It allows centralized management of users & files, unlimited revisions and huge amounts of storage.??

Although it's a Cloud Storage Service, your files are synchronized across all your devices, thus meaning fast, local access at all times without the need of an internet connection.??

At first, I thought the price came in a bit steep at $795 per year for 5 users, or $13.25 per user per month. You could buy a half-decent Ubuntu server for $795, but the cost of setting it up properly, maintaining it, security and lost productivity quickly adds up to thousands of dollars. Professional companies in Cape Town charge in the region of $500 a month for basic server monitoring & maintenance and callout fees of $100 per hour.??

I'd say it's a no brainer: Throw out the file server and get Dropbox for Teams.

(If you don't yet know Dropbox, get a free personal account)??

Marketing – the Febreze story


After P&G had spent several years and millions of dollars developing Febreze, it sold poorly. An analysis of this failure led to a radical revision of its marketing that relied on an understanding of how people connected the use of a product to their daily routines and habits. The company found that it had to sell different aspects of the product than those it was designed to have.

In the mid-1990s, when the company rolled out the product across the U.S. after having test marketed it for the previous several years, P&G depended heavily on television commercials to introduce the public to its revolutionary new product that could eliminate unwanted odors. They showed people spraying clothing and furniture with Febreze to remove smells left by cigarette smoke and pets.

The company and its marketing team expected it to be an unqualified success. Instead, as Charles Duhigg wrote years later, “sales started small and got smaller. Febreze was a dud.” The marketers began earnestly researching the product to find out why it wasn’t selling. They interviewed customers and visited their homes. On one visit to a woman’s living room where her nine cats spent most of their time, the researchers recoiled from the odor. The woman, by contrast, had grown used to it from living with the animals and did not notice the smell at all. They found similar results in other houses with strong scents. The people who most needed Febreze did not realize it, they realized.

With that in mind, they watched videos of people cleaning various rooms in their houses, to see if they could figure out where and how to suggest people use Febreze. These results were inconclusive, so they again went into the field to interview people at their homes. They found one woman who used it regularly, and she let them follow her around as she cleaned. Her house had no serious odor problems, but she sprayed things down afterwards anyway, saying it felt “like a little minicelebration when I’m done with a room.”

“The marketers” Duhigg wrote, “needed to position Febreze as something that came at the end of the cleaning ritual, the reward, rather than as a whole new cleaning routine.” The company increased the perfume content, giving it a distinct smell, and redid the ad campaign in summer of 1998. Commercials for the product showed it being used the way the woman had, and print ads showed breezes blowing through open windows with curtains. “Febreze, the ads implied, was a pleasant treat, not a reminder that your home stinks.”

Sales doubled within two months and reached $230 million a year later.


Moving on from Skyrove

It’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I write to say I’ll be leaving Skyrove as CEO at the end of February 2012. 

While still a student in 2003, I started working on a cheap and easy-to-use system that would allow anyone to share their internet connection using Wi-Fi, while at the same making money from it, automatically paid into their bank accounts at the end of each month. 

I launched Skyrove as a business in 2005 with my friend Allister Kreft, shortly after graduating from university and getting married at the same time! (me, not Allister…) We had no funding to start the business and no real prior business experience so it was the purest form of bootstrapping you could imagine. I rented a 5 bedroom house in Observatory, sublet 4 of the bedrooms so that I didn’t have to pay rent for myself or for Skyrove, which used the attic as offices! (Garages are so 1970s) 

We grew from strength to strength, raising finance from overseas and local angels and from a few small VC rounds. We went through many trials and tribulations and I grew tremendously as person. Today Skyrove is a profitable company with a well recognized brand with a great team of people and the best Wi-Fi products and services in the market.

But Skyrove has also grown up to be much more than a place where I could realise my dreams. It became a company with processes, procedures and SLAs and, truth be told, I found myself being stretched too thin and getting involved in minor operational issues on a daily basis rather than tackling the Big Hairy Audacious Goals I set out to. 

And because of this intricate involvement, I started to realize that I became a barrier to Skyrove reaching its fullest potential. It became time for Skyrove to graduate into the big leagues.

In October last year, I told my board of directors of my feelings and how I see Skyrove becoming a much bigger, much stronger company, but without me at the helm. In an ideal world, I would step back into a CTO & Product Development role, but ultimately I realized that I would not be able to hand over the reins to a new leader if I was also looking over his or her shoulder. 

I will still be involved in Skyrove as a director and will continue to help maintain some key client relationships. Michael Leeman will step in as an interim CEO while we continue to look for a new rockstar! 

I am also proud to announce that Helen Mizon will become Skyrove’s new COO. Helen started with us as an administration assistant 5 years ago and moved up the ranks through bookkeeper, financial manager, operations manager and Skyrove’s “mum”. 

We are looking to hire enterprise sales people, engineers and various support staff in the coming months as Skyrove increasingly moves into solving enterprise Wi-Fi challenges. We will continue work on some of the Wi-Fi billing systems we’ve developed and we’ll be launching some new products in partnership with some of South Africa’s largest ISPs. 

There have definitely been nights I’d worry about Skyrove’s future without me, but the fact is that Skyrove is in better shape than it’s even been before. If it wasn’t, I’d probably have a much more difficult time “letting go”.

So what next? I’ve been yearning towards Technology in Education for a long time now. An opportunity came along to join TENET, the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa, to head up a TV white spaces pilot programme linking schools in the Western Cape to the internet using new “Super Wi-Fi” technology. 

I’ll work at TENET 4 days a week, and will spend the 5th helping Cape Town startups, working on new ideas and playing cricket with my son, Jack! 

I have to give a big Shout Out to everyone who has helped me turn my Big Dream into a reality. To my co-founders who believed in me and my vision, to my family who had to put up with seeing me for only fleeting moments each day, to the many journalists who wrote about Skyrove and our story, to my friends and mentors who I could call on at all hours of the day, to the investors who put in their own hard-earned cash to grow the business, to every employee who ever gave their commitment to Skyrove and made it a fun place to work at and most importantly, to every customer who showed faith in my team and my product, gave us feedback to improve and then referred their friends to us. 

So long, and thanks for all the fish! 

24 February 2012

Rule of Thumb for Cellphone Screens

Top left corner must be tappable by your right thumb while holding phone with your right hand

Need Funding? Have a Fresh Idea that can Change the World?

Shuttleworth Foundation from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

Leverage your Existing Customer Base

Business Meetings Cape Town Style


Sent from my iPod

Orange Farm Internet Cafe

Tomorrow I am going to Orange Farm township in Soweto to deliver & install some equipment at an Internet Cafe! Group of amazing South African geeks/entrepreneurs have been contributing computers (Dial-a-Nerd), wireless backhaul (Internet Solutions), Anti-Virus (ESET Southern Africa) and asked me if Skyrove could provide a billing system (Currently the owner, Lennox, has to write down the times people start & stop using the computers and then charge them afterwards)??

Excited for my first trip to Soweto! (Btw, if anyone in Joburg is free & keen to join, please let me know! Need to be there by 3pm)??

Lessons from Raymond Ackerman

I was privileged to have breakfast with Raymond Ackerman and a small
group of Cape Town entrepreneurs last weekend.

Here are some of the things he shared:

– Remain positive!

– 90% guts, 10% capital

– Follow your personal feelings (he was fired from Greatermans
in part because they said he was “too emotional”)

– Don???t squash ideas

– See people (always)

– Do everything ??? get involved/show interest in everything

– Always look for opportunities

– ???LISTEN??? ??? and shake hands with everyone (I see RA is very
good at remembering names)

– Keep an open mind

– Foundation = 4 legs of the table: 1) Good admin , 2) great
service, 3) Sales/promo/social responsibility (???give back???), 4) People
(promote from within, pay well, recognize etc)

– Main aim of a business is not to make money but to make the
???customer sovereign???

– Pick n Pay expects a big fight with Walmart and have a plan
mapped out for the coming years

– Prediction ??? tough times for 3 or 4 months then a good 2012

– Be positive (intelligently) and read (like Mandela did for 27
years) – spoke about Viktor Frankl???s stores on how Holocaust survivors
had almst irrational hope

– Constitution must be defended ??? ???free enterprise is
essential??? + ???government can???t run business???

– ???Head in the sky with feet on the ground???

– Always innovate

– Be positive (repeat)

Are you a Technotarian?

… the “good people” of the internet who believe in the fundamental rights of individuals to be free, have free speech, fight hypocrisy and stand behind logic, technology and science over religion, political structure and tradition. These are the people who build and support things like Wikileaks, Anonymous, Linux and Wikipedia. They think that people can, and should, govern themselves. They are against external forms of control such as DRM, laws that are bought and sold by lobbyists, and religions like Scientology.  

From this article (about BitCoins & their makers) by Jason Calacanis