Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lunch with me - for charity

The Anita Borg Institute is raising money at our annual Women of Vision evening in May - and we're auctioning off lunch with board members. So, I'm up for auction, alongside the heads of R&D for Microsoft and Google (I sure hope they fetch more than I do) for lunch conversation and I'll cover pretty much any topic - within reason!

I did this for ABI once before a few years ago and it was great fun. I met with a female entrepreneur starting a company so we had a lot to talk about.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Startup to IPO: Managing cash in a downturn

I guest authored a post for FoundRead this weekend at Carleen Hawn's request - about my experiences in 2001 and my advice on how to manage cash through a downturn in your market.

Here are the ten ideas I shared - leaving out the colorful story around them:

1. Build a detailed model of cash flow so you can test every decision against it and manage the business for cash conservation.

2. Push out accounts payable as long as you can. This takes a tough CFO or controller.

3. Structure deals to be paid up front. Resist payment terms as much as you can and negotiate discounts to get paid up front if you have to (we were very successful with this strategy with all but our largest customer).

4. Don’t destroy your market but do some aggressive deals if you need to in order to keep the top line and your market share growing. If you slow down it’s a self fulfilling prophesy and you’ll run out of money – which leads to loss of control of your destiny.

5. Spend in sales to keep growth up. Sales and R&D are the critical value creation points of a software business, focus on them and tighten your belt everywhere else

6. Manage performance aggressively. If someone isn’t performing let them go quickly and only replace them if you absolutely have to (see prior point).

7. Squeeze into your space. Put off taking on new rent obligations as long as you possibly can.

8. Get a line of credit and draw it down before you need it. By the time you need it you won’t be able to get it, so get it while you can.

9. Likewise if you need to raise venture capital do it well before you need it , and don’t get greedy on valuation. A successful company makes everyone money, don’t risk long term success for valuation or your percentage.

10. If you have to, take the company through a pay cut. As CEO cut your pay first, cut all bonuses and consultants, cut executive pay and when you have no choice cut everyone’s pay to make it through. Believers will stick with you, and they are the ones you want.

Monday, April 7, 2008

FirstRain partners with Capital IQ

Very exciting news for us this morning. We won a major contract with Capital IQ last year to provide them with unique web content for their financial information service and their new system is live today.

"FIRSTRAIN PARTNERS WITH CAPITAL IQ TO DELIVER UNIQUE WEB DATA TO 2200 FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS Search-Driven Research Integrates a Broader Perspective from across the Open Web, including Blogs, into the Capital IQ Financial Information Service"

This is a first on two fronts
- first time any major financial platform has integrated web search results
- first time FirstRain has licensed web results to a distribution partner

We’re providing a feed of web results categorized by company and major business topics so that Capital IQ customers can see web content by ticker. This will include a broad search from across the open web including source types that are increasingly important to the buy-side like blogs and local newspapers (see the recent research paper on how blogs move stocks). And we've integrated some of their news feeds into the flow so that the categorization and de-duping is consistent across all their news sources.

The content will be branded as powered by FirstRain – which is important for us as we build our reputation in the industry. Capital IQ customers will get the value of bringing web content into their research process and then, if they want personalization or analytics like management turnover, they’ll come to us to get a specific configuration for their investment topics.

Seung Bak from Capital IQ and I have been talking to press and blog writers for a couple of days telling the story of the value our mutual customers can derive from this partnership. Here’s the link to the press release and Randy Winn's quote.

And a fun side story to this is how we found each other. Capital IQ had already decided to integrate web content early last year and were talking to a number of potential vendors – but not FirstRain because they did not know much about us. In a lucky break (and the reason a CEO should always accept panel invitations) Tim Walker of Capital IQ moderated a panel I was on at the AQ Research Conference in New York last April. After the panel he came up to me and said we should come in and meet his product team – we did a few weeks later - and the rest is history. This was a highly competitive situation and a win we worked hard for though. We set out to show our potential partner not only how powerful our underlying system and technology is, but also what we’d be like as a company and management team (and especially important as a product team) to do business with - and we were thrilled to win the business.

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