Monthly Archives: October 2015

Monthly Mentions: October 2015

Monthly Mentions recaps my publications, citations, and appearances for the month. My goal is to share broadly my thoughts on women in technology leadership, cloud technology, entrepreneurship, and more.

In the press this month, I published:

Making Collaboration as Pervasive as Dial-Tone on the Huffington Post

Learning the Product-Market Fit Tango on the Huffington Post

On my blog this month, I wrote:

 The Future Is Now

Making Collaboration as Pervasive as Dial-Tone: This Week on HuffPo

Takeaways from RingCentral’s “Magic Quadrant” Recognition

This Month on HuffPo: Learning the Product-Market Fit Tango

On my LinkedIn page this month, I shared:

My Top 4 Productivity Hacks

The Future Is Now

Learning the Product-Market Fit Tango

My Top 4 Productivity Hacks

When it comes to productivity, I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to manage my time and tasks in order to be as effective as possible both at work and at home. Given the fast pace of my start-ups that have become successful businesses, I’ve had to learn how to pace myself so that I can strike the balance between working hard and not feeling overworked. The best way I’ve found to pace myself is by structuring my days with optimal productivity in mind.

My top 4 #productivityhacks include:

Organization. I like to use tools that help me to streamline and to organize my work, such as Glip, RingCentral’s team workspace for collaboration. By using Glip with my teams, real-time messaging, task management, videoconferencing, shared calendars, shared files, and more are all in one space instead of cluttering my e-mail inbox.

Starting meetings on time. In reality, meetings often run overtime, but this can throw off a whole workday. I do my best to keep meetings on-track via a clear agenda. If follow-up from previous meetings is required, and if it will be for future tasks, I assign clear responsibility so that all parties know what to expect. Glip helps with task assignment and tracking, too.

Delegation. You cannot be a leader without mastering this skill. If you’ve chosen your staff well, you won’t need to micromanage them, either. Delegation with checks and balances is what works for me.  And I encourage teams to collaborate so that not every issue bubbles up to me.

Fun. I do what I can to take the pressure off of myself. We spend so much of our lives at work, and it’s important to want to be there and to not feel too stressed out all of the time. And during my precious downtime, I definitely take time to recharge. Keeping a sense of humor and not taking myself too seriously may be my favorite productivity hacks. I’m a lot more productive when I’m happy.

What #productivityhacks would you add to my list?

This article first appeared as part of a series on LinkedIn in which professionals share their secrets to being more productive. Read related posts here.

The Future Is Now

 

In the movie “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty McFly travels to October 21, 2015, to save his children, yet to be born in the original “Back to the Future” in 1985. Watching these movies in the 80s, who didn’t covet the ultimate time machine, Doc’s DeLorean car? Fast-forwarding to today, the future is now. Cars may not be time machines, but they do have some pretty amazing capacities.

Could Doc have imagined that Silicon Valley — not Detroit, or Germany, or Japan — would hold the future of the automotive industry? Drive through the Valley, and, chances are, you’ll see lots of Teslas, built nearby in Fremont, California. Tesla is not just an automaker; it’s also a technology and design company with a focus on energy innovation. It has revolutionized the automotive industry by taking the maintenance and high gas costs out of owning a vehicle. With a battery that can be recharged at home taking up very little space underneath the car’s chassis, Tesla has changed not only the face of automotive energy consumption and related pollution reduction; it has also altered how we use space in cars, as there are markedly less parts in these low-maintenance electric vehicles.

In Mountain View, California, chances are that you’ll come across one of Google’s self-driving cars. Making the case for such vehicles, their website reads: “Aging or visually impaired loved ones wouldn’t have to give up their independence. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want to do. Deaths from traffic accidents—over 1.2 million worldwide every year—could be reduced dramatically, especially since 94% of accidents in the U.S. involve human error. “ Who knows if and when these vehicles will become mainstream, but those statistics make a compelling case for their ongoing exploration. And rumor has it that neighboring Apple, in Cupertino, California, is also staffing up an automotive division and is about to enter this race for the future of cars.

Amid all of these exciting advances, there remains much work to be done. My iPhone doesn’t interface with my own car. I wonder, are Americans picking their cars now based, in part, on interface capabilities? The New York Times covered this a bit in September in a piece called “Complex Car Software Becomes the Weak Spot under the Hood.” Advances like automated braking have huge upsides safety-wise, but then, too, there is new potential for multiple points of failure. My friend’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has an interface she loves, was recalled for a software upgrade because hackers proved they could take control of one of these SUVs remotely. That’s scary!

Innovation in this industry may never reach time-machine capabilities, but the future is exciting, including what’s available here and now. I don’t doubt that Marty McFly and Doc would be surprised at the technological advances they’d find between 1985 and 2015 — or have much sympathy for the inability of my phone and my car to talk. We’ve come a long way in thirty years, and who knows where cars will be in thirty years — perhaps not only self-driving, but flying! After all, the Terrafugia prototypes are well underway. Now that would really be something.

The Future is Now

In the movie “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty McFly travels to October 21, 2015, to save his children, yet to be born in the original “Back to the Future” in 1985. Watching these movies in the 80s, who didn’t covet the ultimate time machine, Doc’s DeLorean car? Fast-forwarding to today, the future is now. Cars may not be time machines, but they do have some pretty amazing capacities.

Could Doc have imagined that Silicon Valley — not Detroit, or Germany, or Japan — would hold the future of the automotive industry? Drive through the Valley, and, chances are, you’ll see lots of Teslas, built nearby in Fremont, California. Tesla is not just an automaker; it’s also a technology and design company with a focus on energy innovation. It has revolutionized the automotive industry by taking the maintenance and high gas costs out of owning a vehicle. With a battery that can be recharged at home taking up very little space underneath the car’s chassis, Tesla has changed not only the face of automotive energy consumption and related pollution reduction; it has also altered how we use space in cars, as there are markedly less parts in these low-maintenance electric vehicles.

In Mountain View, California, chances are that you’ll come across one of Google’s self-driving cars. Making the case for such vehicles, their website reads: “Aging or visually impaired loved ones wouldn’t have to give up their independence. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want to do. Deaths from traffic accidents—over 1.2 million worldwide every year—could be reduced dramatically, especially since 94% of accidents in the U.S. involve human error. “ Who knows if and when these vehicles will become mainstream, but those statistics make a compelling case for their ongoing exploration. And rumor has it that neighboring Apple, in Cupertino, California, is also staffing up an automotive division and is about to enter this race for the future of cars.

Amid all of these exciting advances, there remains much work to be done. My iPhone doesn’t interface with my own car. I wonder, are Americans picking their cars now based, in part, on interface capabilities? The New York Times covered this a bit in September in a piece called “Complex Car Software Becomes the Weak Spot under the Hood.” Advances like automated braking have huge upsides safety-wise, but then, too, there is new potential for multiple points of failure. My friend’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has an interface she loves, was recalled for a software upgrade because hackers proved they could take control of one of these SUV remotely. That’s scary!

Innovation in this industry may never reach time-machine capabilities, but the future is exciting, including what’s available here and now. I don’t doubt that Marty McFly and Doc would be surprised at the technological advances they’d find between 1985 and 2015 — or have much sympathy for the inability of my phone and my car to talk. We’ve come a long way in thirty years, and who knows where cars will be in thirty years — perhaps not only self-driving, but flying! After all, the Terrafugia prototypes are well underway. Now that would really be something.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn on October 21, 2015.

Learning the Product-Market Fit Tango

Recently, as part of an Astia portfolio gathering in San Francisco, I had the honor of participating in a panel on Product-Market Fit. The conversation was moderated by Jamie Lerner of Seagate, and we were joined by David Weiden of Khosla Ventures and J.L. Valente of Seagate.

We kicked off with a quote from Marc Andreessen: “Product-Market Fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy the market.” We talked about how you get to product/market fit and how you recognize it when you’ve got it (or when you don’t).

In my experience, there are some basics that every entrepreneur needs to know when considering Product-Market Fit. Your baseline responsibility as an entrepreneur is to build something that people need and want. When you’ve got it right, that’s Product-Market Fit.

To determine this fit, it’s critical to get a sense for how what you build will be used by people and other businesses. To do that, you have to think through lots of variables. Ask yourself: What’s the cost to build it? What’s your pricing model? How will you distribute your product to get it into the hands of people and users? How does your product compare to existing and future alternatives and competitors? Even once you nail that down, you have to be prepared to pivot quickly in the initial stages of bringing something to market. You may see early traction, but it may not necessarily scale. In fact, as we joked on the panel, the only thing more dangerous than zero customers is one customer — because it can give the false sense that you’ve found your fit even if you haven’t.

In short, finding your fit involves paying attention to important variables, and then adjusting if necessary to make sure that your product is meeting its intended use and remains needed. It’s a lot like learning a complex dance (Tango, anyone?), where you have to adjust to the music, your partner, and the dance floor all at once.

In order to test Product-Market Fit best and most quickly, entrepreneurs can, and should, opt to go to market with MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This involves building something quickly to take to the market to test, since the only way you’ll know if you have good fit is if customers are buying or adopting your product. If you put out an initial product that has some hooks and stickiness to it, customers will keep coming back for more. Finding the right product to launch with can be tricky, too. If customers are disappointed, and especially if they end up abandoning the product, they won’t come back. Negative first experiences must be avoided; all the marketing dollars in the world can’t help you once customers turn away in disgust.

So, how do you come out the gate strongest and most ready to maneuver quickly? In a devops world, products can be updated daily. Companies have to be well-situated to gather product feedback with very frequent release cycles. In fact, they need to build into their product the ability to test scenarios and collect analytics from the start. It’s critical to measure what people are doing with the product, what’s sticking, where people are spending time, and where they’re running into difficulties. The gaming industry does this particularly well in order to see from the get-go where people get stuck in games. To keep people going despite frustrations, they throw points or incentives at them, or sometimes they simplify the game. Reminders to re-engage also are useful with games and with consumer apps when behavior is hard to predict. We used this strategy a lot with RingCentral’s mobile product. If we saw a spot where people were clicking over and over again, we knew it was a trouble spot that needed attention, usually in the form of a clearer UI/UX.

Also in the context of finding Product-Market Fit, a lot of entrepreneurs and investors talk about Total Addressable Market (or TAM). That’s because the total market will help you think about pricing and distribution, which are both critical to your product and market plans. It’s not just the total market size that matters, but also the growth potential. When I started a company in 2006 in interactive advertising, our TAM was maybe just over $10B, but the market had a very high compounded growth rate. It was like a gold rush, with dollars from other channels moving from offline to online. In 2013 the mobile advertising market alone grew to almost $10B, mostly due to the widespread adoption of smartphones which was virtually nonexistent in 2006. So, don’t make the mistake of starting a company thinking that you can sell through one specific channel in the market, as that channel may be limited. You never want to cut yourself off from the full market potential. You also need to think about the global size of the market. Some products are easier to take globally than others but most companies should aim to grow internationally at some point.

When you have landed with a good Product-Market Fit, there are a number of signals you’ll see. Sometimes momentum like downloads, impressions, or users matters most. Other times it’s engagement and time spent on the product. But ultimately, whatever metrics you’re looking at, you need to understand how they’ll eventually translate into revenue. Freemium is a fast way to get your product to spread. But successful companies know how to do more than collect metrics. For instance, acquiring users via downloads is meaningless if people aren’t using your product. It’s important to move quickly from download to conversion/usage. Keep in mind that Facebook had a lot of users before it had revenue, but they ended up monetizing users more successfully than Twitter. Remain focused on how everything you do gets you to the best Product-Market Fit, as that, ultimately, will drive revenue.

Building something that people need and want is the goal of any entrepreneur and must remain the goal of any company long-term in order both to build a loyal customer base and to grow. When start-ups focus on attaining Product-Market Fit, revenue follows. That’s how companies grow successfully from start-ups into lasting businesses.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post on October 1, 2015 and on LinkedIn on October 16, 2015.

Making Collaboration as Pervasive as Dial Tone: This Week on HuffPo

 

This week on the Huffington Post, I discuss workplace communications and collaboration technology. With RingCentral’s acquisition of Glip this summer, we now offer a single stream of communications that flows across all devices and flexes to support multiple modes of communication and collaboration: team chat, document sharing, project and task management, plus voice and video calls and conferences. This blending of synchronous and asynchronous communication reflects the real workstream of a team and allows for maximum communication and collaboration benefit.

To get work done, we need to communicate, and we need to collaborate. The distinction between the two will fade as we break down the barriers between different modes of interaction – all the ways we exchange messages, share documents, or connect in real time.

We built our company around reinventing phone service in the cloud. We recognize businesses need a broader range of communications and collaboration options, but to really make a difference they need to be broadly used. Collaboration needs to be as pervasive as dial tone. Read my case for this on this week’s HuffPo by clicking here.

Takeaways from RingCentral’s “Magic Quadrant” Recognition

 

As EVP of Innovation for RingCentral, my delight in our company’s positioning as a leader in the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service report is palpable. RingCentral’s position as the most “visionary” company on the quadrant is particularly noteworthy. It is truly an honor for any company to receive this recognition from the most distinguished and capable analyst firm covering technology. Now, the task ahead for me and for my company is making sure that we retain our position as a leader in this space ongoing.

Just because we’ve been recognized at this high level doesn’t mean that we’ve “made it,” or that we can rest. There is a bigger and more receptive mainstream market to which we need to deliver cloud communications, and we are up against some mighty competitors with more resources than we have trying to capture our same market. With today’s workforce being highly distributed, increasingly mobile, and accustomed to ease of communication across devices and locations, we must continue to innovate to stay at the forefront in our industry. This is no time to slow down; this recognition is motivation and is just the beginning of much more growth, innovation, and expansion for our company.

Continuous focus on innovation and strong execution is how we will remain atop our game. I’ve written before on the importance of three types of innovation: invention, acquisition, and partnerships. With the launch of our RingCentral Connect platform for developers, our acquisition of collaboration platform Glip, and integrations with companies like Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce, RingCentral has demonstrated our skill in innovating all three ways. Moving forward, we will remain laser-focused on innovation as we execute on our forward-facing vision. Combining our awareness of evolving customer needs and technological progress with building on our core strengths and core products, we will expand horizontally, vertically, and internationally. Expanding horizontally requires broadening our suite of products. Expanding vertically means broadening our reach into other industries. Expanding internationally will extend our global reach. We already serve a global customer base with offices all around the world, and we need to make sure that we stay on top of supporting them.

Product innovation makes great companies. Being recognized as visionary in that realm is incredibly motivating and begets more excitement about more innovation. Supported by our vision, strong overall company execution, an expanding customer base, continuous growth at a sustainable rate, and sound financial planning, our company will continue to balance it all — to fire on all cylinders — in support of our leadership position in Gartner’s “magic quadrant.”