Jan 18

I had my second night class last night of the FastTrac Tech program put on by Stealthmode Partners in Phoenix and so far I’m impressed. I missed their kickoff class because I was still down in Mexico but the first two classes have already yielded some good ideas and solid connections. This is actually the first time this particular program has been offered anywhere – the course materials we received last night were _literally_ "hot off the presses" (they were still warm from the printers). In a true agile fashion they had xeroxed draft copies of the first two chapters from the book and distributed them and as well put their instructors through accelerated facilitator training to offer the course as early as they did.

The written content thus far has been good and fairly consistent with what I’m getting from the Rhonda Abrahams book Simple Business Plan (which is also very good). The speakers though have exceeded my expectations. The qualifications for presenting at FastTrac are apparently that you must first be a successful entrepreneur yourself. The combination of their anecdotal stories and the ability to ask them questions during class and chat with them afterwards is priceless. There’s also the benefit of being exposed to this material in the presence of fifteen other like-minded individuals who are there for the same reason you are. You get to see the questions they ask and hear about their business ideas and, as our teacher Ed Nusbaum says, "you can see the water in their fishtanks and it gives you insight into what’s in your own."

Last night we conducted an interesting exercise: At the first meeting I attended we had gone around the room and had to give our 20sec elevator pitch for our idea. When you’ve been working very close on something it’s extremely difficult to distance yourself enough to provide a concise, memorable soundbyte that summarizes the idea to an outsider. I floundered with mine a bit at the first meeting and rattled off something that was probably a bit to technical and convoluted of the guts of Grid7. Last night in a surprise twist we were told to point at a random person across the room and ensure that we were their only pointer. We then went around and had to summarize _that_ person’s business. It was interesting because it showed just how much (if anything) other people took from that person’s first pitch (mine was clearly very unremarkable as the guy who summarized mine thought I was a media production company). We then were asked to give our refined spiel. The exercise helped cement this notion that "your pitch is only as good as what other’s are able to retain and regurgitate." My partner Kimbro gave a bangup verson of the pitch and unfortunately neither one of us remember what he said. My second was much better than the first:

Grid7 is an incubator for startup ideas that takes advantage of the “unutilized work cycles” in the same way that grid computing exploits unutilized CPU cycles. It allows internet professionals to participate early in ventures and break out of the “renter’s dilemna” and instead receive compensation primarily in the form of equity.

On a completely unrelated note- I learned a major lesson yesterday on the ABC extranet project. It’s been a 5mo contract thus far to develop a massive extranet for them and simplify the process by which they house homeless mentally-ill people. My role in the project is to handle legacy integration and that means writing the code that interfaces with four legacy systems from their social workers, housing providers and federally-mandated HMIS system. We had built something which essentially automated the process of data entry and would connect to an AS400 to grab all housing applicants and sync them with our internal database. Unfortunately the 3rd-party company which we’re dealing with (they will remain nameless) announced yesterday that this initiative no longer met their "strategic priorities" and had therefore been suspended indefinitely. What a shame… a few hours worth of work on their part would mean a MASSIVE improvement to the process and eliminate the repeated volleys of faxes that is the current process. This unfortunate development severly undermines the system we’ve created. We still have some ideas on how to salvage the project but the lesson learned is this: "when doing a project for a client that will require participation from a 3rd party in order for it to work, you MUST get total commitment from that 3rd party first and make sure the right people on their team are convinced of the value of the project to THEIR organization." Anyways, we will persevere on the ABC project- it’s just a major setback and the timing is crappy as we just finished the XML integration of this piece. I suppose the upside is that exercises in oppressive beaurocracy like this one just fuel my passion for the Grid7 model that much more.

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One Response to “First impressions of FastTrac Tech”

  1. […] So I’m on chapter five now of my Fasttrac book digging into the section titled “Entering and Capturing the Market” and it’s talking about basically all the steps involved in sales- the process of identifying your market, analyzing the segments, how you market to each differently and how the sales funnel works and ultimately how you close deals. One thing it has not mentioned though is the role of humor in diffusing awkward moments. When I sold knives, I worked directly under this guy Don Gerould who happened to be the kingpin for the west coast (like zone division manager or something). He was a phenomenal sales person and one thing he did well was utilize this technique I call “over-reaching and retreating” to diffuse a potentially-awkward situation. So a typical scenario would go like this: Don – “Great, so I’m glad you chose to buy three of the Homemaker +8’s… there’s just one other thing I could use your help with…” Customer (incredulous at this point) – “ummm, yeaahhhhh…” Don – “Well as you know I work on referral. You obviously found value in the knives I showed you here today, if I could just get you to fill out my notebook with 100 names of your closest friends that would appreciate…” Customer – “100 Names!?! Are you crazy!!!” Don – “Awww, alright I’m just kidding. Ten will be fine.” Customer (scratching head) – “Oh is that all? Well, yeah, I suppose I could do that.” […]

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