Posts Tagged 'Plan'

March 26, 2013

Should My Startup Join an Accelerator/Incubator Program?

As part of my role at SoftLayer, I have the opportunity and privilege to mentor numerous entrepreneurs and startup teams when they partner with us through our Catalyst program. One question I hear often is, "Should I join an accelerator?" My answer: "That all depends." Let's look at the five lessons entrepreneurs should learn before they decide to join a startup accelerator or incubator program.

Lesson 1: The founders must be committed to the success of their venture.
Joining an accelerator or incubator comes with some strings attached — startups give up between 6 to 10 percent of their equity in exchange for some cash and structured program that usually lasts around three months. Obviously, this kind of commitment should not be taken lightly.

Too often, startups join accelerator programs before they are ready or mature enough as a team. Sometimes, a company's idea isn't fully baked, so they end up spending as much time "creating" their business as they do "accelerating" it. As a result, that company isn't able to leverage an accelerator's resources efficiently throughout the entire program ... The founders need to establish a vision for the business, begin laying the groundwork for the company's products and services, and be 100% committed to the accelerator program before joining. If you can't say with confidence that your startup meets all three of those requirements, don't do it. Take care of those three points and proceed to the next lesson.

Lesson 2: Be prepared to leverage what you are given.
Many startups join accelerator and incubator programs with unrealistic expectations. Participation in these programs — even the most exclusive and well-known ones — by no means guarantees that you'll raise additional money or have a successful exit. These programs provide startups with office space, free cloud services, and access to mentors, investors, recruiters and media ... Those outstanding services provide participating startups with a distinct competitive advantage, but they don't serve up success on a silver platter. If you aren't ready work tirelessly to leverage the benefits of a startup program, don't bother.

Lesson 3: Take advice and criticism well; mentors are trying to help.
"Mentorship" is very tough to qualify, and criticism is difficult to take ... Especially if you're 100% committed to your business and you don't want to be told that you've done something wrong. Mentors in these startup programs have "been there and done that," and they wouldn't be in a mentorship position if they weren't looking out for your best interest and the ultimate success of your company.

Look programs that take mentorship seriously and can provide a broad range of expertise from strategy to marketing and business development to software architecture to building and scaling IT infrastructure. Then be intentional about listening to the people around you.

Lesson 4: Do your research and make an informed decision.
With the proliferation of startups globally, we're also seeing an evolution in the accelerator ecosystem. There are a number accelerators being positioned to help support founders with ideas on a global, regional and local basis, but it's important to evaluate a program's vision with its execution of that vision. Not all startup programs are created equal, and some might not offer the right set of resources and opportunities for your team. When you're giving up equity in your company, you should have complete confidence that the accelerator or incubator you join will deliver on its side of the deal.

Lesson 5: Leverage the network and community you will meet.
When you've done your homework, applied and been accepted to the perfect startup program, meet everyone you can and learn from them. One of the most tangible benefits of joining an accelerator is the way you can fast track a business idea while boosting network contacts. Much in the way someone chooses a prestigious college or joins a fraternity, some of the most valuable resources you'll come across in these programs are the people you meet. In this way, accelerators and incubators are becoming a proxy for undergrad and graduate school ... The appeal for promising entrepreneurs is simple: Why wait to make a dent in the universe? Today, more people are going to college and fewer are landing well-paying jobs after graduation, so some of the world's best and brightest are turning to these communities and foregoing the more structured "higher education" process.

Even if your startup is plugging along smoothly, a startup accelerator or incubator program might be worth a look. Venture capitalists often trust programs like TechStars and 500 Startups to filter or vet early stage companies. If your business has the stamp of approval from one of these organizations, it's decidedly less risky than a business idea pitched by a random entrepreneur.

If you understand each of these lessons and you take advantage of the resources and opportunities provided by startup accelerators and incubators, the sky is the limit for your business. Now get to work.

Class dismissed.

-@gkdog

January 3, 2012

Hosting Resolutions for the New Year

It's a new year, and though only real change between on January 1 is the last digit in the year, that change presents a blank canvas for the year. In the past, I haven't really made New Year's resolutions, but because some old Mayan calendar says this is my last chance, I thought I'd take advantage of it. In reality, being inspired to do anything that promotes positive change is great, so in the spirit of New Year's improvements, I thought I'd take a look at what hosting customers might want to make resolutions to do in 2012.

What in your work/hosting life would you like to change? It's easy to ignore or look past small goals and improvements we can make on a daily basis, so let's take advantage of the "clean slate" 2012 provides us to be intentional about making life easier. A few small changes can mean the difference between a great day in the office or a frantic overnight coffee binge (which we all know is so great for your health). Because these changes are relatively insignificant, you might not recognize anything in particular that needs to change right off the bat. You might want to answer a daunting question like, "What should you do to improve your work flow or reduce work related stress?" Luckily, any large goals like that can be broken down into smaller pieces that are much easier to manage.

Enough with the theoretical ... let's talk practical. In 2012, your hosting-related New Year's resolutions should revolve around innovation, conservation, security and redundancy.

Innovation

When it comes to hosting, a customer's experience and satisfaction is the most important focus of a successful business. There's an old cliche that says, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten," and that's absolutely correct when it comes to building your business in the new year. What can you change or automate to make your business better? Are you intentionally "thinking outside the box?"

Conservation

The idea of "conservation" and "green hosting" has been written off as a marketing gimmick in the world of hosting, but there's something to be said for looking at your utilization from that perspective. We could talk about the environmental impact of hosting, and finding a host that is intentional about finding greener ways to do business, but if you're renting a server, you might feel a little disconnected from that process. When you're looking at your infrastructure in the New Year, determine whether your infrastructure is being used efficiently by your workload. Are there tools you can take advantage of to track your infrastructure's performance? Are you able to make changes quickly if/when you find inefficiencies?

Security

Another huge IT-related resolution you should make would be around security. Keeping your system tight and locked up can get forgotten when you're pushing development changes or optimizing your networking, so the beginning of the year is a great time to address any possible flaws in your security. Try to start with simple changes in your normal security practices ... Make sure your operating systems and software packages are regularly patched. Keep a strict password policy that requires regular password updates. Run system log checks regularly. Reevaluate your system firewall or ACL lists.

All of these safety nets may be set up, but they may not be functioning at their best. Even precautions as simple as locking your client or workstation when not in use can help stop attacks from local risks and prying eyes ... And this practice is very important if you keep system backups on the same workstations that you use. Imagine if someone local to your workstation or client was able to retrieve your backup file and restore it ... Your security measures would effectively be completely nullified.

Redundancy

Speaking of backups, when was your most recent backup? When is your next backup? How long would it take you to restore your site and/or data if your current server(s) were to disappear from the face of the Earth? These questions are easy to shrug off when you don't need to answer them, but by the time you do need to answer them, it's already too late. Create a backup and disaster recovery plan. Today. And automate it so you won't have the ability to forget to execute on it.

Make your objectives clear, and set calendar reminders throughout the year to confirm that you're executing on your goals. If some of these tasks are very daunting or difficult to implement in your current setup, don't get discouraged ... Set small goals and chip away at the bigger objective. Progress over time will speak for itself. Doing nothing won't get you anywhere

Happy New Year!

-Jonathan

July 1, 2011

PHIL's DC: Fine-Tuning the Idea

When Lance opened the floor for SoftLayer employees to present their ideas for "innovative" approaches to the Internet, I put together a pretty ambitious proposal. As it turns out, the idea wasn't as fully baked as I may have wanted it to be, but I came to the decision to change gears a little and take a different approach.

Completely unrelated to that personal decision to adjust the direction of the project, I had a nice little chat with Lance on the phone. We decided that the world was underready for a revolution and that a more traditional nontraditional approach was in order:

The Internet needs data centers to hold all of your pictures. SoftLayer does a great job at being a data center, but I feel like there's still an opportunity for a revolution in data center design. I have a few ideas about how the world of web hosting can be completely redefined, and with the unique resources Lance has put at my disposal, I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to create a stellar hosting platform with an unbeatable discount price structure. PHIL's DC is the future of web hosting.

- PHIL

November 16, 2009

How Many Recovery Plans Do We Need?

Several of our bloggers have written about backups in The InnerLayer. This morning, I had an experience that makes me wonder how many recovery plans we need.

I walked out of the house to the driveway and saw that my left rear tire was flat. An enormous nail had punctured my tire right in the middle of the tread, and the slow leak deflated the tire overnight. To recover from this disaster, I needed to get my vehicle drivable and get to the Discount Tire location near my house so that they could fix the flat. Below is a log of how the recovery plans worked out.

Recovery Plan #1: Call roadside assistance. While waiting on them to change my tire, logon from home and get some work done before going to Discount Tire. I have leased four different brands of vehicles over the past 10 years, and roadside assistance was always included with the lease. So I call the 800 number and they tell me I don’t have roadside assistance. (Note to self: read the fine print on the next lease.) Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #2: Inflate tire with can of Fix-a-Flat. I retrieved the can from my garage, followed the instructions, and when I depressed the button to fill the tire, the can was defective and the contents spewed from the top of the can rather than filling the tire. Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #3: Use foot operated bicycle pump to inflate tire and drive to Discount Tire. I have actually done this successfully before with slow leaks like this one. It is third in priority because it is harder and more tiring than the first two options. So I go to my garage and look at where the pump is stored. It isn’t there. I scour the garage to find it. It is gone. Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #4: Change out of office clothes into junky clothes, drag out the jack and spare and change the tire myself. This is number four in priority because it is the biggest hassle. I will spare you all the slapstick comedy of a finance guy jacking up a vehicle and changing the tire (finding the special key for the locking lug nuts was an interesting sub-plot to the whole story), so I’ll summarize and say RESULT: Success!

As a side note, I must give props to Discount Tire. Having bought tires there before, I was in their database as a customer and they fixed the flat and installed it on my vehicle for no charge. I recommend them!

All this got me to thinking about not only having backups, but having redundant recovery plans. Sure, you’ve got a recent copy of all your data – that’s great! Now, what’s your plan for restoring that data? If you have an experience like my flat tire recovery this morning, it might be a good idea to think through several ways to recover and restore the data. Our EVault offering will certainly be one good strategy.

May 26, 2009

Be Prepared

The biggest headache in owning an IT company is security. Its also one of those things especially for a smaller company you don’t think you need till something happens. This always reminds me of when I was in boy scouts. “Be Prepared”.

IT security is a big business, but there are a lot of things we can do to prepare ourselves so we don’t have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Everyone in the IT world has to spend money on this one way or another. It could be spending your own time to secure your services, or paying someone to do it for you. If you don’t do either one of these, you’re going to end up losing money when you do get attacked or hacked.

The key is to be proactive, and not reactive. If you are always running after something its harder to catch than if your in front of it ready for it to come. So what we need is a plan, or maybe two. One plan is needed to set up security, and a second should be used to keep an eye on what is going on so things don’t get out of hand.

Some may know where to start when it comes to securing your server. You are in luck. I am going to go over the simple and most important steps to securing your server.

HOST ACCESS

This is the most important step to security. You don’t want people to be able to gain access to your system. There are some very simple steps to doing this.

1. Remote Console

The first thing you should do when setting up your server is to restrict the remote access to your server.

1 = Change the access port ( you can change the access port of both sshd and remote desktop)

2 = Use a secure password (SoftLayer has tools in the portal just to help you make a secure password)

3 = Only allow connections to remote access from trusted networks (this can be done by a firewall solution)

SoftLayer provides one solution that makes this really easy: our Internal Network and VPN. You can just setup your software to allow connections from 10.0.0.0/8 network and you are now protected!

2. Firewalls

This is a must have, and the good thing is that software firewalls are FREE. Both Windows and Linux O/S come with firewalls. Now we just have to set it up. Setting up firewalls can sometimes be hard, but most people don’t need anything fancy. Accept for the services you use, and deny everything else. Also remember if you do want remote access available via your public IPs, your really should restrict those ports via a firewall to make sure only your networks can access it.

AUDITING

This is next most important step to be proactive. The great thing is yet again SoftLayer provides you with the tools for FREE!

1. IDS (Intrusion Detection System)

This technology works by looking at all the little packets coming in and decides if it is bad traffic or good traffic. The hardware and software of this can be very hard to setup, and or very expensive. But you don’t have to worry about this. SoftLayer has farms of IDS hardware there for you, FOR FREE!

2. Scanning

1 = Virus

You will always want to make sure your data is clean and the best way to do that is a weekly virus scanning on your machine. The great thing is we also provide you with the software to do this FREE!

2 = Network

One of the best ways to looks for security problems is to have someone run a network scan on your system. These tools let you find all the holes that you may need to patch up so that your system is secure. Yet again SoftLayer provides you this tool for FREE!

So there you have it a short list of things to do, that will help you keep your data safe and out of the hands of hackers. Security is very important to you as an owner, and for your customers. Just remember if you are proactive, you can cut out a lot of the headaches later on. The other thing to keep in mind when doing this stuff for the first time is to document your steps. Now that you did all the leg work once, now you have a check list on how to do it every time you business expands and you order a new server.

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