Tag: chris_parcel

Thanks for an AMAZING Summer

My Dad and I often joke that I couldn’t have designed a better internship for myself this summer. Our conversation normally goes something like this…

Dad: I still can’t believe the internship you landed this summer. You spend 4 days a week doing Biz Dev work at a hot tech start-up, you would have been happy just doing that right?
Me: Yeah
Dad: Then on Thursdays, the VC’s funding the company you work for, bring you up to S.F. where they provide lunch and bring in CEO’s from their portfolio companies to speak to you. They bring you to conferences, give you all sorts of free stuff, and you said you really like all of the other interns right?
Me: Uhm yeah basically
Dad: If you could have any internship in the world, do you think you could have designed one better than this?
Me: Hmm, no way
Dad: Yeah huh, some program!

And he is 100% right. I really can’t imagine a better way to have spent my summer this year. Having a job with interesting work is important, and at my age, one with good industry exposure is arguably even more important. True Ventures’ TEC program does an amazing job delivering both interesting work and industry exposure, but these aren’t even the best parts of the program. The TEC program gives you a first hand look at the thoughts and people who are changing the world. It gives you in depth exposure to the passions, quirks, and dreams that fuel entrepreneurs. Being part of this program has been one of the most inspirational experiences of my life, and has already changed the way I observe and analyze opportunity.

Special thanks to Christiaan, Shea, Phil, and Bob Perreault (my boss at TextDigger), You guys made this summer one I will never forget.

Thank you True Ventures!
Chris

Week #5 at TextDigger

Wow, only one week left. But that doesn’t mean the workload has lessened!

My final project for TextDigger is to compile a comprehensive list of all the SEO/SEM firms in the world. No easy feat, since I am estimating the number to be around 4000. But this last task is especially important as one of TextDigger’s main products, a software package that leverages our state-of-the-art Natural Language Processor, is designed specifically for SEO/SEM consultants. This software package, which analyzes web pages and makes semantic suggestions for improving web page rankings in search results, is fairly difficult to manueveur and too complicated for most end-users. However, it is perfect for the SEO/SEM audience, who can utilize the program to take out much of the guesswork in their daily work.

When I first began to familiarize myself with the product a few weeks ago, I remember wondering why TextDigger didn’t directly market this product to website owners. Sure, the program wasn’t intuitive, but my guess was that most people who owned a website would be able to use the product effectively.

“Bob,” I asked, during one of our impromptu conversations, “Why don’t we just spend more time making the UI more intuitive, and sell directly to website owners? Then we can cut out the middlemen (SEO consultants).”

Bob’s answer made a lot of sense – that there are essentially no effective channels for marketing such a product to website owners – and reminded me that sometimes it is most effective to focus on what you do best. A lot of times, I find myself brainstorming about all the ways that a business can expand vertically as well as horizontally in order to garner as much market share as possible. However, in the case of TextDigger, their ROI is much greater producing 2/3 of the solution and selling to the SEO consultants, who provide the last third of the solution. Furthermore, if we expanded our target client base, we would be directly competing with SEO consulting firms instead of partnering with them to achieve, more or less, the same result.

This past Thursday, the TEC interns heard from Tim Young of SocialCast. Tim interwined his story of how he bootstrapped SocialCast with continual reflections about his personal life. His presentation, which contained some great photos of his childhood and even recent family vacations, underlined the importance of balancing one’s professional goals with a meaningful private life. Many of Tim’s values and beliefs seemed to contrast those of other entrepreneurs we had heard from in the previous weeks. For one, Tim thought multi-tasking was B.S. I’m neither here nor there on multi-tasking, but I can easily imagine that the super dynamic, super broad, we’re making the “killer app” type approach that many entrepreneurs seem to praise, can easily cause more harm than help. It is great to be able to see success on both ends of the spectrum.

We also heard from Paul Walborsky of GigaOm and Puneet Agarwal, the executive-in-residence at True Ventures. Paul’s presentation was also incredibly engaging as he talked about the economics behind modern-day business plans. He explained how to take advantage of the demand curve for your services by creating strong relationships with your users, and then leveraging that relationship to upsell products and services related to your market niche. His models were accompanied with real statistics of GigaOm’s revenue, which were indeed very compelling. The ties that he drew between economics and business were inspiring to me, an entrepreneur that is majoring in economics at UCLA, as they really validated the usefulness of much of what I am studying. Puneet’s discussion on the future of cloud computing was similarly interesting. Hearing him reason through all of the different developments in various areas of cloud computing answered a lot of questions that I had formerly found myself contemplating in my head, usually ending up more confused than when I started.

Can’t believe this thing is almost over,

Chris

Week #4 at TextDigger

I came into the office on Monday morning at around 8:20 am. By 8:24, I found myself yielding to gravity in the surprisingly challenging battle of keeping my head off the keyboard. I had spent the weekend enjoying the vibrant night life of San Francisco with my fellow TEC interns, and to say the least, they know how to party… By 8:28 I was on my second cup of coffee, only a couple of unread emails to go!

My main task this week was to familiarize myself with SES, a touring Search Engine Strategy trade show that stops every 2-3 months in cities such as New York, London, Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Jose. The next SES is this August in San Jose, only a couple of blocks from the TextDigger office. Since SES is such an important opportunity for TextDigger to establish its presence as a player in the semantic web industry, I felt a little added pressure while browsing the official publications of SES London, and SES New York. As I perused the publications, the pace at which I jotted down the names of mentioned SEO/SEM firms slowed, as my attention began to shift from the ads to the articles. These articles were packed with all sorts of strategies, insights, and predictions from the most notable people of the semantic web. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was how the articles discussed the convergence of developing and applying technology. It is interesting to see how ecosystems of startups form around technological developments. While the articles only discussed topics related to the semantic web, I’m sure that many of the themes and business models mentioned are also applicable to numerous other industries.

This week, True Ventures provided an unlimited supply of sushi (my favorite food…period) for our Thursday afternoon gathering in their Palo Alto office. The first speaker was Danny Shader of Kwedit, who talked about his experiences as an executive at many landmark Silicon Valley companies, as well as his experiences getting small companies off the ground. His incredible story of determination despite numerous setbacks could easily be a movie. What I liked most about Danny was his focus on people, a re-ocurring theme throughout the TEC program thus far. He emphasized four characteristics in people that he thought were essential for success: integrity, intelligence, willingness to work hard, and character. Intelligence and willingness to work hard, of course. Integrity, yeah that makes sense; but character? Your life might be better if you have a funny boss, but is having character really that essential to being successful? Clearly, I had not given the idea much thought. But Danny explained that first, having a developed character really elucidates your interests and stimulates your passions. Being thoughtful in both choosing and executing your work, so that it fits you and your goals, is really a prerequisite for success on any level. Second, Silicon Valley is a small place, and having a character that people both know and respect, can do wonders in developing a career.

The second speaker was John Burke, Partner of True Ventures. John’s presentation focused on having the guts to go about doing your own thing. John started his own business at the age of 24, bootstrapping it into a multi-million dollar enterprise before he sold it in 1997. Hearing John’s story etched a phrase in the back of my head, “just do it”.

Overall this was probably the best week yet. I became even more engaged with my work at TextDigger, and am starting to really feel the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley. I am more sure than ever that someday I will start my own business.

Until next week,

Chris

Week #3 at TextDigger

When I think about all of the projects and tasks that I have been involved with during my first three weeks at TextDigger, I still have a pretty clear recollection of what I was doing each day – and so far, so good! But it’s difficult to believe that this program is already halfway over. I’ve been working hard, but there is still so much I want to accomplish. I may have unrealistic expectations as to the impact that I can make in just six weeks, but who knows, right? I’ll hold onto them for the moment.

I now feel fully integrated into the workplace at TextDigger. I have a much better idea as to where we stand amongst the other semantic web start-ups, as well as a much deeper understanding of the theories and initiatives that we are implementing to achieve our goals. This macro view enables me to be a lot more passionate in my daily work, as it draws a very tangible tie between the work I am doing and the impact I am making. Being able to see this tie is a great source of inspiration.

This week we started utilizing the data structures I spent the first two weeks creating. My first project this week was to create an email marketing campaign that targeted a group of people we had met at a recent trade show. In a somewhat seamless process (thanks to my work setting up Sugar), I was able to create the campaign using mail merge features in Outlook, Word, and SugarCRM. We have already received some replies that look like promising opportunities, and hopefully more will come in as the week progresses.

(Important Lesson: When preparing marketing materials in Word for an email campaign, make sure any images you have in the document are not in the header! If so, they will not show up in the sent email. Good thing we sent out a test email before the real thing.)

Thursday was another amazing get-together at True Ventures. We heard from True’s own Phil Black, as well as Brad Garlinghouse of the PE firm Silverlake, and Om Malik of GigaOm. Let me share my two favorite takeaways. Brad, who embodied a refreshing approach to his career, was extremely intelligent as well as very knowledgeable about several different industries; but what impressed me most was how well he knew himself. He walked us through several different situations he encountered throughout his career that required him to make difficult decisions, all the while illustrating the processes he used to arrive at his decisions. He has such a firm grasp on his heart, mind, and gut, and was able to clearly demonstrate how he employed each of them in making decisions.

Brad’s talk was followed by Om, who focused his thoughts on the future of media. I won’t divulge the specifics of Om’s presentation here as they may not be suitable for public viewing, but the amount of expertise that Om has acquired over the years is simply mind-blowing. While I am not at the point of my career where I am looking to develop an expertise (no Phd programs for me, thanks), Om’s joy and complete comfort in discussing the future of media got me thinking about what I may eventually want to be an expert in.

The best part of these talks is that, more or less, they evolve into discussions between the speaker and the interns, which gives us an opportunity to really delve into the minds of these highly accomplished people. Surprisingly enough, the speakers are always interested in learning about us as well!

First half done,

Chris

Week 2

I spent most of my second week at TextDigger implementing the finishing touches on our CRM database. At the moment, our database remains fairly simple as the data is still very manageable. However, in the coming months, we are expecting the information processes surrounding customer relations to quickly escalate to an unmanageable level. I am confident that my database will be able to scale to meet our needs. When I first began working on this project, my focus was keeping the data as lean and accessible as possible. My goal here was to make using the database as simple and intuitive as possible for the end user. However, I failed to initially realize that there would be many different end users who would use the database for many different purposes. While my original design may have been ideal for sales reps who need to use the data, it didn’t shed much light on the life of our interactions with a customer. This design would thus make it difficult to follow the causal effects that our sales processes have on lead to customer conversion, leaving executives who want to run reports on our business processes in the dark. To fix this, we decided to keep more historical records in the database as well as created relations between data objects that would illustrate a time line of activity.

The biggest snafu that I ran into was connecting Outlook to our CRM database. After diagnosing the problem, I found a solution that I thought would be a quick fix. Turns out, the solution I proposed could potentially compromise our network. My proposed solution became the start of a long thread on Bugzilla where people from both engineering, biz diz, product dev, and even the CEO, all chimed in to share their views and concerns in adopting various solutions. It has continually been exciting to see teamwork and project coordinaton manifest in different ways around the workplace. By the end of this internship, I expect I will know a lot more about the concerns, preferences, and approaches that different positions in a business assume.

On Thursday, all of the interns went up to the True Ventures office where Jasper Malcolmson of Bloomspot and Hiten Shah of KISSmetrics spoke to us about the process of coming up with a business idea, as well as how to judge ideas for viability. While Jasper and Hiten were obviously very smart and tuned into the tech world, neither of them seemed to credit their intelligence or knowledge as the central factor to their success. Instead, they broke down their accomplishments into what seemed like a series of steps that anyone could undertake. What they did credit though, was their drive, and ability to execute. I was most impressed with the amount of diligence that each of them casually devoted to learning information about a market. Both Jasper and Hiten really helped elucidate the foundations on which a business is built, as well as how these foundations are applicable to different types of businesses.

Looking forward to next week,

Chris

Blast Off…

Greetings! Welcome to my blog, where I will be detailing my adventures with TextDigger and True Ventures as a participant of the TEC program for the next six weeks.

First, a little about me. I’m a rising junior at UCLA, where I study Economics and Cognitive Science. Ever since high school, I’ve been interested in everything related to business, especially entrepreneurship. When my brain wanders, which is often, I always end up brainstorming new product ideas. So far, I have focused on creating and further developing iStudyToGo, a software product that enables students to study on their iPods. Hopefully, iStudyToGo will be the first of many businesses I start. I am also a devout disciple of Michael Scott… Just kidding, but I love The Office.

On my first day at TextDigger, a groundbreaking start up that utilizes semantics to profile, search, and organize websites, I sat down with Bob Perreault, the VP of Business Development, to discuss the projects that I would be working on this summer. To my surprise, Bob was far more interested in what I wanted to get out of the internship than how I could be of service to TextDigger. Encouraged by this opportunity, I spent the first two days of the internship reading up on all of TextDigger’s products and practices as well as the larger semantic web industry. My research was informative and gave me lots of answers, but created even more questions – questions that Bob was never too busy to answer. Oftentimes we would go off on a tangent during these conversations, discussing entrepreneurship, venture capital, or foreign affairs in business. Its just great to converse with someone who has had such a fulfilling and successful career, who I not only have the opportunity to meet, but to engage with on a daily basis. Although I haven’t had a chance to work closely with the rest of the team at TextDigger yet, I’m lucky to share an office with a group of people whose passion and drive in realizing the semantic web is palpable in daily work. TextDigger is certainly a paper-pusher free workplace.

On Thursday, True Ventures took all of the interns to GigaOm’s Structure 2009. The event was a conference on cloud computing, an emerging industry focused on providing scalable hosting solutions for websites and internet applications. I can’t say cloud computing really applies to my life at the moment, but the conference held my attention all day. The most interesting part of the conference was the energy and vigor of all the attendants and panelists. As an undergraduate still quite uncertain of the future, it was refreshing and inspiring to engage with people who so blatantly loved going to work each day. Many of the people I met and heard speak have dedicated their lives to making our world a better place through the invention and installation of technology; and for the first time, I was able to really see what it meant to them.

The only thing that was possibly more awesome about Thursday was the extended period of time I got to spend with the other interns. I can honestly say that I find each of them to be incredibly interesting and thoughtful people. We all had so much to talk about without even trying.

My work in the latter half of the week at TextDigger consisted mainly of preparing our CRM software, SugarCRM. Last summer, I spent a fair amount of time tidying up my employer’s Salesforce database, so I was already fairly familiar with CRM software. SugarCRM is the leading open source solution for CRM software, and in my opinion, is a very useful and well designed tool. Watch out Salesforce! Instead of cleaning up the data in Sugar, I spent most of my time thinking about how to design the flow of information and business management, from lead acquisition to product fulfillment. Designing a specific implementation of CRM software is a great way to get hands-on experience in understanding the work flows and key data points of a business. As always, Bob was there to bounce ideas off of, and was able to share tremendous insight on some of my questions without simply giving me the answer.

Until next week,

Chris