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Archive for the ‘Workshop’ Category

9/1: Rebecca Lynn from Morgenthaler at SSE Labs

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Rebecca Lynn joined Morgenthaler‘s Menlo Park office in 2007, and she focuses on early-stage investments in mobile, health 2.0, Internet services and financial services. She serves on the boards of Lending Club and Practice Fusion, and she is second on the boards of Adara Media and Autonet.

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Rebecca’s past experience and her current board positions gave her a perfect background to talk to our teams about choosing and managing a board of directors successfully. Her workshop on this topic emphasized these key tips:

  • Keep boards small, from 3 to 5 members.
  • Choose board members extremely carefully, taking into consideration all of the following: time commitment, interest, expertise, network, and personality fit.
  • Avoid people who are investors but do not choose to invest in your company. These people can make great advisors but not official board members.
  • Set ground rules about what kind of decisions need board approval, and which board members deal with specific types of issues.
  • Form a unified vision for the short-term future (1 year) of the company, regarding hiring and expenses, product timelines, burn rate, etc.

Thanks so much to Rebecca and Morgenthaler for their involvement with SSE Labs. It was another really informative workshop, and the teams gained a lot.


Written by ahzietsman

September 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Posted in Workshop

8/11: Supreet Oberoi on Valuing Excellence

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Supreet Oberoi is currently Vice President Engineering at RTI, which provides infrastructure for real-time applications in many industries. Supreet has had experience not only at Agile Software, oneREV, and Oracle, but also at Trading Dynamics, of which he was a founding member. SSE Labs is also lucky to have him as one of our mentors in the program.

As a long-time technology executive, Supreet had a lot to offer our teams in the workshop he gave yesterday in our office on Valuing Excellence. Some key points he emphasized were:

  • Do not compromise any aspect of excellence in the interest of haste
  • Consider that excellent people join teams not for the explicit benefits but to work with other brilliant people
  • Have a plan for profit from day one

Thanks for your time, Supreet! Our teams learned a lot and we hope to see you in the office again soon.

Written by ahzietsman

August 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Mentorship, Workshop

7/28 Dave Hodson at SSE Labs on Open Iteration

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This week for our Wednesday workshop, Dave Hodson came in to talk about Open Iteration. Dave currently works at Microsoft and is a Principal on the Bing Team, working on domain-oriented search and large-scale data extraction. Previously, he co-founded MessageCast, iPrint, and has a strong technical background with experience in fund-raising, building infrastructure, and team-building.

Dave presented a lot of information on product development cycles/strategies and open iteration; a few of the key takeaways from the workshop are:

  • Read “Getting Real” by 37Signals and Dave McClure’s presentation on Startup Metrics (the pirate one)
  • The #1 most important thing is to have your vision, and execute.
  • Optimize your product development strategy for the best fit to your context. Pick something lightweight and figure out a way to automate the process of verifying the validity of a build.
  • Communicate with your customers, and set the expectations for them. You also need visibility for bug fixes and updates (for this, email and blogs work great)
  • One great strategy for controlling your release is using the concept of buckets/flights for your feature deployment. Deploy to a limited audience, some x% of users for a limited time. Remove the feature, and analyze the feedback to determine if you should release it to more users for further feedback, all users, or simply drop the feature.

His slides on Open Iteration can be found here:

Thanks again to Dave for coming in, we really appreciate your involvement as a mentor!

Written by ahzietsman

July 29, 2010 at 12:19 am

Posted in Mentorship, Workshop

7/21: Dan Olsen at SSE Labs on Product Management

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It was great to have Dan Olsen in the office today for our weekly workshop. Dan is currently CEO & founder at YourVersion, a “discovery engine” for finding content relevant to users’ interests in all different types of web media, such as Twitter, blogs, news, etc. He is a Stanford MBA with a strong technical background, broad general management skills, and deep expertise in product management and marketing. Within the consumer software and web industry, he has held senior management positions at established companies as well as executive roles at start-ups. Previously, he has had extensive experience in Product Management at Friendster and Quicken at Intuit.

Dan was able to provide a lot of useful information to our teams on the entire timeline of product development. The teams found his presentation extremely helpful, especially in areas such as user testing, considering their current stages and that many of them are developing consumer applications. Dan emphasized user testing, quick iterations, and clearly defining a value proposition. Some key takeaways are:

  • High Importance of User Need + Low Satisfaction with Current Alternatives = Opportunity.
  • Ruthlessly prioritize what features your team focuses on, based on its expected ROI.
  • Identify and track key metrics of your business. These will help you measure progress as well as aid in prioritizing which areas you need to focus on next.

Also, it was great to see Matt Bartus (one of our sponsors, and a Partner at Dorsey & Whitney) at Dan’s talk today.

Thanks to Dan for another great workshop at the SSE Labs office!

If you’re interested in Dan’s presentation, be sure to check out his slides at:

Written by ahzietsman

July 21, 2010 at 5:25 am

Posted in Mentorship, Workshop

7/15 Dinner with Adam Rodnitzky, Justin Kan

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For Thursday night’s double feature, Adam presented first on Marketing Strategy. A few highlights from his presentation include:

  • Focus on developing something based on what your customers tell you they want, not what you think they want; you can use simple tools (surveys and false features in your product UI) to measure response to potential features before prioritizing them on your product roadmap.
  • The cost of user acquisition is generally higher than the cost of user retention, so focus on keeping your users happy, and don’t be afraid to spend to retain them if they show evidence of being valuable.
  • Search engine marketing is a good, low cost market research tool; search activity reveals purchase intent, which is as about as close to the money as you can get when making a product decision.

Afterward, Justin shared his entrepreneurship story with Emmett and stepped through the experiences that taught him and his team good practices and principles to follow when developing a product or building a company. A few tips he gave us were:

  • There’s no secret to getting good PR coverage, but you can focus on doing something interesting that people naturally will talk about
  • Don’t build a company as something you want to sell; things don’t always go the way you plan, so make sure your business is sustainable
  • You need to focus as much as possible on your core product, which translates to: leverage existing tools. If a solution is supported and developed by entire companies, your chances of hacking together a better solution is slim to none.

Thanks to Adam and Justin both for visiting us at 401 Ellis St, and giving our startups great advice and feedback.

Adam Rodnitzky currently serves as Chief Marketing Officer for ReTel Technologies, a video analytics company he co-founded in 2007. Prior to co-founding ReTel, Adam co-founded two successful start-up companies, (acquiried in 2000 by CarParts Technologies) and TacitLogic. Adam also has extensive experience in senior marketing and creative strategy roles, having worked with national retailers such as Safeway Stores, Wal-Mart,, Hallmark and eBay.

Justin Kan is a founder and President of, the web’s leading live video site which lets anyone broadcast and watch live video with chat for free. He currently serves as’s Chief Product Officer, managing the product and technical teams, recruiting talent for the company, and evangelizing’s website and API.

Written by ahzietsman

July 19, 2010 at 4:57 pm