New River LeanCoffee Starting up

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

So I am starting a LeanCoffee group in the New River Valley. We’ll probably meet in one of the Panera Bread location…Blacksburg or Christiansburg.

Contact me if you want to join and be part of it.

Allan

 

Lean Coffee started in Seattle in 2009. Jim Benson and Jeremy Lightsmith wanted to start a group that would discuss Lean techniques in knowledge work – but didn’t want to start a whole new cumbersome organization with steering committees, speakers, and such. They wanted a group that did not rely on anything other than people showing up and wanting to learn or create.

Now, Seattle Lean Coffee happens every week, is very popular, and requires only that someone who has been there before shows up – and even then it’s just so they know where we stash the post-it notes.

HOW DOES LEAN COFFEE WORK?
The format for a Lean Coffee is very simple. This is intentional. It is meant to be the least structure necessary for a coherent and productive meeting. No more, no less.

1. Set up a Personal Kanban

Create a Ready | Doing | Done -> The simplest Personal Kanban

In this Personal Kanban we have the items to discuss, what we are currently discussing, and the discussed columns.

This provides a structure for the conversation. Next we populate it

2. What to Discuss

People all get pads of post-it notes and a pen. They then start to add their topics for conversation into the “to discuss” column. These can be literally whatever people want to discuss or follow a theme. Right now, we want to encourage as many unique ideas as we can.

When the ideas start reach a certain point (an you’ll be the best judge of when that is), each topic gets a 1 to 2 sentence introduction. This way people know what to vote for.

3. Vote and Talk

Each participant gets two votes. You can vote twice for the same thing or for two different topics. Simple put a dot on the sticky you are interested in. Tally the dots. Then you are ready to have a conversation.

The power here is that you now have a list of topics everyone at the table is interested in and is motivated to discuss for real.

For more info, go to leancoffee.com

A sixty second pitch, an ad-hoc team of 5, twenty four hours, and a runer up prize for a web-app!

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

On April the 12th, my friend and partner mentioned there was a 24 hour Code-a-thon in Blacksburg and that I should go check it out. At first I was wasn’t sure but figured it would be cool to see what problems the healthcare industry was struggling with.

The event drew over 75 physicians, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, students and enthusiasts that wanted to change the world and improve healthcare – all during an intense 24 hours of hacking, developing, innovating and creating…and a lot of pizza. The event culminated in a judging session by Aneesh Copra (previous White House CTO), Matt Holt of Healthcare 2.0 and a representative from CIT (Center for innovative technologies). The top team was awarded $2,500 cash. The next five teams will each receive $500 cash.

I had originally wanted to just listen to the presentations by the Healthcare industry and then head over to my kids soccer games. When Bob Summers called me out to share my idea, I literally formulated the idea between my seat and the podium. I did not expect anyone to join my team.

Before I realized, 4 other developers joined my team. The idea, LivingOrgans, aimed to solve the kidney donor deficit, reduce the cost of patients on dialysis, and increase the number of people receiving kidneys from live donors. My inspiration came from friends who have struggled with kidney problems and the inefficiencies of kidney matching.

At 5pm the next day, we had the chance to present the idea and app we developed. Utilizing a unique algorithm that matched pairs of donor/recipients and created pairs of these nodes and closes the loop so everyone within that loop gets a kidney.

The team was made up of John Kurlick, David Lehn, Jason Riddle, Virquan harold and I. Despite the hiccup we had at the start of the presentation, we came back strong by showing off what we accomplished and answered the questions the panel had.

Although I did not sleep for over 40 hours, getting a runner up prize and knowing we were able to start solving a complex problem was definitely worth it.

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Creativity, Persistence, Unshakable Optimism, and a Nine Year Old Entrepreneur

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Lessons one can learn from this video:
1. Be positive
2. Be creative
3. Innovative
4. Have fun
5. Use what you have
6. Spend time with family
7. Wait for Mr. Luck to show up…and take advantage of social media

This put such a big smile on my face it’s unbelievable. I would hire this guy in a heartbeat!

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Cognitive dissonance in business – "Killer Idea" or "Idea Killer"?

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

Cognitive Dissonance is a term used to describe that feeling of discomfort when you have conflicting beliefs.

Examples of cognitive dissonance:  when you wants to start a business.

a. You give up your day job and commit to your idea wholeheartedly. Why? Maybe you believe in the opportunity and you are willing to accept the delayed reward (equity and/or freedom). Once you make that decision, you will continue to justify that decision and accept the discomfort/challenges of a start-up. The “break-through” is just around the corner…You select certain facts and data to rationalize that decision. The truth is, you have no idea whether it will succeed or not. There are just too many variables. More business fail than succeed and new ones are started each day.

b. On the other hand, you may decide not to leave your job to start that business. Your decision to keep the status quo might be perceived as a “safe” one. Once that decision is made, you will start justifying it as well. In fact each time you get a paycheck, that decision is reinforced. You see statistics that show well over half of start-ups fail in the first year. The reality is, that may or may not be the case for you. Companies do go out of business, they have salary cuts, lay-offs, mergers/acquisitions, and have positions replaced (by younger employees/outsourced/off-shored) etc.

We’ve all met that guy who never started any business but boy, does he have a ton of ideas…many that have become successfully launched by other companies <insert the eye roll here>.

In order to resolve that conflict, you need to make a decision. That will largely eliminated that discomfort and you can start justifying the decision with data, experiences, and circumstances. The key is what will gets your emotions to that “tipping point”. It might be experience, know-how, money, or overcoming certain fears. You can either find ways to remove those obstacles or you can use those obstacles to justify your decision or lack thereof.

So, DECIDE already! (insert smiley here). There’s an Aesop fable about “Sour Grapes”…to help avoid/deal with cognitive dissonance. So if you have that killer idea but never had the guts to take the leap, you can tell yourself most companies (about 94%) never make it past 10 years. Or you can take that dreaded leap and find out who can help you develop a plan, work the plan, be flexible, persistent, work hard, stay positive, and take the chance…of succeeding.

*Some resources.

ps: The book really didn’t have anything to do with business, startups etc. It is about the decisions we make (emotionally) and our justification…and as someone who enjoys working with start-ups and have had a few start-ups of my one, it was an interesting topic.

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How does an idea get adopted by the masses?

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

The book “The Tipping Point” talks about ideas and products spreading like viruses in an epidemic. Malcom Gladwell talks about the “connector” and the “Maven”.

The Maven are those that know extensively about a certain subject matter. In consulting, they are called subject matter experts (SME, not to be confused with “small-medium enterprises”).  They are the go to guy if you need to know about a certain subject. The connector on the other hand are those that are looked on as hubs…they make friends quickly and know a lot of people.  These two types of people can help make an idea “sticky”…eventually getting to that tipping point.

Well, when I read that book a few years ago, I found that fascinating and started looking around for things that initially may be just an idea (good or bad) and then evolve to the point where they become adopted by the masses.

So…when and how did words like “Worchester” in Massachusetts gets pronounced like “Wooster”. That really threw me off when I was on the train passing through that town.

Recently I had a conversation with Jim Flowers of VT KnowledgeWorks. and we spoke about the pronunciation of a town in Southwest Virginia called “Buchanan”. I have always pronounced it “Bue-kanan” (like the president) but the locals at Buchanan corrected me can says it is “Buck-Kanan”.  Now there is also a town in West Virginia not too far away pronounced that way and spelled “Buckhannon”. Could there be a relationship there?

How about this one…Featheringstonehaugh? Jim says it is pronounced “FannShaw”!

The question is when did they get pronounced that way? Who started it? How many people did it take to accept the new way of pronunciation?

So think about this for your ideas and business. Are there influencers and mavens in your industry you need to connect with to create stickiness?

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Blinkmatchapp.com makes the TOP 5 at the EXPAND Business Contest

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

It all started with 178 companies on September 6th…

On September 13th, Blinkmatchapp.com got selected as one of Top 20 to go to the next round.

and the close up of that trophy…

 

On October 5th, we presented to five esteemed panelist at the PBS Station who then asked questions for 10 minutes to help decide who advances to the final round.

 

(Pam practicing for her 60 second opening in the waiting room…and did a fantastic job)

On October 11th, Blinkmatch was announced as one of the Top 5 Finalist:

  1. BlinkMatchApp.com
  2. Skill-Capped.com
  3. Engagn.com
  4. The Mommy Doctors Bakery
  5. Nature’s Nectar

What was funny was while we were being announced as the Top 5 at the Expand, we were announced as the top 22 at the Distilled Intelligence 1.0 contest. It was way too exciting for 1 day.

This is the Trophy we got. Pam Tsang had to go accept this for the team.

On October 27th, blinkmatchapp.com went to Super Synergy to present to an audience of about 200 alongside the other Top 5. Lynette Mutter, my supportive mentor,  gave a flattering introduction and off we went. We gave it the very best shot but lost to Skilled-Capped.com and Nature’s Nectar.

These two contest helped up solidify our business concept and crystallized our ideas. We barely did our soft-launch 1 month prior to these contest so it was great validation…

Now back to work and develop more features for our app.

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Blinkmatchapp accepted into the Distilled Intelligence 1.0 Contest

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment


On October 11th, blinkmatchapp.com was accepted among other 55 other start-ups to present to an audience of over 100 including VC’s and investors.

We had the opportunity to do a 60 second pitch and was selected as one of the top 22 companies to go to the next round. All the companies there were innovative and had dynamic teams.

Distilled Intelligence 1.0 – First Rounds (we are at 0:08:20 into it)

Blinkmatchapp.com went first on both rounds (alphabetical) and was nerve wracking to say the least.  I gave it my best shot but the journey for this competition ended at blinkmatchapp.com being on the top 22.

I would honestly say we should have made the top 11 but I blew it. On the day of presentation, the slide deck I practiced to for over a week and brought with me could not be accepted. I had to present to a set of old data points and slides I thought was just a place-holder. That said, the Top 5 were great companies and they all deserved to be there. I seriously doubted we would have made that round.

The incredible thing was the learning experience presenting to a group of panel experts and VC’s, meeting other companies and making some great connections. We have since been in doalog with a couple of the companies there with possibilities of some collaborations.

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