Archive for September, 2013

What I Learned at Finovate New York

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

First, the disclaimer. Blue Pane Studio is the app developer for Finovate. My wife is the founder of BPS and its Art Director.

Conference moved from the Javits Center, the seeming black-hole of Wi-Fi, to an interesting venue on 34th Street, the Manhattan Center Studios. The Center comprises multiple levels with a large, ornate ballroom on the 7th floor even. Interesting combination of mobile, social, payment models amidst the panache of yesteryear. Also, noisy, distracting and charmingly chaotic as the orbits of 7 minute demos, 32 presenters booths and an audience engaged with other screens collided amplifying their sounds within the theatre. Somehow, at least to me, it all complemented the struggles and vicissitudes of start-up life.

From the vantage point of the higher seats, nearly all attendees seemed to be doing something on some sort of device, e.g PC or Air or iPhone or iPad, as the speakers peddled for their lives. I’m not sure if 50 is the new 40 and adults are behaving like our children. Last week my son texted a friend as I ‘admonished him for an indiscretion.’ Occurred to me that he performed this feat of casual dexterity as an unconscious task. Used to be that parents needed loud voices; more useful today would be a gesture or trick that disrupted the in-home Wi-Fi network. Maybe a clap and a wink. I’ll get started on designing this app.

Here’s what I learned at this Finovate. You cannot be heard if no one is listening. And hi-res screens with plenty of bandwidth (Internet access) are formidable competitors for mind-share. This means that 7 minutes can be a long time to be ignored if the speaker does not grab the audience’s attention immediately. Think ‘elevator pitch’ and ‘back of the business card.’

1. Just because you are the Founder or the CEO does not make you the most qualified to present. Seek Effectiveness.
2. If you believe #1, don’t over-compensate by hiring the voice-over dude or re-purpose Heather the Intern because they have vocal and visual appeal. For sure, Finovate is not the Machine Tool Show of yesteryear. Avoid gimmicks. Seek Genuineness.
3. Don’t cram a 10 minute demo into 7 minutes; don’t expand a 4 minute demo into 7 minutes. The purpose of the demo is to have 5 actual prospects, as you define prospect, meet with you shortly after for a thorough conversation.
4. When introduced by name and company, do not immediately repeat your name and company. Such encourages a peek at Twitter. Ditto for warm-up jokes. This is not Toastmasters. A story relevant to the venue that includes the audience and deprecates the speaker could work. Defer to The Grabber.
5. Ensure that the graphics are crisp, the demo interface looks modern and all information delivered in digestible chunks. Avoid, “look over in the bottom right corner of the screen.”
6. Make clear planned next steps such as ‘we seek market partners or we’re preparing for our next round of financing or we’re expanding and are looking for iOS developers.’
7. Be clear about the business problem you solve; demo simply how you solve it; describe the unique features of your solution; indicate what you intend to do next; invite follow-up discussion. Be fun; have fun.

Finovate New York: happily provided by Blue Pane Studio

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

finovate nyc

2 apps for the Duke Center for Clinical Research: DIHI & DCRI. Delivered by Blue Pane Studio

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013


Summit will be held on September 9, 2013 at the Trent Semans Learning Center on Duke University campus. Registration info:

App is here:

dcri 2

Conference will be held on September 25 at the Durham Hilton Hotel. Related info.

iPad app is here:

To lead, one must be trusted.

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

In four months, I’ll formally retire from an employer of fifteen years. Working from a home-based office over this entire period flavors this separation differently than one may anticipate as I’m not going to have a shorter commute or be relieved of the daily water-cooler gossip.

Over these four months, I’ll think about what I’ve seen and comment on what I’ve learned since I began as Project Engineer with Bath Iron Works in 1981.

As has been obvious throughout my blog, I think about leadership a lot. Effective leadership unlocks the potential of individual and organization potential; ineffective leadership constrains individual initiative and smothers dynamic organizational growth. When it’s good, we all have a chance; when it’s bad, it’s crushing.

In 1989, we bought the automation division of Lord Corporation based in Cary, North Carolina. I was a Sales Engineer (I know. We’ll do anything not to use the phrase Salesman) with responsibility for the co-marketing partnership with Bando Chemical in Osaka, Japan. Lord wanted out of the business of robots, young kids in a warmer climate with their desks of Macintosh computers. Bando Chemical feared upsetting their key client at Mazda with this unplanned announcement so they lent 5 of us the money to buy the business from Lord. Note to self: 5 equal partners is 4 too many.

We moved from the plush environs of a new office park to converted mini-storage space in Garner, North Carolina. We made payroll and profits every month beginning in month one. Doing so required scaling back from 40 people to 10 and from 20,000 square feet to 4,000. We assembled and sold sensing systems for assembly robotics. Great idea and about 5 years behind one market rise and 25 years ahead of the next one.

The team of 10 celebrated its flag-planting with an all-hands hamburger lunch and a VHS tape of Lou Holz, formerly of NC State and Notre Dame and now a commentator on ESPN, describing successful management. The Age of the Internet diffuses the impact of his words then as we now have thousands of such keys or citations available. Please know that then these words meant a lot to young adults wondering if they could and how could they salvage a business that a huge and well funded organization decided to unload. This is all pre-Interent when just because you were older probably meant that you knew something that no one else did.

Holz suggested that the answers to the following 3 questions reveal employee loyalty to an organization:

1. Can I Trust You?

2. Do You Care About Me?

3. Will You Be There When I Need You?

As I recall, he suggested that one can get by if the employee answers two of the three with a Yes. Doom to the outfit where the employee answers only one of three with a Yes.

How an enterprise of small or large scale demonstrates Trust, Care and Reliability may and does and should vary. Neutral or Not Sure answers to these 3 questions do not inspire exceptional performance.

So what happened to me and this buy-out? Went well for two years even with a salesman as the general manager of a technology team. I recall that we all worked well together so long as our survival was at stake. As we grew to surpass the one million dollar annual revenue mark with a decent stream of reliable contracts including General Motors, we began to act like our elders with lots of meetings and opinions about the management of the business.

I knew I was doomed as the GM when the partners met for two hours one day to decided if the office manager should have one or two megs of RAM in her desktop computer. RAM was expensive in 1990 when compared to 2013 prices. In this case, it became a drama of seniority, standards and purchasing authority. I was bought-out two months later.