Video: The Human Face of Big Data

In this Wall St. Journal video, Simon Constable talks with Rick Smolan, co-founder of the Human Face of Big Data Project, and Melissa Korn discusses why CEOs fret about Twitter.

The Human Face of Big Data is a globally crowdsourced media project focusing on humanity’s new ability to collect, analyze, triangulate and visualize vast amounts of data in real time.

Download the The Human Face of Big Data Smartphone App.

Slidecast: Adapteva Uses Kickstarter to Fund Parallella Project

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taAG9QNWLNo

In this slidecast, Adapteva Founder & CEO Andreas Olofsson describes the new Parallella project, an open-source development platform for low-power parallel computing. In an attempt to finance the project, the company is launching Parallella as a Kickstarter campaign so that the development platform can be offered for only $99 dollars.

Read the Full StoryDownload the MP3Download the slides (PDF)Subscribe on iTunes * If Dropbox is blocked, download from Google Drive.

Wil Schroter on the Beautiful Nirvana of Breakeven

In this special guest feature, serial entrepreneur Wil Schroter from Fundable writes that the coveted “breakeven” point for Startups is not the end game.

While industry pundits and investors love to talk about the growth, profits, and market dominance of startup companies, there’s a special place called “breakeven” that is a beautiful nirvana for all entrepreneurs.

Breakeven represents a place where entrepreneurs can finally take a short breath of relief and figure out where to take their businesses next. It’s a destination that very few companies reach, sometimes because they are reaching too far and sometimes because they don’t reach far enough.

Breakeven isn’t an end game, it’s a rest stop along the way. But the power of having options versus choices is immeasurable to a young business.

Think about it this way – a business losing even one dollar per day will eventually go out of business. But a business at completely breakeven will continue forever. Breakeven buys you valuable time to make key changes, evaluate decisions, and maintain a favorable equity structure. Anything less than breakeven removes just about all of these options!

Defining Breakeven

The very definition of “breakeven” varies greatly depending on who you ask. Some will say that if the business itself is paying for its costs of goods then it’s at breakeven. Investors will say that when the business has enough capital that it can pay its employees, marketing costs, and costs of goods, then it’s at breakeven. The entrepreneur, of course, likes to think that breakeven means he’s finally paying his own bills with the company’s money, not his personal savings!

Ultimately, they’re all right. Getting a company to breakeven is about finding the acceptable point at which you believe the business is fending for itself, although there are different important milestones along the way.

Cost Breakeven

If the business can’t get past the point where it can at least cover the costs of goods, you know it’s in serious trouble. I call this point “Cost Breakeven”. At its most basic level, the business should be charging more for the product than it costs to produce it, even if it’s not throwing off any cash to its contributors.

On the other hand, if the business is at least paying for itself while generating increasing value through satisfied customers, an improving reputation and more market share, it becomes a valuable asset even if it’s not a profitable one. The business is at Cost Breakeven.

Cost Breakeven is valuable if the entrepreneurs still have another way to generate personal income for themselves while continuing to nurture the business. Many “side businesses” are run this way, as the entrepreneur gives the business time to build itself into a larger franchise.

Operating Breakeven

When the business starts to generate enough extra cash to be able to start paying a few employees or infrastructure to help it grow, this is considered to be “Operating Breakeven”. Operating Breakeven is a strange place to be because it’s purgatory between success and failure for the entrepreneur personally.

On the success side, the business is growing and it can afford to start building its own infrastructure for growth, which is fantastic. We all love us some growth.

Unfortunately, all that newfangled infrastructure comes at a price – the entrepreneur’s time. At which point the company takes on employees and operating costs, it’s near impossible for the entrepreneur to treat the company as a moonlighting gig, which means his personal income suffers greatly.

There are lots of creative ways for the entrepreneur to get out of this situation, but the most common is for them to dig in and replace the people or resources he’s paying as part of the infrastructure, transferring their costs into his personal income. Other options like working a side job (consulting is often popular) are viable in the short term, but are very difficult to maintain long-term.

Entrepreneur Breakeven

If the entrepreneur is fortunate enough to make it to that magical place called “Entrepreneur Breakeven”, then they’re actually putting some of the company’s proceeds in their own pocket – enough to pay for basic expenses.

The beauty of Entrepreneur Breakeven is that you can actually think long-term about the options the business has. Without being at Entrepreneur Breakeven all kinds of horrible choices present themselves – leveraging home equity to pay your own bills, taking investor money at horrible valuations, or signing deals that pay next month’s expenses, but create a long term albatross for the business.

Even if the business never grows beyond the lifestyle stage for the entrepreneur, this point at least gives the entrepreneur an opportunity to make the decision to keep the business going on his own terms. It also allows the company to weather a longer-than-expected storm until market conditions can give the company a chance to grow again.

Destination Breakeven

In good times, and especially in bad times, the prospect of breakeven may not sound like the most exciting place you could ever take your business, but it’s a critical milestone to get to.

By concentrating on each of these breakeven milestones, you can begin to systematically grow the business in a way that doesn’t put negative pressure on you, the entrepreneur, which in turn destroys the value of the company.


Interview: Data Science is all about Asking the Right Questions

In a recent interview, Thomas Thurston from Growth Science International describes how Data Science is less about technology than it is about asking right questions in the first place.

The technology definitely matters, but what I’m saying is, the tactical mechanics are far less important than the question itself.  Mechanics should be an afterthought, not a gatekeeper.  It’s too easy to get rat-holed on the technology, but none of that matters unless you know what question you’re trying to answer in the first place.  What’s the strategic question?  It’s been my experience that finding the right question can be harder than finding the right mechanics to answer it. One of our guiding principles is to never do analytics for the sake of itself. Everything has to be in service of the bigger question.

Growth Science International will host the first annual Innovators Anonymous Workshop Oct. 10-11 in Portland, Oregon.

Cloud Powered? Enter the AWS Global Startup Challenge

Does your Startup use AWS? Amazon wants to hear from you!

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Global Start-Up Challenge is back. This contest, launched in 2007, is a way for promising start-ups to get noticed and compete for an opportunity to win some great rewards for your start-up. This year’s challenge offers prizes such as $100K in combined cash and credits for multiple winners, VC introductions, PR support, and more. If your start-up is built using AWS, we want you to apply!

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