Innovation by Inspiration and Reflection

April 11th, 2020
Technology Innovation by Natural Inspiration

It has been a long time since I have posted. Current state of the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has created needs to be inspirational, innovative and driven on day to day basis.

As businesses look for ways to be solutions in order to survive or driven innovation to come out on the other end stronger than before, creativity is more important than ever. While finding sources of inspiration can be vary, nature is still one of the best ways for me. No, I am not an avid hiker or a camper by any means but nature’s beauty is still inspirational.

The Northern lights are a blend of nature and science that magical views that have always amazed me so I sought inspiration from them as the demand to innovate reaches new levels.

Technology Innovation by Natural Inspiration and Reflection

I use reflection to create by base for innovation. I thought I would put my reflections down here. Twenty years after the dot-com bubble burst, it made me think how business and the world norms adjusted to some of the major events we have experienced such as dot com bubble bursting, 9/11 and 2008 financial crisis.

The “Dot Com Bubble Bursting” led to a change in investing/funding for businesses. Investing on innovation or speculation alone in fear of missing the next big home run was turned on its head. The new norm meant that securing any level of funding required functional business models with a path to profitability. A business also needed to present a North Star that showed diversification and scale to acquire funds.

9/11 led to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and impacted the world in the form of security and risk. The new norm here was scrutiny on immigration, physical security (not just at airports) and surveillance.

The “Financial Crisis of 2008” established Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This created a new norm of oversight/governance, risk management, and higher standards when it comes to banking and lending.

So now we face the next big event of our lifetimes, the Covid-19 Pandemic. This will absolutely bring another set of new norms in the healthcare and potentially other areas such as immunology but only time will tell what these will be but as leaders we are focusing on innovations to get ahead of this. I using nature as my inspiration to drive my creativity and innovation.

I wish everyone to be safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.

Listen, Look & Show – Tells you what? Alexa is the one to rule your Smart Life!

May 9th, 2017

First, listen through Echo and interact with Alexa

Amazon Echo

Unless you are disconnected from Technology or Digital Media, everyone is aware of Amazon Alexa and how it has proliferated into homes via the highly successful Amazon Echo (price drop alert) device.

Echo is a premium speaker (relatively speaking) that delivers an above average audio experience at a great price point considering what you get in return.  What do you get… Alexa, Amazon’s Voice-driven Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.  Alexa has provided a lot of utility via convenient access such as News updates, weather updates, etc and also provided entertainment with integration with Amazon Music.  Alexa has become a Voice interaction ecosystem that is growing unbounded with the custom Alexa Skills that everyone is building.  Yes – I said, everyone, as I built my first Alexa Voice Skill over a weekend this past holidays and it was fairly painless (announcement coming soon).  I won’t get into details on Echo and Alexa beyond this as there is enough that you can google and learn.

Next, get stylish with Amazon Echo Look
Echo Look

Recently, Amazon announced Amazon Echo Look.   I consider myself stylish enough but definitely not a trendsetter.  If anyone had doubts about how serious Amazon is about Fashion and AI and leveraging its vast data bank- well don’t have those anymore 🙂

No, the concept of Fashion and AI is not new or groundbreaking but the Echo Look device is a huge step to making it a reality by being accessible to the consumers.  That is something that Amazon has shown it can do via the Echo product line.

Beyond Fashion, just think of the possibilities of having Alexa AI and a camera device at your fingertips from a technology perspective.

Imagine Echo Look taking a visual inventory of your pantry and telling you what you need while you are at the grocery store.

Now, get visual with Amazon Echo Show
Echo Show

Now, Amazon announced Amazon Echo Show.  Literally, in one fell swoop, Amazon has addressed all gaps the original Echo had.  With a touchscreen component, the opportunities are endless beyond the dazzling initial capabilities being marketed which are lyrics, baby monitor integration, CNN news, Uber & OpenTable just to name a few.  Companies and developers must be foaming at the mouth on how to take advantage and build new or enhance existing Alexa skills on this device.


Imagine, wanting to book a flight or a hotel with Alexa and getting the visual results back and selecting what you want to book.


Imagine asking about your traffic commute and visually seeing the Waze map showing your congestion areas.

Continue to imagine….


One Platform to Rule Them All or your just your Smart Life

What does this all mean in the end?!?  Who knows but I would venture a simple thought – Alexa is the one platform that brings (*cough* rule) all your Smart Home devices together and Amazon has the market on the initial 3 devices you want to have to start this journey.  One would think that as Alexa proliferates to non-Amazon devices, it will be the platform to rule our Smart Life not just Home.

Agile Rebooted Perspective

January 21st, 2017

I was rebooted this week and that inspired me to write a new blog post in a long time.  I have been itching to write about tech and ideas that I have been learning since joining my latest job (checked my LI profile to see that) but nothing had motivated me enough just yet.   My co-workers were also subliminally influencing me on being more active due to their highly active blogging/social media behavior.  My current job has presented great opportunities that have really rekindled a passion for tech for me and I always did love working.

This week things changed.  I went through a training that I was not keen on.  So here goes my first post in a long time… (bear with me)

This week I went through Agile training conducted by none other than Ken Rubin and to be very honest I was skeptical going into it.  “Why you ask?”  Well, I consider myself be an Agile expert.  I have been executing agile in various ways (as it evolved) for over 10 years and have executed multiple successful agile transformations/transitions.  I have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.  I recently presented on Leading Agile Transformation at AgileCamp in Newark, NJ.  Yes – I am the only one without a profile pic (doh!).  I had the privilege of sitting at an executive roundtable on Agile where I got my first exposure to Ken’s Agile views.  We had very similar views.

After attending 3 days of grueling training on Agile that was conducted at the highest level by Ken, I walked away learning a few key things.  We learned the basics and I found myself realizing that this was valuable not from an education perspective for me but from a reboot perspective.

Reboot?  Yes, the same reboot that resets/restarts a computer or as we now know affectionally with almost every darn super-hero movie – it is stripping a concept down to its core and rebuilding it back up.  I prefer the latter to describe my experience this past week.

I started to realize that I was allowing my past experiences, which have built up my Agile knowledge and prowess, to create an implicitly biased view of Agile for me.  I took a few notes but primarily kept focusing on “rebooting/resetting” my mind.  My key takeaways:

(Yes I did not give full details above as I wouldn’t be able to do it justice the way Ken did)

I walked away with an appreciation that I needed this reboot to ensure I apply Agile properly.  Not with a bias but taking the framework and rebooting it for the current needs while definitely borrowing from the past.  I need to start from the foundation (“the base framework”) not from the biased version of it from my career so far and then add my applicable experiences or “lego blocks” if you will appropriately.  Eliminating the bias was important – REBOOTED!  Excited to apply this going forward.

What did learn new? I did learn about SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) at a detail level (only had known about it at a cursory level) and how in truly agile fashion, companies have taken the base framework as just a guideline.  Companies have adapted and customized it to their needs.  The Lego Case Study (as pointed out by Ken) is a great example of this.

I not only highly recommend Ken as an Agile trainer but recommend getting his book – Essential Scrum.

Is this a promotion piece on Ken Rubin?  No – it is an honestly written post on what I walked away with and how Ken was able to reboot someone who has been doing agile for 10+ years.  I appreciated it.

Microsoft’s “To the Cloud” Commercials clouding consumer’s view of “The Cloud”

January 16th, 2011


People in IT are familiar with cloud computing.  While some may argue the exact definition of the term itself, I think we can agree on one thing- Microsoft is confusing people with its commercials on “the cloud”

I have seen three Microsoft commercials regarding this topic:


The product Microsoft is touting here is Windows Live Mesh.  While this product does offer file synchronization and other cloud based functionality, the feature shown here is remote desktop access.  Remote Desktop access to a windows PC has been around for a very long time and has absolutely nothing to do with cloud computing.  Casually talking to a non-IT person about this commercial also revealed that it gives consumers the impression that they can accomplish this anywhere without mentioning the need that you need a decent internet connection.  I did notice an “Internet required” message at the very end of the commercial in an almost blended manner that you can easily miss it.

Family Photo

The product touted here is Photo Fuse from Windows Live Photo Gallery.  This feature has nothing to do with cloud computing and I don’t see much of anything here that could not be done by most photo editing software.  Posting on facebook does not use the cloud either and even though you can use Microsoft’s cloud based online storage SkyDrive, that is not what is brought to light here.





This commercial touts Windows Live Movie Maker that is included in Windows Live Essentials 2011.  This product allows one to edit a movie and post it online.  Again, this has nothing to do with cloud computing and there are plenty of video editing programs out there that provide the same functionality.



The product touted in this commercial is Office 365, Azzure and Hyper V Server.  This is the only product in the series that does fully utilize and leverage cloud computing.  With Google Apps, Zoho, Amazon EC2, being around for quite some time now, there is absolutely nothing new here.

In the end, my gripe with Microsoft is that they are using “cloud computing” as a marketing buzzword and misleading consumers about this concept and technology.  My message to Microsoft is simple, don’t mislead and find a different buzz word to show the consumer that you are catching up with other products on the market.

Startup built from Equity – Think twice.

March 5th, 2010


Over the past year I have come across several startups that tried to outsource or have a small team build their product without proper requirements and either did not get a finished product or got something completely different.  Now cash strapped, they wanted to build the product as cheap as possible.  Cheap meaning mostly if not completely based on equity.

I try to help startups as much as possible.  One particular example, I was able to line 3-4 developers that were willing to give some of their time for equity and I even started working on high level requirements for equity.  The problem arose that since no one was being paid (myself included) progress was very slow.  There was a lot of wasted time between finally getting requirements done (the concept was still being flushed out and refined) and getting the developers engaged since no one was full time.  The developers, while intrigued by the idea, were not fully bought in due to the fact that this was not paying them so they worked on it in their ‘free’ time.  Eventually the developers got disengaged and the startup had just bits and pieces of their concept.  I tried to get some outsourcing companies to do the work but they wanted at least their costs covered.  While understandably reasonable request, still not within budget.  In the end, the startup was still at square one and precious time lost but in the end they took a chance on trying to get things done for free and it didn’t work out.

I admit I was naive to believe that part time work from non founding unpaid developers working for just equity would be something that could deliver a project.  Simply put I got too caught up in the concept and trying to help but I should have been a bit more practical and I should have listened to the logical side of me that told me otherwise.  I should have pressed for the startup to raise funding to build the prototype.  In my opinion, the valuation they would have gotten with just a prototype and no traction would have been comparable to a PowerPoint valuation. 

I firmly believe unless a startup has is building a product full time by either the founding team or a paid team (in house or outsourced), it is very hard to get their concept/product realized.  I don’t intend for people to overpay to get things built but as the old adage goes- “nothing comes free”.

One compromise at a time from proof of concept to prototype to production

February 11th, 2010

I constantly run across entrepreneurs that have some good and some great ideas.  These concepts are vetted at a high level or have full detail specs. The entrepreneur has an in house or outsourced team building or ready to build the product.  They are looking at a high cost and lengthy implementation time line to build out their full product.

Whether the startup is bootstrapped or seed funded the founder(s) must do something that most are unwilling to do – Compromise!  Why?  Simply put, they need to take it one step at a time but each step requires compromises.  These compromises should reduce over time but the key to remember is that there are two primary drivers for these compromises:

  • Time to Market (TTM)
  • Cost

The above two factors should dictate the compromises made to build the the three main phases of the product:

  • Proof Of Concept (PoC)
  • Prototype
  • Production

Proof of Concept

This phase should focus on the core concept with many compromises and its goal is to prove that you can build the technology that delivers your idea.  In my opinion, look and feel of the user interface should not be a focus but if it applies- design should.  This phase should cost the least amount and should have the quickest turnaround.  Again the goal is to prove you can build it.  This is a true ‘”alpha” version of your product.


This phase should focus on extending the PoC so you can gauge traction of your idea.  Your focus should be User Experience Design (UED) and implementing some of the higher priority compromises made in the PoC phase to prove viability of the idea.  This will cost more than the PoC phase but TTM should remain aggressive.  You may also call this your “beta” version of your product.


This phase focuses on growth and metrics.  The prototype should be taken to the next level where you implement the remaining high priority compromises made and bring the User Interface (UI) to a close to finished look.  This is where some more compromises have to be made as you have to apply the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) on past compromised functionality/features otherwise you will TTM for Live to Site (LTS) will be astronomical.  This phase will be your longest as far as TTM and your costliest but at this point you should have vetted out enough of the product to feel confident you can fully take it to market.

Pareto Principle

I believe this principle should be a mantra for startups for not just initial product phases but also projects post production version LTS.  I recall working on projects where the “nice to have” portions or the UI took up most of the implementation time line.  Applying the Pareto Principle and making compromises would have reduced the TTM for those projects to assess their value.  I am a firm believer that you build the base feature set that can prove viability by garnering meaningful traction by your customers.  If the base set show Return on Investment (ROI) or meaningful traction then you have the ability to phase in your remaining compromises.  In my opinion, for startups even projects should at least go through a prototype phase before they reach full production phase.

Social Networking replacing Business Email – Hold that thought…

February 8th, 2010

This weekend I read the article Report: Facebook and Twitter Slowly Replacing Email’ posted on Social Times.  The article refers to a Garner article Gartner Reveals Five Social Software Predictions for 2010 and Beyond that claims:

By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of business users.

This prediction would be easier to accept if it wasn’t quantified as business email.  While I have seen a percentage of personal interaction start to channel through Facebook Messages and Twitter Direct Messages.  So far, I have received three business related messages through Facebook and not a single one of this emails were followed up through Facebook.  Once contact was established, we pursued the discussions through normal email communication.  For me, the most business related messages come through Linked In but even then, anything that is beyond a couple back and forths, is moved to traditional email communication.  I don’t see this trend changing over the next four years and would be hard pressed to see it change that much.

Reasons for my belief above are simple:

  1. Data retention – With my email account I control data retention with regards to how long I want to keep both received and sent emails.
  2. Attachments – Attachments are very much a big part of business communication.
  3. Threaded Conversations involving some or all participants – I can respond to all and keep a thread of communication but I also have the ability to create mini-threads with a select group of participants for related but not meant for full audience subjects.
  4. Frequency of Synchronization – I can get email alerts using Email Clients/Checkers and Mobile Device Applications.
  5. Privacy – I don’t have to share my personal information with everyone that I send emails to.
  6. Offline Access – Need I say more?
  7. Intangibles – Labels in GMail, Advanced Search options, Storing hundreds of emails, and Calendar to mention a few.

While the above are not insurmountable they are certainly challenges to the Social Networking platforms.  I believe #1, #2 and #5 will be the top contenders to keep Social Networking platforms away from stealing that 20% that Gartner predicts they will.

Job sites using Innovation but fight issues

May 28th, 2009

Launching a new job site in this economy could be deemed as not profitable.  Two new job sites aren’t looking for profit (as of yet) but using innovation and technology. and Hash#Jobs are two such sites.  These are experimental job sites that leverage data aggregation of certain tags on Twitter.  They will battle spam and “freshness” as stated by this Cheezhead article.  The user experience in such cases will be the battle these two sites have to win though Hash#Jobs seems to have more of an uphill battle due to the use of a more general tag.  Even though Hash#Jobs users are pre-approved, it doesn’t guarantee “freshness” but it may reduce spam. shares the same battle.


I use the word “freshness” in relations to a job posting to define how up to date the job information is and active the job poster is too.  This is a term that Dayak defined over a year ago to make the lives of its recruiters easier.  We would send email notifications to a job poster when a job has not had any “activity” for a pre-defined duration.  If a job goes through the reminder process with no new activity or no action from the job poster to confirm that the job is still active, Dayak closes the job posting.  This keeps jobs “fresh”.  The project was fondly called “Bad Job Filter”.  As time evolved, the project has gone through fine tuning but still remains a key part of ensuring job “freshness”, though we do throttle it now and again.


Combining this “freshness” concept with the aggregation concepts above, could provide to be powerful, but would have challenges on its own.  I hope ideas such as these do well and new ones keep popping up.  Its Re-“Freshing” to come across such concepts.

Microsoft BizSpark

November 19th, 2008

Wow, so less than a week after my last post commented on how Google Apps was a good alternative for startups such as Dayak, Microsoft announces a new initiative called BizSpark.

BizSpark is an innovative new program that unites Startups with entrepreneurial and technology resources in a global community with a common goal of supporting and accelerating the success of a new generation of high-potential Startups.

This certainly mixes things up for startups but I don’t believe this changes much for a SMB. For a startup you know have access to Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Development and Server software for 3 years for a mere $100 up front fee. If you have someone that can administer the various products, it would be hard pressed for a startup to not try to qualify for this offering –

Does this make me think about moving Dayak to Microsoft products and trying to qualify Dayak? No, the minimal administration needs and no hardware benefit of Google Apps is still a compelling reason for Dayak to remain with our current setup. Could we make a switch later? Sure, anything is possible but a big unknown is how difficult it is to get approved.

Outside of the internal use of Microsoft’s offering, there is a more compelling reason to use Microsoft for development and production environment. By deferring the cost of Microsoft Server products, this initiative offers a startup enough runway to validate their business model without incurring the heavy upfront cost of software licensing. This may prove useful to many startups.

A peak inside Dayak’s use of Google Apps

October 29th, 2008

Who doesn’t know about Google Apps? Steve Ballmer recently dismissed Google Apps. I do agree with him to a certain degree that Google Apps can’t fight Microsoft alone BUT the combination of OpenOffice and Google Apps must have Steve Ballmer sweating.

Its hard to deny that Google Apps and OpenOffice isn’t a compelling option. Steve Ballmer’s response shows a bit of arrogance that Microsoft could perhaps have afforded 10 years ago but not anymore. At Dayak we have people that use Microsoft Office and some that use OpenOffice. Why don’t we have it standardized? The reasons range from Operating Systems (Mac, Linux and Windows), costs and comfort level of the user them self. We are ok with that due to what Google Apps provides.

Where Google Apps comes into play is the ability to share, collaborate and view files without installing converters. So not only does it save us money on Microsoft licenses and Microsoft Sharepoint but also on administration costs of the same.

We also get 7GB email accounts and calendaring that don’t require us to have an Admin for an in house Microsoft Exchange or equivalent system. Our employees get a great web interface or the comfort of using Outlook Express or Outlook or Thunderbird. I know there are great options like Zimbra or Spicebird but those do incur administration costs. For Dayak we have no in house server for any of this and Google Apps takes care of all of our needs including Email backup for a nominal per user fee. We used to run our own email server using Postfix but the features we get bundled with Google Apps and with no Administration overhead, I couldn’t be happier.

Got Intranet? Yes, we do with Google Sites. Another benefit of Google apps that allows us to have an wiki style intranet with no cost of a in house hardware or administration.

So Dayak like probably many startups are following a recent trend. A trend that will save us a lot of money in the long run. Just notch us up as a Google Apps fan and avid user. I hope Steve Ballmer opens his eyes to what is really going on and acknowledge that this compelling option of Google Apps and OpenOffice is something Microsoft will have to compete with.

So… Do you “Google Apps”?

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