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Driving in San Jose vs Portland

Sorry I haven’t been able to post lately. I was hoping to get a backlog of posts ready, but my house sold in that period so I had to get everything packed up in Portland, then drive down to San Jose, unpack everything, and then get it put away.

Since I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately, I thought I might comment on the differences between driving in San Jose and Portland. In Portland, the freeways go over lots of hills, especially as you head in to downtown from the West Side. Because of this, you find yourself changing your speed a lot (if you drive stick, you change gears a lot, too). It makes driving a more conscious activity. In the Bay Area, the freeways are pretty flat. I found myself using cruise control for the first time in many years. Also, since the speed limit in the Bay Area tends to be 65 mph instead of the 50 mph in Portland, you don’t have to worry as much about speeding. Also, now that many of the freeways have been widened to at least 4 lanes (in the past 15 years that I’ve been away), traffic seems to flow pretty well.

What this all adds up to is a more reflective driving experience in the Bay Area. Once you have cruise control on, and you have your 2+ car lengths in front, and you have your 4 lanes of straight flat highway in front of you, there isn’t all that much to do but think (particularly if you turn off the radio).

Rino’s Freeway Thoughts

I find that I go through the same set of topics whenever I drive in the Bay Area. I often think about traffic as water flowing through a tube. I wonder if anyone’s tried to model this using the Navier-Stokes equations. I wonder if you can compute a Reynolds number for traffic and what turbulence means.

I’ll look at street signs and remember what I thought about them when I was growing up. I still don’t know if the Tennyson Rd exit was named after the poet or if the Jackson exit was named after the general. The exit for “A street downtown” still brings a chuckle.

After this, I start thinking about things I’m working on. I used to think about homework. Now, I think about how to build my company. Now that I’m starting to get settled in San Jose, I need to start putting some of those thoughts into action! I’ll keep you posted 🙂

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Sorry I haven’t posted for 2 weeks…

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was going to publish something by Sunday at midnight each week. I was on track up until we had to do our final push to get our house on the market this past week. It’s been over two solid weeks of packing, cleaning, and doing various home improvements. After 2+ years of sitting at a desk and writing software, it was quite a shock to my system—at least I’ve gotten stronger 🙂 In order to maintain my blogging regimen, I needed to have a 3 month supply of generic posts ready to go. I’ll try to get some of that in place this week.

My wife and kids have already moved down to San Jose. I’ll be up in Portland by myself until the house sells. We just had an Open House today, which, our realtor says, is mainly for neighbors to walk through your house so they can tell their friends/sons/daughters about a house in the neighborhood. I guess that’s what happened. We had 12 sets of neighbors come through. However, we also had 3 sets of potential buyers as well.

I miss my family. The house is too quiet. It feels like I’m in a cell sometimes…kind of like this:

On Metolius - small.png

Hopefully, we can get our house sold quickly (and at the right price). If you’re curious, you can see it on RMLS.

Hope to have a more interesting post next week!

Happy Father’s Day

Fauxther’s Day

I actually thought Father’s Day was last week. I called my Dad and wished him a Happy Father’s Day. Places seemed emptier than usual because (I mistakenly thought) all of the fathers must have been grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. I saw a man and his father having lunch and thought, “That’s a nice Father’s Day lunch”. Fortunately, I didn’t try getting a free Father’s Day Sundae from Burgerville (don’t worry—I got mine today :-)).

It’s funny how your assumptions color what you see. This is particularly true if you’re an entrepreneur. Because there’s so much risk and uncertainty in starting a company, you almost have to be an optimist to keep going. You have to be able to find the bright side and focus on that to get you through.

Entrepreneurial Father’s Day Movies

I checked out two movies to watch this weekend. One was “Speed Racer” on a recommendation by a commenter on my last post (I very much enjoyed the movie. Not sure why it was so badly reviewed). The other was “Night at the Museum” (I don’t remember why I checked this one out).

Oddly enough, both movies featured fathers who were entrepreneurs. I knew Pops Racer was an entrepreneur. However, I didn’t know Ben Stiller’s “Museum” character, Larry, was also an entrepreneur. As my wife and I watched “Night at the Museum”, the comical scenes involving Larry’s past attempts at starting a company and developing products hit a little too close to home 🙂

UPDATE

My family and I went to Beaterville for brunch the day after Father’s Day. By chance, there happened to be both a “Speed Racer” sign and an Easter Island figure (which was in “Night at the Museum”) right next to each other! What is the Universe saying to this “DUM DUM”? That I’m on the right track? 🙂

Here’s Speed and Son #2:

IMG_0391_2.jpg

And here’s the Easter Island figure right below:

IMG_0402.jpg

The Positioning Matrix: A Great Marketing Tool

A friend of ours, James McIntyre, is a B2B technical marketer and one of the stars at McClenahan Bruer Communications in Portland. A while back I asked his advice on what I should do in terms of marketing my product. The first thing he said was to put a positioning matrix together. I looked confused; he elaborated.

What is a Positioning Matrix?

A positioning matrix is a document that helps organize your thoughts on how to describe your product (or service) to a particular type of person in a particular market. Whenever you communicate to your market (via a website, e-mail, presentation, sales call, etc.), your positioning matrix can help ensure that your message is consistent and focused.

Parts of a Positioning Matrix

I don’t think there’s a standard form for this, but what we’re using has the following structure:

  • A column for each type of customer/user in your market
  • A Vision Statement row cutting across all users that summarizes the overall product message
  • For each type of customer/user, a positioning statement describing your product
  • Value Statements that answer “What’s in it for me?” for each type of person
  • Differentiators that answer “How is this different from other products?” for each type of person
  • Sound bites that should strike a chord for each type of person in your market
  • A 50 word statement describing the product/service
  • A 100 word statement describing the product/service

Using a Positioning Matrix

To give you a better idea of what a positioning matrix is and how to use it, I’ve posted my company’s matrix here: Lakeway’s Positioning Matrix.

One place where this has already proven valuable was in the redesign of my company’s website. It helped focus our message, especially as we developed the Flash movie on our homepage. If you’re curious, take a look at the movie, compare to our positioning matrix and feel free to let me know what you think.

Composing a Positioning Matrix

It takes a lot of thought, reflection and feedback to draft a meaningful positioning matrix. The company where James McIntyre works offers this as one of their services. If you’re starting out and have funding, I recommend you check them out.

If you’re bootstrapping (as I am), this may not be an option, so roll up your sleeves, block out some time, brew some tea, and start thinking about why your company exists, what it does for your customers, and how it’s different from everything else out there…and make sure you revise it after you start talking to your market!

Doing one thing at a time

So I was at Nice Rice to pick up a snack for me and my wife. I like going there because it’s nearby and the owner is there a lot — when the owner is cooking the food, you know it’s gonna be good. The owner was there this evening.

As I entered the restaurant, I passed another guy (who must have also been ordering something for himself and his wife). Approaching the counter, I saw the owner finishing up this guy’s order. I don’t know why, but I kind of expected him to stop chopping up the chicken, take my order, and then finish. He didn’t do that. He glanced up briefly and said that he would be with me in a moment, and then returned to what he was doing.

While I was waiting, I thought about what had just happened. The owner could’ve stopped what he was doing and taken my order (why not make sure he got another sale?), but he was in the middle of cooking a meal and was focused entirely on that. I have to say I respect that. Too often, you see people running around between a bunch of tasks, not doing any of them well. It’s far better to focus on one thing at a time and do excellent work.

The Korean beef (bulgogi) and broccoli I ordered was absolutely delicious.

How to get more sunny days in Portland

It’s sunnier in California

I grew up in the Bay Area. We had a lot of sunny days, the kind where if you played outside and then went back inside, you couldn’t see anything for a while. I think that’s too much sun. It’s not as bad as the Philippines where you can watch yourself darken and burn in real time, but sunny enough where you should go find some shade.

Summers in Portland are awesome. They easily beat California summers. I think the air is cleaner here. The sunlight is brighter, less hot, and more pure. If you ever drive up to Portland from California in the summertime, you can see this dramatically. Right at the Oregon border, the sky gets bluer, the light brighter, the air more clean. I kid you not.

Winters in Portland are another matter.

Forecast: Partly cloudy

It’s funny watching the 5-day forecast here in the winter. Typically, you’ll see a series of weather graphics for each day that (when they aren’t just solid rain) are all different but only in subtle ways. One looks partly cloudy, one mostly cloudy, one somewhat cloudy, one cloudy with some sun, one slight sun with clouds. When faced with months and months of this, it can get a little depressing.

You just need to look on the bright side

I believe I have found a way to get more sunny days in Portland. We just have to have to change our definition of what constitutes a sunny day. You may be thinking, “Oh, I know, he’ll say that if you see a shadow, then it’s a sunny day”. Nope. That definition is actually too weak. Even on a cloudy day, you can still see shadows (in fact if you can see anything at all, there must be light that you can block to make a shadow). Here’s a better definition, totally consistent with the usual notion:

It’s a sunny day if you can identify the position of the sun

That’s it. Pretty straightforward, yes? Here are some examples from the past week:

Saturday: Sunny

sunny.png

Sunday: Sunny

sunny-1.png

Monday: Sunny

sunny-2.png

Tuesday: Sunny

sunny-3.png

Wednesday: Sunny

sunny-4.png

Thursday: Not Sunny

not-sunny.png

Friday: Sunny or Not sunny?

Why don’t you give this one a try? (Answer after picture).

not-sunny2.png

If you guessed “sunny”, then I’m afraid you are incorrect. There is no sun in this picture.

See, by this definition, instead of no sunny days last week, we had 5! Not too bad for January… 🙂