Three years ago, I joined Opengear as CTO, with a mission of setting strategies for company growth. For me, it was like jumping into a time machine and having a second take in the market space I helped to create 20 years earlier with Cyclades. Over this period, Opengear multiplied investments in product and technology, doubled revenues and profits, captured new opportunities, and projected a vision that turned a cash-cow business into a vibrant growth story and reality. Today, we are announcing Opengear will become part of Digi International, in a cash transaction of $140M + $15M, expressing the value of work by founders and contributors over the last 15 years. This marks the end of a cycle and sets a path forward as part of a larger publicly-traded company. Digi and my career have been intertwined for the past 30 years. I have seen Digi as an aspirational reference, collaborator, partner, customer, and competitor over the last three decades. Once the transaction closes, I hope to contribute to the company efforts to deliver solutions, project vision and capture market value in the industrial IoT and Network Management markets. I am grateful for the opportunity and outcome at Opengear, and remain curious on what the future will bring.
I believe in random encounters. I believe in free exchanges. But, because of professional context, a lot of people ask me to “grab a coffee”. I just cannot do it with everyone who asks.
Meeting someone takes work and time. I prepare to meet people and follow-up on meetings.
Your request is not random, you want my time for something of your interest. So, before I give you a couple of hours of my time, spend a fraction of that to tell me what your interest is about and how I can participate or help.
If you are trying to sell me something (a product, a service, a project, an idea)… Make sure I am a good potential buyer. Write a compelling summary of what that is.
If you are seeking my opinion or advice… I like to and often share my thoughts and experiences with others. Make sure you know the questions you want me to answer and read what I have already written on the subject. When you contact me, provide enough context for me to judge whether or not I can help.
If you want a favor… Why should I help? Am I contributing to a better world? Am I somehow unique in the ability to help? Why me?
If you are an entrepreneur and want to meet me, but doesn’t have any specific request, then meet me at one of the events involving the entrepreneurship community in the SF Bay Area.
If you just want access to my network of relationships because someone told you I am well-connected… I am not. And relationships are inherited through relationships, you cannot access mine without being part of the network. Build your own relationships, one person at a time.
This week is the time of the year when we in the US take a break from our busy lives to express Gratitude. I have plenty to be thankful for this year.
Gratitude is a positive emotion we feel in acknowledgment of a benefit we have received. Saying “Thank You” is the way to express that emotion which is the basis of life in community. It recognizes that we depend on one another to live, to be ourselves.
We get used to say “Thank You” as a matter of social protocol. This is the time to bring its meaning back to consciousness.
In my native Portuguese, we say “Obrigado“, which is not my favorite expression because it equals gratitude with indebtedness. Literally, it says “I owe you something”.
In my travels around the world I have always taken interest not only on the local word to express gratitude, but also on its literal meaning and the social attitude behind it.
My favorite form of “Thank You” is the one used in Malaysia. “Terima Kasih” sounds very friendly and it literally translates to “Receive Love”.
I am no historian or linguist, but I theorize that words equating gratitude and indebtedness have roots in a period in history where gratitude was used as social currency between levels of hierarchy, where favors were exchanged for political loyalty. Words that equals gratitude with love reflect a more equal exchange between peers.
As we evolve towards a world where stronger relationships are people-to-people rather than people-to-organization, gratitude has to be more like love and less like indebtedness.
With that in mind, I would like to say Thank You for reading, agreeing or disagreeing, providing feedback and teaching me through interaction this year.
In 2015-2016, I joined Graava, a startup project designing a consumer camera.
On Aug 5th, 2015 we run what was arguably the most successful (from a media exposure perspective) marketing launch for a crowdfunding HW project to date. We were hoping for significant coverage, but what we got surpassed all expectations. Graava was featured in every major mainstream and technology media outlet, including TechCrunch, Wired, Forbes, The New York Times. We were also on broadcast TV a few times. A partial (but impressive) list of links to coverage is below.
So, why did the Graava project eventually fail? (of course, this is just my personal analysis).
Graava was ahead of a wave and identified and proposed a solution for a real problem: automate the edition of video footage using data and AI. GoPro, Google, Apple among other have later introduced similar capabilities in their platforms. We selected to launch a hardware product because of the appeal of a physical device.
Graava was part of a broader market experiment with using crowdfunding to validate the demand for a hardware consumer product, and then using that validation to raise venture capital to produce and deliver the product. That model has failed.
Graava raised a couple million dollars in seed money from angel investors and built a camera (I have pre-production units), but failed to raise the additional funding necessary to bring the product to market. It returned all the funds from the crowdfunding campaign to the users, switched to focus in software and launched an IOS/Android App in 2016 that delivered the same functionality using smartphones. The App was featured in the Apple store, but failed to gain the traction needed to create a viable business model. The project was discontinued later in 2016.
Pebble was probably the earliest and arguably the most successful example in the consumer HW/crowdfunding model. They were early in the smartwatch wave and actually delivered a couple of generations of products before going under. Post-Graava, late in the cycle, Lily is said to have sold 60,000 drones (at $500-$1000 each) and raised $15M from major VC firms before failing without delivering a product. Between those two, a long list of projects also failed. Coin and Navdy are two high-profile examples.
Our launch video (produced by Sandwich video):
Video Media Coverage:
ABC7 News interviewed us for the evening news. See video.
TechCrunch interviewed us for the launch. See video.
I often get this question from early stage entrepreneurs: “How do I calculate the valuation of my startup?”
The valuation of a startup is the value of the company at the moment when the first round of venture capital is raised. Valuation should not be the focus of the early stage entrepreneur. For more on that, please read on.
Am I ready to talk to a VC?
If VC’s are willing to talk to you, go ahead and talk to them. But the conversation will have tangible consequences only if your startup is at the stage of development for a VC capital investment.
You are ready to raise VC funding when at least one of the following conditions are satisfied:
Users – Your B2C service has millions of users and that number is growing exponentially through social propagation. The target audience is everyone in the world. There is no business model, but who cares? You are the next Instagram.
Traction – Your project has a significant number of users (hundreds of thousand for B2C, several customers for B2B) and at least one business model for monetization has been validated (advertisement, commission, subscription, sales, etc.). Your startup is not a website, it is a business.
Innovation – Your project includes Innovation with uppercase “I”, that is applicable to the solution of a high-value concrete problem. The innovation is either protected by patent or is very difficult to replicate. You’ve invented teleporting.
Resume – You have a well-formed project and a team that has previously created other companies that were successful and generated return to investors. Those investors are willing to offer capital even before the previous criteria are satisfied.
The details of the criteria above might vary slightly from a VC to another, but there is no magic. Note that VCs are professional investors investing capital from a fund that received money from other investors. The VC investor does not own the money and can only invest if they can model it based on the goals of the fund.
If none of the criteria above is satisfied, the valuation of your startup has no valuation.
But that should not be cause for alarm. It is the case of the vast majority of the startups. It doesn’t mean the project is wrong or has no future. It only means you need to execute further before its value creates a valuation.
If you need capital to execute before there is a valuation, you will need seed money, normally a smaller amount enough to run the company for a few months, provided by an Angel Investor.
While it is fun to guess numbers, there is usually no need to define a valuation to raise seed money. The angel investor usually receives convertible notes in exchange for the investment. Simply put, a convertible note is a loan denominated in dollars (often including interest and discount clauses) that is converted in equity participation if and when there is a first round of venture capital investment (when a more concrete valuation is defined by a professional investor).
Ok, got it. But what if I still want to guess what valuation I can get for my company?
The definition of a valuation at the raising of venture capital will take in account the structure of ownership (how many founders, how many key people) and the amount to be raised (which is a function of the money needed to execute as well as the preferences of the fund).
The investor must believe in the project and the team, so it has vested interest in keeping the team committed and motivated. There is no incentive to squeeze the entrepreneurs by defining valuation that is too low. So the actual valuation is based on real market perceptions, but ends up being a number that makes the round viable and a win for all parties involved.
Now, if after all this discussion, you really want to estimate a possible valuation, you can try at least three different approaches:
Financial – If you have a solid business plan, valuation can be calculated based on the execution risk and the projections of revenue and profit and a possible sale or IPO. Because execution risks in early stage are very high, it is virtually impossible to achieve much confidence in a number. Normally, the investors try to model this, not the entrepreneur.
Market – VC investments usually become public information. You can estimate your valuation based on the valuation of similar companies in similar stages of execution that are receiving professional investment.
Opportunity Cost – Calculate the amount of the time and effort applied to the project and estimate what would be its value if that effort was applied in a well established business. This is the cost of opportunity of your project. This number is irrelevant to the investor, but can be useful for the entrepreneur to continuously monitor the viability of the project (the cost of opportunity must be always below the valuation one hopes to achieve in the future).
This trip on the first half of Aug/2014 was my first time in Cambodia. If you are reading this and considering whether or not it should be in your bucket list, I say: go for it!
The impressions you find below are from the perspective of a relatively seasoned traveler who is used to explore unknown places wearing a backpack and who had been to SE Asia multiple times before.
We were four travelers (my friend Isa from California, and Cameron and Lester from New Zealand – I did not know them prior to this trip – Isa did) with coordinated itineraries for transportation, but not committed to doing the exact same things.
We stayed in nice hotels (so it was not a backpacking trip), but most of my activities were local and close to the ground.
Our itinerary: 2 days in Phnom Penh (the capital, a typical SE Asia bustling city), travel by taxi and 2 days in Kampot (a coastal city famous for, among other things, “Kampot Pepper”), travel by taxi and 2 days in Sihanoukville (a party beach resort town), fly and 2 days in Seam Reap (where the famous temples are). In retrospect, this was a perfect first overview 8-day trip itinerary (thanks to Cameron, who had been there before and designed it), with a good balance of tourist crowds, off-the-beaten-path time, exploration and relaxation.
I will take the risk of generalizing my superficial perception of a short-time visitor and say that the stronger impression on me from this trip was the fact that Cambodians are nice. But not in a casual way, like when we use “nice” as a placeholder to nothing remarkable to say. I mean really nice. A combination of grace, politeness, sweetness, sincerity, lack of judgment, openness. Perhaps gentle is a better way to express the attitude I experienced there. There, I said it, Cambodians are gentle people.
Cambodians have been subject to oppression and tragedies in recent history and a significant portion of the population lives under poverty lines. It is amazing that they can live on with grace and be optimistic in situations that others would consider unbearable.
When researching for a visit to Cambodia, you will read about corruption in government and police, mosquitoes, unsafe tap water, landmines, lack of infrastructure. Don’t let that deter you. Yes, going there requires some planning and precaution, but once you arrive, those things cease to be negative to your experience.
You will also read that the weather is hot. That doesn’t cease to be relevant once you get there. In August, it is 33-34C for most of the time. It is the rainy season, but we were very fortunate and rain did not interfere with our trip.
Perhaps surprisingly, crime or personal safety were not factors in my experience anywhere, at any time. Big city, small village, it didn’t matter. An illustrative example: we took a bicycle tour in Siem Reap. The local guide didn’t seem to understand why I was asking if it was safe to leave the nice mountain bikes parked without locks and unattended while we visited the temples.
Not a reason to visit, but a nice plus if you do: your US dollar is accepted anywhere and goes very far getting what you need. A nice meal in a posh place is $6, seafood dinner served on the beach front is $3. A beer costs 50c to $1. You can hire a driver to take you around for the whole day for $15-$20 (a tuk-tuk carries up to 4 people). A nice (I mean nice) hotel room goes for $45-$50. A beach bungalow is $20. A backpacker bunk bed to spend the night will cost you $3.
Language is not a big issue. In the cities, people tourists interact with all speak English. Where English is not spoken, there is always goodwill and gestures.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.