As presented to the #DC Sports Tech Meetup on April 4 2014
From Obed Ampah, VP of Development for Gray Street Solutions
It’s always fun to get an inside look at how companies work. When that company is a big time player and pushes the boundaries of how we do things, all the mo’ betta. Last night, I took in a talk by Steve Smith (@Orderedlist), a deisgner at GitHub, where he and his team use Git to communicate, create and design.
Git for all mankind
Github(GH) is an online repository that allows you to have your own version control system. Version control allows multiple users, in-house or remote, to work on a project together by “forking” a repository of data into their own “branch” and then make edits which they can then “push” back to the repository. Think of it as a group project that everyone can work on without having to send all your assets and wait for them to finish their part. Oh, the life before the internet.
As you can imagine, GH’s software is very developer-oriented. So what is a designer doing advocating it? GH, at its core, is about collaboration. When you have a team of 28 desingers working on various projects worldwide, how do you get everyone involved?
Version control and communication to the rescue!
Steve gave us the skinny on the inner workings of GH. Their biggest asset is their team. They pride themselves on the collaboration to solve problems and foster an environemtn of innovation. Currently, GH has a staff that is made up 70% remote employees. It’s a known fact that good help is hard to find. As such, GH employees come from all locales.
Q: “But Steve, how do you keep your employees honest and not slacking of all day?”
A: “Well, first off, don’t hire someone you think will slack off”
GH believes in fostering as much communication as possible. The use various forms of it to keep their staff engaged, such as:
- Chat Rooms
- Virtual Offices
But their beliefs are where they shine. Everyone has to buy in to an asynchronous work-flow, where patience is a virtue and accountability is prime. GH can have designated teams & repositories. You can mention (@YourTeam) in a project and get their input on it, while enjoying the benefits of a transcript that anyone can go back and search through to see how/what changes were made. Call it leaps and bounds above emails. Think of how much easier it would be to bring a new team member up to speed when you have documentation from the beginning of the project as opposed to some ungodly forwarded chain?
Teams win championships
The story of GH is one of true collaboration. Hell, it’s even the tagline on their brand page. They want good work and get it, but also understand that the best work comes when their team is happy and stable in their lives. Let’s be honest, great work can be done whenever and wherever. All you have to do is log in and commit.
Special thanks to Canvas co-working space for offering their digs. -OA
Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies Master’s Programs is “bringing together the best minds from the worlds of Sports and Technology” for its DC Sports + Tech Summit on April 4, 2014.
The event will feature a panelist of speakers from sports and technology to discuss the convergence of the industries.
Following the panel discussion, students will compete in an interactive pitch competition, bringing forth the next BIG idea combining sports and technology. Pitching in this contest is Gray Street Solutions Managing Director, Rick Burchfield, and Principal, Tyler Gray – who will showcase their first joint venture, “PitchPoints,” an idea to disrupt the fantasy sports market by introducing a soccer-specific, daily fantasy soccer website and application.
After the pitches, the Sports + Tech showcase will demonstrate cutting edge sports-technology items from the local community and the world.
Click Here to RSVP
12:30 - 1:00 p.m. Registration 1st Floor
1:00 - 1:50 p.m. First Panel and Introductions Auditorium
1:55 – 2:10 p.m. Break
2:00 - 2:50 p.m. Second Panel Auditorium
3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Student Interactive Pitch Competition 103A-B
4:15 – 6:00 p.m. DC Sports Tech Showcase
As presented to the #DC Sports Tech Meetup on April 4 2014
From Rick Burchfield, Managing Director of Gray Street Solutions
Pitch and catch. About 99% of startup life can be summed up by that simple, three-word phrase. In startup-land, effectively selling your business, service or product can make or break you. And a big part of winning business without the comfort of a referral is contingent upon a truly stunning pitch!
Imagine walking into a Fortune 500 company with your four-man startup that nobody’s ever heard of and telling that company that YOU, finally, have the solution they’ve been searching for all this time. Then imagine that company walking into your office – err, cardboard box you call an “office” – and pitching you! Could you swim through the piles of pizza boxes and half-empty takeout Chinese containers fast enough?
Enter: SwitchPitch – an organization that turns the pitch model on its head, allowing large, established companies to pitch “funded innovation projects” to likely startups, hoping to find that special startup company/business to partner.
SwitchPitch made its way back to Washington, hitting up the Arena Stage at the Mead Center in southwest DC (a sweet little theatre venue, turns out) and is the second time the event has graced the nation’s capital. Premier companies in and around the area pitching at the event included:
- Washington Redskins
- Monumental Sports
- The Washington Post
- Population Council
- Georgetown University
There won’t be any freebie spoilers here, you cheapskates! Better luck next time. However, the panel discussion on “Making Startup / Large Company Partnerships Work” had some fantastic advice offerings that is worth highlighting.
On three things large companies look for in startup proposals:
“Money. People. Time.” – Mark Walsh, CEO and Founder of GeniusRocket
This statement is just great, not only because it’s catchy (and it is), it also sums up precisely what startups should be considering when trying to win new business. Is the proposal hitting the right price point; are the people right for the job; and is it the right timing? Check those three boxes and you’re one step closer to getting the John Hancock on the dotted line.
On what makes startups special / valuable:
“Startups are unencumbered by bureaucracy.” – Mike Brown, CTO of comScore
What makes startups so great? Forward-thinking, fresh, nimble, unique, hungry and whatever other adjective you want to insert? At the end of the day, this statement is so undervalued. Startups are uncompromised by outdated processes and unnecessary politics. And this is, realized or not, an opportunity to be leveraged.
And, finally, what are quite possibly the finest pieces of advice for startups ever uttered.
“Like dogs smell fear; Companies smell desperation. Be direct, not desperate.” – Mark Walsh, CEO and Founder of GeniusRocket
Desperation is a disease. It’s infectious. And, if spotted, should be extradited effective immediately. In all seriousness, though, no one likes the desperate vendor. You (the Vendor) have something they (the Client) want, and the product and/or service should speak for – and sell – itself. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider changing professions.
“Make sure there’s a train to rob before you count the loot.” – Devin Schain, CEO and Founder of Campus Direct
This analogy is so amazing it can’t be put into words. But for introspective purposes, let’s flirt with this one, shall we. It’s a twist on the old adage: “Don’t count you’re chickens before they’ve hatched.” But even further, it speaks to the truth that startups are a business. And businesses need capital. All other factors aside, there is an explicit need to generate revenue. It’s priority numero uno!
The takeaway is this: Understand if and when there is business to be had and made. Don’t become disillusioned and self-convinced that there’s something there that simply isn’t. Be realistic. If it’s the right fit, you’ll know. Set goals. Meet said goals. Win (proper) business. Under-promise. Over-deliver. Get paid. Repeat.
GSS is proud to have build the Facebook contest platform and assisted with the marketing of this noble effort to encourage the next generation of gentleman on college campuses! Check out our work at http://ow.ly/uIMch
For the month of March, the conservative-leaning Network of Enlightened Women, or NeW, will field submissions of true “college gentlemen” for its annual “Gentlemen’s Showcase.” At the end of the month, the male college student with the most votes onFacebook will receive a $500 scholarship and the woman who nominates him will win a dozen Georgetown cupcakes.
Our latest blog post on behalf of our client, DeConstruction:
Construction managers have a bad rap! In our customer interviews, we generally hear some variation of the following:
Why is this so? Because construction noise and vibration consistently angers neighbors! There is a common idea that noise and vibration pollution emanating from construction…
“[Venture Capitalists] have a perverse view of the world. If you don’t make more than $100k a year, we think you’re shit.” -Paul Singh
D.C.-based incubator, 1776, hosted another great event—New Tech for Raising Capital & Investing—with speakers including Paul Singh, Partner at 500 Startups and Founder and CEO of Indicate; Ben Miller, CEO of real estate investment platform Fundrise.com; and Sara Hanks, securities law expert and CEO of Crowdcheck.com.
Crowdfunding—a new(er) form of raising capital—borrows its name from “crowdsourcing,” the tactic that marketers employ to use its audience for inspiration on where a target market’s interests lie, and tailoring the marketing campaign on the simple premise – “Give the people what they want.” Crowdfunding is used in much the same way. People (potential crowdfunders) find a product they want, or an idea they believe in, usually within a startup community. And if the option is available, those people can invest in that product or idea at the entry-level.
So if your company isn’t making at least $100k (as indicated in Mr. Singh’s quote) you might find yourself looking for alternative means to fund your product or idea. Enter: Kickstarter – the world’s largest crowdfunding platform. The company’s stated mission is to help bring creative projects to life.
Other alternative means of finding capital is AngelList – a web-based platform that serves as a communal for investors and startups to meet. Although, you might not be well served getting “discovered” on AngelList. That bit is left for you and your constituents to provide. However, setting your product or idea apart will make a lasting impression on investors.
“The game of venture capital today is selection, not discovery.” –Paul Singh
As technology changes, so too does the way startups find capital. No longer is a startup’s success primarily contingent upon the effective “pitch” of their idea to VC’s and Angels. No. You, my friend, can take your product or idea to that new thing. You know! That thing they call the Internet. As Angels and VCs become more selective about their investments, the startup that walks into a meeting with crowdfunded capital has a much stronger negotiating position. The old adage “you have to have money to make money” still hold true today. And simply put, investors just feel more comfortable investing when there’s money already behind what they’re investing in. Recalling what David Aames (Tom Cruise) said in the movie Vanilla Sky,
“What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions? …Money.”