Tech industry recruiting is laughably bad
I’m not recruited very often - indeed I get a little jealous of my friends who seem to be getting approached every other day by some exciting company or another. However, across my apparently desirable friends their recruiting experience is always the same - complete shit. I’d like to say that at Microsoft we do a fabulous job, but my experience on both sides of hiring decisions hasn’t been at all stellar.
In an environment where talent is in such demand, companies can’t afford to hire this core task out to clueless recruiting agencies.
- Dropped correspondance
- Phone screen / interview out of step with expectations, wasting everyone’s time
- Candidates speak with one department on Monday and get cold called from another on Wednesday
- Conflicting answers to questions
Some fairly basic tips for recruiters:
- Use some fucking CRM software. Remember when someone says they’re only interested in jobs in NYC and don’t do front-end web development.
- Do what you say you say you’re going to - call on time and bring back the answers to questions you said you would.
- Have one point of contact.
- Be responsive.
- Don’t lie.
- Have a clue about the company and position you’re hiring for.
There is some hope though! Like travel agents before them, online tools are starting to replace incompetence and misaligned incentives with self-service. See whitetruffle, LinkedIn jobs, StackOverflow careers etc.
What I would do to save Sony
I just finished reading Hiroko Tabuchi’s excellent article How the Tech Parade Passed Sony By. I’ve felt bad for Sony for quite a while now. Despite having started out over 60 years ago with rice cookers and having successfully adapted to several huge technology shifts, Sony is on the verge of becoming irrelevant.
The article cites a few reasons for Sony’s decline:
- lack of focus - dozens of poorly differentiated models
- internal tension between the content and technology parts of the company
- failing to embrace trends in technology (digitization, a shift towards software, importance of the Internet)
I’d add to the list the following:
- many core products being commoditized (TVs, low end camcorders)
- insistence on proprietary formats and technology (ATRAC/mini disc, memory stick, etc) as the world has largely adopted open standards
If I were put in charge of Sony I would do everything I could to refocus the company on becoming a world class brand in home entertainment. A few ideas:
- Sell the Vaio business
- Get out of the phone / mobile audio / professional / camera / camcorder businesses
- Cut the TV unit to one model that comes in different sizes, all including a great video camera and supporting voice / gestural input
- Dramatically reduce the mess of other home theater products - there is no reason to be selling multiple mid-range receivers!
- Build a great software experience into the TV (apps for all major media / communication services, universal media queue, robot recommendations, share + recommend to your friends)
- Build great companion apps for every relevant platform
- Buy Netflix or Hulu if possible
- Offer all-you-can-eat access to Sony-owned content, for free (subject to release windows etc.
- Continue to fight hard for games.. I don’t really know about this market so can’t really comment
Idea: flavors.me but for bars and restaurants
Restaurants and bars have really shitty web sites by far most of the time. The Oatmeal does a much better job of pointing out what they do wrong.
What does a restauranteur want out of a site?
- Key information (location, hours) to people already committed to going
- To be found and influence ‘where to go tonight?’ decisions
- Taking reservations (maybe)
- Engagement with their community (maybe)
- .. in a manner that makes their customers feel good about the experience
What does a potential consumer want from a web site? The very same stuff!
Dozens of services have stepped into this space (Yelp, OpenTable, Urbanspoon, Chowhound, Foodspotting etc etc) and are first stops for would-be restaurant goers. Consumers do not suffer the inability to find out about restaurants. However, through their abdication of the space, restaurants have lost control of the message. Potential customers see generic profile pages with *cell phone pictures of menus*.
Despite this, I still think there is value in a restaurant creating a reasonable web site. I’m sure tons of people search google for where to go to dinner, and as a consumer of nearly all of the above services I still find myself landing on these wretched restaurant pages frequently.
With so many restaurants being so poorly served by their web presence, I believe there is a business there.
What such a business might look like:
- Easy domain sign-up / transfer
- Great looking sites in seconds.. that actually work on mobile phones
- Painless menu management
- Upsell richer functionality like no-charge reservations, mailing lists, loyalty gifts, designable sites (ala Shopify), photography etc etc
Did I mention that in-restaurant software also sucks?
I wouldn’t have split up Netflix
This morning, Reed Hastings (CEO, Netflix) announced that amid the backlash over the recent pricing change, Netflix would be split into two brands: Netflix (online streaming) and Quickster (DVD delivery).
In the announcement he said:
Our view is with this split of the businesses, we will be better at streaming, and we will be better at DVD by mail. It is possible we are moving too fast – it is hard to say. But going forward, Qwikster will continue to run the best DVD by mail service ever, throughout the United States. Netflix will offer the best streaming service for TV shows and movies, hopefully on a global basis. The additional streaming content we have coming in the next few months is substantial, and we are always working to improve our service further.
I think this is the wrong move.
Three important facts about Netflix’ business:
- Netflix currently captures a very small amount of America’s spending on media consumption (let alone the world’s!)
- Media consumption will change dramatically over the next few years towards streaming from traditional physical media and broadcast delivery
- Netflix is the best positioned player in this new space
Netflix’ top priority should be solidifying and expanding its position in the media streaming business.
Reasons I think splitting up the company is inconsistent with that goal:
DVD users will switch eventually. One day in 2021 people in Iowa are going to realize it’s a pain in the ass to deal with discs and broadcast schedules. As Quickster subscribers, their business isn’t necessarily a lock for Netflix.
Existing customers value DVD service. The Netflix DVD collection is dramatically more extensive than their online offering - it has practically everything ever made. While I turned DVD service off the first day I could, around half Netflix’ customer base subscribe to a combined plan. For those customers, the Netflix value-proposition diminishes significantly, as they have to manage their media consumption using two different services. Having the services combined meant that every time I search for a movie that isn’t available for streaming Netflix can use the opportunity to tell me that they have it on disc. Even if I’m not going to upgrade me account it reminds me that Netflix has the biggest catalog of movies and that they’re working on making it all available for streaming.
Startup Genome Project: first report available
Download link (form required)
The one person who should be thrilled about this is Eric Ries. A lot of the findings boil down to what we’ve heard out of the lean startup community from some time now. Except instead of the insights of few luminaries, we seem to be getting a fairly similar set of findings from a somewhat scientific approach*. Stuff like:
- Have more than one founder, ideally with a mix of engineering and business backgrounds
- Finding out what people want and will pay for is harder than building it
- Mentors are important
- People in it for the money don’t win
- Willingness to adjust course is critical
There was one interesting finding that I’m going to look into a bit more:
Startups that pivot once or twice times [sic] raise 2.5x more money, have 3.6x better user growth, and are 52% less likely to scale prematurely than startups that pivot more than 2 times or not at all
This suggests that pivoting yields diminishing returns - somewhat contrary to the notion that pivoting early and often is the path to success. I’ll post an update when I’ve finished reading the report.
* I’m no scientist, but if it says “Genome” it’s gotta be legit right? ;-)
Great company: drchrono
Drchrono is a silicon valley based company that makes a modern suite of medical information products including an iPad based EHR (electronic health record).
I’ve been fascinated by the state of medical record keeping for as long as I can remember. As a kid I remember worrying about whether I was going to a sketchy doctor because I saw them pulling paper files. It still blows my mind that my eye surgeon will use a multi-thousand dollar machine to observe my eyes and then write the results down on paper. Still in 2011 there is a huge opportunity for digitization in an enormous industry. This opportunity is going to be realized some time and the spoils aren’t going to go to the same companies that have been banging their heads against a wall for the last 30 years.
Listening to these guys talk on the podcast I can tell they’ve got a great sense of who they are and what they’re about. They’re focused on small practices and have done a great job understanding how those businesses work and come to purchasing decisions. They’ve got a great looking product that looks to be really thought through.
The best part is still to come though. These guys can leverage a huge incentive they don’t have to pay for: $44,000 of federal grants that using the drchrono EHR product will qualify a practice for. Brilliant.
I’d invest in these guys in a second.