Saturday, December 18, 2010

Inbox Zero?

I currently have 273 emails in my work inbox and 180 in my home inbox. I've got a lot of work to do to get back to zero, but I'm going to do so by 12/31/10.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's a Groupon Really Worth?

I spent a little time this last week looking at Groupon’s excellent GrouponWorks site. It’s the site they’ve built to help merchants understand how Groupon works. They also have a nice section about what merchants should do in preparation for their deal running on Groupon. The best part of that section is a 30 minute video: Merchant Preparation Webinar.

In the video, one of the points they make is that merchants should set the value of their Groupons so that customers will end up spending more in their first visit. The example they use is that restaurants should set the value of their Groupon at 1.5 times the price of an entrée. The assumption is that people won’t dine alone, and that they’ll immediately spend more.

Let’s dig into that a little more for a made-up restaurant that has $20 entrees. At that price point, Groupon would recommend a $30 Groupon that they’d sell for $15. For the customer, that looks great: 50% off. And for the restaurant, it doesn’t look so hot, because Groupon keeps 50% of the $15: The restaurant gets $7.50 when they’d normally get $30.

But remember, the customer is unlikely to actually spend just $30. That’s the whole point of setting the price. Let’s say you go to dinner with your friend and order an appetizer ($10), two entrees (2 x $20 = $40) and two drinks (2 x $7). At those prices, the total bill would be $64. The customer would redeem their Groupon for $30 and owe $34 out of pocket. Now, the customer has paid $15 + $34 = $49 to get a $64 dinner, a savings of 23%. The flip side is that the merchant is getting that $7.50 + $34 = $41.50 when they’d normally get $64 - a 35% haircut for them.

At those numbers, the customer is still getting a good deal, but it’s not even half of the 50% discount they were advertised. And the restaurant is only really discounting their prices by 35% - a far cry from the 75% discount they appeared to be giving away at first.

It gets to the heart of what Groupon is: a clever marketing trick. The trick is on the naïve customer who thinks they’re getting a 50% discount when they’re only getting 23% off – OR – the trick is on the merchant falling prey to savvy customers who spend only the exact value of the Groupon, forcing the merchant to give up 75% of their normal bill.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Swype Keyboard for Motorola Droid Stopped Working, Again - Incompatible with Android 2.1

Just got Android 2.1 pushed to my phone this morning. I'm a fan of the Google voice integration, but the icon for that ha replaced my comma button, which is a little frustrating. I suppose the multi-touch pinch zoom in the browser is nice, by I've hardly used it.

The big problem is that Swype beta for the Droid doesn't support android 2.1. So, I'm back to pecking away on the crappy native keyboard. Ugh.

Swype, if you're listening... HELP!

UPDATE: I un-installed Swype and re-installed it using the SwypeInstall program. Looks like I'm back in business.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Swype Stopped Working on My Motorloa Droid

As I mentioned on this blog a while back, I'm a big fan of the Swype Keyboard for the Motorola Droid. It simply makes the phone MUCH better, which is why I was so stunned when it stopped working Monday morning. I had been using a leaked version of the software, and it apparently expired on me.

I felt paralyzed. My phone felt nearly useless without the Swype keyboard, and I would have paid nearly anything to get it working again.

Fortunately, we haven't reached that point yet. I was able to go to Swype's website, register for their beta program and download/re-install it. I've noticed a few differences between the leaked version and the new beta version. Most notably, everything seems smoother and more polished. I didn't think I could like Swpye more than I already did, but I was wrong.

I love Swype more than ever, and I am prepared for the day when they ask me to pay for their product. My credit card (errr Google Checkout account) is ready for action.

UPDATE: Says Swype's site: "Due to overwhelming demand we have temporarily closed the beta."

Your First TV Commercial

When you work at an internet startup, no one has ever heard of your company. Even your own parents don't really believe you when you tell them how great things are, how you're going to change the world.

"Sure, Andrew. I'm sure things are going great there. When are you getting a raise?"

Reaching millions of dollars in revenue doesn't convince your friends and family that you work for a real company. You're a private company. You can't show them public, audited financials. You can't point to a building and say, "We built that." It just isn't easy for people to understand what you're doing.

...until you run your first TV commercial.

When we launched our first commercial at TheLadders, it changed our world. Suddenly, total strangers had heard of us. I used to get blank stares from people when I told them where I worked, but then I started to get knowing nods. "TheLadders? Isn't that the company with the tennis commercial?" It was amazing. Instead of toiling away in anonymity, we were a REAL company.

Obviously, advertising has to make strategic and financial sense for a company, but you can't underestimate the morale boost for team members who see their company advertising on TV and finally get their parents to admit that they work for a real company.

Here are our three commercials:

Career Choice: VC or Entrepreneur?

Business school graduation is only a few months away, and I hear many of my classmates expressing simultaneous interest in both venture capital and startup jobs. I've done a little of both (although my VC experience was limited to a summer internship this past year), and I found them wildly different experiences.

Mark Suster's blog post on Monday rang true for me: What's it Like Being a VC?

In particular, the things Mark misses about being an entrepreneur are exactly the reasons why I'm returning to the world of startups rather than pursuing a VC career:

(1) VCs sit on the sidelines
(2) VC has less team camaraderie

I want the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. I want to live and breathe the emotional roller coaster ride of a startup. I want to own the results. I want to build a company and a team to share the journey with.

Business school has been a fun break, but it's time to get back to work.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Disqus Installed

At the suggestion of a commenter, I've finally bitten the bullet and switched over to Disqus for comments on It didn't take very long at all, about 20 minutes of distracted attention. The step-by-step instructions for installing disqus on blogger were perfect and easy to follow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Job Seekers' Irrational Confidentiality Concerns

As a veteran of the online employment world, I've long heard a concern from job seekers about confidentiality - They don't want their employer to know they're looking for a new job. The assumption (theirs and ours) was always that they risked being fired by their boss, but is it really worth worrying about?

The topic came up in an HBS case discussion about LinkedIn a couple weeks ago, in the context of LinkedIn's competitive advantage (in the employment space). The argument is that job seekers are safe to look for a job on LinkedIn without risking the wrath of their bosses because LinkedIn's networking can be explained away as "catching up with friends" or networking on behalf of your current employer to find new customers, partners, etc. Posting your resume on a more explictly career-focused website cannot be explained away so simply. Therefore, the "cover" that LinkedIn provides keeps job seekers safe from getting fired.

While there is certainly a perception that posting a resume is risky, I suggested in class that job seekers are more concerned about this than they should be. In my half-a-decade at TheLadders, we only saw a small handful of job seekers fired for looking for a new job. During that time, we helped millions of job seekers, so I'm pretty sure such firings are not common. (It's also possible that our confidentiality features kept job seekers safer than they might otherwise have been, but let's set that aside for this post.)

A VP from LinkedIn was sitting in on our class, and I discussed the issue more with him later. He pointed out that there are negative repercussions to getting caught by your boss, even if they don't fire you. You might be held back from a raise or a promotion or a new project as punishment for your disloyalty - or more likely, as a hedge against your possible departure.

I didn't think of it until later, but you may be just as likely to have positive ripples in the wake of getting caught. Instead of sneaking around as you look for a job, talking things over with your boss might help solve some of the problems that are pushing you out the door in the first place. Maybe the company will move up a postponed raise or promotion in order to keep you. Maybe your complaints about that overbearing teammate will finally be addressed.

I don't think you can categorically claim (as did the LinkedIn VP) that getting caught looking for a job by your manager is a bad thing.

A new twist on this problem, however, is a bit trickier. Our LinkedIn guest came to the conclusion that getting caught by your direct reports was even worse than getting caught by your boss. You can't be an effective leader if your team thinks you've got one foot out the door. How can you possibly get them motivated to take the next hill if they don't think you believe enough in the company vision to stick around?

Getting caught looking for a job by your subordinates is absolutely a problem, but as I've reflected on it over the last week or so, I don't think it's worth worrying about. Think about the scenario that would have to be true in order for your resume posted on TheLadders or Monster or HotJobs to be discovered by your team:

(1) Your team would have to be hiring
(2) ...doing the online resume searches themselves, rather than outsourcing it to your in-house recruiting function or an external recruiter
(3) ...and searching broadly enough that your resume is coming up when they're searching for people two levels below you. (If you're a VP and your Director is hiring a Manager or individual contributor, that's 2-3 levels lower.)

Based on that collection of events, I just don't think it's likely that subordinates are going to stumble across their manager's resume posted to an online job board/career site.

Wrapping things up here, I believe that job seekers' desire for confidentiality in their online job search is irrational. But the argument is academic. The fact that job seekers are worried about confidentiality means that people like TheLadders and Monster have to worry about it, and someone like LinkedIn can take advantage of it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

History of Job Search

I've worked in the online employment space since June of 1999, and I've worked with Marc Cenedella since June of 2000. As a result, I might be uniquely positioned to appreciate Marc's series of blog posts about the history of the job search. Setting aside that caveat, you should read the series. It's a fascinating look at how people have found work over time - and what the problems are today.

If you're in HR, recruiting, online employment... or might ever need to look for a job... you should give it a look. (My classmates from Richard Tedlow's Coming of Managerial Capitalism might also find it especially interesting.)

Here are his posts in the series to date:
-History of Job Search, an introduction to the series
-Before Jobs
-The Industrial Revolution
-20th Century
-When I Grow Up I Want To Have A Brown Nose
-The 20th Century Model Breaks
-Job-seekers in 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cash Rewards

I was recently reading up on Customer Development and came across a recent post on Steve Blank's blog about Incentives and Legends. It reminded me of our journey at TheLadders.

We loved a good party, so we celebrated every time we crossed a $100k/wk milestone ($100k in cash collected for the week, $200k, etc). Our first such party was a black-tie affair in January 2005 at the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center (during a blizzard).

The most memorable celebration might have been the one for crossing $500k in the spring of 2007. The full company gathered in the office around 4pm, and everyone was handed an envelope from their manager. When Marc (Founder & CEO) gave the word, each person opened their envelope and found five crisp $100 bills inside. Of course, it was great to get $500 in cash, but it was just as rewarding to watch other people open their envelopes.

The one hundred faces simultaneously racing from confusion to shock, amazement, excitement and pure glee were a sight to behold. As the music cranked and the bubbly flowed, a steady parade of people came to shake Marc's hand and thank him.

Everyone at TheLadders that day will remember that celebration, yet no one remembers the day when their quarterly bonus was direct-deposited into their account... which is a long way of saying that I couldn't agree more with Steve's lessons learned:

-Cash has a much greater affect than a check.
-Done correctly it turns incentives into legends.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Swype Keyboard for Motorola Droid

just installed swype on my phone. im typing this post from my motorola droid and it is amazingly faster than typing on the native droid keyboard. The only downside is... well, I cant think of a downside.

On second thought, here are four:
1. swype has trouble with contractions. cant wont and ill, for example.
2. swype doesn't auto-capitalize the first letter of a sentence.
3. tough to type words like pull, gal, pass.
4. might just be this instance but I have no idea where my cursor is

overall, this keyboard seems to be a major improvement over the pre-installed droid keyboard functionality.

1. A few minutes with the Swype tutorial and I've figured out contractions. Just swype the apostrophe as if it were a letter, generally.
2. Tutorial has also taught me how to (easily) capitalize any letter, by moving my finger up above the keyboard before the next letter.
3. A little loop-the-loop on top of the 'L' key tells Swype that you want two L's at the end of "gall"
4. The cursor problem seems to occur on some web forms. Generally, however, the cursor is easy to see and move - much easier than the native Droid system.

The Swype keyboard is fantastic, and I can't believe it's not standard on the phone. If you have a Motorola Droid, get the Swype keyboard. (A friend emailed me the file, but I think you can download it from as well.)

Switching to Google

In the last couple of months, I've made the following transitions:

MovableType to Blogger
Total success. MovableType was a pain in the ass and overkill in terms of features. Blogger allows me to do what I need fairly easily, which is just get stuff published online.

Firefox to Chrome
Mixed bag. I like the UI for Chrome, but it doesn't really seem like it's any faster than Firefox. I know others have complained about extensions/plugins, but as someone that never really got into FF extensions, it's no big deal. And it seems like that gap is closing.

Blackberry to Droid
Another mixed bag. I've spent the last two years in business school, so I haven't been using my phone for a whole lot of serious emailing. My data usage was almost entirely surfing the internet while I waited in line somewhere or catching up on my blog reading while my little girls were playing. The Droid is a much better phone for that type of "internetting," but it isn't as easy to use when I'm forced to write the occasional email that's longer than a sentence or two. I've also been a little disappointed with the battery life. I generally charge my phone each night, but I don't always remember. The Blackberry could absolutely survive a two-day jag before recharging. The Droid, however, cannot survive an every-other-night recharging schedule. It's only a minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.

One last comment on the Droid. Coming from an older BB curve, the Android Market (ie App Store) is an amazing improvement. It's fantastic to be able to download a stopwatch app or a new game. But in general, the apps seem like the kind of shareware crap you'd find on the windows platform 15 years ago: Crappy UI and marginal utility. I suppose it's early in the game, but this is one area where I envy iPhone owners. From what I've seen, the Apps approved by Apple tend to be much more polished.

Bloglines to Google Reader
Total Success. I started using bloglines to track my blogs back in 2005 or so. It was a big improvement over pulling RSS feeds into My Yahoo because the emphasis was on keeping things marked as "unread" until I had read them. In the last 18 months or so, they made a further improvement in their Beta product to mark things as read as you scrolled past them (rather than marking all articles as "read" as soon as you clicked into that blog). The downside for Bloglines was that they never moved that product out of beta, and they never ported that functionality over to their mobile site. Google Reader has been a big improvement, if only for their mobile version, which behaves almost exactly how I want it to.

And who doesn't love a little data? I get a kick out of these little charts they give you:

This particular chart shows that most of my blog-reading (orange bars) has been in the morning right after I've woken up, during the girls' naptime and after the girls have gone to bed. It doesn't get much cooler than that for a data nerd like me.

Switching to Google
On the whole, I'm pretty happy with my new-ish Google products, but I hope they continue to improve and innovate. They're not all the way there yet.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Japan-US World Series?

BaseballMusings reports that there might be a playoff between the World Series champion and the champion of the Japanese professional league as soon as 2012. Sounds interesting. Count me in.

Home Sweet Home

This blog can now be accessed from, and we're totally back in business. Next steps for this blog are now:

1. Set up Disqus for comments, as I've wanted to do for about 12 months.
2. Improve look/feel, or at least explore other designs.
3. Customize functionality/widgets around the perimeter of the main content.
4. Start writing.

5. Figure out traffic tracking options.

Export from MovableType and Import to Blogger

In my last post, I said "There doesn't seem an easy MT-to-Blogger port..."

Turns out, I hadn't looked very hard. With a quick Google search, I found the perfect MovableType to Blogger conversion tool. It couldn't have been easier, and now I've got all my old MT posts re-posted here.

Next step... Getting this blog moved from its current location to its rightful home at

A Return to Blogging

I first started blogging on in November of 2003, using MovableType installed on a friend's server. I was fairly active through 2004, but then my postings became sporadic as TheLadders became more and more consuming. My last real post was over a year ago, bidding farewell to 2008. Over the years, my blog has bounced around from server to server, somehow getting bundled up with a few other blogs on servers inside TheLadders.

My blog was something of a relic, however, and didn't tranistion well as TLC (our internal shorthand for TheLadders) upgraded through various versions of MT. In the last week, I've tried to revive my blog, but MovableType just isn't working for me. I can't edit my templates, change my css, add posts or do just about anything. It's time to move on.

Today, I'm calling it quits on MovableType and moving over to Blogger. Today, this blog resides at, but I'll hopefully be moving it back over to in the near future. I'm also hoping to import my old blog postings into Blogger, but I'm not terribly optimistic. There doesn't seem an easy MT-to-Blogger port, but I'll give it a shot.

So, welcome to yet another new Andrew Koch blog.