# Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Last night, I attended a Founder Institute session for the first time. I was invited to tell members about the BizSpark program, but I stuck around after my presentation was done.

Founder Institute is an organization designed to assist people start a new company - helping them through every aspect of the startup process. At last night's meeting, members practiced pitching their startup idea to potential investors. Three experienced entrepreneurs listened to each 3-minute pitch and provided feedback on the presentation. It was good practice for the startup and it was educational for me.

Here are a few of the things I learned last night

What problem are you solving?

Identify this early in your presentation. Why do customers need your product or service? Who will potentially buy it?

Compare to something they know

Investors are unlikely to have heard your idea before. Make it easy for them by comparing it to things with which they are familiar. If your sales model uses contract salespeople who reach out to individual consumers, compare it to Avon. One startup proposed providing practical tests for companies hiring electrical engineers. Remind the audience that similar tests are now used successfully by companies hiring software engineers.

Identify your market

Not everyone is a potential customer. Identify what you are selling and who will buy it. If this is an established market, what are the current revenues - both worldwide and in your local area. One startup mentioned that the current market was in the trillions, but provided no context for that number, making it difficult to digest such a large number. Filter those customers to those who might reasonably consider your product and define who those customers are and how much they spend.

Stress your credibility

One hopeful startup was planning to sell wedding dresses online. At the end of his presentation, he casually mentioned that he owned a store that sells wedding dresses. Each of the panelists told him to lead with that information as it established his credibility. He was already familiar with the marketplace and the potential customers. In his case, it was even more important to establish this credibility because he is a man and his target audience is mostly female.


Startup pitches tend to be short (each pitch last night was limited to 3 minutes), so focus on the things that will make your startup successful. It doesn't help to list dozens of features your product will eventually have. It does help to list those features you plan to include in the first release of your product and why those features will resonate with potential users.

In my job as a Technical Evangelist, I work with many startups, often providing mentoring to them. Listening to experienced entrepreneurs last night will help me to serve as a better mentor in the future.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 3:35:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 14, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015 10:34:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, December 12, 2015

A couple years ago, J Tower and his team noticed attendance at the Grand Rapids .NET User dwindling. This trend was in stark contrast to the annual GR DevDay conference that attracted hundreds of attendees each year.

Tower came up with a novel approach - he discarded the idea of a monthly user group meeting and replaced it with a quarterly meeting that more resembled a conference than a user group. Because the quarterly meeting took place on a weekday evening and was patterned after GR DevDay, he dubbed it "GR DevNight."

Each GR DevNight begins with a keynote presentation delivered in front of all attendees. After the keynote, attendees can choose from among 3 different presentations - each lasting about an hour.

Each GR DevNight is assigned a theme and all presentations relate to that theme.


At this week's meeting, the theme was Cloud Computing and I was excited to deliver the keynote address. I showed off many of the Open Source and non-Microsoft technologies supported by Microsoft Azure in a presentation titled "Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft."

While driving from Detroit to Grand Rapids, J called me to tell me that a medical emergency forced a late cancellation by one of the speakers that evening. He asked if I could deliver a breakout session in addition to the keynote. I had been working on a presentation about Azure Mobile Apps so I offered to premiere it that evening. GRDevNightBreakout3

It was an excellent event. A hundred attendees packed into a room at Cornerstone University to hear the keynote and they split pretty evenly between the three breakout sessions.

If you run a user group that is struggling to maintain interest month in and month out, a model similar to this might help you to revitalize your group as it did for the the group in Grand Rapids.

photos by J Tower

Saturday, December 12, 2015 6:42:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I recently interviewed Wunderflats CEO Jan Hase for DevRadio. Wunderflats is an online service allowing users to search for furnished apartments.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 4:49:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 7, 2015
Monday, December 7, 2015 11:45:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, December 6, 2015

Today I am grateful for:
-Watching the Big10 Championship Game in Indianapolis with college friends last night.
-A Spartan victory and championship
-Post-game drinks with friends from Cincinnati
-A chance to see Nick's team play at Northwestern yesterday afternoon.

Today I am grateful for a walk around downtown Chicago yesterday with Nick​.

Today I am grateful to see Nick and his new team in Milwaukee yesterday.

Today I am grateful that someone found my ID card that has been lost for weeks.

Today I am grateful for:
-Breakfast with Mike
-Coffee with Patty
-An afternoon and evening at the University of Cincinnati

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 6:28am EST
David Giard updated his status.
Today I am grateful for dinner in northern Kentucky last night with David, Sue, and Debora.

Today I am grateful for
-The hospitality and generosity of Sherree and Doug.
-A week with my family in Michigan.

Today I am grateful for a day in East Lansing seeing old friends and watching the Spartans dominate.

Today I am grateful for yesterday afternoon with my mother.

Today I am grateful for:
-A Lions game (my first-ever Thanksgiving game) with my 2 brothers and my son Tim
-Thanksgiving dinner with all my siblings, their spouses, and their kids.

Today I am grateful for an afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Today I am grateful for a double cheeseburger (cheezborger cheezborger), a coke (no Pepsi), and chips (no fries) at the Billy Goat Tavern yesterday.

Today I am grateful for an afternoon exploring Chicago neighborhoods with Dan.

Today I am grateful for:
-My brother finally arriving in Chicago after flight cancellations
-An excellent hackathon at Northwestern
-A very funny show at Second City last night.

Today I am grateful for a second Spartan victory over a top-4 team this week - this time in football! #GoGreen

Today I am grateful for a snowy evening with Kate.

Today I am grateful for a chance to teach a workshop in Evanston last night and students who are eager to learn.

Today I am grateful for:
-My first time speaking at the Chicago .NET User Group in Downers Grove.
-The stranger who gave me a ride from the gas station yesterday, so I wouldn't be late for my meeting

Today I am grateful to watch the Champions Classic basketball games (MSU defeated Kansas; Kentucky defeated Duke) at the United Center last night.

Today I am grateful that I finally got my car repaired. It has been randomly stalling for months.

Today I am grateful for an amazing day yesterday:
-A visit with my mother
-Dinner with my nieces
-Mass at 150-year-old St. Mary's Church
-Lunch in Greektown
-A drive around Belle Isle
-Cruising down Lake Shore Drive in Grosse Pointe
-A First Class upgrade on my flight home

Today I am grateful for:
-A chance to deliver the keynote presentation at Detroit Dev Day yesterday morning.
-Dinner with Jay and J. last night.

Today I am grateful to the organizers and volunteers of the St. Louis Day of .NET - great conference!

Today I am grateful to meet up with old friends.

Today I am grateful for:
-Time with William Fink and Michele Gardiner-Fink
-A trip to the top of the St. Louis arch with Jennifer Marsman

Today I am grateful to all this nation's veterans, especially my Dad.

Today I am grateful for the energy I gather from the local startup community.

Today I am grateful that much of my job is stuff that I would be doing anyway.

Today I am grateful for a chance to edit months worth of photographs yesterday.

Today I am grateful to turn off my alarm and pay off some sleep debt last night.

Today I am grateful for:
-a visit to the Denver Art Museum
-a Nuggets game at the Pepsi Center last night

Today I am grateful that the back pain I experienced yesterday is almost completely gone this morning.

Today I am grateful for a few days in San Francisco - one of the great cities of the US.

Today I am grateful for:
-Lunch with Jerry and Jenelle yesterday
-Watching the Warriors - Grizzlies game live in Oakland last night.

Today I am grateful for:
-a visit with Sharon and her family last night
-a Raiders game at the Coliseum yesterday

Sunday, December 6, 2015 8:28:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 30, 2015
Monday, November 30, 2015 5:36:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 23, 2015
# Wednesday, November 18, 2015

IMG_3589_edited-1 Originally, it was 1DevDayDetroit - a multi -platform developer conference in do wntown Detroit; then came some specialized version of the conference, named "CloudDevDay" and  "MobiDevDay", focused on cloud computing and mobile technologies, respectively. 

IMG_3604_edited-1A couple years ago, the organizers changed the name to "Detroit Dev Day" and that has stuck! The conference takes place at Cobo Hall in the heart of downtown Detroit and attracts hundreds of attendees from the .NET, Java, JavaScript, Open Source, and other communities.

I was invited to deliver the opening keynote, so I spoke about the Technical Community, how it has benefited me personally, and professionally, and how others could benefit from being more engaged in their local community.

IMG_3606_edited-1I also delivered a breakout session titled "Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft" in which I demonstrated many of the open source and competing technologies supported on Microsoft Azure.

IMG_3611_edited-1In addition, Jennifer Marsman delivered a presentation titled "Introduction to Azure Machine Learning: Predict Who Will Survive the Titanic".

I attended sessions on Testing Android Applications, Visual Studio Diagnostic Tools, Developers working with QA Teams, Web Development Workflow, and Azure Machine Learning.


In addition, I had a chance to interact with many folks from the Detroit Development community - a treat for me as I spent many years living and working in this area and I even ran a user group in suburban Detroit for years.

The feedback I heard from attendees was overwhelmingly positive.

Detroit Dev Day was entirely run by volunteers and has continued as a strong presence in Detroit through its various name changes for the past 5 years. Based on this year's success, I expect it to continue well into the future.

Detroit Dev Day keynote

More Photos

Detroit Dev Day Home

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 2:37:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 16, 2015
Monday, November 16, 2015 9:39:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)