Archives for November 2011

Zynga’s Bad Kharma

Promotional Image from Zynga's CastleVille

Quick follow up to my recent post about Mark Pincus hitting a new low at Zynga by demanding stock back from employees on threat of termination.  NYTimes has picked up on the story in a piece by Evelyn Rusli: Zynga’s Tough Culture Risks a Talent Drain.  My point in my recent post as well as the original one was that Pincus seems to have difficulty not being a selfish *sshole and that it should, and would, eventually catch up with him.

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The Solar Project – Installation Process (with Time-Lapse Video)

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – see a list of links to the full series here, a list of frequently asked questions here or click here to bring up all Green-related postsPrevious Post in Series / Next Post in Series.]

For a conceptually simple system with no moving parts, a solar array system is actually surprisingly complicated to install. Perhaps things will change over time, but at the moment it takes a lot of manual labor to mesh gee whiz technology with the physical realities of a residential roof and electrical system.

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The Power of An Advisory Board

Advisory boards can be a huge driver of success for start ups. They can provide you with experience, connections, perspective, legitimacy, and encouragement.

Below are some pointers on how to deal with advisory boards, then afterwards a great story for you to watch. My buddy Ty Danco just posted the best advisory board story I have ever heard. It is a video of his talk last week at the SVB Boston CEO Summit. Fantastic story well worth a watch. (And for a discussion on the difference between an advisory board and a regular corporate board, see here.)

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iPhoneography Update

The New York Times has an article discussing the the iPhone telephoto lens from my earlier post on the subject.  They have uniformly positive things to say about the burgeoning area, and mention a couple other seemingly good alternatives as well.

Similarly, Ars Technica has just posted an in-depth article on this subject, except theirs is much more focused on the results than the accessories.  It is about as thorough examination of the subject as you are likely to find, and worth checking out (best read on a good bright monitor instead of a mobile device since it contains a ton of comparison photos.)

By way of update on the Photojojo unit, in my experience having a lens that can pull in distance shots is proving quite handy.  And the tripod and tripod mount are also useful.  Unlike previous efforts I had tried, the case for the Photojojo unit I mentioned is sturdy enough, unobtrusive enough, and easy enough to use that you can just put the case on in advance of an event and then keep the lens handy for quick installation & removal.

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The Solar Project – Frequently Asked Questions

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – to see a list of links to the full Solar Project series, click here or to bring up a list of all green-themed posts, click hereNext Post in Series / Previous Post in Series.]

I have been getting enough questions from the blog readers and neighbors that it is time to do a frequently asked questions list.  I have divided the common questions into four groups: practical questions, financial questions, technology questions, project questions and philosophical questions.  Here is the master list of questions:

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The Solar Project – Financing

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – see a list of links to the full series here, a list of frequently asked questions here or click here to bring up all Green-related postsNext Post in Series / Previous Post in Series.]

Once you have a basic equipment list, you can take a more detailed look at the costs and financing alternatives. As discussed in the posts on state incentives and federal incentives, there are a number of programs in place to ease the cost burden of paying for all this exotic and expensive equipment. And there are a number of different ways you can go about paying for it.

Below is a diagram outlining the basic decisions, courtesy of our installer Independent Power Systems.

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Loch Ness, Unicorns & The First-Mover Advantage

When they are asked about the defensibility of their businesses, I regularly hear entrepreneurs cite “first-mover advantage” as the basis on which they will compete and defend their margins. It has come up several times recently, both in class discussions and at a recent MassChallenge panel I moderated on working with angels. Since everyone loves a good myth, I figured I would take a moment to examine this one.

Myth is actually a misnomer here because myths generally relate to the supernatural or nonexistent. First-mover advantage does occasionally happen in real life, just not very often. And not in the way entrepreneurs generally understand it.

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The Solar Project – Equipment Economics

Design Schematic

Early design schematic used to plan the panel layout on our project.

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – see a list of links to the full series here, a list of frequently asked questions here or click here to bring up all Green-related postsNext Post in Series / Previous Post in Series.]

Once you’ve determined your site is viable, the next set of questions surround what your system will cost.  The first step in assessing this is looking at your historical energy consumption from past power bills (or your account summary on the electric company’s website) to get a sense of what your annual consumption and expenditure is.  Next you look at the amount of roof space available for panels and the expected production of those panels given the site orientation.  Now you have the target, and a sense of the resources available to meet it.

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Are Entrepreneurs Wild Risk-Takers?

When I wrote my post about What I Look For in an Entrepreneur, I did not include a gigantic appetite for risk on the list of desired attributes. Ben Smith recently wrote a great guest post on peHub suggesting that great entrepreneurs need to take big risks: Why Great Entrepreneurs Take Risks and Get Fired.  In it, Ben points out that thinking differently, taking risks and being unafraid of failure are the essence of entrepreneurship.  So what gives?

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The Solar Project – Site Assessment

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – see a list of links to the full series here, a list of frequently asked questions here or click here to bring up all Green-related posts. Next Post in Series / Previous Post in Series.]

Once the economic arguments grip you, the next question you have to face is whether your site is appropriate.  This is determined by a site assessment.  Free site assessments are commonly offered by solar installation companies, and they are your first real opportunity to interact with and evaluate a prospective solar installer.  The company I had chosen to work with was called Independent Power Systems.  I chose IPS for four reasons:

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