Mu Sigma offers $108M reasons to believe in big data


Gigaom

Chicago-based big data firm Mu Sigma has closed a $108 million private-equity investment round to expand its analytics-outsourcing business. Armed with a team of data scientists and subject-matter experts, Mu Sigma takes customers’ data and it turns it into business insights, meaning customers don’t have to built their own in-house big data expertise. It’s an already-profitable business that will only get bigger.

The engineering, programming and math skills necessary to do big data analytics are in hot demand but short supply, which is what makes companies like Mu Sigma so appealing. All customers have to do is bring their data and their money, and the analytics experts go to work figuring out the best strategies for getting insights, and then run the big data workloads. Whereas using cloud-based resources eliminates the capital expense of big data projects, outsourcing eliminates the human resources expense, too.

It’s a fine business to be…

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4 Business Metrics You Can’t Afford to Ignore | Inc.com


http://pulse.me/s/4o1eH
4 Business Metrics You Can’t Afford to Ignore

OWNERS’ MANUAL

Profit and revenue tell you a lot–but they don’t tell you everything about the health of your business.

4 business metrics you can't afford to ignore

Flickr/MStewartPhotography

Every business focuses on and measures revenue. Every business focuses on profit and loss.

And they should, but there are a few other financial and performance measurements that can provide earlier warning signs of trouble—or early indications of longer-term success.

Here are four metrics your business can’t afford to ignore:

Cost to Acquire Customers (CAC). Also known as customer acquisition cost, this measures the cost of landing a customer. In simple terms, add up the cost of marketing and sales—including salaries and overhead—and divide by the number of customers you land during a specific time frame.

Spend $100 and acquire 10 customers and your CAC is $10.

What’s a good number? That depends on your industry and business model. It’s also important to understand how CAC fits into your overall operating budget. The leaner your operation the more you can afford to spend to acquire a customer.

Also keep in mind that a high CAC makes sense if you also generate a high…

Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV). Unless your business is truly one-off, some percentage of customers will become repeat customers. The more repeat customers you have, and the more those customers spend, the higher CAC you can afford. (Some business models are built on breaking even on the customer’s first purchase; future purchases will be profitable since the CAC is at or near zero.)

LTV is often tricky to calculate and does involve making a few assumptions, at least during the startup phase. But once you’ve built a little history you can start to spot customer retention and spending trends. Then the math gets a lot easier: Determine what the average customer spends over a specific time period and calculate the return on your original CAC investment. Sense-check that against your profit and loss statement. Roughly speaking, the greater the LTV, the higher CAC you can afford.

Why do these two metrics matter so much? A rising CAC means you’ll need to start cutting costs or raising prices—or do a better job in marketing and sales. A falling LTV indicates the same measures are necessary… and means you’re failing to leverage the most important and least expensive customers you have: current customers.

Churn rate. Every business gains and loses customers; that’s a fact of business life. But still, lost customers are like failed investments. You spent money to acquire them, service them, and try to retain them… and now they’re gone.

A rising churn rate could be caused by a number of factors: Dissatisfaction with your products and services, new competition in your market, or even the coming end of a product or service cycle.

Churn rate is a solid indicator of rising CAC and lower LTV. In fact, all three are great leading indicators of problems—or successes—to come, both in other metrics and for your business overall.

Revenue percentages. Very few businesses only have one source of revenue. Most have multiple sources, and changes in the contribution percentage each makes can indicate problems are ahead.

Take wedding photography, a business I know something about. To keep things simple, say 80 percent of revenue historically comes from the initial wedding package sold to couples, 10 percent from additional sales after the wedding to the couple, and 10 percent from post-wedding sales to friends, family, etc. If post-wedding sales fall off that will impact overall profit levels since almost all marketing and sales costs go into booking weddings so margins on additional sales are naturally much higher.

Changes in revenue percentages can often signal not only changes in customer spending habits but also broader trends in your industry and market.

If you have other key metrics your business follows, share them in the comments below.

Read more:

5 Jobs You Should Have Before Starting a Business

Best Way to Become an Expert

Best 2011 Books for Entrepreneurs
jeffhaden.bucket_11526.jpg

Jeff Haden

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest innovators and leaders he knows in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list. He’d tell you which ones, but then he’d have to kill you.

Regards,Reda Bouaichi

26 questions you have to answer correctly to get funding for your startup » WhoAPI blog


http://pulse.me/s/4ewpb

26 questions you have to answer correctly to get funding for your startup

It’s been a crazy week. On Monday we announced that our project received funding. Member of the Croatian Angel Network – CRANE, Mihovil Barančić believes that we have what it takes to create something big and worth mentioning. But I am way ahead of myself. We’ve started to explore the possibility of getting an investment roughly a year ago. So here are some questions that we got during that time.

  • Why do you need an investment?
  • Why don’t you sell your house/company/whatever if you believe that much in your product?
  • Do you believe in your service?
  • What does your service do?
  • Why is that better than company x?

It’s good that your share all this info, because otherwise you’re a bozo (tm Guy Kawasaki-Steve Jobs)

  • What if some big company decides to copy your service?
  • What if your competitor or newcomer decides to copy your service and offer it half the price?
  • Is there any competition?
  • Can you see your company becoming a 10 million dollar company?
  • Why don’t you start localy first?

Why don’t you go global from the start? Since we were going global right from the start, we weren’t asked that question (but some probably will).

Interrogation

Interrogation

  • Can you bootstrap?
  • What experience do you have?
  • How did you get your idea?
  • Do you have a working prototype or a proof of concept?
  • Why should I invest in you instead of hiring 1/2/3 people and outsource the whole project?
  • Would you be willing to relocate to: capital city/London/Sillicon Valley?

If you make any kind of statement, be prepared for questions about backing up that statement with facts.

  • Do you have an executive summary?
  • Do you have a business plan?
  • How are you going to get your customers?
  • Who needs your service?
  • Who is you target audience?
  • What is your business model?
  • Do you have an exit strategy?
  • Are you prepared to give up 10%/20%/30% of equity?
  • How much money do you need?
  • Why that ammount?

I am 100% positive there were more questions, but these were the ones that first came to my mind. Good luck in finding the answers. Please, please, please help share this questions and help other startups that want to receive funding!

Author: Goran Duskic

Goran Duškić co-founded a game development team Generation Stars when he was a teenager, and he co-founded hosting and web develpoment company GEM Studio (which was sold in 2011). He co-founded tech startup WhoAPI and has 10+ experience in business development, online marketing strategy and PR.

Tags: funding questions, How to get funding, startup questions, whoapi

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 at 11:43 am and is filed under News & Updates. You can follow any comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment, or trackback.

Regards,Reda Bouaichi

By Reda Bouaichi Posted in tips

What Every CEO Needs to Know About the Cloud – Harvard Business Review


http://alturl.com/miw5i

November 2011

In 2010 an IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs worldwide revealed a troubling gap: Close to 80% of them believed their environment would grow much more complex in the coming years, but fewer than half thought their companies were well equipped to deal with this shift. The survey team called it “the largest leadership challenge identified in eight years of research.”

Unfortunately, the information technology infrastructure at many large companies only makes this challenge more difficult. Their technology environments actually impede their ability to sense change and respond quickly. While there is no simple fix for this problem, help is at hand in the form of cloud computing, a new suite of digital tools and approaches.

Cloud computing is a sharp departure from the status quo. Today most companies own their software and hardware and keep them “on premise” in data centers and other specialized facilities. With cloud computing, in contrast, companies lease their digital assets, and their employees don’t know the location of the computers, data centers, applications, and databases that they’re using. These resources are just “in the cloud” somewhere.

To advocates of cloud computing, that’s the whole point. Customers don’t have to concern themselves with details; they just rent what they need from the cloud. (For a more detailed explanation, see the sidebar “What Is the Cloud?”)

How important is cloud computing? I would argue that it’s a sea change—a deep and permanent shift in how computing power is generated and consumed. It’s as inevitable and irreversible as the shift from steam to electric power in manufacturing, which was gaining momentum in America about a century ago. And just as that transition brought many benefits and opened up new possibilities to factory owners, so too will the cloud confer advantages on its adopters.

At present, there’s a lot of uncertainty and skepticism around the cloud, particularly among technology professionals who have deep expertise with, or attachment to, on-premise computing. Companies shouldn’t give such people too much influence over plans to move into the cloud; that would be like putting the crew that ran the boiler and steam turbine in charge of electrifying a factory. The CEO and other senior business executives need to take responsibility for bringing their organizations into the era of cloud computing.

When I talk to executives about the cloud, three questions always come up: Why will the cloud be a big deal beyond the IT department? What are the main concerns and areas of skepticism, and how valid are they? And how should we get started? In this article I’ll address those questions. I’ll explain the cloud and its benefits, highlight how perceived barriers and other concerns will keep many companies from taking full advantage of it, discuss the implications of various responses, and recommend actions.

The Benefits of the Cloud

Some people maintain that there’s nothing magic about the cloud—that anything it can do, on-premise approaches can also accomplish. That argument is correct in theory, at least for large companies that can afford comprehensive enterprise software and top IT talent. Such companies can buy or build software for collaboration or analytics—or anything else—and install it in their own data centers. They can enable these applications for different devices—desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones—and make them accessible to employees at home and on the road via web browsers. They can also open this infrastructure to people outside the organization, such as contractors, suppliers, and joint venture partners.

Regards,Reda Bouaichi

A Complete Resource Guide to Start a Business in 2012 | Entrepreneur.com


http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/222490?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+entrepreneur%2Flatest+%28Entrepreneur%29

A Complete Resource Guide to Start a Business in 2012

New Year Resources

If you’re planning to launch a business in 2012, you’ll need every last penny you can get your hands on. That’s why we put together a guide to free and low-cost resources to help you ease smoothly into the world of entrepreneurship.

It’s still tough out there. Credit remains relatively tight, and consumers are cautious. So arm yourself with valuable information that will help you to get off to a winning start. We’re here to help. Here are the essential steps you’ll need to take to get your new business off the ground.

Figure out the right concept. To be successful and happy in your own business, you need to think seriously about how you like to spend your time and where you want to live. After you’ve come up with a business concept that suits you personally, the next step is to research the competition, your prospective customers and the cost of getting started.

Related: Five Affordable Consumer Research Tools

Create a business plan. Putting your goals on paper will help you focus your concept. A business plan typically includes details about the product or service, the competition and target consumers, plus a cash-flow projection. You’ll also want to come up with a clever name for your startup.

  • Explore our how-to guides on business plans, including the basics of writing your plan, what you must include and where to find help.
  • As you consider names for your business, be sure to check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website to make sure they aren’t already taken.
  • You’ll need to determine the structure of your business for tax purposes. Study the SBA’s list of possibilities and tax implications for each one.
  • Find your local chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit association created to educate and mentor entrepreneurs. It may be able to refer you to local business owners to serve as advisers.
  • If you plan to recruit employees, look for guidance in our hiring center, including how to start employees on the right track. You can also review the SBA’s 10 steps to making your first hire.

Find Financing. The idea is hatched, the plan is set. But nothing happens without some green. Getting a loan could prove challenging because banks often are hesitant to lend to someone without a track record. And another traditional credit source—the home equity loan—has become harder to come by since the housing market cratered and home values plummeted. So it just might be time to hit up friends and family and draw on your personal savings.

Related: What Technologies Banks Should Be Using to Keep Your Money Safe

Develop and execute a marketing plan. In the Internet age, you can choose from an ever-expanding array of marketing tools, including traditional media, social networks, blogs, email and pay-per-click ads. They all require time and money, and the trick is to determine which offer the best return on investment for your particular business.

Related: Seven Tips for Improving Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

Start selling. When you hang out the “open” sign, be ready to meet your new customers with enthusiasm and the right sales pitch. Once you start attracting customers, you’ll need to figure out how to keep them coming back with great service, new products and promotions.

Related: Two Weeks to Startup

Did you find this story helpful? YesNo

Regards,Reda Bouaichi

Why I Quit My Job to Build eval.me | Blog | eval.me | Form Builder | Online Form | Email Survey


http://pulse.me/s/3QLmt

WHY I QUIT MY JOB TO BUILD EVAL.ME

Posted on December 5, 2011

Hi. I’m Flaviu. 4 months ago, I had a cushy IT job with the State. Today, I launched eval.me.

The Why:

1. What doesn’t make you stronger, kills you.

or, to rephrase another adage, “Learning is more important than knowledge.”

I feel most alive when learning something new. In any field.

Most jobs hire you for being relatively good at something. They want you to keep doing that one thing to increase their efficiency.

While this increases their efficiency in the short run, it hurts them in the long term as you start viewing your job as ‘soul-sucking’.

The lack of a challenge kills one’s potential. On the other hand, having a startup will always be a challenge.

2. It’s the only choice.

You’re thinking about starting a business. You may think you have three choices:

1. Stay with your job (your idea isn’t that good anyway).

2. Stay with your job and work on your idea at nights and weekends.

3. Leave your job and ‘sink or swim’.

1. is not an option because it sets you up for living with regrets. You’ll always wonder what could have happened if you had pursued your idea.

2. seems to be an option because you always hear about ventures starting out as side-projects built on late nights and weekends.

Well, I only have a few hours of focus every day. By midnight, I just blankly stare at my screen. Maybe it works for you, but it took me 2 years to figure out it does not work for me.

3. is the only real option. Even if you just somewhat believe in your idea, you owe it to yourself (and potential clients) to implement it. Even if it fails, you’ll have no regrets.

3. It’s your social responsibility.

Startups add some value to the world, whether that is making a process more efficient, inventing a new way to connect with others, or simply entertaining the masses with virtual goods.

The very fact that you are in a position to create a startup is the result of a series of fortunate events: you are smart, healthy, creative, self-sustaining, and courageous. To not do a startup would be a waste of these talents.

The world’s advancement relies on people like you realizing their potential.

Note:

I would not have subscribed to the belief above 2 years ago.

I’ve since participated in a few charity projects with my Rotary club, including an effort to equip the middle school I attended in Nasaud, Romania with a computer lab of Apple iMacs this past summer. Here are some pictures.

The meaning of such projects is much greater than anything I’ve accomplished professionally. Hence, combining startups and social good in eval.me motivates me most.

The How:

1. Save.

I was able to save just over $10,000 to help me bootstrap eval.me. I firmly believe that my first startup needed to be on my own dime to feel every mistake.

I cut monthly expenses by about 50% by getting a roommate, cooking more, and not watching TV.

2. Code.

It’s trendy to advise business people to learn how to code before doing a startup. I already knew how to code, but there are many other technical challenges besides coding.

For instance, I needed a 1 minute video to present my startup. I could have learned Adobe After Effects, and try to do it myself, but I decided that my time would be better spent elsewhere. So, I paid $1,000 for the animation and voice-over (mind you, I still wrote the script and spent hours coordinating the story board).

Maybe a more realistic advice would be to “Learn a little bit of coding, design, SEO, project management, read hackernews, and listen to some podcasts.”

It is worth noting that while I did most of the coding, I also had some great help from a few very talented machers (I’m looking at you, @fansipans, @floomoon, @lukedupont, and @fldtrace)

3. There’s more than 24 hours in a day.

Developers are often frustrated when asked how long it will take them to build a certain feature.

My original deadline for eval.me was October 15th, which became November 1st, which became November 18th, then November 28th, and today is December 5th.

If you had ordered something from Amazon and it came 2 months late, it would be inexcusable. But the iterative process of innovation is unlike any corporate assembly line. Make sure your coworkers understand that a task may take anywhere between 10 minutes and 3 days.

4. Focus.

Don’t count your startup hours like your freelance hours. You can’t charge yourself $100/hr and it will only frustrate you to know your opportunity cost.

Finishing the MVP is Priority #1. At all times. Anything else is a distraction: hackernews, twitter, food, sleep, gmail, friends. Saying no is hard for me because I enjoy talking to the smart people that surround me in the Charlotte community.

However, to fail is to succeed. Leaving something unfinished, that’s failure.

Using JAXB to generate XML from the Java, XSD


Reference

We can use JAXB to marshal the Java objects into XML using the given Schema and vice versa- unmarshal XML into Java objects. The xml schema can be specified in DTD, XSD or other format. The tool “xjc” is used to generate the annotated Java classes from the XSD schema. One can download the Java WSDP from here, it includes the JAXB implementation tools required. Here I will throw light on how to generate XML dynamically. Even I havent gone in depth with JAXB, but I found this really useful and thought of sharing it in the blog.

The sample XSD being used is: expense.xsd

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<?xml version="1.0"?></div>
<xs:schema xmlns:xs="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
<xs:element name="expenseReport" type="ExpenseT" />
<xs:complexType name="ExpenseT">
    <xs:sequence>
        <xs:element name="user" type="UserT"/>
        <xs:element name="items" type="ItemListT"/>
    </xs:sequence>
</xs:complexType>
<xs:complexType name="UserT">
    <xs:sequence>
        <xs:element name="userName" type="xs:string" />
    </xs:sequence>
</xs:complexType>
<xs:complexType name="ItemListT">
     <xs:sequence>
         <xs:element name="item" type="ItemT" maxOccurs="unbounded"/>
     </xs:sequence>
</xs:complexType>
<xs:complexType name="ItemT">
     <xs:sequence>
         <xs:element name="itemName" type="xs:string" />
         <xs:element name="purchasedOn" type="xs:string" />
         <xs:element name="amount" type="xs:decimal" />
     </xs:sequence>
</xs:complexType>
</xs:schema>

You can read about XSD here.

Now we use the xjc tool to generate corresponding Java classes. The generate java classes are annotated appropriately. Am not going into the annotation of the classes, cause it would make things complicated.

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xjc.exe expense.xsd

By default the command generates the Java classes in a directory named “generated”. There are lot of options which can be used with xjc and one can have a look at using- xjc -help.

The below Main class- Main.java uses the generated classes for creating the XML.

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package generated;
import javax.xml.bind.JAXBContext;
import javax.xml.bind.JAXBElement;
import javax.xml.bind.JAXBException;
import javax.xml.bind.Marshaller;
import java.math.BigDecimal;
public class Main
{
    public static void main(String[] args) throws JAXBException
    {
        ObjectFactory factory = new ObjectFactory();
        UserT user = factory.createUserT();
        user.setUserName("Sanaulla");
        ItemT item = factory.createItemT();
        item.setItemName("Seagate External HDD");
        item.setPurchasedOn("August 24, 2010");
        item.setAmount(new BigDecimal("6776.5"));
        ItemListT itemList = factory.createItemListT();
        itemList.getItem().add(item);
        ExpenseT expense = factory.createExpenseT();
        expense.setUser(user);
        expense.setItems(itemList);
        JAXBContext context = JAXBContext.newInstance("generated");
        JAXBElement<ExpenseT> element = factory.createExpenseReport(expense);
        Marshaller marshaller = context.createMarshaller();
        marshaller.setProperty("jaxb.formatted.output",Boolean.TRUE);
        marshaller.marshal(element,System.out);
    }
}

In the above XSD, we see that there are few complex types declared. These complex types generate in to Java classes. The child elements and attributes become the properties of the class and they are provided with the getters and setters. One cannot directly create the instance of such classes i.e cannot call new on them. When ever we compile a XSD, there is a ObjectFacotry class generated- this is the factory for creating the instances of the XSD Complex types (Lines-17,19, 24, 27 in the above Java class). Once we get the instance we populate the properties with corresponding data using the setters provided with the class. Also note that- A complex element can have many complex elements as the members of the class. In that case what happens we use the factory to get the instance of the complex elements and then use the setters of the outer complex element. For example: In the above XSD- ExpenseT is a complex type which consists of UserT and a list of ItemT (ItemListT). In the above Java class- Lines-27,28,29- am creating an instance of ExpenseT and then using the setters to set the values of the UserT and ItemListT. The RootElement- is created by calling createExpenseReport() for the factory. The name of the method is influenced by the name of the root element and the return type and the argument type of the method is same as that of the type of root element.

Once we have set the values for the different elements, attributes which are to go into the XML, its now time to actually generate the XML. We must have an Marshaller (To get XML from the Java objects) or an Unmarshaller (to get java objects from XML). We would need a Marshaller- which can be obtained from the JAXBContext instance. Lines- 31,32 obtain an instance of Marshaller. Different properties can be set for the marshaller and in the above code we are setting the jaxb.formatted.output as true- which means that the xml obtained is neatly formatted making is readable to the user.

Different properties supported are:

  • jaxb.encoding
  • jaxb.formatted.output
  • jaxb.schemaLocation
  • jaxb.noNamespaceSchemaLocation
  • jaxb.fragment

<instance_of_marshaller>.marshal() is the method used to generate the XML. Its is overloaded to accept the following output mechanisms:

  • org.xml.sax.ContentHandler
  • org.w3c.dom.Node
  • javax.xml.transform.Result
  • java.io.Writer
  • java.io.OutputStream
  • javax.xml.stream.XMLStreamWriter
  • javax.xml.stream.XMLEventWriter

The xml generated is shown below:

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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
  <expenseReport>
    <user>
      <userName>Sanaulla</userName>
   </user>
   <items>
     <item>
       <itemName>Seagate External HDD</itemName>
       <purchasedOn>August 24, 2010</purchasedOn>
       <amount>6776.5</amount>
     </item>
   </items>
</expenseReport>

PS: I havent gone much into the details of JAXB. This is just the overview of how one can generate XML confirming to the schema.

JavaScript Regular expressions


Regular Expressions for client-side JavaScript

a free online quick reference by VisiBone
Regular Expressions (column 1 from a page of the JavaScript Card)
I hope you find these
excerpts of the VisiBone
JavaScript references
very useful.

See also the
JavaScript Card 
and Foldouts

Here is the syntax
for a very powerful
and very cryptic
string pattern
matching scheme
in the client-side
JavaScript of
web browsers.

You can use it to
validate form entry,
parse URLs, and
many other things.

The information here
forms a page of the 
JavaScript Card:
 JavaScript Card

and is one of the set
of three JavaScript 
Foldouts:
 JavaScript Regular Expressions Foldout (page 1)
 JavaScript Regular Expressions Foldout (pages 2-5)
 JavaScript Regular Expressions Foldout (pages 6-8)

Regular Expressions (column 2 from a page of the JavaScript Card)


Regular Expressions (column 3 from a page of the JavaScript Card)
Regular Expressions (column 4 from a page of the JavaScript Card)

VisiBone also makes
several printed web
color references.

Posters & Charts
Webmaster's Palette Color Wheel Poster

Laminated Cards
Color Card, laminated and slick for clients
that match the 
“VisiBone2”
swatch collection 
in Adobe
Illustrator and 
Photoshop.

Plus two varieties 
of Mouse Pads.

And a chart with 
1068
non-web-safe
colors:
Web Color KiloChart

Feedback welcome!