Jim Harrer


7 Weeks with the Apple Watch–A product guy’s perspective.

FullSizeRenderI received my space gray (black) Apple sport’s watch on June 11, 2015.  People ask about it all the time, so I thought I would share my “first impression” with you.  If you're on the fence, this review may answer the question, "buy now or wait until v2?"

A couple disclosures to help balance the review.  I am a watch guy.  I’ve worn a watch since my parents purchased my first Timex for my 13th birthday (long ago).  I have a lot of watches, high-end and low-end, I don’t like to wear the same watch all the time.  I had an early calculator watch, I participated in Pebble’s initial Kickstarter.  I have a specialty watch for when I scuba dived, did Triathlons, biked and monitored my heart rate (both Polar and Mio) during workouts. I used a BodyBugg 5 years ago to measure my activity and food intake. Today, I wear a Fitbit charge, I wear a MOOV when I swim and kickbox. So, I like wearables.

I thought what might give this review a little different slat is to write about this product from a Product Manager’s perspective, looking at this product simply as a v1.0 product launch.  For those of you who have been following my blog, you also know that I can’t resist adding my predictions on the future product roadmap and offer up a couple suggestions on what would make the product perfect.  I hope you enjoy it, as always, I enjoy your comments and emails, so drop me a note with your feedback.

A Strong Product Introduction

It’s actually mind bogging to think about the challenge Apple faced with this product introduction.  I’m a software guy, which means I have a great deal of respect for hardware designers.  Prototyping, alpha & beta physical product testing, iterating, tooling, supply chain management are all challenges we software guys get to avoid.  In the early days we did worry about how many disks or CDs we needed, which is why we figured out how to allow people to download our software and install it; we needed to simplify distribution.  Hardware designers don’t get this option. Consider this, most of the analyst have Apple selling 30 million watches in the first 12 months, though I suspect this number was a huge miss – more on that in a moment.  Anyone what to guess how many units they ordered for the launch?  2, 3, 5 million?  Then juggle 38 different models, it’s a crazy number for a version 1.0 product.  New merchandizing challenges, cases, displays and training for their gurus.  Add a new operating system (OS), new activation, and new integration with the iPhone – it was an amazing orchestration. Today, Apple Watches are available in their retail locations for immediate purchase, around the globe and soon will be in Best Buy. 

The Apple Watch as jewelry

FullSizeRender 1The watch is nice, I wouldn’t call it beautiful like some of the reviews.  The reason is, 99% of the time, the watch display is off.  Unlike a Rolex, Omega and similar priced Citizen watch, the Apple watch will not get you any compliments, because it’s turned off.  Unlike other smart watches, like the Pebble, Apple decided it couldn’t risk the batter life to have the watch always telling time.  I get the reason, however this choice places it more in the fitness tracking category for me, not a watch.  A watch should always tell you, and anyone else around you glancing at it, the current time. Once the watch face is always on, the Apple watch case, band and watch face will take on the style of it’s owner.  Not before. 

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Alexa and I - 90 days and loving it. New tricks I hope the Amazon Echo will learn in the future.


Amazon Echo - The first 90 days.

I jumped on Amazon's offer to purchase their Echo when I first heard about it.  Alexa, as she was named by Jeff Bezos's team, arrived on February 3rd, 2015. 

I've read a couple of reviews and am happy to share my perspective, however I thought it would also to be fun to talk about some of the things I hope Alexa will learn to do in the future - so I'll discuss both and hope you'll use the comment section below to ask questions and add your own observations.

Review & learning to talk to Alexa

I thought it was incredibly easy to unpack and get set up.  I was talking to Alexa in less than five minutes.  I decided to take her to the office where she would see more consistent use, and even moving her to the company WiFi was painless.  I've got to hand it to the Amazon team, connecting my TVs and DVRs to my home Wi-Fi were much more difficult.  The companion Amazon Echo iOS app I use makes navigating the Amazon Echo pretty darn easy.

I immediately started my conversation with Alexa, things like:

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5 Best Practices of a Startup Leader

I’ve been around the block a few times as a technology leader. I’ve been fortunate to start a company, bootstrap it to profitability, skipping the VC rounds, taking it public on the NASDAQ exchange and then having a successful exit – this was over a 14 year span. I learned to manage, I learned the importance of leading by example. Since then, I’ve done another startup and performed three corporate turnarounds, all feeding my intense desire to learn how to build financially sound and insanely happy and productive companies. I thought I had heard and seen it all. Boy was I wrong.

13831827 sThis past year I have been working with 10 startup companies. Some through our accelerator here in Bend, Oregon, others through a recent Startup Weekend we held in Bend and the rest through my consulting practice. Not all startups are created equal. Some start with one person, others with more. Some start with a techie developing a killer mobile application, the other a mom with an idea on how to reduce her child’s asthma attacks and that’s it.

Working with these companies I’ve had the chance to see what has worked and where they’ve stumbled. I’ve been able to start understanding the Best Practices of a Startup Leader. The first thing you should note in my title is, I chose the word “Leader” over manager or founder. I strongly believe you lead people, and you manage things. Startups are about people, not the things. The things are artifacts of the production from the team. Production drops when people fail to lead.

If you’re thinking of founding a startup, or if you’re a founder of a startup, here are some of the Best Practices I’ve observed from the founders I’ve worked with:

1. They’re passionate.

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Inventor lighting up Kickstarter with a new approach to illuminate bike wheels for safer night time riding.

Introducing the Nori Lights - Bicycle Illumination System

San Diego Kickstarter and Inventor, Chris Flynn, came up with a smart way to Illuminate your bike wheels, letting drivers recognize you instantly at night. Well all know that tiny front and rear lights are not enough. Check out this video:

I know Chris Flynn, he's family, as Nori is my Uncle Nori.  I'll be the first to tell you that Uncle Nori would be very proud of Chris.  You can trust Chris to deliver on his promises and deliver on your pledge.  I would appreciate if you would support this project, by:

  • Telling your friends about it.  Add the link to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles.
  • Buy a Nori Light System if you own a bike, purchase a tee shirt if you don't.
  • Forward this link to one bike shop in your area. Look them up on the web and send them an email via their contact us page.

Let's start another small business in America.  Please support this project today.

Thank you!

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The Lean Start-up MVP – One size does not fit all.

Eric Ries’s bestseller, The Lean Startup, is a thoughtful book that has created a conversation about startups.  It focuses on how to go from the back of the napkin to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), to get in front of prospects in order to see if the idea is viable.

As with any new methodology, framework or process for the matter, I do not think audiences can truly measure its viability until they practice it themselves and spend time teaching it to others.
Lean-Startup-MVPI’ve had the chance to do both, use it with a couple of startups I’m involved in and teach it in the VentureBox business accelerator in Bend, Oregon.

The key principle of The Lean Startup is BUILD-MEASURE-LEARN.  The goal is to come up with a minimal feature set, bring it to market, measure actionable metrics and finally learn from the experience and then start again.  It barrows heavily from agile software development and favors learning from early adopters versus relying deeply on requirements management by someone in marketing.

I’m all for Build-Measure-Learn, what I have a problem with is Minimum Viable Product (MVP).   What is the definition of “Minimum”? I’ve witnessed entrepreneurs get so caught up in this MVP concept, that they test a product too soon and pivot based on incomplete data.  In my opinion, more time, not less, needs to be spent defining the MVP, including who the audience is that will see it, at each iteration.  Don't make the mistake of thinking the MVP is outside of the product lifecycle. 
MVPs should be matched to audiences. For example, your first MVP may be designed to only been seen by the development team, then management, then marketing and then prospects under NDA.  My point here is, be thoughtful about the process and audience.  Showing it to management or marketing, can quickly throw the team off the rails.  An MVP has its own product lifecycle development process, some stages should only be viewed by the core team.

Keep in mind if you’re building hardware, versus software, you have more challenges because of soft tooling requirements.  Also, don’t under-estimate the power of look and feel.  Ignoring UX/UI in some applications can take you down a rat hole you didn't intend. Each product is different. Craigslist appealed to its audience with it's simplistic UI.  Instagram's UX/UI from the get-go is what helped it go viral. 

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Xbox 360 and the battle for the living room

Let me start-off by saying, "I love my Xbox 360". It's actually hard to believe it just celebrated it's 7th birthday (May 12th).  According to Microsoft, about 70 million consoles have been sold.  When you think about it, a piece of hardware that has lasted 7 years is pretty amazing. It's a testament to the design team, I tip my hat to them.  

the-cable-guy-photoLet me switch gears now and discuss what puzzels me about their strategy. Perhaps some of you can comment and help me better understand what I have wrong.

My living room has an Xbox 360 + Kinect, DirecTV HR20-700 DVR and LG BD670 BlueRay Player all connected to my home theather and Sony 55 Bravia/  It's a nice system, not great in today's terms.  The LG BluRay player is less than a year old, everything else was purchased when we bought our home in 2007.  The piece of equipment I hate the most is the DirecTV DVR.  If you scan our recordings, we only watch like 10 channels on our DTV. It's not worth the $100 bucks a month we pay for it.

In an ideal world, it would be great if my Xbox 360 could be hooked up to receive my free, over the air, HD channels and allow me to record them, like the old Microsoft TV.  That would get me pretty close to dumping DirecTV altogether.  It would be great if they could add the balance of the channels offered on PlayOn (a neat application to sling content from your PC to any DLNA device). It would allow me to turn off my PC, save power and add videos from NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, Comedy Central, TV.com, TBS, Spike, and a dozen more. I often wonder why Microsoft doesn't just buy PlayOn from MediaMall and grab Jeff Lawrence (President and CEO) and David Karlton (Chief Technology Officer) two smart and passonate guys?  

Next, I would do everything possible to make sure every living room and bedroom had an Xbox 360 in it.  Here are some of the things I would talk to the team about:

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