Goodbye, Bon voyage, Do widzenia, שלום!

I resigned from Coupons.com.

It was very hard to do. I had a comfortable 6 figure job at Coupons.com leading the International Engineering team. My core responsibility was to make sure the International business is supported and everyone is happy there. The company I built (Couponstar Ltd) got acquired by Coupons.com and that is how I ended up in Silicon Valley. I was fortunate enough to experience a lot of change there and rub shoulders with many smart folks from Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, MySpace etc… I also got to run internally Python & Django classes (“Snake Wrangling for Couponians” as I called it) and build out the International products in that stack. It was a fun journey and maybe too comfortable.

And then I quit.

Why I quit

Mainly for 2 reasons:

  • The Silicon Valley Entrepreneurial bug and
  • Large company syndrome of being cubed – I will leave this point for another post.

Moving on is about change

… but not the way you may initially imagine it.

Change works best from within and the environment. Just like when I moved from Sydney (Australia) to Silicon Valley (USA). This was a major environmental change. It also changed the network of people around me.

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” ~ Jim Rohn

So moving on from the comfort of a job changes:

  • Your environment and
  • Your professional & personal network.

Change is not comfortable because it goes against the automatic programming known as the habit. But it becomes comfortable after a while and then your back into auto pilot mode.. again habit. To understand this and how to modify habits check out The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

Change is difficult but you adjust and move to auto pilot. Just like when you first learnt to drive a car. It was tough but now you don’t even bother to pay attention to it. That part of you is in auto pilot mode. It’s a gift we humans all have. Just need to embrace it.

So lets say you have made a decision to move on from being an employee to an entrepreneur. After a while you will never want to go back to being an employee not because it may be more financially beneficial but because your mind no longer associates with that environment, network and habit of being a cog inside a machine.

This is why children of entrepreneurs end up being entrepreneurs because they too have grown up in that sort of mindset and moving to being an employee (the norm for most) just doesn’t comply. It doesn’t feel right. However coming from an employee’s mindset moving to an entrepreneur feels scary because you have yet not embraced the new way of living. You have a choice to embrace it and wait for the change to become a part of you or fall back into your old patterns. You choose.

This is how I roll ~ gtdfaster.com
This is how I roll ~ gtdfaster.com

Before, I was just another cog in the comfort machine. Now I will be rubbing shoulders with fellow entrepreneurs and business folks. Have full visibility across the whole business, full technology accountability and be responsible for making major impact and disrupting the medical space. Knowing that the technology we build and scale internationally is saving lives. I think I will enjoy the new journey ahead as the CTO of Medlert Inc.

If you are ever in SF ping me and drop in for the famous Samovar tea brewing & a cuppa! Medlert is located in 4 Embarcadero, San Francisco.

Samovar tea gets brewed here - drop by for a cuppa you wont forget!
Samovar tea gets brewed here – drop by for a cuppa you wont forget!

The awesome team I worked with at Coupons.com

Finally thank you to the team I got to work with at Coupons.com. And all those that attended Snake Wrangling for Couponians classes and my tech talks.

My International Engineering team (left to right): Keyvan, Dilip, Steve, Me, JP and Oleg.
Technical Operations team helping us out on the International front (left to Right): Dilip, Matt, Russell, Manny, Me, Jennifer & Rich

~ Ernest

unSEXY tech companies that… Just Make Money

The 1-day conference about unsexy tech companies that…Just Make Money was organized by 500Startups and hosted at an unsexy company, Microsoft, on August 9th in Mountain View.

I got an opportunity to attend after helping secure Coupons.com CEO Steven Boal to speak at the conference. Steven and I have a good long 8 year history going back to Australia/UK when he first invested in our company Couponstar Ltd and later acquired us to extend the International arm of Coupons, Inc.

The day kicked off with Jeff Lawson, CEO from Twilio speaking on Self-Service Models for Growth followed by Steven Boal, CEO, from Coupons on Disrupting unSEXY: The Tale of a $1 Billion Company that Changed an Industry. Concluding the morning session with Sexy time with PowerPoint: Hacking growth for SlideShare by Rashmi Sinha, CEO, Slideshare.

The jist of the morning talks was ~ sexy or not there is plenty of opportunity to disrupt an industry and make money. Believe and keep on pushing.

Morning session

Jeff Lawson, Twilio CEO
Jeff Lawson, Twilio CEO

Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio highlighted important points around doers and how to sell to them. Doers are power users. “Make a hero out of your doers” and they will live and breathe your passion. Empower them via your site by giving them:

  • a tour – what your product does,
  • pricing – does it solve their problem at a reasonable price and
  • how to get started – empower them to start playing around. Self service.

No shenanigans. Internet sheds light so they do not have to put up with shenanigans.
Finally invert the traditional sales model. First success, then transaction.

Steven Boal, CEO of Coupons.com (a 13-year-young company) gave everyone insights into an industry which coupons.com has disrupted. Coupons.com was built without taking any funding. Recently receiving a $200m infusion of capital valuing the company at $1B. Couponing is now becoming more digital than ever before. The old paper industry is fading into the distance and getting replaced by online channels. Coupons is at the forefront of digital couponing with its leading suite of digital channels like GroceryIQ, Coupons.com, Brandcaster (whitelabel solutions) et al. Frugal is the new black.

“If you think it is an overnight success… it is a long night” ~ Steven Boal

Steven Boal, Coupons.com CEO
Steven Boal, Coupons.com CEO

Rashmi Sinha, from Slideshare finished off the morning session with an interactive presentation describing their early days to growth to Microsoft acquisition. Rashmi’s message was Build, Solve problem/s THEN get Distribution. The slides from the presentation are located here.

Aaron Levie, CEO, Box.net did an onstage debate on How Box Arrived, Survived & Thrived in a Hype-Driven World with Dave McClure, Founding Partner of 500 Startups.

Wrapping up the morning session was a comical, slightly weird in a good way presentation by the CEO of MailChimp, Ben Chestnut. He bootstrapped the company without any funding whatsoever.

CEO of MailChimp, Ben Chestnut.
CEO of MailChimp, Ben Chestnut.

Ben’s 3 lessons to the hungry entrepreneurs in the room were:

  1. Stop obsessing about the competition or you will become and copy them.
  2. Fight really, really weird – creativity is just connecting things. You do well if you make it different but you kill it if you make it funny.
  3. Always. Be. Creating. (things) – encourage everyone to build fun projects on top of your API to show what is possible. No project should take longer than 2 weeks.
Mailchimp in SF
Mailchimp reminder in SF

Afternoon session

The afternoon session was made up of 2 Tracks in 2 different rooms. Track 1 was all about Product & Customer and Track 2 on Distribution & Marketing with speakers like Jive, Yammer, Zendesk, Uservoice, Kissmetrics, Cloudera, SurveyMonkey etc. I must admit I wanted to hear both tracks but it was hard when they ran in different rooms at the same time.

Mikkel Svane, CEO of Zendesk
Mikkel Svane, CEO of Zendesk

Zendesk have an Exclusive Offer for qualified startups to get Zendesk for FREE for 12 months! Start a trial now.

Some notable lessons:

“Use distribution hacks like Dropbox’s upgrade, refer, tweet for more space to reduce the cost of acquisition.” – Kissmetrics

“Before you do anything ask ‘Why’ NOT ‘No’.” – Yammer

“Features should announce themselves. Imagine a world without corporate training where no one has read a manual.” – Yammer

“Don’t anger a customer over pennies or they will try to destroy you.” – ZenDesk

“Do the math on how many $20 accounts you need to be a $100m business.” – UserVoice

Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey with Dave McClure
Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey with Dave McClure

The day concluded with presentations from the last 500Startups batch of startups like…

  • Happy Inspector – Fixing the way inspections are done. Led by thunder from down-under Jindou Lee,
  • Teamly – People management made easy. Led by Scott Allison.
  • Etc.

I got a chance to talk to many interesting people, learn about great products and service and make new friends. Through this experience I meet Aussie founders of ScriptRock, Happy Inspector and Flightfox whom are all working on exciting products & services. Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi! Good to see Aussie power in Silicon Valley making a difference.

Finally, you can view all the unSEXY presentations from 500Startup’s SlideShare channel here.

There you have it. Plenty of kick ass companies disrupting their industry. The future looks exciting!

Safe journey!
~ Ernest

Save money using coupons

Americans love coupons. Coupons are sexy. Coupons save you money.

It has always been an American Sunday paper tradition to clip coupons out for the week ahead. With the maturity of technology this landscape evolved and now most coupons are located online as the newspaper industry declines. So before you head out to shop in Silicon Valley, visit one of the following coupon sites to grab a bargain and save more of your money using coupons.

You might have already noticed that in the header navigation (above) of this site (The Road to Silicon Valley) I have already hooked up a “Save money” section to provide you with quick access to FREE at home printable grocery coupons and internet coupon codes. Those are powered by the no.1 coupon provider in America, Coupons.com. Keep on reading below to learn more about the best options to save money.

Coupons

A coupon is a ticket or document that can be exchanged for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product. Customarily, coupons are issued by manufacturers of consumer packaged goods or by retailers, to be used in retail stores as a part of sales promotions. Basically printing a coupon is like printing money without any commitment to purchase required (unlike group buying below which is the opposite).

Top 2 sites in the USA for printable coupons are:

  • Coupons.com – Top 50 U.S. web property and No. 1 in the Coupons/Rewards category*—as well as Grocery iQ® and Coupons.com mobile applications for iPhone® devices and the Android™ operating system. Coupons.com Free GroceryIQ mobile application is superb and does all the hardwork for you by connecting coupons and your SafeWay loyalty card program to your shopping list. It couldn’t get easier to plan your shopping and load coupons!
  • Coupon Mom – Stephanie Nelson is The Savings Mom™ on ABC News’ Good Morning America, where she has been a regular contributor since 2004. Her Good Morning America segments have taught viewers how to save in many areas, including travel, clothing, restaurants, groceries, gifts, theme parks, gardening and entertainment.

Group buying

Group buying works that if a certain number of people sign up for the offer, then the deal becomes available to all; if the predetermined minimum is not met, no one gets the deal that day. Basically you have to “purchase” the deal in order to save X amount eg. buy for $10 and get $20 worth of goods. So there is a level of commitment required. Unlike coupons where no purchase commitment is required.

Top 2 sites in the USA which allow you to participate in group daily deals are:

  • Groupon – the big boy in group buying. No doubt you would have heard of them. Easy to use and always great products & services to buy. I’m a regular user of their simple, easy to use and efficient service.
  • Living Social – this is a Groupon competitor. Not as popular as Groupon but they do feature some good deals. The beauty of using these 2 sites is if a limited (1 per purchase) deal appears on Groupon you can go to Living Social and purchase it here too.

Coupon codes

Also known as internet coupons since you need to be making an online purchase to take advantage of these – think godaddy codes. Internet coupons typically provide for reduced cost or free shipping, a specific dollar or percentage discount, or some other offer to encourage consumers to purchase specific products or to purchase from specific retailers. Nearly every online retailer or website has a place within its shopping cart or checkout process for promo codes or coupon codes. Use the sites below to get your discount codes when making any online purchase.

Top 2 sites in the USA which allow you to get internet coupon codes are:

  • RetailMeNot – offers discount coupons for more than 65,000 stores around the world. They have been around for a long time and always provide quality active coupon codes.
  • Coupons.com – a one-stop shop provider for printable grocery coupons, local coupon, coupon codes and daily deals. Don’t forget to sign up to their free newsletter so you never miss a great deal.

Other specials to watch out for

Finally, regularly visit your favorite store’s website. They will always feature one-off limited time discounts especially around holidays. Any holiday in the USA is a good reason for these companies to lure you into their store via a great deal – some even up to 50% off during Thanksgiving festive season. I find subscribing to their newsletter always keeps me in the loop.

Best deals can be found during the following times of the year:

  1. Black Friday (3rd Friday of November) – the day after Thanksgiving (3rd Thursday of November).
  2. Christmas sales (before and after 25th of December).
  3. Half year sales and other random public holidays. Get to know American public holidays.

So next time you plan on shopping don’t forget to check the above websites and save anywhere from 10-30% on your shopping bill. While your there, sign up to their newsletters / daily alerts so you never miss that deal. The money saved from this simple habit can be used for your education, your start-up or directed toward a number of other investment vehicles.

Here’s to happy savings!

~ Ernest

Links mentioned in this post

  • Coupons – Coupons, Grocery Coupons, Printable Coupons, Restaurant Coupons, Coupon Codes
  • CouponMom – Cut your grocery bill in half!
  • Groupon – local daily deals
  • LivingSocial – local daily deals
  • RetailMeNot – Coupon codes and discounts for 65000 online stores!