Computer Guy

Computer Guy
Sunset at DoubleM Systems (, Del Mar, California

Friday, June 17, 2016

The DoubleM Hierarchy of Content

Here's the introductory story:

A friend stopped by this afternoon, and philosophy happened, as it is customary for us to do.

In considering the Meaning of Life, we got into the exercise of looking back on one's life, and looking forward to the balance of one's life and summing it all up by choosing the words one would want on their tombstone.

How would you write your epitaph?  Try it in a maximum of 12 words. It's an interesting exercise to consider your entire life, being, personality, hopes, dreams, and ambitions, achievements...  in only 12 words or less.

I took a shot at it and came up with something like: "He Lived Life On His Terms, One Perfect Day At A Time" without thinking about it at all, and it just happened to be 12 words exactly. But about an hour later I started changing things, of course. The first 6 words seemed to be too self-centered, so I improved it to be "A Giver, Who Lived One Perfect Day At A Time."  And only 10 words, so much more economical to carve into stone.  There's a win-win! But wait, there's more: "Loved Helping Others Succeed. Planning New Adventures To The End."

The exercise continues for a lifetime, as we evolve and refine our raison d'etre. Maybe you would prefer humor, such as "I Knew This Would Happen" or, as the comedy legend W.C. Fields is said to have wanted on his grave: "I'd Rather Be Here Than In Philadelphia." I was born and raised in Philadelphia, so I can relate to his thinking.

Why 12 words?  Why not 10 or 20?  Is there some ideal number of words for an epitaph? Should it be written in the third person or the first person (He vs. I)? There's a lot to think about when you try to condense a life into a few words.

But it's easier than a vanity license plate! In California you get a maximum of 7 letters and/or numbers, and of course it must be unique! I like getting a new license plate every once in a while, after I get inspired by some new project. Here's the latest one. DBLM.COM is the URL to this blog, for now, but I like changing things a lot, so the plate could change anytime.

Learn more about the DoubleM Audi at 

Is it weird that I have a collection of old vanity plates? Probably. But I figure that getting a new license plate is cheaper than getting a new car.

An epitaph, to me as an entrepreneur, is really a subset of an Elevator Story, which is a subset of an Executive Summary, which is a subset of a Pitch Deck, which is a subset of a website, which is a subset of a Business Plan. Each is a bit of copy/content of different lengths, starting with the shortest, most focused elements, and increasing in length as needed to get the customer/investor/new team member, whoever, to say YES.

The DoubleM Hierarchy of Content:

Logo - Small visual identity for your brand
Company Name - short, descriptive, memorable, ties in with logo, same as product name
Vanity Plate - 7 letters/numbers, available in most states, via online DMV
Epitaph - 12 words max. Looking back, how does this fit into how you want to be remembered?
Tag Line - short phrase describing the business
Value Proposition - brief description of why you bring value to the customer/user
Elevator Story - 30 - 60 seconds
Executive Summary - 1 page
Pitch Deck - pitch scripted, slide presentation, about 10 slides, 10 - 20 minutes, +Q/A
Business Plan - a collection of projections and requirements, for marketing, sales, personnel, distribution, legal, financial...
Web presence (site/blog/store) - buy, request info, FAQs, support, news, jobs...

The more clearly, congruently, and persuasively you can write each level of the hierarchy, the more likely you will succeed, all other things being equal.

These elements of content should be continuously improving as your business evolves. Try to move through the hierarchy in order, from top to bottom. You want to get something down for each one so that each element is developed from the preceding one.

Perfection is achieved not when there Is nothing more to add, 
but when there Is nothing left to take away"  

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Investors are not solely evaluating your company’s story. 
They are also evaluating your ability to convey that story.”

Bill Gurley

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Who you want on your board

One of my favorite VCs, Fred Wilson out of NYC, addressed this issue of who you want on your board. Here's his post and below because it is just so important.  

While Fred speaks to the issue of "who" should be on your board, he just naturally assumes the most important thing: that you even have a board in the first place. If you are really serious about building a first class company, you will have a board. You will understand the importance of building your company from the top down.

You will have a Board of Directors because you have significant shares in your company in the hands of investors, advisors, employees, etc.

Or, you will have a Board of Advisors, because you own all, or almost all, of the stock in your company, but you know the value of having regular meetings with really smart people who are focused on helping you, watching your blind spots, and who have experience doing what you need done.

Here's Fred's post:

Who You Want On Your Board

One of the guys who taught me the venture capital business used to say "success is in inverse proportion to the number of VCs you have on your board." He was right. For a few reasons. First of all, most VCs get on your board by virtue of financing rounds you do. If you do a lot of financing rounds, you will collect enough VCs on your board to field a basketball team. And that sucks. And it means you had to raise too much money too. All of which are bad things.
But there is another reason and it became perfectly clear to me on Tuesday when I had back to back board meetings.
The first meeting was almost a celebration. The company had put together a phenomenal year in 2012 and there wasn't much to be concerned about. But the best question asked of management in the entire meeting was asked by an independent director who happens to be a CEO of a company that is five times bigger than our portfolio company. In the midst of the "celebration" he brought everyone back to reality and got folks to think about what we could be doing better. It was a great board moment.
The second meeting was even more interesting. The CEO was seeking advice on some important strategic questions. And this board has two investors and three very experienced operating executives on it. And one of the investors (not me) has deep operating experience. So you had essentially four very experienced operating executives plus me giving the CEO advice. It was a great meeting. I walked out thinking "that is the way a board should be constructed."
If I could construct the perfect Board for the companies I am invested in, it would be the CEO, me, and three CEOs who have built and/or run one or more tech companies of scale. If you have a very experienced VC on your board, you really don't need more of them. But you can never have enough peers on your board who have been where you are before. That is invaluable.