Spreedly’s first customer and partner conference was held in leafy Durham this year. First thing you notice is the new construction and the recovering economy: the city is still far from overdeveloped. The one-and-a-half day event drew more than one hundred attendees in the Carolina Theatre downtown. Spreedly’s growth has been accelerating since it pivoted away from hosted subscriptions a few years ago into a meta-gateway providing PCI compliant card vaulting and a standardized card payments API. Transaction volume last year tripled to around 90M, helped by key accounts like FattMerchant and SeatGeek, which recently won the ticketing business for the Dallas Cowboys. The first day featured lightening talks on feature prioritization, Riak, Elixir and Kafka, followed by open house at Spreedly’s offices, recently doubled to around 10,000sq.ft.

The second day was filled with a variety of presentations. Nate Talbott pitching to build a payments community. John Duff with a familiar history of payments at Shopify: integrations using active_merchant, compliance, scalability, partnering with Stripe for merchant services, leveraging data for fraud protection. Jennifer Marston on transitioning to Spreedly at Paylock. Nathan Adamson on the costs of EMV for small businesses. Stephanie Slattery on accessibility and Alex Henderson on ‘assured’ payments and learning to effectively work around gateway outages. Camille Acey providing a non-engineering perspective and Brad Powers of Passport on the challenges and benefits of working on local government projects. Unfortunately I had to skip Sandi Metz’s closing keynote but I look forward to catching it on Confreaks.

Refresh Miami ‘Founder Match Making’ Event

Well attended event last night hosted by Brian Breslin, filling the Storer auditorium at the Miami University Business School. Pitches for the upcoming Americas Venture Capital Conference at FIU and before a panel discussion including Ed Toro, Charles Irizari, Steve Repetti and Stewart Davis.  Topics discussed:

  • The best way of finding a tech co-founder is to attend tech community events. Tech leads, like investors, expect entrepreneurs to be able to articulate their ideas, for example with a two minute online video.
  • Asking for an NDA too quickly is unlikely to be agreed to. Having an established relationship with a tech lead makes a less formal pitch more likely to be listened to.
  • Ideas without the ability to execute are worth little, all sides should be looking for partners they believe can get things done: startups are much less forgiving than working in a larger corporate environment.
  • Ultimately the goal is to find an idea that can be turned into a company, and find compatible partners that can raise funds, build a product and operate a business. Red flags include a lack of respect and too much ignorance of the technology that the business is built on.
  • Tech leads may not be strong at negotiation but they will typically value equity at 25-50% of it’s current valuation when calculating their total compensation. Tech lead’s equity should be vested over time in case they fail to execute.
  • Capital in Southern Florida can be a problem as 90% of the wealth is from real estate development and not very tech savvy.  Nonetheless individuals can be found through networking.

Building Your Own Website

There are several levels of sophistication:

  • Using wizards
  • Leveraging open source packages
  • Mastering HTML, CSS and Javascript in the browser
  • Writing server programs to use a database

Really simple websites can be built using

These are all good for static, slowly changing content.  If you want to publish content regularly consider blogging with

If you want to go beyond blogging consider an open source package like Joomla or Drupal. Sign-up for hosting with a company like Dreamhost or GoDaddy and they will give you simple installation scripts to get started with these packages for a few dollars a month. If you want to customize these or do something more your own you will need to master HTML/CSS/Javascript (DHTML aka. DOM scripting).  Get an HTML editor and study the tutorials at W3 Schools After you’ve learned DHTML you can go on to build database driven sites using Microsoft’s technologies, PHP or Ruby On Rails

Top IT Business in Southern Florida

Business Leader Media publishes an annual ‘top 100’ small business roster for southern Florida. Tech companies on this list include

  • Datacorp.  A services partner with strong relationships with Microsoft, Cisco and Citrix.
  • United Data Technologies.  A services business with an established customer base in education and government.
  • Bayshore Solutions.  A web design company based in Tampa.
  • AAJ Technologies.  A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner in Fort Lauderdale with an established customer base in healthcare and government.
  • Palindrome Consulting.  A Microsoft Gold Certified development partner based in north Miami.  Also partners with Cisco, Citrix, VMware, HP and Apple.
  • Retail Technology Experts.  A Retail Pro certified partner.
  • Nu Info Systems Inc.  A complete software solutions provider based in Jacksonville, previously in the Inc. 500.
  • QuinnCom A web development company in North Palm Beach.
  • Dedicated IT.  Another Gold Certified Microsoft Partner in West Palm Beach providing a helpdesk and support.
  • International Consulting Group.  Partnerships include IBM, Cisco, Shoretel, Microsoft, Dell and VMware.
  • Kuster Computers.  Provides hosted Microsoft Exchange and desktop installation services.

Hiring advice from Dee Hock

“Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity, second motivation, third capacity, fourth understanding, fifth knowledge, and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.” Dee Hock, founder, VISA

Fast Company Article: The Trillion-Dollar Vision of Dee Hock

Insourcing vs. outsourcing

Reasons to outsource:

  • The business is growing rapidly and leveraging an existing third party infrastructure is quicker/less risky than building/scaling one’s own. In this case it is worth paying a premium for the infrastructure, which is more than offset by the value to stakeholders of growing the business rapidly with less IT risk. The key aspect here is, speed to market.
  • A third party has knowledge, skills, or some other limited resource that the business wants to leverage, and paying a premium to a third party makes more sense than acquiring the resource using internal staff. The key aspect here is non-core specialization.
  • A third party is able to subdivide a pool of resources between multiple clients and thereby deliver a service more cheaply than individual clients could do so on their own. This is economy of scale, and provided some of these economies are shared with clients it will never make sense for the business to insource.
  • Even if the above aspects do not apply management may lack clear visibility or confidence in internal processes, and may choose to outsource an IT service using a negotiated contract to a separate organization for financial discipline and control.

Reasons to insource:

  • Outsourcing requires more formal agreements between organizations and ongoing efforts to ensure goals are mutually aligned. Hence, if there is no compelling reason to outsource then insourcing requires less management overhead.
  • An IT process may be intimately related to an innovative business process or product that is a source of competitive advantage. In this case stakeholders may want this knowledge kept in house, and in any case it may be of limited value to a third party to acquire this knowledge on the business’s behalf: this is core specialization.
  • Third parties may be unwilling or unable to indemnify the business against certain risks, for example theft of sensitive customer data. More generally insourcing may be considered the most practical response to certain legal concerns.

Insourcing/outsourcing should not be confused with asset ownership, and in particular intellectual property rights and licences. It may make sense to outsource certain processes, while seeking to own related assets.

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